Small Objects of Desire #95 – Dancing Words

I love poetry, I love dance and I love film so a project like Nathalie Teitler’s Dancing Words could have been made for just me as it combines all three to a very high standard. I say that quite deliberately. This isn’t the first time that poetry has been ‘captured’ on film or the first time it has been ‘danced’. Often times, the attempts are woeful, serving none of the mediums adequately and doing nothing to elucidate the meaning of the poem.

What I like about Dancing Words is how much thought has been put into the choice of poem. Each poem is more than just pleasingly arranged words. Nathalie Teitler has chosen poems that are gut punching rather than coolly intelletualising. In addition, filmmaker Fiona Melville’s contemplation of light in each film is measured and considered….it’s no surprise to find out that she trained as a painter.

There’s a whole lot more I could say but it’s time for the films to do the talking.

T.S Eliot Prize 2016 winner Sarah Howe’s poem, ‘Tame’ interpreted by dancer/choreographer Shelley Maxwell. Taking inspiration from a Chinese
proverb, the poem makes a comment about the one child policy in China.

Forward Prize winner Mona Arshi’s poem, ‘Ballad of the Small-Boned Daughter’ interpreted by dancer/choreographer Ella Mesma and with original music by Tom Szirtes. The poem is based on the true story of an honour killing.

Kayon Chingonyi’s poem Kumukanda is interpreted by the poet himself and dancer/ choreographer Sean Graham. Kumukanda is the name given to the tribal rites of passage that young Zambian boys must undergo before they become men.

Karen McCarthy Woolf’s poem Morbleu is choreographed and danced by Ella Mesma with music by Andrea Allegra. The poem was written as part of an elegy for the poet’s still born son, Otto.

Malika Booker’s poem Sweet Liquor was danced by the poet herself and dancer/ choreographer Leon Rose. It is inspired by the stories of Caribbean soldiers returning from war with PTSD and being redrafted.

Warsan Shire’s poem The Ugly Daughter and danced by Ella Mesma during a performance in The Purcell Room, Southbank Centre inspired the entire Dancing Words project. The title is self-explanatory.

Small Object of Desire #94 – Self-Owning Augmented Forest

Yes, you read that right.

I went to an art exhibition with a difference the other day. The venue – Furtherfield Gallery – is the tiniest I’ve been to, 10 people gathered in there began to feel like a tight squeeze. And it was located in the middle of Finsbury Park. That represented a first for me on both counts of location and venue. Then the exhibits themselves were eye-popping and intriguing not only because of their aesthetic qualties (baby dragon flower, anyone?) but also because of the clear, focused and frankly wonderfully bonkers intentions behind the so-called art. I can honestly say that I’d never encountered anything quite like this before.

terra0 is a self-owning augmented forest. According to the blurb on the website: “the project is meant to be an ongoing art project that strives to set up a prototype of a self-utilised piece of land.” Put simply, this is a scenario where it is possible for a forest to eventually buy itself so that it becomes its own owner! Which would then mean that it is in the position to buy more ground and expand.

I’m so fascinated by this idea that I’ve since signed up to the mailing list but on the day of the exhibition, I actually contributed some money towards the project. This involved converting £2 into cryptocurrency which in turn would make the plant-like exhibits made of metal, glass and electricity acknowledge your contribution by doing a little dance.

Dancing Plantoid 2 from Dzifa Benson on Vimeo.

My mind is still blown from this and I’m still trying to wrap my head around the whole notion but I like that it questions the concepts of economics, ownership, personhood, purpose, function, property, blockchain technology, nature, culture……it turns so many things on their heads. You could do worse than taking half an hour out of your day to read up about it. 

Small Object of Desire #93 – Powers of Ten

Most people recognise the names of husband and wife design duo Charles and Ray Eames because of their classic furniture designs. Pieces such as this have become very familiar to us as design classics:

eames-lounge-chair-640x357-1But the Eames also had a huge impact on modern architecture, industrial and graphic design, manufacturing and, even turned their minds to devising puzzles, toys, puzzles, exhibitions and magazine covers. But it’s their filmmaking talents I’m interested in today.

This classic film from 1977 uses the simple formula of a magnitude of ten to show us  two extreme perspectives. Zooming out intergalatically and then magnifying into the deep molecular levels of human body, it contextualises our place in relation to the rest of the universe.

Nearly 50 years later, it hasn’t lost its power to express complex ideas very simply. The Eames weren’t filmmakers per se but this documentary is a testament to one of the basic tenets of their design philosophy which held that innovation had to be the last resort.

Charles and Ray Eames – 1977 Power of Ten from Keith Kennon on Vimeo.

Small Object of Desire #92 – Birds

In the project Ornitographies, the photographer “Xavi Bou focuses on birds, his great passion, in order to capture in a single time frame, the shapes they generate when flying, making visible the invisible.”

These photographs attract and repel me simultaneously. I’m attracted because I’ve never seen anything quite like this before. It’s intriguing to see bird flight depicted in this way. The images are beautiful too. But I’m repelled because I find the photographs creepy as well. The flight paths are sinuous like a serpent’s movements and a feathery serpent at that. They look like monsters. Or aliens swarming. I get the heebie-jeebies when I’m confronted by animals gathered en masse so the idea of a swarm makes my skin crawl. I seriously considered not posting about them, that’s how uncomfortable they made me but in the end, the strange beauty of the images won out over the morbid thoughts.

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Small Object of Desire #91 – Flesh

As a writer, one of my major preoccupations and sources of inspiration is the body. It is the interface through which we experience and interact with the world and each other. It’s an object of locomotion, articulation, industry, fuel and beauty. It’s a very effective computing, plumbing and replicating system. It has hinges, a pump and electricity. And that’s just the physical. It is also, of course, the centre of emotion, spirituality and metaphysicality. It is the link between the dead, the living and the unborn.

I think about all of that and more when I watch this video of body parts morphing into each other by Dutch artist Diederik Klomberg. It’s fascinating, creepy, cool and amazing all at the same time.

Flesh from Diederik Klomberg on Vimeo.

Small Object of Desire #89 – Emotion

This song, Feeling Uneasy, is startling because for pretty much all of its 2 minutes and 50 seconds, Etta James manages to let you know exactly why she is feeling uneasy without using any words except for a couple of lords and the title of the song said once right at the end. The rest is the incomparable Etta James emoting via oohs, aahs, yowls, a bit of scat singing. You feel her pain for sure.

Stirring, startling stuff!