Wednesday May 24

TomaloffDavid David Tomaloff is a writer, photographer, musician, and all around bad influence. His work has appeared in fine publications such as Mud Luscious, >kill author, PANK, HOUSEFIRE, Prick of the Spindle, DOGZPLOT, elimae, and many more. He is the author of the chapbooks 13 (Artistically Declined Press), A SOFT THAT TOUCHES DOWN &REMOVES ITSELF (NAP), Olifaunt (Red Ceilings Press), EXIT STRATEGIES (Gold Wake Press), and MESCAL NON-PALINDROME CINEMA (Ten Pages Press). He resides in the form of ones and zeros at: davidtomaloff.com

Foto_Marc Poetry, words and dreams form an important basis for the work of Swoon. As a stranger in our midst he recycles 'virtual' internet images, shoots his own, creates soundscapes. Makes dreamlike, moving paintings out of it all. In his childhood, Swoon got inspired by reflections in the windows at dusk during train journeys with his mother.  Gazing through the window and seeing how landscapes, passengers, window frames were mixed with each other to a 'new image'. A dream made real out of vague bits. He's an autodidact… 

Swoon's Screenings & Publications 2011 - 2012
2012- Selection for “Park Magazine” Issue #3 (Portugal); 2012-05-18/20Screening of a 30min-loop (8 films) at "In de Luwte"(Roosdaal -Belgium); 2012-02-04 Screening of "Zonder Titel", "Het vertrek van Maeterlinck", "Het balkon van Mika Alas" en "De Wachttoren" at "Boekvoorstelling: 'Het vertrek van Maeterlinck' (Michaël Vandebril, De Bezige Bij' (Antwerpen -Belgium); 2012-01-27 Screening of a 30min-loop (8 films) at "Nacht der Poëten" (Aarschot -Belgium); 2012-01-01 Publication of "PROOF (a videopoem triptych)" and interview at "Connotation Press"; 2011-12-22 Screening of "Zonder Titel" at a Michaël Vandebril performance at "Aanbevelingen voor een nog beter leven" (Antwerp -Belgium); 2011-12-14/17 Selection and screening of "Clouds" for "Madatac III" (Madrid, Spain); 2011-11-25 Selection and screening of "Staircase Dream" for "last Friday Shorts" (Southend on Sea -UK); 2011-11-20 Screening of "Wachttoren" at a Michaël Vandebril performance at "Crossing Borders Festival" (Antwerp -Belgium)' 2011-11-14 Selection and screening of "Jellyfish" for "International Literary Filmfestival" (Brooklyn -NY, USA); 2011-11-04 Selection and screening of "What do animals dream?", "Sleepdancing (Giddoo)", "Stockholme Syndrome" and "On Edward Hopper's Automat" for “Visible Verse Festival” (Vancouver, USA); 2011-10-20 Selection and screening of "Words", "The Stockholme Syndrome" for "Vimfest" (Guadalajara, Mexico); 2011-09-03 Invited screening of “On Edward Hopper's Automat” for “the Motion-festival” organized by Orbit (Riga, Latvia); 2011-08-28 Screening and selection of “Unentitled” for “the Experimental film and video festival (A)FEFV” (Krk, Croatia); 2011-07-20 Screening and selection of “Words” for the television program “De Canvasminuut” (Canvas, national Belgian television); 2011-04-30 Screening and selection of "Clouds" at "The West Virginia Mountaineer Short Film Festival" (Morgantown, USA); 2011-04-30 Screening and selection of “Could it be” at “The one minutes Belgian open”, category art and narration (Ghent, Belgium); 2011-04-30 Publication of “Words” and introduction page in “Tower Journal” Spring edition 2011-04-26 First prize Moving Poem’s first videopoem contest with “Fable”

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Not long ago I was introduced to the work of Swoon, an artist working in the video and sound genres, and his work with the poet David Tomaloff. Proof (a triptych) is an eleven minute, nineteen second amalgamation of three of Tomaloff’s poems, _object{ions in the mirror, Thespianic Mythology No. 4, and Proof, and three of Swoon’s visual and auditory image collections set to Tomaloff’s poetry.

Proof
(a triptych) is a haunting piece. From the often soft-focus, static-striated flashing images, to the sporadic but stunningly on point use of color, to the driving music trudging through the visualscapes, to the calming but assertive narrative voice employed by Tomaloff, Proof (a triptych) will get under your skin. It is impressive on first viewing but after repeated views it almost becomes addictive; just as the momentary flashes of color become addictive—especially those of the red leaves; just as the strain for the next piece of Tomaloff’s captivating voice becomes addictive as your touchstone throughout the piece. It will pull you deep within yourself if you let it even as it takes you on its own journey.

It is for these reasons that I contacted Swoon & David after viewing the first installment of this series before it found the form of this three-poem collection we have for you today, and arranged with them the opportunity to not only publish this outstanding movie but also ask them a few questions on this exciting and fairly newly reacquired art form.

The following is my interview with Swoon and poet David Tomaloff, Proof (a triptych) in its entirety, and the three poems found therein, along with my heartfelt thanks to Swoon & David for this opportunity. Enjoy!
~Ken Robidoux
Publisher/Founding Editor-in-Chief


Swoon & David Tomaloff interview with Ken Robidoux

This is a stunning collection of poems, images, and music.
 
Swoon: Thanks for the kind words. I, for one, am very happy and proud of this tryptich.
 
Tomaloff: Swoon’s sound and visual interpretation brings into focus elements I feel I, alone, could only hint at. Swoon asked if he could use THESPIANIC MYTHOLOGY NO. 4 for a video after he’d read it at >kill author. I was familiar with his work from another triptych I was involved in (PROPOLIS), so I was happy to send him the audio file. What the project has turned into, though, is beyond anything I would have imagined.
 

How did you find the collaborative experience?
 
Tomaloff: Working with Swoon has been a little like dropping ideas I already love into a magic box where they emerge on the other side as these tangible, living things. There is far less discussion involved than one would probably imagine, and Swoon has been completely receptive to all of my ideas and recordings.

I think there is a kind of aesthetic kinship at work that allows for such a relationship. We are somewhat similar in that we both tend to gravitate to a sort of foreboding element that doesn’t necessarily attempt to make all of the obvious connections. I think this leaves some of the presentation up to the viewer.

I’ll add that Swoon works incredibly fast, so keeping pace with him can be a challenge.

Swoon
: David is a remarkable talent. He’s the kind of writer whose words make me see and hear more. When I asked him to use the earlier published poems he was up for it right away; when I asked him to write an extra one, even more so. He’s great to work with not only for that reason, but also, I dare say, he’s at some level ‘wandering on the same stream’ as me. It’s hard to explain, but when I read some of his words or see some of his photos I go: ‘If I could write, it would be like this'. Same for his photos. I haven’t done so, but somehow I feel like he’s the kind of guy I would love to spend some time with dabbling on almost anything—especially music, pop-culture, food, words…  J.


Swoon, how did you come to know of and decide to visually represent David's work?

Swoon
: I ‘met’ him and a small part of his work through an open call Nic Sebastian, Kathy McTavish and I placed for a triptych collaboration project. I remember reading his poems and going ‘yes…that’s it’. After that project (Propolis) I went to check out some of his other work and stumbled upon Thespianic Mytholgy No. 4. How can you not fall for that title, although it was the recording of it that struck me first. At the same time I was working on a piece of music and it was like the pieces of a puzzle that fell in the right place. I asked him if I could use his poem and it grew from there.  I found  _object{-ions in the mirror and it felt like these two videos needed a third one to ‘round it all up’ so I asked him to write a third.

I had a clear idea of what music and images I wanted to use and what direction I wanted to take these films so I sent him an idea: What about a poem that deals with Obsession, Kidnap, Rape, Murder, not the deed especially—could also be the thoughts of it, the planning, the fear, the excitement, from the victim's point of view or the perpetrator...nothing too direct or straightforward.
David’s reply was, among other suggestions, an early draft of Proof.

Tomaloff
: Swoon seemed clear about the direction this project would take almost immediately. He asked about using that first recording, Thespianic Mythology No. 4, for a possible video. He then asked to use the second recording soon after, and asked if I had anything that dealt indirectly with darker themes such as murder, rape, or kidnapping; he was quite clear on the “indirect” part. He welcomed me to write something new if I wanted to.


What were some of the difficulties or liberations that arose behind writing not only a requested or commissioned, for lack of a better word, piece, but also one wherein even more parameters come into play of having seen the first two videos before you wrote the third poem?

Tomaloff
: I enjoy writing to prompts and I tend to take quick, oblique passes at them. I try to conjure up an image and write about the more peripheral details. This kind of subject matter is tricky in that I feel it should be handled with care. It’s easy for this sort of implied external violence to degenerate quickly into gratuitous or timid images that come off as either insensitive or completely unconvincing.

I trusted Swoon in his vision. I focused on writing what was requested as well as I could rather than attempting to follow what had come before. I sent him a draft the same night. I believe he was open to using the piece as it stood. That was probably the most liberating part: I asked for a week or so to “live with it” and to tweak it as necessary. With the first draft being so well received, I only had me to please.
 

Swoon, There is something in this work that reminds me of the very best of the 1980's music video movement wherein the more talented writer/directors interpreted the music in whatever literal or nonliteral form they chose. As such, I am very interested in the angle from which you've approached this project. Is there an element of ekphrasis here in that something in your emotional reaction to David's work inspired the scenes we’re seeing and hearing or is it something else?

Swoon
: It’s all about the gut. I make my own soundscapes, I’m always looking for images and footage that ‘speaks’ to me. When reading poems, it often, with the good ones, happens that I automatically think that would go with this or that track, or those images—the other way around, too. When reading a poem, I might feel the music or the images and then try to create them or look for them.

For this triptych, the sound and feel of Thespianic…did the trick. It spoke of so many things and felt like it was written long ago and in the future at the same time. I wanted to have an overload of images there, and then needed two more sober panels to hang alongside of it.
 

Let's talk a little of the technical side of this project. Tell me about shooting this piece. What did you shoot it with?

Swoon
: I’m not the kind of technical buff that always tells with what camera or lens or…some piece was shot. Others can be, but that is not my main interest. Does the public really want to know what paint or brush Van Gogh used? For instance, 90% of Proof (part three) was shot with a cheap JVC Everio digicam. Does that info make the film better? Different? I understand where the curiosity comes from, but I don’t have that.

That said, I respect people using a certain camera, 8MM, or…, for a specific look or feel they’re after. And if they feel the need to let people know, please do. I’m sometimes curious when I see a great piece: Wow how did he do that, but I don’t really want to know. Keep the magic.
 

Without going too far in, then, was it all shot by you or is there some stock footage excerpts pulled in? There is a found quality present in some of the images.

Swoon
: _object{-ions in the mirror’ was shot by Jonas Gramming. I came across his video looking around the net for images. I immediately saw it was perfect for that musical track and that poem. You’d be surprised how many great cameramen buy a new toy and go test it immediately and throw that test film on the internet. Google ‘Eos 7D camera test’ and see what you get. I asked if I could use his images and I only edited and treated the images and added the needed disturbance—short excerpts of older shots I did for other projects. Thespianic Mythology No.4 is about 50/50 found footage and own shot material. Proof was shot, except for some pictures of trees by me.

I love working with found material. Trying to give images, shot for a whole other purpose by someone you don’t know in a place you’ve never been, a new life and, more important so, a new meaning, is very liberating. It gives you a weird sense of power. Even the material I shoot myself is often not shot directly for a specific film. I try to build a library of images, shot by me and found footage, where I can wander around in when making a new film. On the other hand, it’s also very nice if I can shoot images the way I want them to be for a specific idea and poem.
 

When color enters the film it is very subtle, entirely disruptive, and alarmingly beautiful. I could feel it in my chest. Please tell us a little about your very intentional use of color in this piece.

Swoon
: Thanks. I wanted to keep the first and third part in B/W, but for Proof (part three) I wanted to conjure the feel of blood without showing blood. I imagined that using a tree with bright red leaves would do the trick. Use something beautiful or innocent and hope the viewer will see more. It’s all about letting the viewer fill in the blanks. Bring their own story to the piece. I like to juxtapose.
 

David, one of the ways this work achieves the haunting sensation that leaves a lasting impression on the audience, in addition to what Swoon is doing, is the vulnerable, engaged, and present voice you employ throughout the readings. The reading is completely brilliant. This is clearly not your first trip to the candy store. What do you feel is the value to you personally of exploring the oral tradition of the art of poetry?

Tomaloff
: Reading poetry out loud is something I still consider fairly new to me, and it’s something I’m continually trying to improve. With a background in music, performing is not new to me. But when I began to seriously read my work out loud about a year ago, I was underwhelmed with the way I was doing it.

I started paying closer attention to what others were doing and how it affected me. I noticed the modes that others would take to, and I quickly identified what I didn’t like in a reading. I found that the readers who held my attention best were generally calm, yet assertive—readers like Andrew Zawacki and Nicholas Ravnikar, for instance.

I started reading the books of others out loud by default. It finally occurred to me what others meant when they said that reading their own work out loud was an important part of the process. Of course, some work is more visual—and I like that—but I think reading one’s work, and the work of others, out loud can be an important teacher.
 

This one’s for both of you. I have been noticing the stirrings of visual folks out there blending with audio folks and poets, both written and performance, and creating interesting, accessible, and beautiful short films these days.
Proof is far and away my favorite of any I have seen. Are you familiar with anyone else doing collaborations of this kind and if so who do you think are doing interesting things?

Swoon
: Yes. Once you start looking around for them. Too many to mention them all.

A few I like, admire or was blown away with: Alastair Cook. His visual style I learn(ed) from a lot. For me, the best editor in filmpoems I know, someone with a great eye, John Scott, who did some amazing things with the poems of Elisabeth Bishop, Kathy McTavish. Great dreamy and stirring sounds and the images to go with it, Kai Lossgott, Heather Haley, Jonathan Blair…and there are many more.

I also admire and should thank the work of Nic Sebastian (see: here and here), her readings and her own poems have given me great pleasure and opportunity to create my work. People interested in this kind of work should also check out Moving Poems, Dave Bonta’s collection is a never ending source, and VidPoFilm. Brenda’s enthusiasm for the genre is refreshing.

But also video-artists not working with poetry; Mika Rottenberg, Salla Tykka, Michaël Borremans, Johan Grimonprez …or painters, musicians, writers… have influenced me.

Tomaloff
: This kind of work is still new to me. I’d seen a few videos, but I hadn’t been aware of anyone doing this collaboratively until I’d seen Swoon’s work with Nic Sebastian. I’m more aware now that it’s happening, but I think he has been involved in nearly all of the best work I’ve seen.
In terms of collaborative multimedia in general, though, I think I can offer an unbiased nod to Jennifer Tomaloff’s BENDING LIGHT INTO VERSE project. She solicits poets to write ekphrastic pieces to her photography, which is compiled and offered as a free ebook. It’s turned into such a fantastic and unique project.
 

David, for me, personally, the more I watch this film the more powerfully it affects me. What was your first impression of what Swoon did with your work, and how has that impression changed with time or has it even changed at all?

Tomaloff
: It’s a powerful presentation. I was awed at the very first screening, and that hasn’t changed. Each time I go to view it, I get mentally prepared to hear to myself—after all, who honestly wants to listen to his or her own voice? After about ten seconds, I forget that I’m even part of it.
As odd as that might sound, it’s probably the highest accolade I can offer any work I’m involved in—that it reaches places even my inner critic can’t. I’m proud of the work I’ve done with Swoon.

And I thank you, Ken, for being such a kind supporter.
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_object  { -ions in the mirror

 

testosterone funny blanket

ripped sheets and new years

 

origami weathervane

mutational excerpts for cash

 

cornbread is your birthday;

your birthday, she is alive

 

with a middle name like Salvo,

you never have to bring your own

 

the frat boys fill your tin cup

with cigarettes, aerosols—

 

and meats

 

and call you a pretty taxicab

to take you pretend home

 

no knees are good knees;

no prayer is prayer enough

 

I saved the last sentence for you—

you, crawling on your bad knees

 

trying to make sense of the sense

you left bragging in the hallway

 

a microscopic orgasm;

a see-through, a piñata

 

light fuse and back away

are  closer than they appear

 

 

THESPIANIC MYTHOLOGY No. 4

 

"Iceland.  Anesthesia? What was that word again?" The nebulous blue shadow cast his voice in the form of a question from the wings. He was never quite sure of himself in these situations. "It’s Gravy!" called an usher from the rear of the auditorium. "Gravy is majestic! Gravy is no false induction, jack!" Just then, rotten eggs. A minute later, the salmon. They make their way upstream and gather the old popcorn in readiness for their winter slumbers. "I could have been a flower girl," the nebulous blue shadow whispered to himself as he shrunk in despondence. “I could have pondered {XXX}, physics, or subliminal linguistics. I am the opposite of river. I am a slave to my one distinguishable character—my lack of proper face.”

 


PROOF

 

I cast my skin in the direction of your mouth. My hands &how they’re quick to come undone along the tiny recesses of your canvas—the white of it. The trees outside have grown suspicious. They have made a list of demands, &they are asking from me a name. I cover the stains on my lip with their shade; I tell them the name is wire. They want to know who is there in the house with me. They want to know what I’ve done with the light. I tell them the mold on the walls, how it makes me sick some nights. How the cries are the souls on wax that bluesmen have left behind. They are burrowing as we speak, below me. We are all of us, in our own way, reaching for a tatter of proof.

—&now October / is where my / tongue is best.