Monday Jul 22

EricaGoss2014 Sina Seiler and Eduardo Yagüe, the two artists featured in this month’s column, have both made accomplished and compelling video poems as relative newcomers to the form.

Sina Seiler is a documentary filmmaker currently living in Berlin. She made the video poem, “Elephant,” which screened at the 2014 Zebra Poetry Film Festival:

About the film, Sina writes: “The protagonist is dancing through her inner rooms, illustrating sequences of dream, feelings and moods. ‘Elephant’ reveals an inner development of the protagonist from dark to light, from limitedness to vastness and from inner jail to freedom.”

Sina served as an intern at the 2008 Zebra Poetry Film Festival, and was involved in the pre-screening process (no small feat, as Zebra receives close to one thousand submissions). She remembers how it felt to watch so many poetry films: “It was so great that something like this existed. I immediately had the idea to make my own poetry film.” “Elephant” is the result, based on a poem Sina wrote. She added, “I have been writing poems since I was young, but I didn’t publish them – they were just for me. Nothing commercial.”

As a filmmaker, Sina appreciates the freedom inherent in making video poems. “Poetry films allow new structures of perception in film language for the audience. For example, in Hollywood, the story told over and over is ‘The Hero’s Journey.’ Yes, it gets a little bit boring. Zebra creates an audience so viewers can see a new kind of filming.”

In the film, “the house is a metaphor,” she said. “Film tells a story in pictures, but I did not want the film to be too literal. So, for example, there is no scene in the film with an elephant.” The house in the film is an actual place, not a stage set. It’s the Iraqi embassy of the former GDR, now abandoned and without an owner. “We tried to get permission to film there, but were told that since no one owned the building, we didn’t need permission.” 

About her choice to use a dancer in “Elephant,” Sina states: “A poem is an abstract media to express emotions with the help of metaphors. I realized, that working with dialogues would be too obvious and opted for dance as a media, expressing emotions without words.” Soraya Schulthess, the dancer in “Elephant,” is an American from Denver who dances for the Boris Eifman Ballet Company in St. Petersburg, Russia. “In the film, there are four rooms. Each represents an emotion. The dancer is within her inner self in each room. She transforms, becoming more and more free.” Soraya, who created the choreography, had to perform in the cold Berlin spring weather: “It was hard on Soraya, but we were able to use her discomfort to enhance the emotions, especially anger, in the film.”

The music, composed and mixed especially for the film by Katharina Bernstein, Luca Fogagnolo, Alessandro Tomaselli and Bernd Latzel, is atonal and wild at the beginning, moving to a recognizable theme as the video progresses.

“I had a great team working with me,” Sina said. “I’m very grateful to them for their help.” Sina has a busy year planned with prospective documentaries and another poetry film based around the sound poem “Ursonate,” by Kurt Schwitters. View more of Sina’s work here.

Eduardo Yagüe comes from Gijón, a small town in the northern part of Spain. He lives there and in Madrid, where he came over twenty years ago to study literature. An actor since the age of nineteen, Eduardo has worked as a waiter, teacher, office worker, and freelance director. He also writes poetry.

Although his work is of high quality, both in production and in content, Eduardo has been making video poems for only a short time. “I first became aware that others were making video poems a couple of years ago,” he said. “I had no idea there was a community out there doing what I was doing.” He credits the Internet with connecting him to others in the video poetry world, and his girlfriend for encouraging him to make his own poetry videos.

Eduardo’s influences include the German choreographer Pina Bausch, the British performance group DV8 Physical Theatre, and the work of Samuel Beckett. Themes of emotional and sexual tension are evident in Eduardo’s work, which his many talented actor friends aptly express.

“I know a lot of actors,” he said. “I am lucky that they want to be in my films. I love actors and poetry, so that’s what I want to do: mix the things that I love. And most actors are comfortable with poetry. We study poetry; it helps us learn to speak properly. Much of the spoken part of theater is poetry: Shakespeare, for example.” 

One of Eduardo’s goals is to make both Spanish and English versions of his work. “Each is a completely different video, not a sub-titled version.” Here’s an example, using L.L. Barkat’s poem “Love Song:”

“Cancion de Amor,” the Spanish version of “Love Song:”

In each of these videos, Eduardo focuses on a different aspect of a troubled relationship. In “Love Song,” a grasshopper allows a small caress, then a nudge. The camera cuts to the face of a man whose eyes seem to be different colors. We watch as he begins to weep, tears forming, then he’s grinning maniacally. In “Cancion de Amor,” a woman in a state of emotional distress stares at a photograph, which becomes a mirror of the man from “Love Song.” We see them together, and then the woman alone. In both videos, the intensity of the actors’ expressions and the emotions they silently display rivet the viewer, creating an uncomfortable intimacy.

For Eduardo, the process starts with the right poem. “I’m always looking for poetry for my videos. I look for poems that move me – it’s something physical, if my imagination starts working then I know it’s the right one.” 

“This world of video poetry is new to me. I am a freshman in it, but I feel very comfortable and very welcome in it,” Eduardo says. “I find that video poetry is the perfect field where I can develop my creativity, mixing my passion for poetry, acting and images.”

Next on the horizon for Eduardo: three new videos with poems from Kathleen Kirk. “I would also like to work with dancers,” he added. See more of his work here.