Poetry review: Memory: video poetry

SynGraWall5Memory: video poetry (DVD)
Synaptic Graffiti Collective

A light bulb smashes in slow motion. More recently, and more regrettably, furry animal suits prance to emo.

Wider possibilities for music videos remain. Daft Punk’s ‘Around the World’ combines dance with camera angles to take on the shallow representation of globalisation. Cold Chisel and even Eskimo Joe had to reshoot clips on the grounds the originals were too confronting. Here we find the limitations of the genre as advertisement.

Memory by Synaptic Graffiti Collective is a DVD collection of poetry as music videos. It remains a series of advertisements for writers (Chris Mansell’s contribution to Memory, ‘Gerald and Gulio’, trades cleverly on this). Poetry also tinkers with expressive structure. So as a collection Memory manages to challenge the limits of music video.

For instance, Deb Matthews-Zott’s contribution, ‘The Search’, is set in the countryside of the music video. As with the Eurythmics’ ‘Sweet Dreams’, a cow paddock is annexed by the city. Matthews-Zott explores a Blair-witchy backyard littered by urban reminders. As the idyll absorbs the powerless it is in turn absorbed by the city. On the other hand, Jayne Fenton Keane does not engage with music video. Her ‘Blood Sonnet’ is an Elizabeth Grosz-influenced art gallery video. It seems dated and incongruous as a chapter of Memory.

As a whole, Memory is not merely about memories. It is also about cities, much as music video is centered where musicians play. These areas bespeak urban possibility, or its wastage. Sara Moss’s ‘Unfolding Night’ is a poetic escape from the sparse functionality of the contemporary urbanism. Stefanie Petrik’s ‘Downriver’ makes the city notable by its absence and has the same sense of annex as Matthews-Zott’s ‘The Search’. Matthews-Zott herself goes more explicitly urban with ‘Backwards’. The forlorn piece is complemented by Alana Hicks’ enigmatic ‘Sorrow Follows Terror’. Komninos’ ‘Tanks’ links marriage and overtly repressive institutions as he lists Melbourne suburbs. His ‘Childhood in Richmond’ deals with the aftermath of the six o’clock swill. The video vignettes also read as video clips for the reigning king of Aussie pub poetry. A hijacking of the wistful format that popularised literary pub rockers like James Reyne or The Church.

Before we go down the lane from memories to nostalgia we need to appreciate the possibilities Synaptic Graffiti Collective open up with the Memory DVD. Music video show Rage already plays obscure material to a mass audience. Memory fits this development. ‘To Live’, featuring the story, poetry and art of Halil Ibrahim Karatas, seems to defy the music video format, being 15 minutes long. We soon find three standard-length clips about the repression of Turkish activists, soundtracked to folk music and counterposed to nationalist jingles. Sara Moss and Scart’s ‘Always Be Running’ is a brutal reminder of refugee detention.

Played on Rage, clips from Memory would mass-circulate awareness of causes, alongside urban critique. Most importantly, Memory promises poetry music video as an accessible platform for critical thinking. Sharmy Pandy’s ‘My Home’ (produced by Subhankar Das) tantalisingly tinges recollection with Indian philosophy. Magdalena Ball’s ‘On the Dot’ takes us into the philosophy of science. Memory may be themed for the past, but as a way of satisfying the mass need for new ideas, it also glimpses a future.

MemoryMemory is also user-friendly. Emphasis on a chapter-structure translates seamlessly onto computer or standard DVD player. The DVD itself looks like a heavy metal album. Don’t get the wrong idea though; what’s on board is a brand-new genre, not a well-worn one.

You can order now via Paypal for $10 AUD (plus postage and handling from the Synaptic Graffiti Collective.

Gerald Keaney

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