Sarah Tremlett interviewed by Dr Tereza Stehlíková – from Marinetti to Danny Boyle – Tangible Territory 4 & The Poetics of Poetry Film
Issue 4 of leading avant-garde art journal Tangible Territory came out recently https://tangibleterritory.art/journal/issue-4-content/poetics-of-poetry-film/ and I am humbled to say I am included amongst a rich collection of writers with their fingers on the cultural pulse (for example, digital media theorist Lev Manovich, also quoted in TPOPF). In terms of subject matter, the content really opens up how we might think about our role in the biosphere (for example place in terms of different ‘time scales’ (Václav Cílek) or the magic of VR enchantment (Célia Quico).
Founder and editor Dr Tereza Stehlíková now based in Prague, works as an artist, filmmaker and a senior lecturer and PhD supervisor. I am a great admirer of Tereza’s work, not only as a deeply intelligent editor, (she co-founded Artesian journal, featuring the writings of luminaries such as John Berger and Don DeLillo) but also in terms of her innovative research concepts. I really first got to know her through her interview with Christian Pacheco-Cámara (Chris Patch) for Fotogenia Festival, Mexico City, back in 2020, when she was introducing her film-based practice in relation to the senses – taste and smell. A fascinating discussion and impressive research. See Cinema for all the Senses
Cinema for all the Senses, Dr Tereza Stehlíková
Bringing up this subject in relation to contexts such as the enforced isolation of COVID she notes: ‘My practice is informed by my ongoing exploration of the role of the senses and our embodiment in communicating meaning, often using narratives to help activate imagination and provide a framework. Beyond this, the core themes in my creative practice are built around our relationship to landscape and place in general and how our environment can become an extension of our inner worlds.’
And in terms of the journal: ‘Tangible Territory is a platform that offers a space for various voices to meet and discuss themes relating to the importance of place and embodied experience, in giving meaning to our everyday experience of life and art.’ Tereza notes that the focus of this issue is centred on the relationship between human beings and the different environments we occupy ‘which shape us as much as we shape them’. See for example:
Herbarium. Flowers of Transhumanist Fantasies: Artist Adam Vačkář shares the story of his fascination with invasive plants and his subsequent artistic journey into the world of biology.
In her editorial comment she brings to attention one contributor’s use of the term ‘quiet activism’ and also observes that a key word that has arisen in this edition is ‘empathy’, with a final comment that we need ‘hope for the future’. For her, cultural thinking is certainly via a philosophical lens of connective aesthetics, rather than divorced from our position in the biosphere. Through Tangible Territory, she would like to build an open community where ‘key values are celebrated, explored, promoted’. I would also like to note in this post-BREXIT Britain (which has floundered without proper government since the suicidal severing) that I am pleased to be part of a really internationally inclusive group of authors. So, it was a joyful challenge to be asked quite complex questions by her on The Poetics of Poetry Film and really think hard about the answers.
Here are a couple of fascinating questions:
When speaking of poetry films, I am reminded of the filmmaker Werner Herzog’s ‘ecstatic truth’, which he understands as a form of deeper, poetic truth independent of facts. In one of his typically provocative statements, Herzog claims that “Academia is the death of cinema. It is the very opposite of passion. Film is not the art of scholars, but of illiterates.” You are a poet, poetry filmmaker but also an academic. How do you reconcile the two different ways of approaching the same subject, and do you feel there are dangers or advantages in coming from two different “camps” or angles?
I was also struck by your statement of poetry films dealing with “things in process”, examining and reconfiguring time. Can you expand here on what you mean by that and how does this relate to ideas of vertical time, subjectivity, and being attentive?
Cocteau to Danny Boyle
From Marinetti to leading experimental film poets Gwendolyn Audrey Foster and Wheeler Winston Dixon,from Cocteau to Danny Boyle and Trance (2013), we cover a whole field of filmmaking. For example, Trance with ‘Baudelairean’ cinematography by Anthony Dod Mantle, is for me an extended film poem. It could in some ways be compared to any of the dream-like films by the early experimental filmmakers and the Surrealists, or even Deren in the use of mirrors and reflections, or staring into the camera; except that the strident use of colour to help tell the narrative adds digital, 21st-century volumes to those who are receptive.
Trance, Danny Boyle
A Body, Milena Tipaldo
I was also pleased to be asked about animation today and how I feel it seems to have developed in recent years. Artists mentioned in this context include: Efrat Benzur and Yuval and Merav Nathan, Lise Fearnley and Kaisa Naess, Stephanie Dudley and poet Erin Moura, Suzie Hanna, Susanne Wiegner, Melanie Ludwig, Milena Tipaldo and Ann Isensee.
It was also very gratifying to bring into the discussion my own wider philosophical / political influences. Early feminist theorists who I value, admire and who are also mentioned include: Somer Brodribb Nothing Mat(t)ers: a feminist critique of postmodernism (1988), Carol Bigwood Earth Muse (1993), and Discovering Reality: Feminist Perspectives on Epistemology, Metaphysics, Methodology, and Philosophy of Science (1983) by Sandra Harding. These important thinkers (and note the relatively early dates) put the injustices of the inherited hierarchical dualities of Western philosophy in context, especially in relation to how we conceive of mankind’s position in relation to the biosphere. Their ideas are, unfortunately, even more relevant today and give a strong foundation for rethinking the nature/culture divide, as we all work to save the planet.
I would also like to give a warm mention to all the artists that I have cited and who aren’t mentioned here, and who continue to inspire in the field. And now, go read!