Thanks to OURS Magazine for writing this feature article and for interviewing me about the PoetryFilm project. The interview is pasted below and here is the link.
POETRYFILM BECOMES A CELEBRATED ART FORM
We pick at the adept mind of PoetryFilm’s founder, Zata Banks, to explore the representation of meaning in art and communication, the intricate pieces that come together during production, and the future of the poetry film medium more generally.
What spurred the creation of PoetryFilm back in 2002 and how has the organisation evolved since then?
PoetryFilm was founded through my personal practice: I was writing and making poetry films and, at that time, there wasn’t a regular screening platform for this artform, so I began producing events to showcase poetry films. I opened up submissions, encouraging others to send in their work. The aim of the project was to celebrate creativity and to help create a cultural movement. Today the genre has gained a lot more recognition, but 15 years ago the cultural landscape was very different – there was considerable hostility to the notion of poetry film in some quarters and, from my point of view, at least, it took a full 15 years’ hard work to achieve the situation today.
What has been one of your most memorable moments working with PoetryFilm?
In terms of institutional kudos, presenting three programmes at Tate Britain and two at CCCB Barcelona are highlights, as they are both hugely prestigious venues, and I’ve really enjoyed working with Film London and the BFI. Being invited to travel overseas has been a real pleasure – the Edgewater Poetry & Athletics Club in Miami was quite an experience! There was also the legendary intervention by venue security at Curzon Soho in 2009 to escort two over-enthusiastic Russian performance artists through the Fire Exit.
PoetryFilm has produced over 80 events, inspired creatives and provoked thought over the past years, what else would you like to achieve? What is the future of PoetryFilm?
PoetryFilm will soon produce its 100th event! To mark this occasion, the PoetryFilm 100 festival will showcase exactly 100 works. The Archive continues to grow with exceptional material continually being added – it now contains over 1,000 artworks and is a valuable cultural resource. As for the future of PoetryFilm, there are some very exciting new projects in the pipeline, though for the time being, unfortunately I need to keep them under wraps!
What do you think is the future of poetry and film in a more general sense?
Different modes of communication are constantly converging and evolving. New generations use new technologies, but we are essentially still drawing on the cave wall, trying to leave residues and find meanings. The future comes from unexpected combinations.
In an interview you explained how the PoetryFilm project explores semiotics and meaning-making approaches of the art form. What are your thoughts on the concept of art not needing meaning to be great?
It’s not possible for something to not have a meaning. Meanings are being made all the time – whether they are intentional or not. The meanings may be latent, or they may be unsophisticated, but they are still meanings.
What advice would you give to someone interested in creating a poetry film work?
Think about every element, about how combinations of elements affect each other, and about the artwork as a whole… and enjoy the process! Sometimes spontaneity or simplicity can produce interesting work.
Can you tell us a bit about your current residency in Iceland?
I’m living on the north coast of Iceland, near the Arctic Circle, for three months. The temperature has dipped to –15 C, the Northern Lights appear most nights, and the snowstorms produce beautiful snowdrifts in the mornings. As I’m in Iceland for a while, I’ll be presenting a PoetryFilm programme at MENGI Creative + Music + Art venue in Reykjavik on 10 March 2016, so do drop if if you happen to be passing.
Who are some of your favourite poets/filmmakers and how have they influenced you personally or in your work?
A poet I admire is Wislawa Szymborska and a filmmaker I admire is Krzysztof Kieslowski. Both explore the human condition in their work – its grace, mystery and timelessness. My own work explores language and its abilities/failures to communicate. As humans, we have an innate need to connect with each other. We use language as a tool to connect, though sometimes communication is simpler than language; older than words. I also explore what is referred to as Oulipo (Ouvroir de littérature potentielle) techniques, which involve mathematics, or inventing and then observing certain constraints in the work. The idea that constraints are liberating is attractive.
In London? or Iceland? See Zata’s travel tips.