Satellite Reception: Stephanie Gray’s “Collectible Holographic(s)”

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still from “Collectible Holographic(s)”

User: Happy Valentine’s Day, Cleverbot.

Cleverbot: Relative to what?

Oh, Cleverbot. How droll.

Today, we have a post from dynamo/filmmaker Stephanie Gray, who debuted a new 8mm film, Collectible Holographic(s), at the most recent Futurepoem Presents. Check it after the jump.

On Filmic-ly Collecting Alan Gilbert’s “Collectible Holographic(s)”:

Making a super 8 film inspired by connections of disparate, yet connected poetic phrases in Gilbert’s “Late in the Antenna Fields”

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still from “Collectible Holographic(s)”

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still from “Collectible Holographic(s)”

When I was handed Alan Gilbert’s book and nudged to create a film about it, as soon as I started reading it, very specific phrases stood out to me almost in an “auto-connection” type of way, like I didn’t even have to think about it. I nearly read the book on one sitting, writing down the phrases I knew would somehow inspire filmic images and creative textual intertitles.  It could be hard to explain, but not really: what Gilbert’s doing in his work – and even though I picked an assortment of phrases, not focusing on one poem– it’s as if I have almost created a new poem out of this collection phrases – all phrases I think which sort of symbolize in a kind of Meta Way – the poetics of Alan’s book. Now if that’s not a mouthful of words trying to translate the complex thoughts in my head (and narrating this movie about the movie about/utilizing Alan’s book), then allow me to unspool the film of thoughts to accompany the film you can see here.

What shined though in Alan’s work and what I set out to somehow recreate (it felt mystical, maybe even “25% mysticism” to quote from Alan…) in super 8 film and sound – is a translation of “normal” activity we all encounter in our usual round of “living” but beneath it all something could always be awry or afoot. Coincidentally, like Mónica de la Torre said in her response to Gilbert for the book’s January 4th event, I also felt the push of the theme of the “everyday” shining through envelopes of the philosophical and unusually clear imagery that made it inspiring and focused for me to create filmic images. Gilbert’s work has that quality, yet it never seems merely a one-dimensional translation of the “everyday” – (and what with reality this and that everything) he semblances (I’m taking liberty to use this word as a verb) the everyday yet doesn’t leave it shallow, but also doesn’t embellish. It’s harder than it seems. And, to use one of the re-appearing metaphors of Gilbert’s—like a mirror. Sure a mirror is shallow you think, you drop it, it cracks, but we all know when you look in that thin one-dimensional mirror and it’s deep, going on for ages. (As I kid like many others I am sure, I thought maybe with enough mysticism I could walk through it like various fantasy tales said, but I digress.) Of course one of my favorite lines of Gilbert’s that I used for the film was: “Mirrors are not the same and are messier than they look.”

So, armed with a trove of Gilbert’s every-day, yet deep and image-worthy, yet mysterious images, I set out to a location where I felt I could find all of them and film this old-school super 8 film “edited in camera” which means what it says, shoot the film scenes in order so that it does not have to be (literally) cut and spliced and pasted together. Because I am a film person, I wanted the film to be as much “film-like” as possible, even though I knew I’d eventually need to transfer it to video so others could have a copy. What images stuck with me and how did I illustrate them out of context, yet in context for this film? Well, for example the “mirrors’ line above, I found city reflections in buildings and then odd mirrored window panes in some new age architecture (well, in my opinion) which also segued into another Gilbert line “We recognize the architecture but don’t name it.” To me all of these lines carried both a literal and metaphorical meaning, and then I had to find a visual-filmic meaning that could some how go with it, yet not TOO literal.

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still from “Collectible Holographic(s)”

Are we on to something meta meta here? It could be like Gilbert’s exploration of the everyday. We do have to think about all those clumsy, yet necessary things that go on with the day to day of living but we shouldn’t think TOO much about them, but if we don’t we are screwed too. Of course this is all much more eloquently explored in Gilbert’s book, yet there is a kind, yet subtly endearingly humorous irreverence that I love – in lines such as “It’s hard to clear the prom of underage drinkers.” “The teenage punks tumbled out.” And “The bank still won’t cash my check.” All of which lines I included in my film. The fact of the every day. Yes, like the movie “16 Candles” you can’t escape the teen rituals – the more they change the more they stay the same. Teenage punks will always be there. In this Bloomberg-wealth day and age, there are still checks that cannot be cashed. I found images of some teens in Union Square and some bank images to follow up on hand written intertitles of those phrases that I propped up against Union Square’s fence while passerby wondered what I was doing.

Many of my favorite lines in Gilbert’s book felt ephemeral, euphoric, fleeting and permanent, all at once, that “it will always be there no matter what changes” kind of feeling. It felt like a treasure hunt to find them. I was dismayed when I found out that the teen punks’ usual hangout in Union Square was blocked off for some special set up/temporary construction and had to look extra hard for the “teenage punks tumbling out” who would be the “underage drinkers” at the prom. Finding glimpses of time for “I tried to act casual while swallowing time” (geez, didn’t anyone wear watches anymore?; where are the clocks? I was panicking all of the sudden in this digital age) made me reflect on such changes. The “time” theme finally allowed me to sample a song I have always wanted to for a sound piece or film, albeit in a distorted and experimental way, a song I was embarrassed to admit I liked as a headbanger (Cher’s “If I Could Turn Back Time”).

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still from “Collectible Holographic(s)”

While there are too many lines and images to recount here and you can see the film yourself here, one of my favorite images to find that had me hunting for the longest and when I found it, it felt like how everything should always be – I froze in my tracks remembering when we all did this and people are still doing this now but I think many of us have forgotten: looking for “Buying a whole CD just to hear one love song.” Of course with so many people saying CD? What CD? It still happens. I remember buying a whole cassette tape to hear the last song on side one and had the time to fast forward memorized. But walking around Union Square, trying to find a store, something, anything, like real books – that would illustrate Gilbert’s line, and lo and behold I almost walked into a table of CDs being sold, boxes and boxes of them and people of all ages going through them but maybe some of a certain age, pausing and stopping at each CD, glinting in the afternoon gold sun, with the handwritten sharpie titles on them. And I stood there, bad New Yorker I was, blocking pedestrian traffic with my camera, filming the CD hitting the light without the buyer even seeing me just once – remembering there still people flipping through boxes in the outdoor cacophony of Union Square to find that one CD or just one love song, while the rest buy one from a digital cloud for $1.99 from a laptop.  The moment felt like “25% mysticism” – one of my favorite phrases from Gilbert – and me finding it felt like, in Gilbert’s phrasing, a “blue electric memory.”  I feel utterly compelled to sign off here with a Gilbert phrase I included at the very end of my film. Please imagine it in 8th grade bubbly handwriting in a letter passed behind the desk to your best friend, “Thanks, Mom, I love language.”

Respectfully Submitted from the “late in the [union square filmic] fields”,

Stephanie Gray

Stephanie Gray’s first book of poems, Heart Stoner Bingo, was published by Straw Gate Books in 2007. A recent chapbook, I thought you said it was sound/how does that sound was published in 2012 by Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs. Magazine and journal publications include Sentence, Aufgabe, Brooklyn Rail, EOAGH, 2ndAvenuePoetry, Boog City Reader, and The Recluse. Reading series where she’s read live with her films include Segue and the Poetry Project’s Friday night series. Also a super 8 filmmaker, her experimental / city symphony / and queer-themed films have screened internationally at festivals such as Viennale, Oberhausen, Chicago Underground, and queer fests such Frameline, Mix, and Inside Out. Her recent film You know they want to disappear Hell’s Kitchen as Clinton, a “poetic film letter” to E.B. White’s essay Here is NY, was included in the 2011 Black Maria Film Festival Tour where it was one of 10 Jury’s Choice First Prizes; other screenings included the E-Poetry Fest in Buffalo. She has received a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship and grants from NYSCA’s Finishing Funds and Distribution Grant programs.

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