From 3 July to 16 August 2020 the University of Canberra Faculty of Arts and Design present the exhibition Iso Topics, responses to physical isolation.
Iso Topics is an exhibition of works by staff, students and affiliates of the Centre for Creative and Cultural Research in the Faculty of Arts and Design, University of Canberra. It’s presented as part of the Belconnen Arts Centre programming and is the 26th year that UC researchers have presented a group exhibition of their creative work.
My videopoems presented in the exhibition, made during isolation in Barcelona, explore topics of waiting for the disturbance to settle, the change in environmental sounds due to the retreat of people, and the sense of claustrophobia in the domestic space. Each videopoem explores the interplay between inside and outside, grappling with the sudden barrier between them.
Throughout lockdown writing has been a way to switch off for a while and immerse my mind into another space and it seems like many have used world-building to ease the pressure. According to a survey of 1,000 people in the UK, reading books surged during lockdown. As reported in the Guardian, ‘More than half (52%) of the respondents said they were reading more because they had more spare time, 51% said it was because they wanted to stay entertained, and 35% felt books were providing “an escape from the crisis”.’ Poetry has also seen a surge in interest, with well known figures like Patrick Stewart reading a sonnet a day. As poet Simon Armitage says of the interest of poetry during lockdown, ‘I think people have turned to poetry, not just writing it but reading it…it can be something to focus on and hold everything together for a while.’
There has been some great videopoems made in this time of confinement that served as inspiration for the videopoems I made for the exhibition. Here are a few highlights from the past few months.
Lockdown is a new song by LYR, featuring Florence Pugh and Pete Wareham of Melt Yourself Down. The song is set to a poem by poet laureate Simon Armitage, written in response to the coronavirus restrictions. Lockdown moves from the outbreak of bubonic plague in Eyam, Derbyshire in the 17th century – when a bale of cloth sent from London inadvertently brought fleas carrying the plague – to the poem Meghadūta by the Sanskrit poet Kālidāsa, which follows the legend in which an exile sends words of reassurance to his wife in the Himalayas via a passing cloud.
This videopoem is a great collaboration between video artists from all over the world, where they shared their common experience with this pandemic. As they explain, ‘There are no boundaries for anxiety, fear, grief and frustration. We are all in this long wait together. Today the world is on hold but we will be back.’
British filmmaker and animator Jonathan Knowles collaborates with Brazilian-American poet Henrique Costa, who lives in Brazil but writes poetry in English. Although the poem was written in 2017, it was adapted to the times by Knowles in the first half of 2020.
I Don’t Own Anxiety, But I Borrow It Regularly
This videopoem was made by Marie Craven (with a poem by Seattle-based poet Kelli Russell Agodon) for the 2019 Visible Poetry Project, before lockdown, but I feel it speaks to the way many of us might be feeling these days and months. As the poet explains, ‘I’m not sure what prompted the poem, but I was thinking about loss and death…and this poem came from that moment.’
For more great videopoems check out Moving Poems, which keeps a finger on the pulse of all things videopoetry.