Bett Butler, Joël Dilley, Janis Butler Holm, Kim Zumpfe
Volume 5, Issue 2
Kim Zumpfe: “Army” started with an urge to steal a friend’s body part. Gina Osterloh’s now truncated and unruly arms (see her original here: https://positjournal.com/2021/05/11/janis-butler-holm-gina-osterloh/) fly madly through space alongside silicone cooking gloves. Rhythms of sound and image create a stage that includes cracks and fractures of the digital, while the fractions of anti-rhythms create an ocean of possibility. Play and absurdity work as a mode of refusal within the functioning politics, structures, and realities of civil society, The State, violence, and the tactical use of arms.
Janis Butler Holm: Kim Zumpfe’s “Army” immediately suggested America’s pressing need to restrain toxic hypermasculinity (think the 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol). Sound poems offered the dual possibility of nonsense and critique.
Margaret Emma Brandl — West Texas: A Letter to Walt Whitman
I began writing lyric letters to Walt Whitman sometime shortly after I discovered creative nonfiction. My letters then were equal parts moony and contemplative, with the idea of Walt Whitman—exuberant, effusive, grandiose, tender—standing in for the blog readers I wished I had (it was 2009!). In this video essay, I catch up with Walt Whitman after years without letters, describing and reflecting upon a landscape he’d only ever imagined—a landscape I’d never thought myself interested in before I ended up there. Like my early letters to Walt Whitman, this essay is about coming of age, finding certainty in your own choices, loving as an action verb, and learning to distinguish between streetlamps and the moon.
“Cecily and the Dragon” was written during Lockdown as a response to a writing prompt found somewhere on the internet. It is written about the unreal world of imagination and childlike hope that I feel so many people descended into upon the breaking news of the pandemic.
“A God Dream” is a micro–short film that looks at a relationship of convenience. Shot and produced by Thomas Compton, the film explores how two unnamed lovers, portrayed by actors Jet Summan and Georgia Neath, look vulnerable in the broad daylight of a Birmingham, UK park.
Kelly “Native Child” Brown — SpongeBob & Juice Boxes
As an artist, Kelly “Native Child” Brown’s goal is to create a body of work that recognizes the beauty of struggle and growing from pain. Every thorn has a rose, every rose has a thorn, and they work together to create something stunning. She thinks of her work as letters—which explore the intersections of motherhood, trauma, depression, and survival—that she would write to her daughters. “My hope is that readers will not only get a glimpse into my pain and truth but also a glimpse into my triumphs,” Brown said.
My narrative nonfiction collection retraces my grandfather’s tour as an Army combat engineer in WWII Europe: He fought at Normandy, Battle of the Bulge, the bridge at Remagen, and liberated concentration camps. Typically, my writing incorporates reportage, historical data, letters, travel writing, and oral storytelling; however, I have recently transformed my work into a podcast in order to truly embody the art of oral storytelling in voice and cadence. Historically speaking, soldiers rarely discuss combat, so how can we know their experience? In order to preserve history, to preserve the truth about war and its impact, we need veterans to speak, and we need to listen.
The podcast uses raw audio clips from interviews with the protagonist, my 85-year-old grandfather, who openly admits to never discussing the war because: “No one ever asked.” His narrative scenes set during the war are then read by a combat veteran. To be clear, there is no acting, as there is no need, allowing the dramatic actions to speak for themselves. For the debut episode, “France in June,” I take a bus tour to the Normandy beaches for the 65th anniversary of D-Day. I quickly realize I know little about the war. The braided narrative then flashes back to the Invasion of Normandy, following my grandfather Del as he supplies munitions to fellow combat engineers on Utah Beach. Del watches as the infantry drown and are mowed down by gunfire. The Navy and Army Air Corps conduct military maneuvers that Del believes killed both GIs and Germans. The listener is left to question the truth and what we remember as truth. To capture the combat experience, I impressed upon my brother, James DeFonzo, to read Del’s scenes. James served in the Marine Corps in Ramadi, Iraq. Perhaps if one GI could speak, then another, then another. Upon close of the podcast, I interview my brother about his tour. As we reflect on both stories, the podcast reveals that the soldier’s tale seems indifferent to time and place, and thematic resonance lies in how deeply connected the past is to the present.
My grandfather passed away in March 2018. As I said at his funeral, “No matter how hard I try, I will never be able to recreate the presence he had in a room.” But I’ll sure as hell try.
“House Haiku” is a daring experiment that I have randomly worked on every few years of my writing career that has spanned over eight years. It was only a year back that I put all efforts into creating a modern and experimental form that would speak to people of our generation and those after in the far future. “House Haiku: Freedom” is one of the earlier tracks produced.
Poetry and music have had an ancient relationship. As such, mainly longer poetry forms such as classical epics, mainstream music, spoken word, poetical exchanges in storytelling, and theater have received widespread audiences and reception. The shorter poetry forms, however, such as the haiku have had minimal contact with music. “House Haiku,” as the name suggests, combines house music with haiku recitations. Why house music, you may ask? House is flexible and infuses various instruments. House is genderless, is for all ages, and is home to the haiku, with its uncanny ability to bring out the musical essence of the haiku’s written/spoken form.
In “House Haiku: Freedom,” the music embodies the need to run free: to unshackle our limitations and breathe the excitement of travel, adventure, and the unknown. You will find the familiar and unfamiliar—natural and alien—sounds that resonate with your inner spirit. These sounds urge you to break boundaries and borders, gently nudging you to step out of your comfort zone and seek.
Ossie’s retiring today from the mannequin factory having been there for all of his working life. Now that his colleagues have left it’s time for Ossie to say his final farewells to the ones he holds dear. As a filmmaker, I’ve always been interested in blending genres, particularly fiction with non-fiction, and using different types of methods and materials to explore that with. It’s also very important to me, and what I creatively strive for, to create films that use the medium for all its immense advantages—sound, image, and pacing—juxtaposing them to express something that is greater than the sum of its parts.
When I was approached to take part in this project, I was very excited because The Listener’s Project is a spontaneous one. You pretty much get told your location (in my case the warehouse) on day one, you have 48 hours to write the script, and four days to assemble a crew and cast it. So, your response to the location has to be immediate, sort of like a reflex. You have to look around and listen to the space and try to come up with something that best uses this (particular) place to tell an engaging story. It’s a very exhilarating experience because it both quickly heightens your storytelling skills and hones your craft. You also sort of find yourself “in service” of this space and you want to honour it, which I found immensely inspiring.
I thought of how I could keep all production in this space, so I had all of the mannequin characters played live by the actors voicing them (off camera). So for Ossie’s shots the voice actor would be standing where the mannequin was in order to help the actors realize a real human connection. It’s a very interesting thing to cast inanimate objects as characters.
First you have to respond to its look, and then you have to think if the actors voice fits that object, and lastly, could the voice bring it to life? Often, we’d come across a good blank canvas, but something was missing, there was no spark. Then we’d place a wig or glasses on them, and suddenly they’d come alive. It was a very interesting experience in taking filmmaking back to its “make believe” roots and seeing what you can do with emotional projection. One of the things that Gráinne Creighton (editor) and I decided on was that every encounter/scene will have its own soundscape, exemplifying its own world—giving us a time frame, a mood, etc. We found that was crucial to bringing this imaginary world to a place where viewers could suspend their disbelief.
I am Yidan Xie, a young multimedia artist from China now living in the United States. As a multimedia artist, I focus mainly on dynamic imaging. My digital works are varied, including use of video, animation, illustration, sound, and visual design. In them, I present a mysterious and fantastic visual experience, drawing on the emerging medium of spatial narrative and on relationships of women to nature and mythology.
This latest project is an independent and experimental animation, “The Classic of Mountains and Seas.” Its inspiration comes from an ancient Chinese book of the same name: a compilation of mythic geography and myths. My work introduces new forms of animation to accompany this traditional storyline, in particular images arising from discoveries and interesting concepts in the study of Eastern painting.
Viewers may find that text in this animation is often hard to read, because the font is difficult to decipher. Through these strange texts, I explore and attempt to discover inverse relationships between images and narrative. Movement allows for another level of interpretation and understanding—rough and broad—of the language and its meaning. Viewers may “read” the new symbols, text, and language per the suggestions of the images. In this sense, though they may not directly interpret the text, they nevertheless begin to feel an understanding of its meaning. Viewers are encouraged to experience the work as a whole, to feel rather than simply read the text.
A second notion at work in this piece, the idea of admitting blank space, derives from a concept of “white space” particular to Eastern painting. Eastern artists believe that consciously preserved white space provides room for the imagination. I have adopted this concept in my animation, and use sound to populate imageless blank spaces. Meanwhile, I create a unique background with a different visual aesthetic for each creature represented in the piece, distinguishing the foreground and background, which generates another layer of space.
Sound, finally, is an important element in this animation. It serves not only as background music, but also as a narrative tool for filling darkened empty space with a sense of hearing. For example, when clouds gather, the viewer can hear sounds of thunder and rain, but no corresponding image is offered visually. Sound in this way does not always cater to image: it can develop space and narrative independently.