Revisiting Motion in Visual Poetry

Earlier in my visual research, I produced a short motion anthology using the poems I produced for my initial print anthology. I limited the visual variables to simple typographic manipulations in black and white in order to get a better understanding of how motion and sound specifically work as rhetorical devices in poetry.

Creating this series was an intuitive, iterative, and low pressure process. When I shared the results with my classmates, I found that they responded more strongly to this than to the short printed anthology I created. I think the fast-paced nature and combination of sound and motion made for a more compelling overall narrative.

While working on creating poetry on the web (and exploring interactivity as a type of rhetoric), I was finding that the process had less of an easy entry point. It was difficult to begin to work on pieces, and upon reflection, I think this was because I felt like my coding abilities were dictating what I was making, so I didn’t have full creative control.

I was also struggling with how on the web, I wasn’t able to allow users to “scrub” forward and backward through the animations. I was able to figure out how to trigger CSS animations on scroll, but users couldn’t move backward and forward through the poem and view the animations again without refreshing the page. It was important to me that users could be able to do this because that would allow them to read at their own pace. When I read printed poetry, I read a few lines, then re-read a few lines before continuing in order to absorb the images or meanings. It was important to me that users could still have this privilege in an interactive anthology.

Since I couldn’t give users the control I wanted to on the web, I decided to return to motion pieces. Motion pieces are more passive, but they also time the release of information in very specific ways. Sound and motion can be timed to coincide in very particular and intentional ways that can have a strong impact. I decided to create a few more pieces for this series to see what it was that I liked about this medium in particular, as well as to see how my new poems would look in motion and with sound.

Again, this was a very enjoyable and intuitive process. However, I started to feel like the visuals needed to be enriched in some way, as the black and white was a bit too limiting.

First, I thought about incorporating environment into the pieces by projecting motion work into a particular setting, and then filming the results. I experimented with this a bit earlier, when I projected tweets into a setting and then photographed it. (See below)

I made a quick and dirty concept video (below) to see how this approach would look with a motion piece. I thought using domestic spaces would add another layer of meaning to the motion series. The poems largely discuss mental health, and I feel that most reflection on mental health happens in solitude in everyday settings. Using bedrooms, kitchens and living rooms as the canvas for the works would personalize and strengthen the narrative.

Once I made this quick mockup, however, I realized that the type would likely get lost on the surfaces I projected it on.

Next, I tried to evoke the experience of a printed poetry anthology in the motion series. I used a blank spread of a bound book as the backdrop of the piece, and then placed the motion work on top. I also printed frames from the piece, distorted them using a scanner, and re-introduced them into the motion work to add an analog quality and visual tension.

I felt that while this approach was more visually interesting, it was still lacking some character. I also worried that alluding to a book was a bit too obvious. I decided to take some time to reflect on what I wanted the project to become before moving forward (stay tuned…).