Posted by: goodcoldwater | June 8, 2009

Ice Flow, an urban video-poem

I stopped because it was pretty in an ugly sort of way. I stayed because it echoed something in myself.

An urban ice field, slagged in gravel, oozing salt: Pb, Cu, Cd, Zn, Al, Ca, Na, Mg, and Fe. A permeable ecological interface: traffic, trees, sewer gratings, pedestrians, and sunshine. Taps, sewers, roots, trees, mouths, anuses.

The Montreal-based artist David “jhave” Johnston is a digital/video/new media artist who has committed to what he calls “digital poetry and new media jelly” – a delicious yet slightly fecund phrasing.

Here’s jhave’s video-poem Ice Flow, a movie of melting runoff from an inner city snow heap. Part ice-muck adoration, part idleness, part toxicity, part helplessness, Ice Flow presents a quiet hum of biochemical poetry well worth watching. On jhave’s website, Ice Flow sits near the bottom of the page at  http://glia.ca/sketches-HD/ Shot in Montreal, 2008.
 

Jhave - iceFlow

click to view video

jhave’s artwork includes videos and interactive installations, and he’s a unique creator in the still-new genre of digital literature (he spoke at a panel on digital lit at this year’s Blue Metropolis Festival in Montreal). I’ve been following jhave’s work since 2004 and I find his artworks consistently place human consciousness into non-hierarchical relationships with other biologies and ecologies. Which may be a stiff, self-conscious phrasing but his work isn’t – it’s humble and audacious at the same time. His videos in particular are a refreshing break from our systemic habits of relentlessly using nature without allowing ourselves to interact tenderly with it.

Ice Flow is one of several digi-poems jhave calls “Hi-Def Ditch: An Experiment in Inverted Aesthetics.”

The poetry lines run phrase by phrase beneath the stills, but if you want to read the text outright – I did – here they are. Process notes and tech notes (what kind of recording gear & software are involved) are listed on jhave’s site.

I stopped because it was pretty in an ugly sort of way. I stayed because it echoed something in myself.

A certain stoic ruined grandeur, ignored by the rushing city. A sense of the world seeping into itself. A placid timeless tragic momentum. Saturated in toxic pride and anti-caking cyanide. Coming into leaf and bud, growing. Winters and people together contributing to it. A city-glacier indifferently wrestling chain-link to the ground. A confluence of fertility and stasis. Decorated with garbage-bags which the wind contorts into enthusiasm.

An urban ice field, slagged in gravel, oozing salt: Pb, Cu, Cd, Zn, Al, Ca, Na, Mg, and Fe. A permeable ecological interface: traffic, trees, sewer gratings, pedestrians, and sunshine. Taps, sewers, roots, trees, mouths, anuses.

With spring’s arrival, weeds bloom from the wet earth. Starlings, nesting in nearby factory vents, wash in the puddles. People forget the ice mountains. Mounds of gravel, pimples of toxic dust. Melting into the background: leaking slowly toward death. The ripening sun erodes murky peripheries. In runoff cascades, residues of life, biochemical ricochets. Icy plastic, foil, and packaging clumped together with car fumes and heavy metals. Summer gutters washed by winter’s corpse. Litter and organic waste breeding glistening beautiful mud. Seeds germinating (futile as me) on moist concrete. Cigarette cellophanes dams blocking slushy trickles.

A pounding incessant heat drives the world fertile. Debris leaks desire; desire leaks debris.

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