Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Poetry Scores and Exdergi do Contemporary Istanbul 2011

So as we were saying, Poetry Scores started a new Sister City program and announced Istanbul as our inaugural Sister City.

Right away this helped to make good things happen, as our sister citizens in Istanbul with the magazine Exdergi launched furiously into the project of getting us accepted into Contemporary Istanbul 2011 as an Arts Initiative, and they succeeded.

Here is a little bit of evidenec.

The Contemporary Istanbul catalogue. We're on Page 122.

An artful blog post. The blog scrolls right, as well as down; scroll far right and you get a glimpse of how our space looked at Contemporary Istanbul.

An artful video. This is a time-lapse piece on Contemporary Istanbul getting set up and then going down in style, edited to "The marching band of his friend and of death" by Kennebunkport Jazz Workshop, from our poetry score to Ece Ayhan's Blind Cat Black, translated by Murat Nemet-Nejat.

We got so excited we thought we'd rush so we could make a big announcement of another Sister City project between St. Louis-based Poetry Scores and Istanbul. We put that all together, involving a band in Istanbul scoring a Nobel laureate poet ... then decided not to rush and announce it at the festival.

So we'll wait a minute on that.

And Contemporary Istanbul, we hope to see you in 2012!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

St. Louis arts organization formally states kinship to Istanbul

Introducing: Poetry Scores’ Sister Cities Program

Starting from its roots in rock bands and a field recording collective, Poetry Scores always has been a people-to-people, artist-to-artist endeavor. From its infancy as an official arts organization that translates poetry into other media, Poetry Scores always has deliberately varied its focus, year by year, between American and International poets. And we always have been scavengers for collaboration, seeking and accepting help from any quarter in turning poetry into music, visual art, movies, beer, whatever.

Add all that together and one thing you might get is what we annouce now: The Poetry Scores Sister City Program. Starting in 2011, each year we will adopt a creative Sister City for Poetry Scores (and our beloved hub of St. Louis, Missouri). As we always have done with our choice of poets to score, we will alternate between International and American Sister Cities, starting this time with the Internationals, since in 2011 we happen to be scoring an international (Irish) poet.

And the Sister City that Poetry Scores adopts in 2011 is: Istanbul, Republic of Turkey.

The immediate occasion for this choice is Tunca Subasi of Istanbul accepting our invitation to show in the 2011 Poetry Scores Art Invitational. Tunca also is lending his penetrating artwork about the American atomic bomb project to the movie we are producing now, Go South for Animal Index, based on Stefene Russell’s poem about The Bomb. This marks our first collaboration with an international artist in an Art Invitational or a movie production.

But Tunca stands on the shoulders of giants when it comes to the creative relationship between Istanbul and Poetry Scores.

Poetry Scores has its earliest roots in the rock bands Enormous Richard, Eleanor Roosevelt and Three Fried Men. The songwriting core of these bands set to music the poetry of Orhan Veli – a great genius of Istanbul – as translated into English by a son of Istanbul, Murat Nemet-Nejat. We were guided in this work by Defne Halman, a Turkish/American actress now based in Istanbul.

The second poem we scored as Poetry Scores was Blind Cat Black, one of the greatest poems ever written (however allusively) about Istanbul – by Ece Ayhan and translated into English by Murat. Blind Cat Black was the first movie we made from one of our poetry scores. Then Ipek Tuna, Onur Karagoz and others brought our movie Blind Cat Black to Istanbul in 2010. Through this exchange, a creative dialogue, affection and friendship has started to evolve between the underground artistic community of Istanbul and our large collective of (mostly) St. Louis artists.

What does it mean to be a Poetry Scores Sister City? We expect what it means to evolve over time, but going into it, we accept a responsibility to reach out to artists and audiences in our Sister Cities as we go about our work. Just as we do spontaneously and pragmatically with St. Louis, we will look to these cities for our talent, our audiences, our ideas, our friends. It’s not a one-shot deal, either – once a Sister City, always a Sister City. The relationship is cumulative and ongoing. In the case of Istanbul, this amounts to a formal statement of an existing relationship; but there is value in formal statements.

For specific starters, in addition to Tunca joining our Art Invitational for Incantata and movie crew for Go South for Animal Index, Ipek has committed to chairing a committe to translate Go South for Animal Index into Turkish, and Poetry Scores has committed to use this translation to edit a subtitled Turkish edition of the completed movie.

Artists and audiences in our Sister City of Istanbul, we hope to hear from you; and you can expect to hear more from us – people to people, artist to artist, friend to friend.

Poetry Scores * *


Photo from EUROsimA.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Poetry Scores Art Invitational FAQ

I've been receiving some questions about this year's Poetry Scores Art Invitational, which is a good sign -- new people must be hearing about it. So here is an FAQ.

When does it start? How late will you be there?
The Art Invitational is an art auction. Doors and bidding in the silent auction open at 6 p.m. this Friday, November 11 at Mad Art Gallery. As bidding wars take shape, we will go live with the auction on the contested pieces. We expect to start moving to live auctions some time after 7 p.m. and have all art sold around 9 p.m. The party is likely to last until 10 p.m. or even later.

Where is this place?
Mad Art is located at 2727 So. 12th Street in Soulard. It's in a former police station, so look for the POLICE sign. Mad Art has extensive directions on its website. From downtown St. Louis, go south on Tucker/12th Street. Just under 44, Gravois darts off to the right and 12th Street continues to the left with a left turn. Go left and drive on 12th Street through Soulard towards the A-B brewery, and Mad Art is on your right just as you near the brewery. It's on the south edge of Soulard, east of 55.

Does it cost anything?
It's free to come in. There is a cash bar. (Contributing artists get two free drink tickets each.) If you bid on art and win, you'll need to be prepared to pay that night and take your art home with you. We accept cash, check and credit payments.

How does this thing work?
Poetry Scores has asked more than 50 artists to make art inspired by the same poem. The artists are required to title their piece after a quote from the poem. We then hang the work in the space according to where in the flow of the poem the language chosen for the title appears. Poetry Scores is dedicated to translating poetry into other media -- in this case, visual media.

How does the whole bidding thing work?
It's easy. Next to each art work is a tag with the artist name and title of the piece. On a table near each piece will be a bid sheet, identified by artist name and title, that states the opening bid price for the piece. If you are the first bidder, just bid the opening price or anything above it. If there is a previous bid, then beat it. Add your phone number and email address to be safe, but don't go anywhere. Watch your bid sheets. As bidding wars get going, we will move to live auctions right in front of the piece that is moving to live auction. Be prepared to compete in the live auction until there is a sale. If there is no live auction, then all silent auctions will be concluded at 9 p.m. Be prepared to pay as soon as bidding on your piece is closed.

What if I have the high bid but I need to leave?
Make sure all of your contact information is on the bid sheet. Tell someone at the pay station you are leaving but want the piece(s) where you are high bidder and will settle up right away. If you really want the piece, tell the person at the pay station to appoint a proxy bidder for you and set a proxy bid ceiling (how high you are willing to do) in writing with the pay station.

Isn't original art expensive? Can I afford anything?

Original art is expensive, by many consumer standards, for good reasons. Because our Art Invitationals tend to attract other artists, we get a high-concept but typically low-income crowd. Therefore, each year we encourage our artists to set their opening bid low, in the $50 or $75 range. Many (but not all) artists go along with these ridiculously low opening bid prices, or even lower prices, though it's an auction, so the price can climb. All told, most people agree that our show is the art bargain of the year in St. Louis. We like it that way; we'd rather make less money and see all of the art go home with buyers than make a killing off a few sales at gallery prices.

Is this a benefit? For who? For what?
Proceeds from all sales are split evenly three ways: between the artist, the gallery and Poetry Scores. This limits how much we benefit, but it reflects our cooperative spirit. The portion that goes to Poetry Scores will be used to release our projects. We also translate poetry into music (i.e., poetry scores) and movies. At the moment, we need to reprint one poetry score CD that is sold out (Stefene Russell, Go South for Animal Index) and are producing a new movie (in fact, based on the same poem, Go South).

That sounds great, but I can't make it on Friday. Can I bid anyway?
Yes! We accept proxy bid ceilings. Here is how that works. You tell us how much you are willing to spend (set a proxy bid ceiling) and what you are looking for (particular artists, styles, colors, etc.). We will appoint a proxy bidder to manage your money conservatively, inching up on bids up to your bid ceiling. We then collect upon delivery of your new art if you win. Email Chris King at to establish a proxy bid ceiling.

This sounds great. I want to support it but have no use for original art. Can I donate? Is it tax-deductible?
Yes, and yes. Poetry Scores is a Missouri non-profit corporation with 501(c)3 federal tax status. All donations to the organization are tax-deductible. Contact creative director Chris King at

My kid (nephew, niece) went to a SCOSAG workshop and has art in this show. That's what I want to see. Where is the kids' art?
This year, for the first time Poetry Scores partnered with the South City Open Studios and Gallery (SCOSAG) to involve children in the show. Seven children were signed up for a workship where they made drawings of things mentioned in the poem -- honey, salmon, nightmarish, bride, three frogs' karoake; you name it. Each of the seven child artists has at least one piece in the "big people's show" hung in the main space of the gallery. Like all of the art, their drawings are hung depending on where in the poem their titles appear. The rest of the children's art is hung according to the same principles inside the jail cell in the hallway between the front door and the main space.

Is the kids' art treated like the adults' art in terms of the auction?
Yes and no. The child's art in the main space will be auctioned off like the rest of the art in the show. Bid on your drawing and pay attention for when the auction goes live. The child's art in the jail cell costs $2 each. Just take the drawing you want and bring it to the pay station in the main space to pay.

Any other quesions? Email Thanks!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Wrapping a fish, as in fish actor, with Herr Doctor Professor & the vintage car

The first shoot yesterday, on a very long and ambitious day of shooting on our movie Go South for Animal Index, also was the last shoot for a workhorse -- or rather, workfish -- actor, who now has been on this job more than a year. Yesterday I began to call this goldfish, a stray resuce from the bait tank, "Leopold," after an orchestra conductor character played by Bugs Bunny in a Loony Tune. I enticed the man holding the fishbowl, Richard Edwin Skubish, who grew up with me in Granite City watching these cartoons, to whisper in excited awe, "Leopold ...!" every time the fish came out of the prop shop for a take.

Skoob, as his friends know him, plays the scientist who dies at Lost Almost, our fabled version of Los Alamos. I can't believe it's taken us this long for us to shoot this scientist entering Los Almost with his family, one of the first things viewers will scene in the completed movie, but we got it done yesterday morning at our prop shop.

Then it was a long haul from South City out to North County to shoot one of the last scenes in the movie: the widow of the dead scientist and their daughter driving into a sunset that becomes a nucleur sunset with the successful test of the nucleur bomb spreading behind their car. Our fearless crew of V. Elly Smith, Kraig Krueger, and Dan Cross walked up the road to get in position after I figured out the stretch of road where we should shoot.

Kraig ended up setting up further down hill for an amazing wide shot, but Dan got more of the roadside zoom.

Marty Luepker, who rented us this beautiful 1940s car for a song, drove up and down this hill for many takes. We were shooting at the spread of a generous friend who was out of town, yet allowed not one but two movie crews to shoot on his property yesterday. We have mutual friends in the other production and they sweetly and carefully coordinated with us so no one drove into one of our shots. No one ever did.

We still needed to shoot the widow and daughter, played by Stefene Russell and Claire Eiler, climbing into the car from the woods for that final drive-off, so we drove down a woodsy side road and shot that as well.

We have some footage of them walking together in some other wooded environments, but we shot them walking through these woods as well while they were there. The widow, by the way, is played by Stefene Russell, the poet who wrote the poem Go South for Animal Index and did voice-over work on the poetry score. Stefene was an indie film star as a younger woman. Claire is carrying an empty bird's nest. Her character's discovery of this empty nest is one of the turning points to her emerging from her grief over her dead father.

In the movie, these events happen at dusk becoming dark. Dan and Kraig were set up to shoot "day for night" where you filter your shot to look blue-ish, but Elly was not. So we peeled Elly off to get the bamboo/woods transition shots. I wanted someone from the military base and someone from the tribal people walking from Missouri-esque woods to bamboo and vice versa. Thom Fletcher's soldier character did this three ways: workmanlike, dead tired, and dead drunk.

Martin Sophia's tribal mystic character did the same, both in ceremonial garb and in his outfit as a menial comissary worker on the military base.

Martin is carrying an African doll he uses in one healing ceremony for the sick child in the tribe (sick, we are supposed to conclude, from uranium exposure). We shot that scene before the spider totem in the courtyard at Atomic Cowboy, with a background of bamboo lining a fence. We turned Atomic Cowboy's unique, bamboo-lined courtyard into a movie lot after my all-volunteer crew balked at driving all the way out to Cuba, Missouri every time we needed to shoot. That's what created the need to have some characters physically connect a bamboo landscape to what looks like Missouri woods. What puzzles me is that the man who sculpted that spider totem for Atomic Cowboy, Wesley Fordyce, is the same man who let us wander in and out of the bamboo and Missouri woods on his property.

Next, Elly and I took Thom and Martin to Atomic Cowboy to pick up a shot we needed at the quonset hut there, which stands in for our military comissary. When we were still shooting in Cuba, Thom's soldier dives into the woods to trade two hamburgers for moonshine distilled by a tramp in the woods, Coyote (played by Kyla Webb, aka Sammich The Tramp of Beggars Carnivale). My shooting script called for the soldier to pick up these burgers at the comissary from a tribal mystic working his menial day job on the base. Got it!

Our two movie units regrouped, with just about an hour of natural light left, down on the Mississippi riverfront, where Marty Luepker's parents live and garage their vintage vehicles. Stefene Russell can't drive a stick shift, so we needed a safe and secure place to shoot her "driving" while Marty pushed the car.

Not that Marty complained, he is a joy to work with, but after a point we decided we could just roll the car downhill to acheive the same effect.

The other thing we badly needed to shoot was in-car interaction between the widow and grieving daughter. In their storyline, they wander on wheels after being put out out of Lost Almost when the father/husband with the job in the physics lab died. We need to show a gradual, slow arc of coping with grief -- in two sets of costumes.

With the time and gear at hand, we mostly had to shoot these scenes with the car in one place and our production assistant Jocko Ferguson creating movements of light to suggest motion.

It was kind of an all-hands-on-deck situation. At the very end of the day, as the sun dropped out of the sky, we had about twenty minutes to capture one of the emotional pivots for one of our one-hour-long movie's four storylines.

As you can see from this frame on Elly's camera, our cast and crew came through.

Very much looking forward to seeing Claire's face the size of a movie theater screen.

Playing the sad emotions was not too difficult at this point for our throroughly exhausted child actor, who pulled a 9 to 5 on a Saturday, acting all day long. Claire will not lack for options, but she certainly has the talent, temperament and stamina to be a professional actor if she wishes.

I also crammed in an evening interior scene, since we are running out of mild weather and none of our locations are heated. For Dan, Jocko, and me, it was back to the prop shop to shoot The Atomic Lady doing her thing in the Lost Almost office. Modeled after the historical Dorothy McKibben, The Atomic Lady is played by Amy Broadway. This character is basically Lost Almost's executive secretary.

In our movie, she types up secret passes under orders from Herr Doctor Professor, the boss of the nucleur lab and bomb shop, played by Paul Casey. Paul has not had a hair cut in more than a year, so getting this scene done last night also enabled us to wrap his character and send him, at last, to the barber.

Herr Doctor approves her work -- or not. When not, it's her task to torch the secret documents.

Dan framed some amazing scenes of flames licking at Amy's face and eating away at words from Stefene's poem typed on these pages. The very astute viewer, after repeated viewings, might notice The Atomic Lady burns papers with code words that appear on the secret passes from the two Lost Almost characters who die in the movie.

I saved the best for last. Out at Wesley's we also shot an important scene near the very end of the movie. Thom Fletcher's soldier, after a military career distinguished by drinking secret moonshine and grunt-crawling zombies into the path of test bomb blasts, goes AWOL. He melts into the woods, ditches his rifle and helmet, and digs up his old Vendor of Stuffed Animals hat and bindlestick.

And who should chance down his new route but the widow and grieving daughter, grieving less now after witnessing a successful tribal healing ceremony of the sick tribal child that they stumbled upon in the woods.

The movie opened with The Vendor of Stuffed Animals, before his induction into the military, trying and failing to sell his wares to zombie uranium miners. It ends with him successfully, finally, sealing a deal!

Then he watches them drive off into what soon becomes a nucleur sunset.