Chan_05_body.jpg
(still from Paul Chan's video)
I just noticed poetryfoundation’s video podcast section, which reminds me of Claudia Rankine's video essays. Poets expanding into multi-media collaborations are few and far between. Unfortunately, from the handful of collaborations I have seen, art becomes mere illustration to the poetry or the poetry becomes distracting background chatter to art. The voice-over feels obtrusive, burdensome. There’s no true confluence between word and image.
In her collaboration with her husband John Lucas, Claudia Rankine manages to avoid this pitfall. The video image itself is quite simple. She uses the famous footage of Zinedine Zidane head-butting Marco Materazzi during the 2006 World Cup match, except it’s slowed down considerably and it’s voiced over by Rankine who reads a collage of quotes from canonical writers on race and colonialism like Homi Bhaba, Frances Fanon, and James Baldwin. The marriage between image and voice works for the most part due to its slowness. The spareness and speed of the now familiar clip--the expanse of soccer green, the small pixilated image of Zidane slowly making his way to Materazzi to act out the inevitable—allows you to concentrate on her almost unbearably monotone voice. It’s hypnotic.

Originally Published: December 12th, 2008

Cathy Park Hong is the author of Translating Mo'um, (Hanging Loose Press, 2002); Dance Dance Revolution (W.W. Norton, 2007), winner of the Barnard New Women Poets Prize; and Engine Empire (W.W. Norton, 2012). She is the recipient of fellowships from the Fulbright Foundation, the NEA, and the New York Foundation for the...

  1. December 12, 2008
     Travis Nichols

    Holy shit, that North Korea video is amazing! Thanks, Cathy.