by Brenda Clews
Myra Walks from P. E. Sharpe on Vimeo.
How do you approach "situations which require a significant amount of critical distance"?1
Is this moving away from what you are close to in order to understand it? 'To approach' with 'critical distance' seems awkward as an emotional strategy, let alone as a methodology. An artwork arising out of a paradoxical I-approach (in the first person) /I-am-an-onlooker (in the third person) will surely be fraught with tensions, fissures, cracking points that threaten or overwhelm.
Who is Myra, and why does she walk?
The thumbnail shows a split screen with two blurry landscape images. Let us enter: hit Play.
As I watched, I wrote: "[the video is] certainly playing with the horizon line, not only the artificially created vertical one in the middle of the screen that splits the two clips, but the way the horizons in the landscapes in the split screen seem to attempt to meet, again and again, within the pace of the rhythm of the footsteps of the videographer. The sonic scape is ominous, and the sounds of children playing, absent from the screen, again, ominous. I did just see a figure momentarily, a man, perhaps a child with him. In the meditation, we, the audience are being taken to a point in the landscape, we travel a path to a moment of consciousness. Finally, at the end, clarity in the clip on one side, and a psychedelic strobe on the other, and sonically, we have arrived at the ocean, where we read the final inscription, and realize we have been traveling in a memorial, and feel the splitting inside us, the immediacy of the tragedy, our sadness."
Because what I wrote was in a thread in her post of the video on G+, P.E. Sharpe responded: "It's also playing with the testimonies of Myra Hindley, who said she waited by the car in the layby on the other side of the road and yet at some point she decided to draw a map of the sites in question. I traced her steps and I stopped at the bridge over a drainage ditch that she refused to cross, unwilling to elaborate further. I tried as best I could to grasp her sense of what she had actually done, the potential for a range of human response within her, very much trying to assimilate her character. The soundscape is layered with both ambient (present when I shot the video) and recorded sound from a variety of sources. I think I may have had as many as 9 tracks when all was said and done."
Wikipedia tells us: "The Moors murders were carried out by Ian Brady and Myra Hindley between July 1963 and October 1965, in and around what is now Greater Manchester, England. The victims were five children aged between 10 and 17—Pauline Reade, John Kilbride, Keith Bennett, Lesley Ann Downey and Edward Evans—at least four of whom were sexually assaulted. The murders are so named because two of the victims were discovered in graves dug on Saddleworth Moor, with a third grave also being discovered there in 1987, over 20 years after Brady and Hindley's trial in 1966." We learn that, "Hindley made the first of two visits to assist the police search of Saddleworth Moor on 16 December 1986[;]....and her second visit to the moor in March 1987." It is these latter walks to find the graves of the children that forms the reason for the walk of the videographer along the same route in Myra Walks.
Why would I consider a video without an actual poem a videopoem in VidPoFilm?
Poetry at VidPoFilm, among many approaches, is that a video can be a 'visual poem' that does not require words on screen or by voiceover. Myra Walks relies on a historical narrative to explain its raison d'être, and why the footage has been edited to portray emotional schism, a comprehension of a collective memory that is fraught with contradiction, horror, tragedy in a landscape that takes on these qualities in the handheld clip of the videographer walking, in the editing with its split screen and blurs, and ominous soundtrack.
Historical poems rely on the historical narrative they are referring to in the poems that are written in context of both the recorded story and the present-day situation of the poet. Myra Walks is a visual poem that P. Elaine has created as a kind of splintered mirror of a specific geographical location where the modern traveller is in juxtaposition to crimes committed many decades before. She explores the strange relationship we have with visiting sites where murder occurred, and the way these memories, that aren't our own, but are 'ours' in a social sense, in a cultural context, impact us. She wordlessly carries the memory of these crimes, and their locale, to us through her visual poem, her video.