"Running Time: 47 minutes"

2 DVD set and notes to the videopoems



The concept for this first "videopoem" was the recording of the performance of the poem. The text of the poem contained interjections of "STOP, STOP" which were yelled, whispered, pleaded, called out by Endre Farkas. A series of slides (interior details of a STOP sign and a DANGER sign) were rear-projected onto a screen behind which I sat in profile, leaning in and out of the "frame" of the camera which was fixed on the slides. The narrative concerns the contents of a letter sent to a woman whose daughter (Carmen) has died in war. The cryptic text mimics the form of censored letters; the punctuation of STOPs throughout allude to telegraphic messages.


Extending the investigation of the form, the work explores the act of writing, literally. The frame, as in Sympathies of War, is frozen, "mummyfied": it is the close-up the VTR, the lens focused on the moving needle of the audio level meter, as the video of Sympathies of War is playing. The sound is the sound from the video. A 3"x5" tear-off writing pad is underneath the meter. Lines are written on the pad, torn off, new lines are written; it is a performance in real time. Words are written, parts crossed out to form new words, new contexts.

The poetry here is the revelation of the live writing juxtaposed with the "mummyfied" version of the original poem, a video playing on a machine.


The structure of this videopoem is based on the I Ching, a Chinese manual of philosophy and divination; 64 hexagrams are used as an oracle, a path to the divine. Here, the six lines of Hexagram 30, known as Li, the Clinging, Fire, provide the 6-part punctuation for the piece.

This work continues the use of vehicular imagery (i.e. The Vehicule Poets) in the performance Drummer Boy Raga: Red Light, Green Light, the poem and subsequent videopoem No Parking, the videopoem-play Ubu's Blues, The Voyage of the Vehicle R, as well as the use of the STOP and DANGER signs in Sympathies of War.

Again, the text is written to be performed, accompanied by slides and video. The videopoem is the last stage of the work, utilizing a segment from the video recording of the performance as an element of the videopoem.


Handwritten text is superimposed over a (seemingly) still landscape.

The soundtrack is a relaxation exercise, in French. Eventually, the viewer becomes aware of an immense moving ship revealed only by its masts. As in Mummypoem, the text reveals the poem "bit by bit". (Possibly one of the first pure works using visual text in a non-narrative form.)


Handwritten text is superimposed over a moving ride-on mower. Each word beginning with the letter "c" is prefaced with "Quebec".

Conceived during the interminable debate over Quebec secession, this short videopoem satirizes the Quebec-ego. Surprise ending.


This video is an assembly of graffitti around Vancouver, exploring the urban psyche, comic, anarchic, at times tragic.

Both Hopscotch and Percussion were suggested by Artropolis 93, the multi-discipline art exhibition held every two years in Vancouver. The theme "Art in Public Places" prompted the creation of these works in a "commercial" format, i.e. 30-second and 60-second "spots".


Fingers poised above the drum, the command "play" is given. Percussion is a duet of voice and drum, recalling the "beatnik" era of poetry. On closer examination, the poem's recital is not "punctuated" but halted by the drum, effectively suspending the unravelling of the poem. The drum halts the poem strategically – before words beginning with the letter B. Like Hopscotch, words are substituted for numbers on a BINGO card.


In a deserted schoolyard, a young girl approaches a game of hopscotch. As we follow her skipping path through the game, we discover the squares are marked not with numbers, but words. The words spell out an aphorism for life: JUMP THROUGH HOOPS FOR LOVE MONEY POWER UNTIL –. With each close-up, her movements are depicted in slow motion, accompanied by an ominous growl. Before she starts her second pass, the sound of a ram's horn startles her. As if called away by the sound, she turns and runs away but not before she throws the stone one last time, which lands in the triangle of the "A", revealing the last word, DEATH.

Poetry has rarely succeeded in crossing from one medium to another. Translating a poem to film risks the most fundamental elements of poetry: its suggestiveness and mystery, its multi-layered descriptions, but more importantly, its intimacy. In Hopscotch the poem survives this visual metamorphosis, even gains in the process. The original poem was laid out on the page as a hopscotch game, with the words of the poem substituted for the squares. In the process of translating the poem to film, a "dramatic" tension – absent in the original – emerges. As the game is not simply "the game" of the poem, our heroine is also not simply the "player" of the film; as mirrors to the surreal, their too brief existence becomes a symbol of a timeless and inescapable truth, but still a tragedy.



NO PARKING (1982) 10 MIN

The visual elements of the videopoem were: reciting the opening lines while pacing back and forth on a loading dock; shots of the passing buildings, telephone wires, from a moving car; a cemetery; and lots of unique No Parking signs. My favourite found image is at the end - a schoolboy runs up and down over snow banks in an alley.

NO PARKING (2004) 12 MIN.

performed by Step Dans Fuego Theatre Collective

On April 8, 2004, The Musee d'Art Contemporain hosted an event to celebrate 25 years of the seven Vehicule Poets, "Cabaret Vehicule". The evening was half performance, half readings by the poets. The first half featured poems of each poet performed by the Step Dans Fuego Theatre Collective. They selected to perform the poem No Parking. My collaboration was to provide a script which divided the poem into 3 voices. The choreography of the poem was curious: most of the actors were directed to walk around as if on a tightrope; two actors held taut a 20-foot wide white sheet, creating a curtain as well as a writing surface.

SEE/SAW (1978) 15 MIN.

See/Saw is an overt political statement. It began as "a poem for two voices, violin, dancer on bicycle, saws". The collaboration resembled Drummer Boy Raga – Konyves wrote the poem, Ken Norris wrote between the lines. Costumes for the "judge" and the "admiral" were obtained from McGill University (they had just finished a Pinafore run), and a 20-ft. Canadian flag from the City of Montreal. Carol Harwood and Endre Farkas’ collaboration, the "contact improvisation" in the second scene, bears witness to the multimedia orientation of our artistic community at the time. Their rolling over one another provided the necessary punctuation to the absurd question-answer dialogue in the scene.
The verbal level of scene 1 spews forth venom generously; Ken's interruptions always supportive and complementary to the poetic diatribe. Visually, the dialogue is interrupted by two loggers hard at work sawing a log in two – "I saw my country in half".
Scene III was adapted from the poem by Tom Konyves, Anglophobia/Francophobia, reflecting the frustration of English Quebecers at the time of the introduction of Bill 101, the language law: the absurd argument for "schooling". Out of loss of meaning we glean a list, a 'pataphysical list, ending with "boxing games".
Discovering the "art" in "anti" by covering the right leg of the "n" and deleting the "i" by zooming in on the word, represented Dada. According to Lucy Lippard, "They utilized the fusion and confusion of sense and non-sense and lent themselves particularly to the pun... biting commentary via word play." (Dadas On Art, Introduction) They, too, found art in "anti", the nihilist, against-what-you-think-is-art principle. Tristan Tzara said the only principle "is to have no principle". Through Dada, the work fulfills the Blakean ideal of "unity of opposites & contraries" : good was never without evil at its side, beauty was never without ugliness, truth without the lie.
The last scene severs any contact between the two voices. While Konyves reels off a list of towns' names in Quebec (all prefixed St.-), Ken narrates a story he's reading in the paper about stones thrown by boys from an overpass at passing cars. The use of a certain amount of “numbers” in passages found in a newspaper produces unintentional poetic results. See/Saw explores poetry in the medium of theatre.


It is a singular act of creative writing which takes for its subject a hero from another author's work. Alfred Jarry's 'pataphysics generated a challenge to emulate, seventy years after Jarry's death, the "something in nothing" philosophy which hung over Jarry and Konyves like some brooding cloud. In 1978, copies of Alfred Jarry's selected works were unavailable in any of the bookstores in Montreal. How could he be popular? With the exception of the few enlightened by surrealism, most of the young Montreal poets had never heard of Alfred Jarry.

The birth of Ubu's Blues was aborted so Konyves could first write Sympathies Of War, then put off again for over a year.
Ubu's Blues is concerned with the element of time (the scene is a time-ship). At the start, Ubu, unmoving, eyes closed, is tapped on the forehead three times. The third time, he opens his eyes. The papal inference is not unintentional.
The prologue was written to justify the pun "Vehicle R - Vehicule Art". In chapter 7 of Dr. Faustroll, Jarry enumerates the virtues of existent literature, the "lineaments" of these: “from Ubu Roi, the fifth letter of the first word of the first act.” Naturally, that letter is the letter R. (Whether Jarry intended the significance of "art" contained in pronouncing "R" or whether it was a reference to the bathetic permutation of "merde" to "merdre", is open to debate.)
UBU exuded stillness, a fixedness against which his railing stood in relief. He was a natural for a "poetic" character, given to spewing forth all the venom worthy of the railing Thersites. Having committed numerous atrocities in his lifetime, never with his own hands, going unpunished, UBU here dies an ignoble death on an operating table.
DADA was the personification of the movement, this overwhelming force of negation, anarchy, which revolutionized art at the turn of the 20th century in a no less thorough fashion than the industrialization of the previous century revolutionized life, society, in toto. The visual appearance of DADA – goggles, Pinocchio-nose, T-shirt, wiry, mussed hair – was compounded by an accident that broke the actor's hand two weeks before the production, forcing him to perform with a cast. His high-pitched, crackling voice was in direct contrast with Ubu's deep, hoarse grumbling. Through Dada, we discover that wonderful word-play: “Ubu, you-be-you?”
PONTY (pontifical?) was played by Tom Konyves. He is the device to open and close the play.
VENUS was scripted as half-woman, half-mannequin. Embodying the half-life of the archetypal female, she hardly blinks an eye throughout.
GENERAL MISUNDERSTANDING, a role designed for a boy of 7, was played almost without a sign of nervousness by Konyves' son, Michael.
These characters appear as in a dream, tapping their feet impatiently, awaiting their turn to speak. How Ubu would lament his state! How he would curse his enemies! How Dada would ramble and rattle a chain of associative images! The Fool to Lear, Dada to Ubu.
Poetry does not claim to be the sole instrument of investigation in the existential quest; it is but one of many paths which inevitably lead to a bridge where all paths must of consequence converge. Thus a work may be poetic, but not necessarily poetry.


The title is a Dadaist fusion of Tristan Tzara and Nietzsche's Zarathustra. This was the last videopoem Tom Konyves made in Montreal before heading west to Vancouver. The poem is recited over a locked-off medium shot of an instructor madly waving his arms around while lecturing. The videopoem was edited during Easter of that year, which figures prominently in the collage of TV imagery concealing the face of the instructor. The "sweet as molasses" soundtrack sets an emotive vocal performance against a sustained blues instrumental.


What begins as "fatherly advice" turns into a vision of the river Styx, where Time stands and beckons – yet the poet sees only the vitality of his son and the mystery of poetry, revealed through the mundane "bridge" of his words.
During the summer of 2003, Tom Konyves' 19-year-old son Alexander was working on a multimedia project of the exhibition The River through Artists' Eyes at the Surrey Art Gallery. The videopoem is based on a 13-line poem submitted to the exhibition. The text of the original poem is posited, one line (sometimes one word) at a time, over Alexander's abstract water-related images, all sustained by the drone of an unrelenting didgeridoo. The poetic narrative is finally resolved by superimposing a slow-release verbo-visual pun on a spectacular moving shot of the underside of the Alex Fraser Bridge.

BEWARE OF DOG (2008) 3:30 min.

This videopoem imagines a conversation, an internal dialogue between the poet and his “spirit-guide”, revealed as words typed on the horizontal rails of a fence, accompanied by a Latin club beat (Los Chicarones), and punctuated with a well-situated growl or bark.
The image of the fence suggests “the other side”; on the other side of the fence, there is no dialogue, no visual text, no colour, no music – only the singular voice (Piper McKinnon) of the instinctive impulse, in black and white, in slow motion.
The inversion or revolving swivel of the word DOG (GOD) suggests two voices, two contrasting lines of text, displayed on the upper and lower rails of a fence. On the upper rail, the text appears as dissolved lines; it represents the voice of GOD, “from above”. On the lower rail, the text appears as typed words, revealed letter by letter, representing the poet’s voice, “from below”. The communication which follows is admittedly imperfect (the poet vaguely senses a presence). The juxtaposition of text was not predetermined. It was reserved for editing process, the stage at which the ‘poetic integration of elements’ is achieved: matching “upper” lines with “lower” lines, in juxtaposition with the rhythmic Latin club-beat of Los Chicarones, accentuated with their vocal bursts of “AHA”; as well, four different types of barks and growls were added to accompany the “upper” lines.


In this ode to the simultaneous, true and false perceptions collide in a 360-degree panoramic sweep of a moment in time, rendering life and art in equal measure.
“The text in this videopoem was assembled from hundreds of spam/scam e-mails I have been collecting over the years, representing the lies we are confronted with every day; yet the random phrases extracted from these passion-laden letters cannot help but also contain unintentional glimpses of truth. In between mundane and altered reality lies that precious essence of life I see as poetry.” – Tom Konyves