Andrew Stys, the artist known as UU or dou_ble_you, and Jude Cowan Montague collaborated on an occasional and on-going
AS: Sometime in September of 2018, I shoot a video in the Marseille metro station. I didn’t know or did I understand, why I did it. It was just past midday, but space was near empty. Someone there liked Feng Shui. I could see this. There was a massive fish tank in the middle of the platform, reflecting the fluorescent cosmos and French signage, filled with colourful, and very alive fish. I let the camera roll and recorded a strange ambient. Unexpectedly, a little French kid turned out and started to proclaim his bemusement at the spectacle of goldfish mouths. I could hear his mother responding, and I stopped.
Almost one year after, I asked Jude to send me a piece of her poetry, chosen by chance, and I received CLOSE. The words were somewhere between a French new wave erotic tease and Ingmar Bergmann’s existential angst. I thought of Liv Ullmann in Persona.
There was a sense of isolation, a detachment, in that poem. It wasn’t hopeless. There was also a yearning in-there to make the silent enemy your best friend. When did I feel something like that?
Ah, yes, I did – in Marseille’s underground. It was akin to visiting a Valley of the Kings tomb… and that’s how the choice of video footage happened. It is unabridged. The words fill the cinematic timeframe perfectly. It’s sheer synchronicity.
JCM: I wrote CLOSE in a flash. It connected to a poem that I wrote when I was at school about the beautiful dandelions that I saw walking to and from school. They were so utterly eggy-bright that I felt their beauty as a physical pain inside my brain that cut my mind like a knife. It connected and separated me from the universe at the same time. There is something sci-fi about this feeling. The eternal loneliness of everything and the star-seeker, desiring to be alone but seeking other lives.
AS: I thought this was lovely and the end of it. Then, a couple of mornings later, an unexpected postal e-mail pigeon arrives, blows his trumpet and says that BIRTHDAY is here for reasons unknown. A few hours later, I grabbed the chance to read it. I thought, “How odd, what is it?” In my mind, it was like a sublime, and so minutiae, version of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl. I mean the element of an existential howling at the Moon of Destiny. In the end, it turned out to be the universal feel-good, be-good, John Lennonish sing-along. Jude is like that Scandinavian kid preaching to the world about the climate, except her unique territory is the polarized, overheated mind, trying to come to terms with the unavoidable unhappy end.
The words of the poem were sitting at the back of my mind for the whole day. I came back home late in the afternoon. It was a hot day, and my space was a bit over the thermal comfort limit, so I opened all the windows to get some relief. I spread myself on my floor mattress, trying to chill out. Within a couple of minutes, I could hear a flutter of papers animated by the cross-currents passing my studio space. When I looked up, it was the most transfixing show of them all, plus that outside noise. The sounds coming in were like John Cage’s dream. I shoot a video here and then, thinking of The Birthday Song. It was all so fitting.
JCM: I just felt, with everyone wishing everyone else happy birthday that I had to write a birthday poem. But birthdays are so sad. They are tragic as well as good humoured. We spin around and around, going nowhere, round that blasted sun, and when we get back to square one, bang! We say well done. Well done indeed. We are still here. I thought I would write a birthday poem people could share. But birthdays are too sad for me, I feel scared of birthdays, they are the bogeyman that waits in the cupboard, and one day he is going to jump out and get me. One day soon. Yet, we’re here, we’re surviving together and while we are here we have to congratulate each other on not falling off the spinning rock into the void.
BLUE by JAZZMAN JOHN
AS: Bob Dylan was once a traditional folk singer. Then he went electric and started to project poetry via the attention-grabbing, successful formula. He had a remarkable musical talent. The synthesis proved fabulous. Before I started collaborating with Jude, I did a few video poems using John Clarke’s poetry. He was known as Jazzman John because a lot of his verses turned around the music, especially jazz. The first, and most satisfying of them all, was the video called BLUE, based on the poem of the same title.
JCM: Jazzman John was a friend and hero of poetry, not only performing himself but encouraging others, MC of many community poetry and music evenings. Although perfhaps not a shock when he died recently, it was a great loss. Your collaboratino with him on BLUE is one of the ways in which his spirit lives on. When I watch the video I feel like he still lives on in some way. Then when it finishes, I remember he’s gone.
ON EACH OTHER
AS: I find Jude’s words pretty unorthodox explorations of the void I know, except I never put anything about it in writing. Reading her texts I can feel like a Kubrickian astronaut, shocked by the outside experience and trying to find the way back to the Mothership. Lo and behold, the door opens for me, and there is a poem left in one of the pods, written by HAL on the basis of a childhood lullaby memory. This is empowering. I am ready to die.
JCM: When Andrew marries the video to the poetry it is a surprise. Now I have a new challenge to turn off the part of my brain that wants to control the poem-film. I have to let it drift, become what it is, let my brain make it anew. I am no longer director, I am audience. And my poem comes back to me, reborn as whatever it is now. It is like when a child grows up. You must let it become what it will be and seek to appreciate that child for what it is, not as something you have made. That’s what I tell myself. It gets easier to do this. I don’t think it is very natural for humans to do this, and we struggle with it.
AS: We both seem to be in a band. There’s a bond in the common output, a silver thread?
New United Artists produces video poems, film collages and other avant=media.