Referring to people as bodies isn't a turn of phrase I find particularly comfortable. It feels impersonal, even spooky, to separate a person's essence from their physical body; it turns them into something inhuman. However, in the case of Pivot Turn, a series of films that don't always take place in the world we're used to, it feels appropriate. Pivot Turn ran the second night of Northwest Film Forum's Cadence: Video Poetry Festival, which transferred smoothly online in the wake of COVID-19. The films were collected around the theme of a volta, the moment of emotional change in a poem. "Moment of emotional change" might sound like a vague concept, but in practice it's fairly easy to recognize: it's a shift in tone, subject, or feeling. Sometimes you feel the volta as a subtle flip of your heart, sometimes, as the ground moving under your feet. The volta is part of what makes poetry so personal, strange, and effective. As an art form that often relies on dreamy association rather than a clear linear narrative, poetry has to envelop its audience emotionally in order to have an impact. The volta is one way for this to happen: it can bring an everyday object or place into a strange and unfamiliar light, causing the audience to experience the world in a new way.
In Pivot Turn, the voltas were explicitly physical. The shift in feeling was visually represented through movement: dance, animation, bodies of water, human bodies. Different creators interpreted the open concept of "video poetry" in very different ways. Some were visualizations of full poems (think music video for a poem); some focused on fluid physical movement organized in a dream-logic reminiscent of poetry, with very few words. All of the films, however, shared the theme of movement. Black Girl Poem, Daryl Paris Bright + Anatola Pabst. Image courtesy of Northwest Film Forum.