Our Bodies (A Sinner's Prayer)

Our Bodies (A Sinners Prayer)
click on the image to view the video

Creator

Matt Mullins, film-maker, writer, USA

Synopsis

Our Bodies is remix poem/videopoem culled from an early 20th Century broadcast by televangelist Oral Roberts. It is a call to realize our universal human holiness, the acknowledgement of which can go a long way toward alleviating a good deal of the evil and suffering in our world.

Text

Our Bodies (A Sinner's Prayer)

Behold, our bodies.
And our bodies are to be
our bodies. Behold
constantly changing
our bodies. And our bodies
are to be our bodies.

Behold, thy hands
have stretched out the heavens
and have left with the feeling
that there is the possibility
of the hand of man reaching up
to touch various hues
and shades of light: our bodies.

Behold. Thou openest thy hands
and satisfieth every need
every hunger of man
manifesting his compassion
revealing his hand
which will forever symbolize
his real being: the tenderness and love
that he feels for humanity.
While they that live by force
will die by force.

Behold, the clenched fist of man.
It shows the recklessness of the human mind.
I think we need to remember
That those hands hold goodness and love
and also power.

Let every head be bowed.

I would like to take this moment
to pray a prayer with you
a sinner's prayer: Behold
our bodies. And our bodies
are to be our bodies.
Behold, my hands.

Amen.

(If you will lay your hands
upon your body, I am ready
to perform a miracle in your life.
Expect a miracle.)

Matt Mullins on the project

One day while surfing YouTube for footage, I came across a sermon by Oral Roberts. As I watched, it occurred to me that, excepting the references to God, this was actually a very humanistic message based not in the abstract, but in our flesh, in our bodies. This struck a chord with my own humanist inclinations, and so the core idea of the piece (there's a Humanist poem inside this Christian sermon) was born. It was a bit like how a sculptor might see a statue inside a block of marble. The poem was in there. It just needed to be carved out.

From there it was a matter of 'carving', of using Roberts' sermon as the block from which the poem's shape could emerge. So I transcribed the entire sermon to create that block. Then I sculpted out the poem by way of selection and repetition.

As I transcribed and carved the poem I also noticed that Roberts' preaching style was very emphatic and rather poetic, and I realized I had more than a remixed poem in the works; I had a poetry film in the making. I began to see a visual Humanist/Christian metaphor, a dance of point and counter point, balance and imbalance in his movements, and so I chose to emphasize that dichotomy with a very conscious editing style using split screen and screen within screen techniques. There were two messages at work here, the original and my remix. I wanted those two layers to be present visually.

Our Bodies is also unique in that the relationship between the visual and conceptual aspects of the poem is literal. In a way you're watching the 'poet' recite the material, which is the antithesis of what contemporary poetry film typically does, but this literalness is subverted by the fact that the piece is a species of remix; the speaker of the poem is not really the poet, nor is he speaking his original intended message but rather a remixed message of my design. My use of split screen and screen within screen was a conscious nod to these manipulations. I'm the puppeteer, but in a benign way. This plays into the poem's unavoidable Christian subtext: as maker, I controlled Roberts in a 'God-like' way.

However, it was also very important to me to not mock Roberts' beliefs because his sincerity directly feeds the sincerity of what I'm trying to say with this piece. He is my spokesman. I wasn't out to undermine him or chastise Christianity. The goal was to articulate my belief in the subtext of religion, the human side of it, the fact that regardless of if God is or isn't, it's us in our bodies on this planet who are trying to figure out how to live with ourselves and each other. Our Bodies is a call to realize our universal human holiness, the acknowledgement of which can go a long way toward alleviating a good deal of the evil and suffering in our world.

Our Bodies was made in iMovie and Garageband. The footage is public domain and was pulled from YouTube.

Matt Mullins
Matt Mullins

Screenings

Co-Kisser Poetry-Film Festival, Minneapolis College or Art and Design, USA, October 2013
Ó Bhéal International Poetry-Film Competition/IndieCork Festival of Independent Cinema, Ireland, October 2013
Liberated Words/Bristol Poetry Festival, UK, October 2013
Film-Poem Festival, Dunbar, Scotland, August 2013
The Body Electric Poetry Film Festival, USA 2013
Kunstenfes Watou (Art Festival Watou), Belgium, July-August 2014
Video Bardo/Liberated Words, Argentina, November 2014
Galerie Sans Nom, Text(e) Image Beat Videopoetry Exhibition, Canada, March-May 2015
Rabbit Heart Poetry Film Festival, USA, October 2015
Wordfest, Canada, October 2015
PoetryFilm Parallax, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, UK, August 2015
PoetryFilm Parallax, NES in Skagastrond, Iceland, March 2016
Backup Festival, Germany, May 2016

Publications

Moving Poems, USA, January 2013
Awkword Papercut, USA, October, 2013

Bio

Matt Mullins makes poetry-films, digital/interactive literature and writes poetry, fiction and screenplays. His poetry-films have been screened at festivals throughout the world including Visible Verse (Canada), Zebra (Germany), VideoBardo (Argentina), Liberated Words (England), Ó Bhéal (Ireland), The Body Electric (USA), CYCLOP (Ukraine), Co-Kisser (USA), The Filmpoem Festival (Scotland), Rabbit Heart (USA), and The International Film Poetry Festival (Greece). His poetry and fiction have appeared in online and print literary journals such as the Mid American Review, Pleiades, Hunger Mountain, Descant, decomP, and Hobart.  His debut collection of short stories, Three Ways of the Saw, was published by Atticus Books in 2012 and was named a finalist for Foreword Magazine’s Book of the Year. You can engage his interactive/digital literary interfaces at lit-digital.com. You can find some of his poetry-films here.

Share this Page

For their contributions, advice and assistance, thanks to:
Ari Raijas, Bronwen Manger, Caroline Rumley, Dave Bonta, Eduardo Yagüe, Fiona Tinwei Lam, Helen Dewbery, Jane Glennie, Karen Dawson, Lori Ersolmaz, Lucia Sellars, Lucy English, Maria Vella, Martin Kelly, Matt Hetherington, Matt Mullins, Mike Hoolboom, Nigel Wells, Pam Falkenberg, R.W. Perkins, Sanket Shrestha, the film-makers, writers and their collaborators.