the abyss surrounds us

'the abyss surrounds us' is a poetry film by filmmaker and intermedia artist Michèle Saint-Michel.

The films express a Melvillian sense of much activity without substantial progress, traveling in four dimensions of Anthropocene and Glitch feminism. Music for the work was created as a collaboration with two experimental musicians, Camilo Brun and Greg Nieuwsma.

The title is borrowed from the final lines of the Wisława Szymborska poem, 'autotomy': The abyss doesn’t divide us. /
The abyss surrounds us. //

The piece expresses instability of mind and nature (especially starting at ~2:35). The film score was created by Poland-based experimental musician Greg Nieuwsma.

US Poet Laureate Joy Harjo says that ruin and reinvention are inseparable. But must we give everything like Mellville’s Captain Ahab, or half of our body like the holothurian of Wisława Szymborska’s poem ‘autotomy’?

“In danger, the holothurian cuts itself in two. / It abandons one self to a hungry world / and with the other self it flees. // It violently divides into doom and salvation, / retribution and reward, what has been and what will be.”

What are we willing to sacrifice for advancement and how many times can we cut ourselves in two? How much healing can one body take? As Szymborska says: “We, too, can divide ourselves, it’s true. / But only into flesh and a broken whisper. / Into flesh and poetry.”

Music by Krakow-based experimental musician Greg Nieuwsma.

  • Michèle Saint-Michel
    Vile Figs, Transmettre, Abyss Welcomes Us, PTSD Suite, Lost Sock Collection, School of Life, Don't Tell Me I'm Beautiful, Return of the Unchartable Soul
  • Greg Nieuwsma
  • Project Type:
    Experimental, Short
  • Genres:
    Poetry Film, Experimental Film
  • Runtime:
    5 minutes 5 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    September 29, 2020
  • Production Budget:
    250 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
    Digital, Archival
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
    Black & White and Color
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Great Wave Festival
    October 16, 2020
    World Premiere
    Official Selection
Director Biography - Michèle Saint-Michel

Michèle Saint-Michel is an intermedia artist, experimental filmmaker, and author. Designed to promote healing, her works encourage healthy coping and recovery from difficult experiences. Saint-Michel’s work is deeply rooted in experiential time and cultural constructions of the feminine.

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Director Statement

How will you divide yourself? What are you willing to leave behind?