Monday, 2 May 2011

6 x 1 x bye.

Hello six-by-oners. I can't quite believe here I am writing my last blog of the semester. Where did it all go? I think time must go by faster in America.

I'm not entirely sure what we are supposed to blog about this week? The Yes Men or rating the 6 projects? I'll do a bit of both...

Firstly - The Yes Men. I had not seen it before. In fact... I hadn't even heard of these guys prior to this class. But I was really amazed, both by what they did and by the reactions they recieved. I guess as viewers we had the 'insider' knowledge that it was a hoax, and so from that perspective its hard not to question the humanity of the people who just sat there like robots and took it all in and gave a polite round of applause at the end. But personally I think if I had not had the priviledge of being on the inside - if I had been a naive viewer of the presentation - I would have been highly perplexed. I think that in these situations people do just tend to turn to social norms in order to define how the react. It is unlikely I would have piped up and complained if everyone around me was sat in silence. Even if I suspected it to be a hoax.
I do think the university setting was better suited to facilitate debate, and it seemed that once people did start talking then others also rallied around and fought back (if they hadn't I really WOULD have questioned humanity, as it was such an outrageous presentation!). But perhaps this does suggest that knowledge and ideas are more in flux in the university setting? It would be interesting to see a wider comparison of the same presentation being recieved by a variety of different audiences.

The Yes Men did relate to a lot of the issues of re-appropriation we have been talking about and expermenting with. The Yes Men impersonated the WTO (whom they politically oppose) both on television and at conferences around the world, delivering deeply satirical presentations on the problems of free trade. They did so primarily through a website mimicking the WTO, through which they recieved invitations to various events. They took the political ideologies of the company and manipulated them in order to expose deep underlying problems that are not visible on the surface of the real organisation. In this way, they also manipulate the viewer's attitude towards the organisation. I think new media is increasingly facilitating such satirical reapproriation in many areas. For example, the YouTube artist cassetteboy re-appropriates TV shows and movies to present a somewhat different image of various celebrities and film characters. Here is an example using Sir Alan Sugar from The Apprentice.

So getting on to rating the projects...

1 - 48-hour video race.
2 - Camera-less film.
3 - The long take.
4 - Multi-frame animation.
5 - Found footage.
6 - Rhythmic edit.

Saying this - I did enjoy them all. I think I enjoyed the video race best because I liked the challenge of appropriating the concept and the medium into the project in a limited period of time, and it really provided the incentive to make a creative piece of work that I was both happy with, and know I would never have thought of had I not had such 'limitations'.
The camera-less film was just so exciting to work with, and that moment finally getting to view the finished piece was incredibly rewarding! I hope to use this medium again in future, and would never have considered it had I not done this project.
The long-take and the multi-frame animation were both just great fun. I liked working with the group and it felt like thats aspect was very important in these two assignments - what we eventually ended up with was the product of a long creative process in which everyone contributed in different ways and really added a rich variety of ideas and influences to the whole thing!
Found footage... yikes. It was difficult, and I have some problems with my finished piece, partly because I think the idea that I had would have worked better as a longer piece. But it was fun to make, and will hopefully be fun to watch.
Finally - the rhythmic edit was a good way to get us thinking about movement, rhythms and patterns. I struggled with it though, as it was hard to incorporate my narrative into such fast paced cutting without it just being an overload on the senses. I'm fairly certain my eyesight suffered as a result. But it was a good learning experience!

I feel that I will carry over much of what we have experimented with in 6x1 into later film making, no matter what style the film may be. It has made me think about film, and what I want to do with it, in new and different ways. So, all thats left for me to say is - thanks Andre! And thanks to everyone else in class for making this experience a memorable one. Best stop now before I get overly soppy! ...bye guys!

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Fortilicious


To echo everyone else's words on this class - It. Was. Just. Great.
The class fell just at the right time - having had a busy few weeks, we finally had the chance to sit back and enjoy watching everyone's creative little masterpieces. Of course, we have had several classes throughout this semester in which we mainly watched and discussed our work, but the building of *Fort 6x1* just took this experience to a whole new level! Not only was it just plain fun to all rally together on this little feat of construction, but it also made the whole viewing experience a lot more personal. Yes, admittedly we were in the same room and doing the same thing as we generally do when viewing work, only sitting on the floor and surrounded by a few draped bedsheets. But this was a place we had created together - our own little temporary rough theatre. This rough theatre truly was a messy little space - as Brooke would say - it was higgledy-piggledy. If we were to open this place to the public, I'm not certain we'd get many paying customers (their loss). There was little in the way of comfort and space (although the snacks and refreshments were incredible!), and if we hadn't built the fort in an indoor space I suspect it would have been a tad drafty. But that just made it all the more personal, because it existed only for a few short hours as 6x1's own space, and it fitted its purpose perfectly.

As we watched the films, I felt excited by what each next film would express. The different ways that people chose to work both with the theme and the medium were really interesting. Some focused more on forefronting the experimental techniques they had used, some were cryptic about their messages, some people's secrets still remain a secret, some had clever twists, some had narratives, and each and every one was absolutely unique. I think this project really allowed each and every one of us to explore our individual creativity, and I think everyone was impressed with how each person approached the challenge. Its something that I know I personally would never have thought up if I had not been given the theme or the camera-less rule. So even though the challenge was really daunting beforehand, I am very grateful to have done it, and it has sparked my interest in doing something like this again in the future.

Monday, 18 April 2011

My Rough Theatre

Wow, these past couple of weeks we've really been personalising it up! Not that I'm complaining, I can quite happily speak about myself for hours once I get going (not sure if thats such a good thing for the person who has to listen though?).

I read over the part of Peter Brook's chapter 'The Rough Theatre' that we read together in class again. It made me reflect on my own experience with the theatre itself.
Before I came to university I spent a couple of years doing random jobs in order to earn some money to travel. One of the jobs I had was as a 'dresser' at my local theatre. This job entailed helping to prepare and organise all the costumes in the Wardrobe department, helping performers get into their costumes, and also helping them change costumes during speedy dress changes in the wings of the stage. I guess this job could quite easily be reffered to as 'organised chaos.' Perhaps it was partly because I was new to this kind of work, but there was always that element of uncertainty, that adrenaline rush when I knew I was responsible for making sure the leading lady was changed into a new dress in time for her next cue, and such like. Reflecting on this work, I realise that I really connected with this side of the theatre much more than I would as a member of the audience. I was taking part, in my own small way. I was part of the bigger theatre experience. Whilst I waited in the wings, I may overhear a group of dancers gossiping beside me about a certain fault in the choreography, shortly before they breezed on for the next part of their performance. Or I may witness a glowing on stage 'Juliet' exit the stage beside me, only to collapse to the ground shortly afterwards from the pain in her feet - a startling insight into the reality of the human behind the character, and something the audience will never get to witness. I could also watch the action if I had some free time, although it was not being directed towards me as an 'audience member'. I felt as though I was a secret viewer, so close to something that wasn't meant for me, yet a mesmerising experience all the same.

I remember a particularly incredible experience watching the Netherlands Dans Theater 2 (NDT2) perform. During the matinee performance I was working backstage, and viewed almost the entire performance from the wings. Yet later that evening, I was able to watch the performance again from front of stage, as part of the audience. Though both experiences were incredible, they were entirely different. I think, if I were only able to choose one, I would opt for my little spot hovering in the wings, being a part of the fuller theatrical experience.

I think this experience relates to Brook's description of the Rough Theatre requiring some dirtiness. He states, "...if the theatre seems to need a certain crude element, this must be accepted as part of its natural soil.' I believe the backstage experience of theatre is close to this. Its dark, hot and stuffy and all the staff have to wear black. There is a buzz in the air, a mixture of everyone focussing on the performance, the job they need to do, and also the common responsibilty to pull everything off at the correct time and in the correct place. Yet there are mistakes, all the time. The polished performance viewed from front of stage may be a mish-mash of quick-thinking and improvisation backstage. Or even on-stage. A highly polished piece of choreography has come from a long process of playing with ideas, pratising movements and fusing different influences together. And it is still a work in progress once it reaches the stage - it is in flux - a dancer may slip, a singer may miss a cue, and it is with that buzz of uncertainty that those backstage look on as the performance unfolds. I believe this connects with Brook's description of humanising sterility - the pre-performance backstage chatter, the warm ups, the laughter, pain and sweat that the stage wings may host, the squeaking of a dancer's shoes when they spring on to the stage floor, their heavy breathing as they perform a challenging piece. Whilst a piece that is pulled off incredibly well can bring an audience to their feet, I think that those moments of uncertainty and that constant flux really does bring a performance truly to life.

So... in short, I think it is the 'buzz of the moment' that is my rough theatre. I find this in other things too, such as an improvised little song played on the guitar beside a camp fire, or some overheard words that have some personal resonance and spark an idea or an emotion. Its about the little things really.

To finish off, heres is a little clip of NDT2...viewed from an audience perspective (Its incredible from this perspective too, but just think about all those many little things that went into that final piece!)

Monday, 11 April 2011

Beet Stretch

I am about to listen to Beet Stretch. I decided to blog while I listen, partly, I admit, because I'm doing this a little late. But also because I thought I'd go for a sort of stream of consciousness thing as I listened.

I have heard one of these 'stretched' songs before... I think it was Justin Beiber. I seem to remember it sounded very ethereal.

I listened to parts of the original symphony first. I actually really enjoy listening to classical music. I think a lot of people, at least of our generation, tend to diss classical music a lot - classifying it as 'boring' or 'old'. Yet perhaps they forget the major role that classical music plays in many motion picture soundtracks? Maybe they are too distracted watching the image to really cosciously take note of the complexities of the soundtrack... But I used to play in a youth orchestra when I was younger (I play the violin). And I wasn't really very good. I think it was partly because I became distracted by the music. When playing a really complex piece in an orchestra, you really have to concentrate. Concentrate on the music in front of you, concentrate on making sure your bow is going the same way as everybody elses, concentrate on the section leader, concentrate on the conductor, and concentrate on all the other music going on around you. But it really is an incredible experience. Its totally different from going to watch an orchestra, because you are there, right in the middle, surrounded by this incredible music that rises and falls and flows all around you. Thinking back, I feel quite privileged to have had this experience.

So... getting onto the response part...

I decided to listen to the first movement, as that is what I listened to most of from the original piece. Whereas the original piece builds fairly rapidly into a crescendo of fast-paced music, the incredibly slow pace of beet stretch allows you to immerse yourself fully in the peaceful opening, before the crescendo begins to build up. I felt totally relaxed, as if I was in some dream world. Yet once the music begins to cresecendo, being able to hear and focus on every little movement, every little change in tone, pitch and volume, makes it incredibly powerful. Each note is almost like a minature crescendo in itself, gradually building up the 'master' crescendo. I think having the time to really concentrate on every little change in the music makes it easier to visualise it. I find myself imagining scenes, again, like I am in dream world. I think the sounds really fascilitate a much more detailed imagination. With the original piece, you become too caught up with the music itself, its fast-paced shifts, its drive, its emotion. But I guess Beet Stretch allows you to 'live' more within the music. I feel as though it really related back to the synesthesia we were discussing at the beginning of the semester. There is a lot of power and energy shifting with each little change in the music - as a minor key builds up I sense the colours of this little 'dream world' changing - the sky goes black, there are dark shadows cast from eerie looking trees, there is a sense of fear and uncertainty. Yet as the music shifts again, to dwell on a more hopeful tone, the colours and scenery change once again. At times it drops down completely, almost as if the music is whispering. And at these time it feels as though I am in a wide open space - I can see clearly for miles around, and everything is bright and fresh.

It does resemble, in some ways, the feelings that I had when I was immersed in the middle of the orchestra. I feel a sense of awe, a strong connection to the music that surrounds me, and a desire to stay there. But this music gives me more time to think, and to imagine. Partly because I don't have to focus on playing the actual music. But also because I don't even have to focus on the music itself - its rhythm has become too slow for my brain to register (at least consciously) and so all I have to focus on are sounds. I think it allows a deeper 'immersion' than rhythmic musis generally allows, because it always has a beat, it always has a direction. Yet I'm not sure that it would really be possible to get this sense from real, llive music, even if it were played in the same style. I think this experience is fairly specific to the actual process that has created it itself.

Lastly... I know a few people would say this music is 'ambient' - its more background music. But actually, I feel that this style of music demands my attention more than the actual symphony itself did. Perhaps because the rhythm of the regular symphony allowed my brain to register each shift and change quickly. But the drawn out shifts in Beet Stretch don't really provide you with much of a sense of where they are headed. There is no repition of familiar sections or rhythems. In short, if I imagine a Beethoven's 9th being played as background music I imagine it at some extravagant dinner of some sort. But I think Beet Stretch would demand some wide open space, such as a big dome (perhaps one of those star gazing domes?) where everyone just sits, and listens... It demands immersion more than the original piece, I feel.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

"Apprentices graze in the field of culture."

Blog title courtosy of Johnathan Letham (2007). Yeeah. I aint gonna get caught for no plaigiarisin'...

But seriously, this guy had a lot of interesting things to say. His writing spurred a lot of thoughts, as well as linking up some ideas from different interests and studies.

I'll start with the studies stuff.

Letham wrote about the open-source culture of art (particularly blues and jazz music). He also touched on the ways that the internet is having an effect on how we view copyright laws. But in terms of discussing the internet, he didn't go much further than this. Yet the internet is having a phenomenal effect on how we not only come into contact with different artistic mediums, but also how we interact with them. We have come into an era of 'participatory culture', where the boundaries between producers and consumers are increasingly being eroded (a concept that myself and Amy are more than familiar with after a 'Digital Media' course we both took last year).
The concept is of particular interest to the scholar Henry Jenkins, who has written widely about the benefits of increased participation, and the break down of the professional/amateur divide in the arts. This is particularly valid to platforms such as YouTube, where the average viewer can also easily participate, and further, create.
I was thinking about this in line with the readings, and also with our assignments. Letham talks about approriation being a key aspect of almost any artistic work, be it uncosciously (what he refers to as 'cryptomnesia') or consciously. And in terms of our assignments... Clearly we are consciously borrowing and reappropriating when we come to the 'found footage' assignment. But what about our other assignments? And outside of 6x1 - what brought us all to film in the first place? Letham states 'most artists are converted to art by art itself.' This certainly seems true of many film scholars I have met, all of whom have generally began their first lecture with a 'how I came into film' introduction.

Now... to move on to the topic of legality. This is a tricky one. And really I think it has to be argued on a case by case basis. rather than a sweeping law of truth.
Having read the article 'On the rights of Molotov man' (Garnett and Meiselas, 2007) I can really see both sides of the coin. Garnett approached a context-less image that she reappropriated, whilst Meiselas felt an obligation to retain context of an image that symbolised a highly specific and emotive event in history. At one point, a question is asked, 'Who owns the rights to this mans struggle?' Should the answer surely not be 'This Man'? What does this man feel about the reappropriation of his image out of context? I am interested to know.
And this is where I feel issues such as this really must be taken on a case by case basis.
Letham quotes Thomas Jefferson, 'He who lights his taper at mine, recieves light without darkening me.'
But is this always the case? Here is an example of a little surprise one American family recieved when they discovered a favourite family photo had been 'reappropriated'...in the Czech Republic. The consequences here are fairly trivial, true. But with the internet holding an ever-expanding pool of images and resources that can be accessed globally, it is ever more possible for reapproriations to be made with no background knowledge of original context. I believe this has the potential to spell much more harmful consequences. Yet I also see many positive aspects to the globalising nature of the internet, so perhaps it is difficult to balance these issues.

Regardless of the pros and cons, the reality is that the internet has infiltrated much of modern life, and is only expanding further. Therefore, artists are going to have to adapt to the potentials that this new environment holds, whether they like it or not.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

The day I sacrificed my phone in the name of a long take.

As with all wonderful days, this day began in Wag... mmhmm...

I needed to make a picnic, but I was running late. I hurried around collecting random food items that might be appropriate - bread, egg, salad, mayo, fruit, cake. I fashioned some sandwiches. Us Brits are a bit more conservative in our sandwich making than you Americans, so the cake and fruit stayed separate. I wrapped everything up in some lovely brown napkins, threw in some Wag plates and cutlery for good measure (Wag will have these returned to them at a later date), and set off up Chancellors with Amy, who, lets just say, wasn't quite on her usually top form... We collected some pine cones along the way, all part of the plan. I looked at the sky, the weather was looking a bit dreach, a potential of rain - I crossed my fingers it would hold off.

The first experience of the day was playing soccer. Amy was quick to defend the sport - "Its not soccer, its football!" I know, Amy, I know... We had several rehearsals, learning not to attempt to push any of our *football* skills past their (mostly) feeble limits, whilst a few of us were also lucky enough to be attacked by a giant bumble bee in the hands of Andy.
After rehearsing about as much as we possible could, it was time for the take. It was nerve racking - it wasn't even our group's piece, but I felt a sense of responsibility not to do something that could mess it up. "Stay calm guys, stay calm!"... It all went fine.

Next, we went to set up our own shoot. A picnic on the bridge. So far, still rainless. We decorated our little picnic with various flowers, pine cones and other decorations. We rehearsed, and discovered that we had far too much eating to do within one minute, so we cut down our picnicing ambitions a little. Eventually we had it all timed out, and a cue sheet ready for a member of the other group to read out. They arrived in time for us to shoot, and Andy took on the role of reading our cue sheet, complete with my phone as a timer... Shortly afterwards there was a little 'plop!'. Andy said something along the lines of "Shit, my phone!... Wait... not my phone..."... He was very apologetic, but we couldn't help but laugh. Sadly, we didn't catch the moment on the regular 8.
We got on with the shoot. Again, I was nervous. Again, it went fine. It was such a buzz after, to know that it was done! We headed back to Kenan, and whilst the others developed the film, I headed back to our picnic spot complete with Megan's wellies/gum boots/rain boots/whatever. I managed to eventually find the phone, in what I can only describe to be pretty minging water. I was scared something might suddenly attack my hands, as I couldn't see under the surface. All the part of the experience, I guess!
Getting to watch the film back on the day was really exciting, and again, nerve-racking! It looked good though, and I'm looking forward to getting it into Final Cut and working on the next phase. All in all I'd say it was a successful day.
My phone is now sitting in a bucket of rice (apparently thats what you do in these situations) on the window sill, as a reminder of yesterday's antics. I haven't had the guts to attempt to turn it on yet. I've heard Nokias have a good survival rate though, so maybe it'll come back to life by Monday.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Video Race Ideas

Well...! It seems today's blog is acting like a bit of 'back to Uni' slap in the face for me - a big enough challenge to force my brain into doing some work again. I suppose this is a good thing.

I have had an idea. It is still in its very early stages so I'm not really sure how it is going to materialise, but the basic idea is to use this assignment to self-reflect on the experience of being an exchange student here at UNCW.

Studying here, I feel as though I have put my 'real life' on hold. Everything that was a fairly permanent aspect of my life before (my home university, my flat and flatmates, my friends, my family) do not exist in this new environment. The only true constant between my 'real' life and my UNCW life is my own self, along with the small selection of possessions I brought with me. Other than that, my connection with my home self is (aside from the occasional parcel or letter) almost entirely maintained using digital media - the internet: email, skype, facebook. And thinking about it, the amount of connectivity I can enjoy through these technologies really is incredible - my life here would be entirely different without them.

Aside from the connection I maintain with the Scotland Emma Dove, the U.S.A Emma Dove is living within a fairly surreal little bubble as it is. Everything is new, yet everything is temporary. Whilst those of you whom I share this class with (aside from Amy) will graduate from here, and the majority will most likely go on to work and settle somewhere in the U.S. - I will leave the States in June and perhaps I will never visit this country again in my lifetime. Yet I am learning so much here, through my classes, my travels, and through all the people I have met. I know these experiences will carry over and influence me later on, perhaps in ways that I could never have imagined.

I'm not sure if others in the class have done exchanges or had similar experiences elsewhere? If so then perhaps you can relate to this? Or if not, it is likely that most people will experience something similar at some point in their lives... I mean I suppose a simple holiday is a scaled down version of this experience in some ways.

So I think this will be an interesting experience to explore in the video race. And it will be interesting to see how I can incorporate the prop into that too. At present I have a few ideas about how to make the film... As I mentioned, digital media plays a big role in connecting my two 'selves' - therefore I have thought about incorporating screen-grabs and quotes from my interaction with those at home. By this I mean using my computer to take a still image of what is displayed on the screen, perhaps zooming in to focus on particular things.. I realise that if for example I was using webcam on Skype then that would count as using a camera device, BUT if I used my computer to take a freeze frame image of what was displayed on my computer screen at the time, then I would not be using a camera device to actually capture the image...right?! Hmm...we'll see what Andre has to say about that.
I also thought about using everything that I have to hand here - things that I have brought from home. I know we are not allowed to use 'pre-existing' media - but what about scanning in pictures from a photo album? Perhaps as a camera was intially used to capture the image then this won't be allowed... yet these are also physical objects which have been compiled into something which tells a story. I guess I need some clarification on this one also.
I have never used digital animation before, but I'm interested in exploring this possibility also. If anyone can suggest a programme that I could use to help me get started, I would appreciate it!

I'm not sure if any of these ideas will actually materialise. As with most things in this class it seems that in exploring new possibilities, very different end products seem to come out of the ideas that went in to begin with. But I am keen to explore this self-reflection of my experience anyway, so...we'll see what happens!