11 Feb: Looking at the work of John Smith & Zineb Sedira

JOHN SMITH (b.1952)

Since 1972 he has made over 30 films, video and installation works and is described (by Google) as an award-winning avant garde filmmaker.  The films document and probe the immediate surroundings, looking at the everyday, such as panes of glass and the discolouration of a mouldy ceiling.   They often contain an element of humour which in turn makes the viewer look at his surroundings more closely and the everyday world.

The following image is taken from his black and white film The Girl Chewing Gum (1976).  The film can be viewed on my video page CLICK HERE.

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This film viewed without any prior information, suggests that it is about the making of a film  as suggested by the commentary.  However within a short period, the viewer is aware that the commentary has been made after the events were filmed and recounts what was seen.  He appears to make up his own storyline as the events unfold, but these are purely circumstantial. The last 1:30 mins of the film changes from the street scene to a landscape view which does not appear to have any relationship with the former, apart from an alarm which continues throughout the entire film.

Smith talks about his work and the motivations behind his making of the 16 mm colour film The Black Tower  (1985-87), which can be seen on my video page CLICK HERE.  This image was taken from the film.

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I was interested to see what he had produced in his black and white film, Worse Case Scenario (2001-2003) which has been made from 35mm stills.  It looks down on to the intersection of a busy Viennese street.  It  is black and white, with ambient sounds in some scenes such as church bells timed to coincide with a man walking.  He has created a narration through the use of the images, sometime calm and at other times dramatic.  I did wonder how the effects had been produced as there in repetition in some shots, which may be merely repeating the frames or the use of Adobe After Effects.  The following image is taken from this film.  I was unable to download o copy but it can be viewed on-line at http://www.luxonline.org.uk.

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I then looked at more recent work and in particular at White Hole (2014).  This image is taken from the film.

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His film Dark Light (2014) is an expanded version of White Hole and was intended for gallery exhibition as a seamless loupe.  His website (www.johnsmithfilms.com) states that, “They are a juxtaposition of image and sound to express positives and negatives, beliefs and realities, history and present, forwards and backwards … a light at the end of a tunnel.”  Perhaps that is something we are all searching for.  I found a very thought-provoking and imaginative film, with little to distract visually.

ZINEB SEDIRA (b.1963)

I discovered her work at Luxonline.org site which describes her photography and video work as using, “… the intimate perspective of her own experience to frame questions about the intersections of eastern and western culture and identity.”  It also states that, “The work shifts from the political to the emotional; from a sense of history to the present; from east to west and through them both.”  Born of Algerian parents she has lived in France and the UK which gives her insight into different worlds. She has worked in film and fine art pieces including sculpture and wall coverings.  Her early work included a single screen project film entitled, Don’t do to her what you did to me (1998-2001).  This image is taken from the film.

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Amongst the work she has produced I looked at the following pieces.  In 2000 she produced Silent Sight, which is almost surrealist image merely of a pair of eyes, reminiscent of a woman looking through the slit of a burka.  The film is 10 minutes in length but an excerpt can be seen on my video page CLICK HERE. This image was taken from the film.

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Whilst one feels on a one to one basis with the person in the film who looks directly at us, it is slightly unnerving and I personally felt that 10 minutes is too long to maintain the attention of the viewer, but perhaps she does not want the viewer to feel comfortable.

Much of her film work involves the use of multiple screen installations to be shown within a gallery setting.   Her work Lighthouse in the Sea of Time (2011) is a two-part 16:21 mins video installation involving five screens and was commissioned by Folkestone Triennial.  The film can be viewed on my video page CLICK HERE, and this image was taken from the film.

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Her most recent film work also involves a nautical theme and is entitled Guiding Light (2013).  This is a single screen video projection of 6 mins with the addition of a boat and stand on a plinth. An excerpt can be viewed on my video page CLICK HERE.  This image is a view of the installation within the MMK Museum, Frankfurt.

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It shows a truck making its way along an empty road in a desert landscape.  There is a strong wind similar to a sea storm and the sounds of the engine as it makes its way towards the viewer.  There are also poetic phrase handwritten on the screen.  The website:, www.am-africa.com (Intense Art Magazine) describes the film as, “… displacement – the   migrant travelling before embarking on a perilous voyage across water to Europe.”

I found a great diversity in the work of both these filmmakers, particularly in respect of the backgrounds from which they have both come and their individual approaches to their work.  The use of multi-screen installations is particularly exciting but would be a major undertaking at my stage as a novice video maker.  The more that I look at the work of other filmmakers I realise the approach is very different to what I  have produced so far so has given me a strong starting point to work from.

10 Feb: Looking at the work of Suki Chan and Melanie Manchot

SUKI CHAN (b.1977)

Her work combines light and the moving image, with mixed media installations to explore the physical experience of space.  The TinType Gallery.com quotes her as saying that,  “The aesthetics are intended to seduce.  I want to transport the viewer to an elsewhere, one step removed from real life.”  Her work follows a similar format of slow, still either static or panned short shots, with a black fade out and ambient sounds with of the environment or the surroundings.

This short film was made in 2012

Still Point from Suki Chan on Vimeo.

This still is taken from the film

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Her previous works have included Interval II (2008), Istanbul (2010) and Sleep Walk, Sleep Talk (2009), which is interesting in her use of a split two-part screen in part of the film  with related images in both.  Although there is action in both, they are linked and neither compete solely for the viewer’s attention. The following still is taken from the film.

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Her latest film Obscura (2015) is one of eight newly commissioned films exploring different aspects and perspectives of a north London road, Essex Street.  This latest film can be viewed on my video page CLICK HERE

MELANIE MANCHOT (b.1966)

She works with photography, film, video and installation and explores portraiture as part of a performative and participatory practice.  Her works have included Flesh and Blood (1997) when she took 40 images of her mother then aged 66, to refine the idea of female beauty.   In 2013 she produced a film entitled, Leap after The Great Ecstasy which depicts behind the scenes coverage of workers preparing the annual Ski Jump Cup competition at Englebert, Switzerland.  Part of the film is back and white and part colour, and comprises of short clips that blend into each other with ambient sounds and music.  It can be viewed on my video page – CLICK HERE. Her photographic influence can be seen through  the composition and framing  of the shots.

The following still image is taken the film.

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In 2013 she released her Tracer.  It follows a group of 10 Apeuro Free Runners as they make their way long the course of the BUPA Great North Run.  Manchot talks about the making of this film on YouTube, and states that she was endeavouring to trace a line across the environment.  There are low scenes with no cuts and it shows the runners contact with the surfaces they encounter enroute.  There are two short clips from this film on my video page CLICK HERE.  The following image is taken from her film.

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In 2014 she has adopted a variation on previous work to produce a film entitled The Hall.  This black and white film follows four walkers making seperate journeys to the same destination.  Once there it becomes a group activity and the following shot was taken from the film.

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The film explores the idea of community with individual actions being filmed in slow motion. It looks at activities that are often regarded a ordinary with no voice over.  Her website (www.melaniemanchot.net) states that the film echoes earlier documentary filmmakers such as Humphrey Jennings’ Spare Time (1939).

8 Feb: Research – Patrick Keiller

The work I have looked at so far has made me realise, that I had moved away from the idea of ‘less is more’.  I need to cut down what I have worked on so far, and slow the pace down considerably.  The importance of ambient noise adds much to the atmosphere of what one is creating, as came through very much with the work of Zarina Bhinmji and Tacita Dean.  So although I have sufficient visual material recorded at this time to make the video, I need more ambient sounds, which is something I can do with a few more visits to the High Street both when it is quieter or when it is noisy.

I have also looked at the work of the following film maker.

PATRICK KEILLER (b.1950)

He began by studying  and practising architecture and later fine art, and has been making films since 1981.  His interest in building and the environment is evident within his work which adopts a documentary approach.  In 1994 he produced his first feature-length film London, which depicts a year in the life of the capital through Keiller’s protagonist, Robinson.  The Guardian interview (30 November 2012) states that it, ” … concerns itself with “the problem” of the capital … its lack of charisma and of functionality compared to other european cities and is “more concerned with tracing the city’s cultural past”.  It also adds that he was intrigued with the Surrealists’ idea of changing a city just by altering the way we look at it.  Perhaps my own video will be able to achieve some of this idea as well.  The commentary to the film is narrated by the actor Paul Schofield and a small excerpt can be viewed on my video page CLICK HERE

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The following image was taken from the film.

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His short film, Robinson in Space (1997) part of which can be viewed rom my video page CLICK HERE  shows wide static shots of car factories, supermarkets and container ports, often seen from a distance through fences; together with a narrative commentary and the ambient sounds within the environment.

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His latest film, The View from the Train: Cities and Other Landscapes (2014) retraces the hidden history of the places where we live.

After looking at the work of other film makers, my opinion on the work comes down to personal choice as a viewer.  The earlier visual work by Keiller, whilst it seems rather dated compared with more recent work is thought provoking, and he is depicting aspects not generally looked at in detail.   I was not able to download even part of his most recent work, but it will be interesting to view this to see how his work has developed over time.

7 Feb: Research – Tacita Dean

The most recent film by Tacita Dean (b.1963) entitled Film was shown at the Tate Gallery between 11.10.2011 – 11.03.2012.  It is a 10 minute 35mm film projected on a tall white monolith, at the end of the darkened Turbine Hall.  It is part of The Unilever Series and it  celebrates the techniques of analogue as opposed to digital film making. Although it is a silent film, the YouTube video also depicts the ambient sounds within the gallery and the silhouettes of visitors watching the film, which can be rather distracting at times.

She is a British artist who is now based in Berlin and has worked as a draughtsman, photographer and filmmaker.  The Tate website (http://www.tate.org) describes her films  as acting “… as portraits or depictions rather than conventional cinematic storytelling, capturing fleeting natural light or subtle shifts in movement.”  Her work involves static camera positions and long takes. She states ( Tate Shots) that she is interested in old film techniques that create illusion.

The following image entitled Beautiful Sheffield (2001) shows her use of her photographs in the development of her ideas.

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I found her work interesting as a crossover between photography and film and like Zarina Bhimji, has worked in both 16mm and 35mm film, and the human presence is incidental to what she is endeavouring to capture.  Her short film The Green Ray is interesting as there is merely a single shot with a commentary from Dean herself.

Prior to Film she exhibited a 16mm film at the Frith Gallery between May and June 2010 entitled Craneway Event (2009).  This shows the choreographer Merce Cunningham (1919 – 2009) and his dance company rehearsing in the former Ford Assembly Plant in San Francisco.  Whilst the human presence is vital to the film she is interested in the ever-changing light and uses this to fall in with the rhythm of the dancers movements.

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I now plan to look at the work of several other film makers who have produced short films to see how they have worked to produce their results, particularly if minimal human presence and narration has been used.

6 Feb: Research – Zarina Bhimji

I first came across her work when I visited the Whitechapel Gallery in November 2012. To now go back and spend time looking at it in closer detail has been exciting and inspirational.  She works in different media from installations to photography.

She was born in 1963 in Uganda with Asian parents, and came to the UK when Idi Amin expelled all the Ugandan Asians in 1972. Her first film Out of Blue (2002)  was made with 16mm film and was an exploration of what was left behind, old crumbling buildings with traces of human habitation.

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This was followed by Waiting (2007).  She is now using 35mm film and although there is some human activity in part of the film, he is given minimal importance whilst she concentrates on the activity and the textures around him.

11_BhimjiShe seems to be on a search into her past and her most recent film Yellow Patch (2011) was also made with 35mm film.  The audio tracks give some clues to the visual images with a mix of ambient sounds, music and radio broadcasts from the time the buildings were occupied.  These give an almost ghost-like impression of human activity and a second layer of narrative to the film.

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Zarina Bhimji

There is very slow panning of scenes and time spent still merely regarding what is in front of her, whether it is a muslin curtain blowing in the breeze, flaking paint, decaying edges of paper or old ropes and strings.   There is no human presence although a scene captures the beauty of a peacock amongst the desolation.   The film provides evidence of her work as a photographer through the careful composition of the shots.

She writes in her book (2012, p.23) which accompanies the Whitechapel Gallery exhibition about, ” … the sensitivity to the way in which painful experiences resist language”, and further states that, “I am interested in the tension between lyrical, intense beauty, and sociopolitical language.”  TJ Demos adds (p.27), that “the individual details of her films are essential in trying to speak of the unspeakable that wants to be spoken.”   Her work is described as a “post documentary approach that relinquishes information and factual presentation in order to probe the poetic and aesthetic elements of colour, texture and rhythm.” (p.11)

It was not possible to download her films but they can be viewed on her website at: http://www.zarinabhimji.com

The work has led me to much thought about how to relate this approach to my own work and the fact that I need to take everything down to a slower more contemplative level.

3 Feb: Photography & Film Research -Larry Clark, Taryn Simon & Jim Goldberg

Initially I was interested in looking at the work produced by photographers who have also worked with film.  This in turn led me to look at the following:

LARRY CLARK (b.1943)

His recent work entitled ‘Tulsa & Teenage Lust‘ was exhibited at the Foam Gallery in Amsterdam (13.06 – 12.09.14).

Larry ClarkIn my own images I have attempted to look at aspects not generally covered or which may not be easy to gain access to.  The images in Clark’s work are often shocking, but he is more concerned to depict life as it is for those young people in his images.  I was going to add his film entitled, ‘Kids‘ (1995) to the video page of this blog, but personally found it too unpleasant to include, as it is sexually very explicit so it has not been included.

TARYN SIMON (b.1975)

Her work shows almost painstaking attention to detail.  She has worked with photography, text and graphic design and also produced her film The Innocents in 2003.  This was of interest as it linked to my own work with homeless people.

Taryn-SimonThe actual film (in two parts) has been downloaded from YouTube and can be viewed via my Video Page (CLICK HERE for Part 1 and CLICK HERE for part 2).  This documentary film consists of the stories of individuals who have served time in prison, for violent crimes they did not commit.  It is powerful but understated, and was an achievement for her to gain the cooperation of the subjects that were interviewed.  However perhaps due to the circumstances, they felt that this was the only way of making their respective voices heard.

I then decided to take this a stage further by looking at other ways in which photography is used within film.  David Campany in his book, Photography and Cinema (2008, p.94) discusses the collaboration between photography and film and the use of stills.     

JIM GOLDBERG (b.1953)

This is one example where a video has been produced about the book Raised by Wolves (1995) and consists solely of still images of its pages.

YouTube states that as this book is out of print and hard to locate, that this was the reason it was decided to put it on-line.

1 Feb: Research into the avant garde

I have spent some time reflecting on the work I have produced so far and it was pointed out that I need to pare it down considerably, or my 3 minute video would be about 30 minutes in total.  I also realised that it needs to become less of a documentary but more of an artistic interpretation.  This is similar to how the Surrealists expounded on a theme and took it beyond the original, by delving into the subconscious and taking the viewer into different realms.

I began by looking at two films by Jean Cocteau, The Blood of a Poet (1930)

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and The Testament of Orpheus (1959).

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Whilst I do not want to emulate this this style of work, I used them to enable me to think beyond the expected and predictable. I was also interested to see how the work of Cocteau had developed over the intervening 29 years since the first film had been made.  Both are black and white, apart from a brief introduction of colour towards the end of The Testament of Orpheus.  

I originally saw these films previously as a student in the early 1970s and thought they would be more meaningful today, but they still leave the viewer feeling uneasy and not sure exactly of what is taking place. There is an almost constant expectation that something gruesome is about to occur, but even when it does it is very tame compared with what the public sees today.  The other drawback was the fact that the subtitles did not fit on to the TV screen, so much was lose in translation. The films are however strong in symbolism and the influence of the surrealists.  Both possess a dream-like quality, the suggestion of an alternative reality and the fight between life and death.

Today we are used to films with more explicit story lines and computer generated effects and the steps which film makers take to maintain the interest of the viewer.  With this in mind I watched both to see how the effects were created, and whilst rather disjointed at times Cocteau managed to produce instances of dramatic effect by the reversal of frames in the film.

I now need to look at the work of photographers who have also worked with film to see how photography has influenced their work.  I also need to look at other short films about the same length as my end result will be, to see the best way to depict what I am trying to say within my film.

14 Dec: Organising Audio Files

Whilst I have found that having the Zoom H1 handheld recording device to be successful, if I was going to develop this area of work further I would investigate in having a better quality machine.  The memory card is very small and it did not work when I tried to upload recordings directly from the machine on to the computer.  So the card had to be removed (very flimsy case) and inserted into a micro adapter and then into a card reader.

Once uploaded the audio files are numbered according to how many recordings were made on that occasion e.g Zoom 001.wav.  The problem arises when the next audio files that are recorded are uploaded, as Zoom then restarts the numbering at 001 and if I go into each one individually on the computer, it will not let me overwrite it with a new file name.  So as I have been using the recorder to record both interviews for the video and my Independent Art and Photography project, they are now uploaded onto the computer with similar file numbers.  It is to be hoped that once I start editing the film clips and add the audio on to the video it will let me save as a file name of my choice.

So at this stage I am transcribing the interviews for Independent art and as soon as I have the information I need the files these can be deleted.  This will then leave me with the video audio files which it is imperative that I keep safely.

29 Nov: Filming in Canterbury

ANOTHER INTERVIEW

As it was a bright fine day I decided to go back into Canterbury so see what may be happening there, and try to get another interview from a younger couple this time.  The man who had been begging in the subway last week was there again, this time busking. He asked me what I was doing and in turn explained that he was no longer homeless but was an alcoholic, so was trying to get some money busking to survive.

I stopped a young couple who had walked past him and they agreed to give me a short interview.  I asked my husband to set the record button on the camera whilst I interviewed them.  I realised afterwards that although I had asked him to zoom in closer and out again later to vary the shots, I had assumed he would also focus the lens as I had set the camera on manual, but he did not do so and as a result the clip was not as good as I had hoped.

Some parts were acceptable so it may be that once I have edited the clip I can use the audio and just keep part of the visuals.  The couple was also sympathetic to the plight of those people who may be busking or begging to survive, so it may be that the general public are generally more aware and less antagonistic than I had at first envisaged.

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The old man was sitting busking again on the steps of the Beaney Library, so I filmed there again to improve on what I had taken previously.  I also sat at his level  on the other side of the steps and filmed the mass of feet that were passing by.  Canterbury was exceptionally busy, which made me realise that unless someone is busking, a person begging would not be easily noticed.1-MVI_2818I also rechecked the Dane John Gardens and this time there were some drinkers near to the Peace Garden.  As they seemed suspicious of the camera I merely took some shots surreptitiously and so that they could not be identified.

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I was also aware previously of a decided lack of police presence in the town, although I know that the High Street is closely monitored on CCTV cameras; although I did actually capture an image of two of them walking back to the Police Station.  They had ignored what was going on In the Dane John Gardens despite more anti-drinking signs being in evidence close by.  This will not be included in the final end result.

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FURTHER ACTIONS TO BE TAKEN READY FOR THE EDITING OF THE VIDEO 

  1. I need to now make a list of all the clips I have taken so far.
  2. I need to list all the audio files I have made so far.
  3. I need to then go through the clips and eliminate all unusable parts of the clips e.g. blurred scenes, unacceptable hand-held shots and any bad takes etc.
  4. I need to then organise the clips in the project panel of Adobe Premiere Pro CC.  I will need to set up folders to put the clips together into categories and then add metadata and labels to the clips for easy later identification.
  5. I then need to ensure that everything is saved, both clips and audio ready for the final edit.  Currently all files are saved on the local hard-drive and a Lacie external hard-drive and uploaded to iCloud.
  6. I will eventually also save the final work on a DVD as a further backup option.