Wednesday, November 17, 2010

New Short Film In Progress

I'm making a three minute surrealist short film. I'm really into the director, David Lynch, and I plan on drawing heavily from his works. One scene I'm very interested in is when the main character is shown walking in this industrial landscape.  You can watch the clip here, the scene I'm interested in is at about 6 minutes in. This is a still of the shot.

"Eraserhead" David Lynch 1977
I've noticed that the overcast lighting takes away the shadow of the main character walking. It adds to the motif of bleakness that I'm interested in recreating. Furthermore, in my film I will incorporate heavy sound that will complement the visual images' production of my themes: a distanced sense of self, anxiety, and bleakness. David Lynch is very well known for his "atmospheric dissonance" that accompanies the "natural" sound in his films. My sound will come from recording various machines humming to produce what I envision will create a "cyclical groan". 

Another filmmaker that I will draw from is Luis Bunuel, specifically his well known short film "Un Chien Andalou" from 1930. This is a clip from the film:


With Bunuel, I'm really looking at the relationship between each shot and the lighting techniques that he uses. I'd like to use these types of shot-shot relations in my own film. A single statement to summarize my (as of now untitled) film:

In this surrealist short film, a woman, played by Rachele Krivichi, experiences a bleak, yet anxiety filled reality. The film incorporates other relatable themes, such as the feeling of a distanced sense of self.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Human - Interface Interaction

I read Lev Manovich's article "New Media From Borges to HTML", it was sort of interesting, you can find it here!. I was intrigued by Manovich's thoughts on comparing new media to software design. Let me back track first though; the idea of this article is to try and figure out what we can call "new media". What is encapsulated by the set: new media art. Obviously this will be difficult to set limits or bounds because it's difficult to draw lines anywhere in the art world. Manovich points out the the true artists of the new media era are the software designers that have made it possible to actualize artists' projects. The section of Manovich's article I am most interested in is his discussion of the human - computer interface interaction. He calls this the most interactive work because of how often the user can manipulate what they're seeing in front of them. An example I can think of is someone created micosoft word, the possibilia of outcomes within any single document seem endless, yet each one can be personalized because of the easy to use host software. The interface that Manovich is describing is "deeper" into the technology. He gives credit to Douglas Engelbart, Ted Nelson and others for being the artists who have made the new media era possible.

It's interesting to think how new media art is different from art that came before it. When we think of art we often think of a painting, sometimes film or photography too; these are static (relatively) pieces. The new media art that Manovich is talking about is interactive. There isn't a sense of a static piece because the art interacts with the viewer/participant/user. This is a cool change in the history of art. Now, I'm not saying that art wasn't ever interactive before new media projects were made available, but the processes of creating a new media piece make sure there is interactivity on some level.

Another article I recently read was the introduction from "A Thousand Plateaus" by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. This was a complex reading. They bring to the text an idea of what they call a "rhizome". It seemed upon my reading that the rhizome was a way to introduce philosophical concepts of objects not being represented as just a thing, but as a multiplicity of relations. This is interesting, but I could not draw a clear focus out of the text that I read. The idea of multiplicity and their concept of identity being within mutual relations.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Janet Cardiff

Recently I've been doing some research on Janet Cardiff. Shes a Canadian born artist who is most known for her audio walks and installations. Frequently (especially more recently), she collaborates with her husband George Bures Miller. You can see pictures and other samples of her work at her website. Cardiff's audio walks involve the participant listening to her voice as she guides them through an existent landscape (be it a museum, park, downtown area, etc.). The art of the audio walks are to add in another landscape, an aural one, presented and constructed by Cardiff.

Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller
In my research I focused more on Cardiff and Miller's installations. These installations produce a variety of exciting interactions between the participant and the artwork. A couple of examples are "The Killing Machine" 2007: an installation that focused on capital punishment and drew the participant into the work through their activation of the installation via pushing a red button.

"The Killing Machine" Cardiff and Miller 2007

"The Killing Machine" Cardiff and Miller 2007
Cardiff's installations and audio walks emphasize the relationship between the viewer/participant and her artwork. This serves to draw complex parallels between Cardiff's fictional created space and the reality of the participants' perceptions/actions. In doing this, Cardiff has intertwined the notions of concept and content within artwork because her installations blur the distinction between theatricality and reality. Another example to show this is an installation Cardiff and Miller set up at Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The show was called "Pandemonium" and it was a sound installation set up on top of an abandoned prison.

"Pandemonium" 2005-2007. Cardiff and Miller.

The sound installation creates a psychologically intense atmosphere (which is probably an understatement). Sounds run throughout a sectioned off wing on a 15 minute loop. The sounds wax and wane and eventually climax. This brings up the notion of the disembodied voice, another theme present in much of Cardiff's work. However, the rhythmic sequences that Cardiff and Miller create cannot be heard from all over, the participants' position within the vast installation largely determines which sounds they will hear, and thus, their experience.

Janet Cardiff has worked on many more installations and, though I did not focus on it as much, her audio walks are very important as well. I have become very interested in this artist and hope to see her work sometime in the recent future.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Medium Is The Message

I read a chapter of Marshall McLuhan's The Medium is The Massage. It was difficult for me to unpack all of  what McLuhan is arguing, but going over it a few times, I can see that he's pointing out things we already know. "The medium is the message" is a concept that is supposed to change our ideas of what we actually perceive. McLuhan describes scenarios in which people are more concerned with the medium, or the device that transports an idea or message, than the content that the medium presents to us. He gives an example of a non-English speaker tuning in every night to listen to a BBC news broadcast that he can't understand. Why? Because the medium is the message. Stimuli's effects on us aren't wholly described by how we interpret the content of any medium. You don't get cancer from watching a certain television program, you get cancer from sitting with your face in front of a big light box (i know that it is not proven that t.v. gives you cancer, it was just an example i came up with to support this idea).

McLuhan also brings up an idea that I am interested in. It is that we are surrounded now (even more so now since this book was written in the 60's) by a plethora of mediums that we do not understand at all. In the "information era" we're all too concerned with the content and give no importance or thought to what the medium is. It's interesting, but I actually see it as not that important in the scheme of things. I don't think that McLuhan would realistically argue that we always always always consider the medium the message, period. Content that is expressed by a medium is often more important, I think McLuhan is just trying to illuminate the idea that the medium holds a lot of weight for the "meaning" of any artwork or other stuff...

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

I Made Movies

Recently I uploaded some short films that I made to YouTube. The first film, entitled Some Speech Resembles Vomit" is a mash-up of found footage I collected on the internet. The film is a commentary on how I don't like how people market themselves to others as if they're trying to sell something. I find that mentality pretty easy to see through even when it's masqueraded by the common "I just thought you would love to hear about this" front. Anyways, I've embedded the video here, but you can also check out My YouTube Channel. Here's "Some Speech Resembles Vomit" (please excuse the typo in the video).

The next film I made is called "Thinking About People Telling Me Things Makes Me Bite My Nails", it's about my own feelings of anxiety that accompany the feeling of being marketed to, or targeted, or "on someones' radar". I added sound in from a washing and drying machine cycling through their respective actions. The anxiety that I often feel in my life just kind of rolls over me which is represented by the gears turning around. The sharpness of the anxiety that I experience is illustrated by the chopping of carrots. Also a side note: I'm allergic to carrots. Here's the video:

My third video is called "Anxiety". I've represented my feelings of anxiety about the issue of being marketed to by directing two of my friends through some musical improvisation. I framed the video so that the windows on the house outside look like piano keys in the closer window. The blurred effect that comes in and out is through a manual focus on the camera I used; the purpose that this focus shift holds in the video is the distorted perception of reality that anxiety puts me under. Tim Honig plays trumpet in the film and Peter Mancina plays Bass.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Photographer, The Laborer

Yesterday at Lawrence University I went to a lecture given by Frank Lewis. He spoke about the history of photography, specifically about how photography is a medium that historically has appreciated and noticed the worker. Photography's capture aspect has the ability to freeze the worker and fixate on his/her craft. By doing this photography can emphasize the laborer as an individual, which goes against how I think a lot of people consider the worker "a piece of the machine". Frank Lewis mentioned that the worker was portrayed now not only as an extension of the machine, the worker is much more. The worker has his/her craft and is empowered and appreciated. Frank Lewis also alluded to the idea that because photography has historically emphasized the importance of the worker, photographers were the first artists that weren't necessarily thought of as a part of high culture. The lecture gave the image of photographers and their subjects holding a very noble role in the history of art and society. These ideas brought me to think about the role of the photographer today and how technology has given pretty much any asshole with a digital camera and a Flickr account the chance to call themselves a photographer. I think that degrades the idea of the photographer and the parallels that Frank Lewis illuminated between the photographer and the worker. However, I think that there is still a separation between the photographer as a true artist (whatever the fuck that means) and the asshole with a digital camera; I got the chance to see some really great artwork in an exhibition following the lecture. Two of the artists are my teachers, Julie Lindemann and Johnny Shimon; it was really great to see some of their artwork featured in an exhibition about the worker within photography. They have a feel to their work that presents an image of the worker as a real master over their craft. They had a book written by Julie Lindemann and Johnny Shimon that featured a lot of their work laying out in the exhibition and I got a chance to read a little of it. I was very interested in one part specifically that talked about how the older worker more readily identifies him/herself with his/her craft whilst the younger worker has aspirations for something "more" or at the least an identity separate from their craft.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Technology and Society

Raymond Williams wrote an article entitled, The Technology and the Society, in 1972. I was expecting the article to be about the content of television, movies, magazines and other media is linked in with the culture at the time of publication. The article was much different than that; it was about the causes and effects of technology and how it changed the notion of social communication. Williams discusses how technological advances happened as a result of many different developments (military uses and the ability for corporations or the state to broadcast to people are among a few). Williams nicely put it this way: "It is not only that the supply of broadcasting facilities preceded the demand; it is that the means of communication preceded their content". This idea brings my assumptions about the reading forward and I can place my own thoughts in this style of thinking. While the television was invented long before 1972, Williams brings up an interesting point. The ability to broadcast was there before people had to worry about what they were watching. And since the introduction of of new technologies in social communication, people have pushed the envelope along the lines of how much sex can I sell? How much violence can I get away with showing? Yeah, we want to see these things and we should have the choice to see them, but we only care because we know they exist on television. I'm not advocating censorship, I'm just saying theres a bunch of dumb shit out there.

Furthermore, I watched some experimental videos in my class. After reading Williams' article, I can see how these artists have used the existing technologies as a major on their content. William Wegman is an artist who clearly spends time contemplating the role that television and similar video technologies have in society and he creates art that fucks with our expectations of what video should be. But that's the idea for a lot of experimental film makers I think. I dont think that cheapens it, they obviously have more of a message or direction if they're good, but this is something film makers look at. I think this is a weird video, but his dog stuff is kind of weird to me:

I dont think it's fair to look at experimental video by writing it off as dumb shit. But it's not fair to give dumb shit the title experimental art. This particular video might be close to a gray area.