This semester, I have to come to a very simple formula, something I’ll make into a mathematical phrase:
Cinema = light + consciousness + the possibilities of expanding and contracting time
I have not realized until this semester the extent to which filmmaking requires one to recognize and consider the design of temporality in a work. Every moving image is beholden to time and consciousness structures. This little formula is never a final sentence for me, of course. Just a current thought as I read Technics and Time 3.
Throughout the course of reading Technics and Time 3, I was often considering where the multi-channel video installation work fits in to these philosophies of retention and consciousness in the cinematic flux. In Stiegler’s definition of the ‘properly temporal object’ the video/film installation satisfies his criteria; to paraphrase, media based installation work is formed temporally, woven in threads of time, as what appears in passing, what manifests itself in disappearing.
How do multi-channel works function with the Kuleshov Effect and primary retention? The image will most likely lose the precedent images in a sequential manner as a spectator moves through space and changes the sequence that they are viewing at their own whim. Does the Kuleshov Effect still function when you are experience multiple screens of multiple sequences and the freedom to watch whichever and as long as you’d like? In any order pleasing to you? Or does it remain just as relevant, it simply expands spatially? I have always thought about multi-channel installation works as my attempts at expanding and contracting time and space. Does the Kuleshov Effect in an architectual/spatial video installation format expand or condense space/time?
I came back to these questions in the discussion of Hitchcock’s Four O’ Clock. How does narrative condense, or does it condense, in a multi-channel installation? How does one measure this condensation, when every viewer has so much control over their experience versus the traditional dark room, seated, expectant audience who knows exactly how to behave while watching single sequence screening format? What about exaggeration, expansion, endurance works? Warhol’s Empire State?
Continuing in the discussion on Hitchcock, I wondered: since the viewer/participant/audience controls the time code in an installation based on where they choose to land, what images they enter, where they move next, is installation elongated or dilated time?
Moving ahead, consciousness is such a key consideration in this text. How does installation work within viewers consciousnesses? Does installation work with or does it break the flux of spectators’ streams of consciousness? How does or doesn’t the temporal object of installation work adopt the object’s time? Does installation break the possibility of cinematic identification?
If you have any ideas for texts I should read on multi-channel installation, I am really worked up to receive such suggestions!
I am currently working through a lot of these questions in my own work, and trying to consider them moving forward. Installation seems to make people rather uncomfortable, I’m realizing. I don’t attempt to be obtuse and unattainable in my work and yet it seems like hard work for a wider public to access. The behavior expectation for the experience of installation isn’t set in the wider culture industry as it is for cinema, and other temporal objects that have one sequential line to follow.
The relinquishing of control, the relinquishing of my sequential edits to the audience’s movement and desires - this is the point at which the installation work is most exciting for me. In my installation work, I give over control of the narrative line, the image sequence. The question that keeps surfacing about my relationship installation work that’s currently in progress is - how much does the audience need to know? How much help (information) do I give the audience? What is important for them to walk away knowing and remembering?
I am thinking about why I painstakingly edit the individual sequences. Why I shot each sequence, when there is public domain imagery of baptisms available, why analog, why hand process? For what purpose, really? The audience for such works rarely, if ever, will stay for the duration. They catch the loops at whatever point they enter the space, do they wait for the loop to end and re-start, then watch to finish? No, probably not. And if they did, it would still relate to those secondary and tertiary retentions of the first fragment of sequence that they caught walking in.
It is nearly impossible for someone to experience something as a phrase, like a melody, beginning to end in a presentation of an installation work. I love that aspect of installation work. I enjoy asking spectators to draw their own lines, cobble together their own meaning. There is a cloud of narrative, idea, atmosphere, meaning that I put forth, and I am satisfied if a viewer walks away with some aspect from this cloud, fog, of concepts. For me, this justifies the process, the time, the work, the analog, the hand processing. The curation of an atmosphere for audience to walk away with - even if all of their questions aren’t answered. Many won’t be bothered, but for the few that are, maybe the effect is lingering.
Does this mean I do not care about the audience? That their experiences are of no consequence to me as a maker? No, naively I think I trust the spectators too much. I know that few will answer the questions I am asking - take on the tasks that the work asks them to do - to be so active. To work, instead of passively soaking in image. I don’t mind this position, though. I do need to reconcile and have a deeper foundation theoretically for why I am comfortable here.
Maybe my work is meant for small audiences, maybe it is too boutique-y for my liking in this way, but this process makes sense to me. I don’t always make multi-channel works, but when I do, I feel emphatic about the importance of these works living as multi-sequential. Living spatially, allowing audiences to edit the ultimate work by their experience. There is more control in single sequence works, but the audience still projects their own narratives on to your images - everyone processes every piece of information they receive through their own experiences of similar information. Installation expands that possibility for an audience, should the audience be willing to participate.
In thinking about this, going forward I want to re-think how I edit installation works. Instead of focusing so much on each individual sequence, I need to consider the editing effect of walking through a space with all of these images - how these image sequences bleed in to each other as a spectator walks through and decides to draw lines between the screens. What are all of the possible sequences, and what do they say? Of course I am always thinking about this when I edit installation work, but I need to loosen up further and think about transferring imagery and ideas around sequences. Making the images follow each other across the various screens. Making the images and ideas move through spatially, similar to the viewer experience.
Thank you for everything, it has been incredible!
ROUGH DRAFT expository notes for my final project - please don’t read before class!!
Truth-value and intention in documentary work
Our conversation on truth-value and intention in documentary for the Camera is the Picture and in the Digital Photography Algorithms spurred me to trouble my experience in working in documentary practice.
For most of 2011, I worked for a non-profit organization in Guatemala. I was hired mostly to make a promotional fundraising video about their sustainable agriculture initiatives in the northwestern highlands near Chiapas. I had to travel there twice because of a camera that died on me during the first trip.
In thinking about how to frame this work within the context of this class, I think there are three areas to discuss: troubling the notion of the truth-value of a document, the social aspect of any documentary work, and my process.
I drew heavily from Barthes’ Camera Lucida for framing the concepts in this piece. While he is insistent that he is discussing Photography in opposition to Cinema, I think that a lot of what he wrote is worth applying to the practice of the moving image, as well.
In this work, I feel that there are two referents – my experience of Guatemala is one referent, while the commercial video media that I created is another referent. To paraphrase Barthes, the nature and the genius of the photograph is that it could compel you to believe its referent had really existed.
The work that this organization is doing is real and legit; I witnessed this. The document that I present for public consumption is infused with fakes. So many shots are staged specifically for the creation of this document. In my work, the interview footage is of course contrived, and the shots of children working in the garden is a total set up. That is every child in a village working in one individual family’s garden – not likely to ever occur in reality. This project is a process of taking the undesirable remnants of a media-making process, the results that didn’t match the intention behind the recording, and finding in them the truth-value that more closely corresponds to a reality of my experiences.
But because you’ve never been there, we knew that we might be able to convince you that this lovely moment was real through the virtue of your willingness to believe in the media document. The authority of the government registered non-profit organization as the umbrella entity over this document may help viewers to allow for a relationship of trust to develop between themselves and the maker of the document. It may also cause them to scrutinize more closely. Barthes talks about this idea that the media image says to us: here is proof, this is what has been. Both the commercial project and my project are documents that show kernels, notions of truth as I experienced reality. They contain a certain measure of truth that I have experienced, and there is truth in that all of this really happened. No matter how staged some of the shots were, there is no denying that there was a referent – this action really did occur, no matter the intention.
Moving on to the social interaction required in the creation of these documents – there is a contrast in these two separate approaches to these images in what amount of control the subjects had. While there was a constant awareness of the camera, a constant awareness of being recorded, the subjects were able to exert some control over the social situation. Though they were instructed, in the instance of the garden shots, to never, ever look at or into the camera, you can see how much footage became unusable for the purposes of the organizational video. This is an interesting moment to me – they were participating in this shoot because they trusted that what we were doing would help them somehow. And they still could not help their fascination with the act of being recorded, no matter how much they believed that this would help them, no matter how many times they were told that looking at the camera was ruining the shots.
There is my presence and my experience. The generally bizarre position of being the observer, the recorder of a community that you are not a part of. As you can hear in the audio, they were speaking indigenous Mayan language, only speaking Spanish when they were asked to interact with one of us coming in from the outside. Not all of these people speak Spanish, and someone had to mediate our directions and requests through translating into their language. There is a great tension and discomfort in documenting someone that you can’t directly communicate with. For me, this document that I’ve made for this class distills this situation down into a kernel of truth-value that honors my experience.
In the interview sequence, the point of interest that serves as a document to my experience is in the tension of setting up these awkward talking head interviews. In my work, I really abhor this kind of straight boring way of speaking to and about a person’s experiences. In the context of this non-profit fundraising video, I felt that I had to stick to expectations of what a social issue awareness video looks like. This footage is so awkward, it was never meant to be used as an image, this was a back up recording for audio. In this unusable footage is truth-value of my experience. I had a specific personal connection to the man on the left that developed over the course of working on this commercial project. The intensity of his staring at me through the video camera lens is the document of one dimension of creating the referent commercial video.
In these two videos, I give you this odd footage, divorced of its original intention of documentary-style exposition. At the end, there is a QR code, which, when scanned, gives you the referent video as a kind of reward at the end of the sequence for holding your questions. I chose to use the QR code format for emphasis – for me, these two sequences hold more truth-value than the final commercial video piece that is presented to the public. Forcing access to the commercial video through an ugly QR code and down from the large screen into this small, hand held screen is a way of elevating these two new sequences as more significant. By ghettoizing this more authoritative video to a tiny screen, maybe somehow I can make you trust that the other sequences are the more valid, honest documents. But I still can’t entirely divorce these new sequences from their referent.