Thomas Wilson

This semester, I investigated a series of questions, and I haven’t yet fully linked them into a whole leading question. However, in no particular order:
1. How important is context?
2. At what point does a piece of media break down?
3. What is montage?
4. Can you fully remove the human element from a piece of media and still have it function?

I began the semester with an eye to properly exploring the studio as it was named ‘Ways of making’. Having spent a lot of time getting intimated with the industrial processes of the television, film and academic industries, I was very excited to find a new perspective on media work and my own ways of constructing a piece of art. After all, it’s only when we examine things in detail, pulling them apart like a watchmaker pulls apart a watch, that we can begin to fully understand them.

To continue the metaphor, I knew what a watch was, how the cogs worked and how it told time, but I wanted to really rip it apart and perhaps find the place where time is created, or in the context of the studio, find the place where things are made and media is somehow conjured from the dross of the tangible.

In hindsight, I may have taken the studio name a little too literally.

However, I jumped straight into philosophy and began examining where and how things are named and created, and devoted myself to reading up on the natural sciences, trying to find a third way, or a means in which the natural sense of an idea, place, object or person came through, without the extraneous discourses of meaning, context and media being imposed upon the subject. I wanted to create without interfering, and this idea was to infuse the rest of my work throughout the semester.

I was also fascinated by how meaning is semiologically constructed through not just visuals, but through music, audio or the absence thereof. I made montages and applied different sorts of audio to them, hoping to find the points where media and new forms of media are built through interpretation.

However, after discussing this with Paul, I realised I was trying to find the poetics of situations and places. So rather than trying to find out where a piece of media is broken down, I tried to prove the opposite, find where a piece of media is created. By examining the frameworks of my house and the surrounds, and then editing it together with and without human interference, I began to gain a sense of just what a human brings to a piece of work. Although I had not identified where media is created, I had begun to sense just how powerful the invocation of anthropocentric discourses is.

It was here however, that I became stuck, and I began to investigate montage as another means of making meaning. Rather than having the meaning emerge organically, I would try to construct a logic puzzle on film, and attempt to extend linear time into a relative, distorted infinity.

Why I thought this was a good idea, I don’t know. It certainly dominated the last half of my semester and became more trouble than it was worth. However, I found some really interesting insights into both practical filming and the nature of inspiration. To wit, it doesn’t always work out.

Indeed, at the tail end of the semester, I found myself at an impasse. I had little work to show for my efforts, or so I felt, and little to demonstrate at the end of semester presentations. My recreation of Escher wasn’t working as I hoped, my attempts to make music from ambient sound had not turned out well, and I was having issues with my exposure. However, Paul mentioned something that turned it all around. He suggested that I investigate the poetics of the stairs in still shots, and return to what motivated me at the beginning of the year. This was a great idea, as the romantic nature of the location was what had inspired me in the first place. The angles, the metal shine and banisters, the steep triangular drop and the corridors that spiderweb away from a central hub. Yes, I would have needed a crane to properly see my dreams implemented, however, still shots gave me control over the space in a theoretical sense that my camera and motion did not. Indeed, this was the revelation that I will keep with me as the years go by. I had a working knowledge of the importance of narrative and time, but what I didn’t appreciate was the idea of space, and the importance of location in a narrative, media and semiological sense. The place is just as important as the people, they are in a symbiosis that adds up to a piece of media.

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I found that perhaps you can’t destroy media, as it is formed at the site of interpretation, and context is key here. However, what I did find was perhaps a way to create, make and examine media in a distilled or purer sense. I have a greater appreciation for the variables and the difficulties that go into the creation of argument and art. That alone, despite my failures, has made it worthwhile. Anyway, I’d prefer to fail interestingly than make something predictable.

Throughout the whole semester, the class was fantastic, although everyone had individual projects, and there wasn’t as much industrial collaboration as sometimes happens in a studio, the sense of community, friendship and intellectual bonhomie were worth working for. Everyone was keen to discuss ideas, especially because we were all on our own individual journeys and investigations through media and finding our own personal ways of making. This combination of independent work and colloborative meet-ups was an absolute delight.

That being said, working alone was awesome. I understand the value of collaboration at university, and it’s always rewarding, however, I really enjoyed having the mental and physical space to go chase my own dragons. I didn’t slay them, but I can’t imagine anyone else really wanting to come on the hunt.

As a further point, we all helped one another technically. It may seem as though the studio was entirely theoretical, but this is not the case. My work in a practical and industrial sense has improved beyond sight over the course of the semester. My camera work, lighting knowledge, writing skills, capcity to think about media and my editing work have all been helped by the intensive and rewarding nature of this studio. Paul in particular, has been a great tutor, and I’ve really enjoyed his input over the months I’ve worked with him.

Thomas Wilson, Ways of Making 2016.

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