Project Brief 4 [plus my last Studio post]

In creating this somewhat experimental, non-narrative video piece, my primary aim was to visually explore the form of the home movie and to discuss the ways in which these amateur documentary-esque products can be used to construct, fabricate, refresh, and prompt memory. I chose to experiment with the Super 8 aesthetic based on its past popularity amongst families who were looking to “document their lives through the moving image” (Wilson 2011). Additionally, I was interested to see how accurately I could recreate the Super 8 look in post-production, and to investigate the qualities and style of Super 8 moviemaking in the digital world.

As Shaun Wilson suggests, home movies fulfil two primary functions, allowing us to first capture and archive moments from our lives, and then to re-experience those moments from our past. In this way, the home movie is able to keep moments ‘alive’ indefinitely, freezing them and storing them away to be viewed in the future (2011). Ross McElwee’s 1993 autobiographical documentary film Time Indefinite supports this notion, presenting a narrative that is largely built around the McElwee family’s home movie archive. In watching through and editing his family’s old home movies, McElwee theorises that he is perhaps “trying to preserve things in the present, somehow keep[ing] everyone alive in some sort of time indefinite”. Efren Cuevas expands upon McElwee’s narration, stating that home movies “provide a kind of eternity to the fleeting moments of our lives” (2013).

This notion of of memory being kept alive by home movie archives is one which particularly peaked my interest, and linking these ideas with those of nostalgia and fabricated memory in analogue film/photography (which we looked into earlier in the semester) led me towards the concepts that would form the basis of this final project.

As suggested by Keightley and Pickering, the camera’s ability to preserve moments in time on celluloid film (and now SD cards) has somewhat established the practices of photography and filmmaking as ones of authenticity, being mediums which for the most part present “recorded fact” (2014). However, as I briefly discussed in Project Brief 2, the memories contained within photos and video recordings should be seen as somewhat fluid in nature, with the capacity to greatly shift over time as our own memories fade. This notion seems especially true in regards to the home movie genre.

In order to address the idea that meaning and memory can be retroactively injected into home movies (and other mediums/platforms) my intention was to create a piece which would present a somewhat fragmented sequence of visuals which I, and/or the viewer could later use as a visual mnemonic device to help shape and revive memories from the locations that I filmed around. In this way, I hope to demonstrate what Wilson describes as memory being “grafted in-between film and experience” (2011). Furthermore, in shooting reasonably uneventful, everyday sights my aim was to collect images which could hold more vague meaning – allowing for less precise and more hazy memories to populate the final piece.

In producing the video I came to a number of realisations which have proven helpful in developing my understanding and appreciation of the analogue workflow and its resulting aesthetic. Firstly, I now have a far greater feel for the shaky, grainy and somewhat more tangible essence of the Super 8 format. Despite not shooting on actual Super 8 I feel as if the shooting style that I had to implement in creating this project gave me a real sense of the raw, and imperfect nature of Super 8 filmmaking. In editing the piece, I came to embrace many of the imperfect shots I’d captured (which in my ‘normal’ digital workflow I would’ve discarded). Leaving these imperfections scattered throughout the piece helped emulate the concrete, unfixable aspects of analogue film.

Secondly, I realised that while my project aims to simulate the visual aesthetics and styles of the home movies of the past, it was still produced with the full intention of being shown on a public, and online platform – both via RMIT presentations, and YouTube/Vimeo uploads. It then became clearer to me that while home movies of the past were traditionally a private medium, today our versions of the home movie are almost entirely based around public/social platforms. We now share images of our home life, our travels, and our everyday encounters with the general public, publishing content that would perhaps have been considered ‘just for friends and family’ a decade or so ago. Facebook, and it’s more visually-oriented social peers Instagram and Snapchat now allow us to share our everyday, home movies like never before.

Lastly, to address the topic of analogue versus digital in relation to the home movie format, I’m not sure whether I can say one medium is more authentic or meaningful than the other. While I was sorting through my own family’s home movie archives (which I suspect were shot on Mini DV cameras) I experienced feelings of nostalgia and memory-retrieval that were similar to those that I felt when sorting through old family photographs (that were shot with analogue cameras). This leads me to believe that in the case of home movies the recording medium is secondary to the the visual content and the raw, undirected nature of the family documentary.

Ultimately I think my final work has been successful in addressing the concepts that I set out to explore. In creating a piece which seeks to assemble and solidify a sequence of memories, I believe that I’ve been able to (relatively) accurately simulate and investigate the spirit and feel of the Super 8 home movie. Prior to shooting my project I watched a lot of Super 8 video content online, and I think this was crucial in allowing me to more accurately recreate the visual aesthetic of the analogue medium in post-production. Furthermore, in forming this collection of sample work to draw from, I was able to more effectively understand how filmmakers of the past (and present) have utilised and explored the Super 8 medium. To quickly wrap things up, this experiment of embedding Old Media principles into a digital filmmaking practice was a really interesting one, and I think I’ll likely return to the Super 8 format in future projects and investigations.


REFERENCES.

Cuevas, E 2013, ‘Home movies as personal archives in autobiographical documentaries’, Studies in Documentary Film, vol. 7, no. 1, pp. 17-29. Available from: EBSCOhost Art Full Text [29 May 2017].

Keightley, E & Pickering, M 2014, ‘Technologies of Memory: Practices of Remembering in Analogue and Digital Photography’, New Media & Society, vol. 16, no. 4, pp.576-593. Available from: SAGE Communication Studies [1 June 2017].

Wilson, S 2011, ‘Remixing Memory through Home Movies’, Image & Narrative, vol. 12, no. 2, pp.3-17. Available from: RMIT Research Repository [29 May 2017].

Project Brief 4: WIP 2

After writing my previous WIP post, I shifted my focus (somewhat), deciding to instead explore the world of ‘maker spaces’ – communal/collaborative workshops in which individuals can gather and work on a range of predominantly handcrafted projects.

I began planning an interview-driven investigative documentary piece, with the intention of further exploring the ideas of handcrafted practices that we touched upon in our neon glass-bending documentary. I also wanted to try and represent the collaborative spirit that these maker environments seem to foster in order to try and understand what draws individual makers towards these shared workshop spaces.

ANYWAYS…

Thanks to a very poorly timed five day bout of food poisoning/gastro/stomach bugginess, my plans to set up interviews and visits to the maker spaces I’d found had to be put on hold. By the time I’d recovered I wasn’t confident that I’d be able to shoot and edit everything in time, so I again decided to shift focus.

Looking back at some of the other exercises we’d completed throughout the semester I came upon the work we did during our home video/photo week, as well as the more recent Super 8 class exercise. While reviewing some of my family’s home videos and a collection of Super 8 clips online, I decided that I wanted to return to an idea I had earlier in the semester – one which looks into nostalgia, and the reproduction of memory through photographic/video documentation.

The raw, more tangible nature of analogue photography and film is something that began interesting me in the second half of 2016, and is partially what led me to selecting the Old’s Cool studio. While travelling I experimented with some analogue photography, and I think there’s definitely a unique quality to the images. Ideally I’d like to shoot a video piece using an analogue film camera, however logistically I think that’ll have to be a project for another time.

Using a DSLR (and perhaps snippets of my family’s home videos) I now plan to create a piece which embraces some of the the aesthetics and principles of Super 8, and analogue filmmaking. I’m in the process of setting up my camera to shoot with a Super 8 format in mind and soon plan to conduct a few experiments to test some of the Super 8 effects I’ve found online.

Recreating the Super 8 aesthetic will be an interesting visual experiment, and I hope that by blending new digital technologies with the principles of analogue filmmaking I’ll be able to create a visually intriguing and engaging video piece.

I’m currently leaning towards the creation of a observational, documentary piece – set either within my family home or the Melbourne CBD. Through the piece I’ll attempt to discuss and explore the notion that we record video and take photos with the intention of constructing memory – shooting for a future presentation of our lives.

Perhaps I’ll collect audio recordings of various memories (from friends and/or family) and then set out to shoot video in an attempt to match and construct a visual representation of those audio memories.

I’m disappointed that my investigation into ‘Maker Spaces’ had to be put on hold, however I do think I’ll return to the idea in the future. Shifting focus areas will also allow me to work with some less familiar concepts to round off the semester – as I feel my MakerSpace idea would have been thematically quite similar to our Neon Glass documentary.

[SUPER 8 TESTS]

Project Brief 4: WIP 1

At this stage I’m still unsure of what exactly I’d like to make for this final project – the broad nature of the set task has made it challenging (for me) to narrow down the ideas I’ve come up with so far and decide upon what I actually want to work on. The goal in writing this post is to identify one or two ideas that I’d like to further explore, and hopefully by the end of this 500 words I’ll have something to work with.

I know I want to create another video-oriented piece, and ideally one with a more creative and expressionistic style (while still incorporating some investigative elements). Obviously this is a very general statement, and the form and nature of this project will be greatly shaped by the subject and area that I end up focusing on.

In my reflection for Project Brief 3 I mentioned that I’d like to continue investigating analogue (and digital) mediums in regards to principles of time, patience, and precision. Now I’d like to expand upon those principles to also explore the notion of being ‘in the zone’ (deep work), and the different ways that enjoyment and satisfaction are fostered by more tangible, slow-moving media practices.

I really enjoyed shooting and editing our documentary on neon glass bending for Project Brief 3, and I found the process of watching and analysing the footage to be really beneficial. For Project Brief 4 I’d like to continue down this path and investigate another craft and/or creative process.

At the moment I’m thinking that photography could be an interesting subject.


Similar to Karl’s glass bending process, I think a fine balance between patience and agility is significant to the art of photography – and this is especially true when it comes to analogue photography. Photographers who continue to work with analogue/film cameras are challenged by the relatively low number of shots they can capture on a single roll of ilm, and for this reason, being in the moment, and prepared at all times to capture brief expressions and movements is essential.

In explaining why he likes to shoot with Medium-Format cameras, Mustafah Abdulaziz asserts that the pressure of only having 10 frames to play with greatly enhances his creative process and his appreciation of the images he captures:

“It’s gonna take me a minute or two to reload this roll of film, and [then] this is gonna be gone” says Abdulaziz, the notion of being ready to capture specific, fleeting moments in time seeming to be very important to him.

Furthermore, I think this readiness and ability to rapidly freeze moments in time is something that’s  particularly relevant to many street photographers. In my own photographic practice I know that I’m often left wishing that I’d taken a photo a split second sooner – and for street photographers (who use analogue technologies) being able to capture precise compositions without sacrificing speed or agility is key.

With all of this in mind, I’m currently thinking about creating a video piece which looks into the role of speed and patience in the analogue photography process.

In terms of format, I’d like to be able to interview (analogue) photographers about their approach to the process, and collect imagery which illustrates some of the time-based processes that lie at the heart of the craft. Ideally I’d love to be able to follow a photographer around as they use up a role of film in order to capture their workflow – however we’ll see if this becomes a possibility in the coming weeks.

Project Brief 3: NEON GLASS BENDING

While preparing to meet with Karl (our craftsman subject) we all agreed that it would be extremely important to spend a significant amount of time observing his neon glass bending process and to capture a substantial amount of video footage which we could use to faithfully illustrate this process as well as the intricacies of the craft.

While we had a solid idea of the visuals that we wanted to capture, we were initially unsure of what we’d actually be able to film during our time in Karl’s workshop. Because of this we decided it would be best to instead focus on creating a list of detailed questions and talking points that would hopefully yield a collection of insightful responses and discussions that would relate well to the core concepts of the Old’s Cool studio. In my opinion our implementation of this list worked out extremely well, and we were able to sit down with Karl and talk through a great amount of information regarding the processes, history and principles that lie at the foundations of the neon sign craft. In addition to providing us with some excellent perspectives into his personal practice, Karl also gave us the opportunity to spend approximately three hours inside his workshop to capture a broad range of B-Roll footage. I think we all left Karl’s workshop with a far greater understanding of the processes behind neon production, as well as a great deal of footage to edit.

Unfortunately we had to push our meeting with Karl forwards a day on very late notice, and as a result we had to work with a reduced amount of equipment and less finalised plans. If we were to complete this project again I think a more rigorous shooting plan would be beneficial as well as a greater focus on capturing more substantial amounts of audio (we weren’t able to record a lot of non-interview sound on the day, and this would have helped us greatly in post-production). Despite these issues I think we were really successful in visualising the unique nature of Karl’s trade, and the precise details of the neon glass bending process.

Through discussing the production of neon signs with Karl and observing him move through the neon sign making process, it became clear that at the foundation of neon glass bending lies a number of crucial key principles. The first of these principles is the tactile, physical nature of the glass bending procedure. Karl emphasised the challenges of learning how to sharpen your movements as a glass bender, and the importance of coordination and precise manoeuvres in forming neon lettering and imagery. It’s certainly a craft which has been relatively unaffected by the automation movement of the modern environment, and this is largely due to the fact that it is a form of work which employs highly specific, complex, and precise combinations of movements. Neon projects frequently require different techniques and workflow patterns, and currently no machine exists which can replicate the precise movements and improvisational skills of a glass bender.

This idea of highly honed physical movement and precision seems like something that’s important to a broad range of sculptural-based practices. From wood carving to glass blowing and metalwork, when crafting three dimensional objects by hand one must truly  be comfortable with the intricate motions of their chosen process. One example that comes to mind is pottery and the process of constructing ceramic works through the use of a pottery wheel. This is a craft which requires very fine movement and a great deal of control – over the speed of the wheel, the handling of the clay, and the movement of one’s hands in sculpting and shaping the work. From watching Karl work on shaping the molten glass I feel as if there are many parallels that can be drawn between pottery and glass work.

Another principle that seemed significant to Karl’s work was time, and more specifically the balancing of both patience and swiftness. Watching Karl work really emphasised the importance of timing in neon glass bending – as well as glass-based crafts in general. Waiting for the glass to reach the correct temperature takes both patience and a steady hand, however once the glass reaches a malleable state swift action is required to quickly shape and mould the glass into the desired form. Some of the video footage we captured really highlights this idea – and Karl’s ability to deal with the rapid cooling of the molten glass is something that really impressed and intrigued me.

I think this notion of patience/swiftness can also be discussed in relation to photography, especially more alternative and analogue practices. Thinking about timing and patience reminded me of Rebecca Najdowski’s photographic work and some of the alternative processes that she shared with us back in week 3. Photography is an art form which is similar to glass bending in regards to its requirements of precisely timed and executed operations. For example long exposure shots require the photographer to open and close the camera’s shutter within specific time periods in order to properly expose an image. Similarly, when creating lumen prints and other alternative photographic imagery you must  often wait a relatively long amount of time in order to achieve your desired effects.

Deep focus is another principle that is certainly relevant to the craft of neon glass bending. As Karl asserts, in creating neon signage you really have to “lift yourself to a higher level” and devote a great deal of attention towards the task at hand. Neon glass bending  definitely seems to be a craft which “demands deep attention to complete successfully” (Hayles 2007). The glass tubing used in the production of neon signage is very delicate, and thus the craftsperson must remain concentrated when it comes to handling, heating and bending it. Karl’s movements and treatment of the glass tubing were very “carefully controlled” (Newport 2016) and it was obvious that over his career he’s become highly proficient in narrowing his focus whenever he needs to execute precise glass bending procedures.

Lastly, the process of tinkering and a trial and error workflow seemed to be another important aspect of Karl’s personal approach to glass bending. Throughout his workshop various neon tests and experimental art pieces can be seen, and as Karl told us he’s always been interested in the artistic potentials of neon. He mentioned that for many glass benders, the creation of neon signage is just a step-by-step process. For Karl however, it has always been important to experiment with different techniques and figure out new ways to accomplish different results. As a glass bender who uses his skills to create both commercial and artistic works, Karl highlighted his habit of “tinkering” and exploring new ideas whenever work is slow.

Through our time spent with Karl and his neon glass bending practice I’ve come to further appreciate the notion of handmade, high skill production and the idea of value in regards to the items that these processes can create. I’m beginning to see why tactile and more tangible objects can be so appealing to us, and Karl’s description of the respect that consumers have for handcrafted products sums this up very well in my opinion. I also think that it’s really fascinating that there are some practices and processes which truly don’t change over time. While there are many “practices [and] traditional crafts [that] have been gradually developed [over time]” (Crespo Arca 2010) the process of neon glass bending has remained basically unchanged, even after 100 years of existence. Furthermore, I feel as if in today’s environment the inability to automate a physical labour is quite impressive and I think that this is something that’s certainly worth discussing further throughout the remainder of this studio. Are skills such as glass bending so reliant on the precise nature of human movement and coordination that they will remain a ‘manual’ craft forever (or at least for the foreseeable future)?

At this stage I’m really interested in investigating a number of the principles and ideas that arose through the completion of this project. Throughout the remainder of the semester I think I would particularly like to explore the notion of timing and patience in regards to both analogue and digital media production, as well as the potentials of trial and error based workflows in the modern media making environment. I’m sure more will come into focus as the next few weeks progress, however I feel as if this will provide a good starting point that’ll help direct the initial stages of Project Brief Four.


REFERENCES:

Crespo Arca, L 2010, ‘Traditional Papermaking in Bhutan: Raw Materials, Techniques and Use’, International Preservation News, vol. 52, pp.37-40. Available from: ProQuest Central. [22 April 2017].

Hayles, N 2007, ‘Hyper and Deep Attention: The Generational Divide in Cognitive Modes’, Profession, pp.187-199.

Milwright, M 2014, ‘Glass and Glassworking in Damascus during the Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries’, Journal of Glass Studies, vol. 56, pp.201-217. Available from: ProQuest Central. [22 April 2017].

‘Neon Signs’ in Nature, 1934, Nature Publishing Group. Available from: Nature Online. [22 April 2017].

Newport, C 2016, ‘Chapter three: Deep work is meaningful’ in Deep Work, Grand Central Publishing, New York.

“tangible media items hold more value”

For many people, the more tangible quality of older media formats is something of great value and significance. These groups find comfort and satisfaction in being able to pick up and feel physical items such as books, newspapers, photo albums and vinyl records. Something about the more tactile nature of these analogue mediums fosters a different level of interaction and enjoyment, allowing certain audiences to engage with their media in a more meaningful way.

This idea of tangible value is particularly relevant when discussing the “iconic status” (Smith 2011) and ongoing popularity that vinyl records have achieved in today’s largely digital media landscape. It is one of the few analogue formats to remain readily available in stores, and there are a number of justifications vinyl fans provide for their ongoing support of the (somewhat) superseded format.

There are those who assert that “there is something special about vinyl” (Yochim & Biddinger 2008), something more personable, warm and authentic. Because of their physical place in the world and their susceptibility to damage, vinyls are often considered items of greater value and worth. Analogue photographs are described in a similar manner by Keightley and Pickering, who state that physical photos are often thought of as being far more precious due to their “singular existence” (2014).

The physical processes involved in playing vinyl records are also thought to enhance audience engagement and overall attachment to the medium – with the ritual of removing a record from it’s sleeve and preparing the record player being seen as part of a more tactile experience. Digital media’s greater levels of convenience and accessibility can therefore impact its overall value suggests Bolin, who asserts that because digital media often lacks a tactile atangible form “it [can be] less labour intensive, less personal and [therefore] less [valuable]” (2016).

In creating this short video piece, I wanted to explore some of the ideas surrounding analogue media’s tangible qualities. I wanted to use my dad as a primary subject because he’s got a really diverse collection of music which consists of all kinds of different mediums – from a huge variety of vinyl records to an iPod Classic that’s packed full of music. He’s experienced music through every medium, and I thought that interviewing him would reveal some interesting insights into the value and quality of both analogue and digital music platforms.

My intention was to highlight the evolution of music distribution technologies and integrate brief snippets of anecdotal information to provide a more personable and relatable narrative. My dad doesn’t really believe vinyl is anything too special, and I thought that this lack of nostalgia and preference for (objectively) higher quality audio would be interesting to discuss in contrast to the arguments of vinyl appreciators.


REFERENCES:

Bolin, G 2016, ‘Passion and Nostalgia in Generational Media Experiences’, European Journal of Cultural Studies, vol. 19, no. 3, pp.250-264. Available from: SAGE Premiere 2007 [21 March 2017].

Keightley, E & Pickering, M 2014, ‘Technologies of Memory: Practices of Remembering in Analogue and Digital Photography’, New Media & Society, vol. 16, no. 4, pp.576-593. Available from: SAGE Communication Studies [21 March 2017].

Smith, J 2011, ‘Turn Me On, Dead Media’, Television & New Media, vol. 12, no. 6, pp.531-551. Available from: SAGE Communication Studies [21 March 2017].

Yochim, EC & Biddinger M 2008, ‘It kind of gives you that vintage feel: vinyl records and the trope of death’, Media, Culture & Society, vol. 30, no. 2, pp.183-195. Available from: SAGE Publications [23 March 2017].

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