Ghosts of RMIT – a reflection on spaces and places

I came into this class with an open mind. I was ready to tackle the subject of place; the interpretations, the notions, the expositions, and I was ready to welcome the destruction of previous biases and a transformation of the mind. Let me break it down in a manner that hopefully does not give you a headache.

See this photograph here? I have a printed copy of this photograph adorning my wardrobe door alongside magazine covers, paint palettes, 1920’s posters and model mood boards. Without going political and messy, this class has taught me to think about this photograph in more ways than the usual machinations.

Tim Cresswell (bless him) is the forerunner for opening my mind. With his guidance, I thought about the geographical place this rally was set. Wherever it may be, perhaps in front of a square similar to Federation Square in Melbourne or in the City Square in Collins Street, where I had been trapped amidst the mass of bodies vying for Aboriginal rights. But wherever this rally was held, its geographical space became a new place that is born out of a contested process of interpretation. The rally-goers, the protestors all gave meaning to the space where they stood vehemently shouting their cries for freedom, thus, giving that certain space, meaning and so, it becomes a place. I’ve never looked at similar photographs the same way again.

The course challenged me to intentionally notice my surroundings. To stop and think about why certain memorials were placed in specific spots, why a simple bench as you walk through your campus is laid out there, and it’s been deliberately put there, mind you, for architectural purposes that yes, I have never even bothered to think about before.

And my opinions towards architecture seemingly only about buildings seen as “discrete, disconnected entities” were dismantled. And I welcomed it. Cresswell’s fifth chapter, Working on Place – Creating Places, defines the term genus loci, a Roman belief wherein “places had a particular spirit that watched over them,” a guardian angel of sorts. And with a specific study on RMIT’s Building 20, the Old Magistrates’ Court, justifies this concept to me in all its physicality.

With the projects assigned to us throughout the semester, my biggest challenge, at first, were to intentionally notice these “spirits” around me. But I realised, upon entering the threshold of the great bastion of law, that vestiges remained, sleeping spirits that simply needed to be awakened by my imagination, my creativity on a high. I learned to take an interest on cracks and niches (even more than before), to make use of the resources around me including the State Library archives and the hidden repository of the Public Records Office. Online databases including Trove, a rich source for invisible information.

Architecture used to take a rigid stance in my interpretation, but now I realised that the architects behind each building, each monument, bears the flag of genus loci, the need to appropriate this spirit in each of their work, not just the physical values of a place but also the “symbolic values in the environment;” the harmonising of the two.

Throughout the semester, I learned to take my historical appreciation to an even deeper level. I ended up using the research-skills I’ve learned to greater use, researching the time away on specific places I’ve encountered before in my own personal journey. This included the researching of monuments I’ve encountered during my childhood, the emergence of tombstones and the celebration of the dead, and my fernweh, being homesick for a place I’ve never been. This one speaks to me the most and this course has really opened my mind to the idea that I’m homesick for New York City because photographers deliberately chose to take a photograph of that particular person in his tweed suit, in the rain, running after a “cab.” Or I’m homesick for Ancient Rome thanks to the picture painted by Francine Rivers in my favourite novel, A Voice in the Wind.

Would I have gained much appreciation to places if not for what I have learned in this course? Would I be so challenged as I am now to continually take a small notebook with me and jot down important physical details as well as my own creative impressions of things and places around me?

And then Cresswell goes on to talking about home, a seeming “elementary” ideal for most of us, lying “right at the heart of human geography.” I never thought that I would look at my final project, The Caretaker, in this certain way either. It challenged me to think about the human tendency to make certain places “feel like home.” The caretaker in my short feels the exact opposite. His is lonesome for he is surrounded by mere vestiges. Sure, the spirit of the place is true and revealing, but it is not something he hopes for, something he wants. And I found this challenging to interpret in my production process, but I enjoyed in the learning process because it made me dig deep. What is the root cause of his loneliness? Could he not have given his own meaning to the place around him? Made it his own?

In my creative practice, these sort of questions are now my constant companions. I want to explore places not just for the meanings I give to them, but what exactly evokes that meaning to me? Is it the history of the architects? Is it deliberately done, or placed in this certain way for me to think of it as such?

Ghosts and Spaces has been a journey of self-reflection and jump across the creative boundaries. It has been enjoyable to complete and has challenged my sense of place and practice and I’m even more pumped to tell stories of places in ways I’ve never told before.

Tim Cresswell defines Place

Notes on Place:

  • Geography = about place and places. But place is not the property of geography
  • a concept that travels between disciplines and must be studied using an interdisciplinary approach
  • not a specialised piece of academic terminology; can be used in various different ways, almost daily, especially in the English-speaking world
    • place as in particular location or building
    • position in a social hierarchy (i.e. “she put me in my place”)
    • particular order of things that have a socio-geographical basis (i.e. “a place for everything and everything in its place”
  • defined as all spaces which people have made meaningful, spaces people are attached to in one way or another; a meaningful location
  • Three aspects of place by John Agnew:
    • 1. Location – fixed objective coordinates on the earth’s surface
    • 2. Locale – actual shape of place which people conduct their lives (i.e. New York as a vast collection of roads and streets and buildings)
    • 3. Sense of place – relationship to humans (i.e. novels and films evoking a sense of place, the feeling of what’s it like to “be there”)
  • Naming – one of the ways space can be given meaning and become place

J.E. Malpas and the influence of place

Malpas fluently articulated of land around us as a “reflection” of not just our practical and technological capacities, but also of our very own human needs, dreams, preoccupations, aspirations and hopes. He talked about how humans relate to land in the economic and suitability sense, (e.g. building a bridge over a river or planting apples rather than mangoes because of a colder climate) but also the more pervasive: “our relation to landscape and environment is indeed one of our own affectivity as much as of our ability to effect.

He talks about the the ties between human identity and location as something not limited to romantic nature poetry, but as an idea that has an ancestral history. I recently found out that Aboriginal people, after marking a land as their own, would never leave the place as they have claimed it as their own. In Wordsworth’s words, the land becomes their “living Being, even more Than [their] own Blood.” And I find that extremely fascinating as an immigrant of this great country.

I wasn’t born in Australia and for almost half my life, I had lived in a place that I had called home. And though it seems like a very long time from now, a part of me still lives in that place. My place of birth. And it is called “place of birth” simply because that certain space was given meaning by our welcoming into the world. Malpas credits Gaston Bachelard, writer of The Poetics of Space wherein he claims that the “life of the mind is given form in the places and spaces in which human beings dwell” and that in those spaces themselves, our human memories, feelings and thoughts are shaped.

This topophiliac claim validates the notion of “cultural differences.” I was inherently shaped and moulded by the place of which I was born into, the social, economic, cultural way of thinking and acting. The stuff of our “inner” lives is thus found in the “exterior spaces or places in which we dwell.” And I find that fascinating as now, having lived in two countries for ten years each, I have a part of me in each country that shapes the way I think and behave in terms of places and dwellings.

Definitely something to further explore and ponder.

A visit across: State Library

I’m going to be frank. My visits to the State Library usually involve me trying to catch up with somebody to exchange filmic idea and progress. And throw in the use of their public space and free wi-fi of course. I remember Project 51* met up there a while back to work on a short video for someone’s Dux speech and it was my first ever download and use of Adobe Premier Pro.

So when the Ghosts of RMIT team sat inside their “tutorial” rooms and were taught database, I had a moment of re-assessment of my State Library use. I got myself a library card.

The State Library is a rich source for Victorian-specific information. Articles from newspapers, journals and books, file clippings, photographs and images are all available if you simply know how to use its database a.k.a the search button. I know that even with the RMIT catalogues I am still very much a novice, but I’m thankful to have learnt of the resources that the State Library has to offer. And with Abigail Belfrage lending a helping hand with her guiding light, I am even more challenged to access the State Library’s resources for future research.

Le Museum of Melbourne

The team went on a little tour of the Museum of Melbourne at a time when I was as pale as death and thus, was unable to join the fun. #tears

However, thanks to Rachel for letting us know that students get in for free so I went on my own little trip, though in a much haste as I had only half an hour to spare. And boy did I get out of that museum sweating like an Olaf.

What ARTEFACTS indication particular notions of place?
Can I say the entire place? But as a history nut, I was moved by the WWI: Love and Sorrow exhibition. Particularly the objects, the posters and photographs and the stories behind them all were profoundly affecting. It was both a sobering and reverential exhibition and really felt Hornstein’s claim of the inseparability of memory and place during that time. Very moving.

I like the dinosaur exhibit too. I think Marcus mentioned that they didn’t have time to go to the dinosaur exhibit but I so very much did! And the insect exhibitions were gross.

What elements on display are distinctly Melbourne?

What could be more Melbourne than the public transport life, particularly our good ol’ tram system. There was the West Gate bridge as well and some of the more known Melbourne city-streets. I think I remember reading this on Steph’s blog, but I also adored the model of the interior of the Capital Theatre. I adore vintage films, the whole classic look and impression. I was moved. I felt as though I was transported right at that time!

What have you noticed about WAYFINDING techniques used throughout the exhibition?
A lot more descriptive than imagined, but I expected it to be.

How does the Museum deal with ‘difficult” or “tragic” stories?
In a very clinical fashion. Forget festooned stories to wash the soul  in tragic increments. Cold, hard facts, no opinions, “this is what happened” and “it was sad” and that was it. Some could say it’s a little cold, but I think it’s perfect to deal with tragedies in this way. And I credit the Melbourne Museum in doing so in this fashion because no one wants to be bombarded by undercurrent political sentiments.

What “media” do they use to tell the stories?

Very similar to most museums and exhibitions I’ve been to. Soundscapes, alien-like body pods (those are real cool!), maps, interactive “peepholes”, documentaries and the like.

Virtual Tour shenags

A brief post about the Virtual Tour group shenanigans!

In my previous post concerning Ghosts of Building 20: The Virtual TourI elaborated on the fact that my main job was mostly initial research and on-the-day photography shoots. I did all of the back-up panoramas using Linh’s trusty iPhone 6 and I did I say shaking? I recognised that my default is a total pivot-less idiot so contorting my body 180 degrees to get the full shot was a bit harassing. In any case, what I really found enjoyable and a learning experience is finding the best spot to do the panorama of large rooms (courtroom, in this project), an L-shaped courtyard that was ridiculously awkward at first try, and dark interiors. Did someone say post-production?

I’m keen on the final product and how everything’ll turn out.

The discipline of noticing by John Mason

As I walked to work this morning, a colleague asked me if I noticed which type of chips were on staff-discount sale in the team room. Suddenly, I could see the image in my mind. It was blue packaging, yellow-orange writing, it’s definitely got something to do with cheese. But until I was asked about it, I would not have any explicit awareness of it.

John Mason explains the usefulness of distinguishing between “ordinary-noticing (perceiving)” and “marking.” I found, in relation to this scenario, that simple perceiving is easily lost from accessible memory because I simply don’t pay attention and that Mason’s right. It is only available when someone reminded me of it.

The next time I entered into our team room, I made sure to properly notice, to mark what is around me. This time, I initiated the conversation in terms of half-eaten pizzas still inside pizza boxes that no one bothered to throw out. In doing so, I was able to access this memory for further reflection and re-construction in the future. I did so by thinking of ways I could tell those who ate from the boxes to perhaps assign someone to throw it away as the team room, without windows, would reek of its junky, delicious smell. Thus, this marking of mine required a higher level of energy and commitment because it required more than just my casual attention.

Like my dad, I have this eccentric magnetism to unintentionally notice things around me. And like the above example, I have to be reminded about the object, person or event to fully realise the extent of my knowledge about it. What I found to be real motivating and challenging is the art of intentionally noticing as Mason explains.

I strive to practice my professional noticing and in the future, record down what I have noticed. I’ve had minimal experience in professional noticing last year in my Writing Media Texts when we tackled the subject of Sound. You would often always find me with my earphones on when on the train home and for my Writing Media Text, I recorded diagetic sound without plugging my earphones in.

Using Mason’s more disciplined approach, and part of my own experiment, I took notice of the sounds I heard without my earphones and with my earphones (no background song/podcast) . Basically, a muted version of the diagetic sounds in the train. I find that this approach helped me in my reading as I am not a good reader when distractive noises permeate my reading air. At the same time, unliked what seemed salient and important at the time of my reading, did not recede into my distant memory as often as it does when I read without earphones on.


Hornstein’s Losing Site – who knew there was more to architecture than maths?

I’ve only read the introduction and chapter two of Shelley Hornstein’s Losing Site: Architecture, Memory and Place and already I found myself re-evaluating my misconception of the word architecture. Sure, my bias is towards its association with the maths, geometries, planes and angles, trigs, inaccuracies, a.k.a the death of me. But never did I believe the word architecture could also be identified by the intangible, omniscient presence of memory?

Hornstein defined architecture as the “mapping of space – physical, mental or emotional.” It is the act of “delineating” and shaping space to basically carve a place. What I enjoyed in her piece is this fact: the inseparability of memory and place, wherein the architecture can exist or be found beyond the physical site itself in our recollection of it. I, for one concur with this conclusion. If you were to ask me about my childhood, the first thing I will respond with is where it took place and what memory I have that accompanies that particular place. You just cannot divorce that fact at all.

In my personal reflection, I find out many new things. Pinterest and Tumblr are two social sites I am heavily invested in for their clean interface and availability for photographic collation without harassing my tabs with various online portfolios that are, almost always, ebbed with personal stories that, don’t get me wrong, are fascinating, but not so much as something that I would like to entertain. At certain times, sure, but Pinterest and Tumblr is a pool for photographs of places.

I follow various blogs posting photographs of places around the world that I could only ever have dreamed of. And as a photographer, they give each photograph their own sense of self, their signature in the angles, the iSO, aperture-use. And what I am absolutely fascinated with, and what I value in my creative endeavours, is how I myself, though I have not been to any of these photographed places, could somehow give meaning to each place. It’s as if I’m accessing a part of my memory. I’d like to call it the creative memory which is not exactly a tangible, experience-based memory based on an absolute fact, but it still counts as memory nonetheless as, in accessing it, you feel as if it’s been there all along.

The photographs of buildings, cracks on walls, a lonely chair in a classroom abandoned after the attack on Hiroshima. It has a broken leg. These photographic monuments “encourages our reflection in the present.” What does these mean to us now? How do we connect the real events of the past to the present now? Because obviously, the past is an opaque surface, and history tells us that it is usually the winners who erect shrines of remembrance for themselves, right?

I find that places hold deep, special meanings not just to the people who have experienced them first-hand or have some sort of connection to it with a family-tragedy or historic affiliation. I believe that we ourselves can give meaning to these architectural sites whether we do so through empathy or pure reverence. And in my creative endeavour, I would like to explore this more.

Jeremy Bowtell talks Adobe Premier Pro

“I AM A MASTER ADOBE PREMIER PRO USER!” is a capitalised cry-out you will not hear from me until perhaps after an intensive short course, much crying, practice, and that which makes it perfect. As a media student, your alphabet starts with A = Adobe Premier Pro, B = B-roll footage, and C = crying, and so forth. It used to be F = Final Cut Pro but upon my commencement last year in this Bachelor strand, they have now transitioned to the creative cracker that is Adobe Premier Pro.

The number of times I’ve used Premier Pro is less than the phalanges on my one hand. So if you’d like to shout out, “Novice,” why yes, that I very much am. I have also been doing many things wrong or well, inefficient as opposed to what is.

Here comes Jeremy Bowtell, a real pro in this area. Some tips he gave were:

  1. Name it
  2. Locate it
  3. Scratch Disks: Get a Premier Scratch Disk
  4. Window: workspace (choose one comfortable for you) – Editing is the usual one
  5. Create a sequence, NEW ITEM – Sequence – Sequence Name
  6. Re-name some clips
  7. Organise Folders/ Scenes
  8. Change Sequence Settings to match clip’s settings: Change Sequence
  9. Shortcuts:
    Input -I, Output -O, Blade – B, TTrack select forward tool
  10. Edit using source window
  11. What does this, 00:00:00:00, MEAN?
    He explains, Hours, Minutes, Seconds, Frames
  12. Slip Tool – changes input and output
  13. When adding TITLES:
    Title, Safe, Action Safe line – don’t put titles out of the title safe line (duhh)
  14. Colour Grade: Fast Colour Corrector, White Balance > colour pick where white is

He tried to help me out with some plug-ins as well, various effects that I could use for Premiere but they were outdated so we both gave up on that. Best part: he wanted to know how plug-ins worked so in a way, we both learned something new together! (even though it really didn’t work in the end. Whatever.)

In any case, thanks heaps, Jeremy!

W.I.P – Caretaker Woes

I’ve been pulling my hair the past week prior to submission in terms of the following:

  • Scaling – found-footage VS recorded works = DISASTER. Of course, I had to manually scale each clip and in the paraphrased, suited-to-my-situation, Taylor Swift words, “I was lying on the cold hard ground…trouble, trouble, trouble-e-e.”
  • Effects – I tried so hard, succeeded and eventually failed after export when the smoky shadows that was supposed to be part of the background turned out to be as blurred as the next person with astigmatism. I left it coal black and I’m not particularly happy with it, actually.
  • Scaling (part deux) – last export, and it still wasn’t small enough as I had intended. The Premiere Preview screen really does the opposite of wonders to your visual capacity. (*whispers* lying on the cold hard ground). And I ran out of time…. of course. I will upload the scaled version in the near future, ladies and gents!
  • Closed Captions –  I abandoned the use because there was no use. WHY ARE YOU SO STUBBORN?!
  • Titles – worked wonders, and I was able to use you as subtitles too. Thanks for the support.
  • Thank you for listening to my speech.