Monthly Archives: February 2014

Black Box White Cube: stills from test footage: a decisive moment in the kitchen

Black Box White Cube: still from test footage: a decisive moment in the kitchen

This is a still from Play In My Flat, a film/play/performance currently in production in my flat. As you can see, we are reading from scripts, this being the second rehearsal. More rehearsals take place next week, and the play will be filmed the following week. Flat screens will be installed in each room used in the play (lounge, kitchen, bedroom) the following week in order to display the footage from that room. Tickets will go on sale for two performances – 21st and 22nd March 2014 – shortly. The audience will be invited to explore the space and interact with the characters, who will be in the flat with them during the performance. Performances will last approximately one hour.

The play has four characters: Her, Him, Woman and Person With Clipboard. Woman (played by me) lives in the flat. Person With Clipboard (played by Ric Morris, not seen in this still) appears in Woman’s flat ten minutes before two time travellers from different points in the future, Her and Him (played by Justine Smith and Andrew Cain respectively), appear in Woman’s lounge. After giving them enough time to get to know each a little, Person With Clipboard guides the couple to the kitchen to converse with Woman. Each couple Person With Clipboard brings to Woman is made up of people representing extreme opposites of a conflict situation. Woman has learnt to ask questions that help the couple create insight into the other’s perspective – this seems to make them leave her flat more quickly. When enough insight has been gained Person With Clipboard asks the couple to move back to their starting positions in the flat. Person With Clipboard remains ten minutes after the couple have disappeared to make observations of Woman, which he does throughout the process. Until now, it’s just been Person With Clipboard, Woman and two time travellers; an audience is new – who are they? And why are they here?

The play is being filmed in my flat and the two performances will take place in my flat; this is the first time I’ve tried site-specific performance. Another still:

still looking at camera

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Sound and vision: where have the puppets gone?

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Where have the puppets gone? I visited the second year show at the Grand Parade gallery,  University of Brighton, today and they’re missing. It reminded me of the time my car was stolen; it was as if there was a giant exclamation mark in the space I’d left it. Between Saturday lunchtime and Tuesday lunchtime the puppets have come to life and gone to seek their own way or someone has stolen them, but for what purpose? Just to have them? To play with them? To destroy them? I wonder if they’ll turn up in someone else’s art? And if they do, shall I steal them back?

Sound and vision: Not Punch and Judy: The Chronicle and Story of an Experiment in Emergent Practice

The editing process of the song the puppets sing at the end of the film took longer than I anticipated and there wasn’t time to edit in the animation I’d made previously. This bugged me over the weekend so I began editing it in on Monday and finished today; I took the finished film to the installation and swapped it.

I enjoyed finding and applying noises for the petals closing and opening. I decided to make the adult male’s voice a violin and the adult female’s voice a washing machine – this refers back to the Homemaking and Unmaking module in Semester 1 where the woman’s place is in the home and the man is free to go into the public arena; I sat on the kitchen floor and recorded myself playing the violin to the sound of the washing machine. I really enjoyed this and got lost in responding to the sound of the washing machine; several minutes of sound was recorded although only a few seconds were used in the film.

During the filmmaking process I identified three books that I knew, consciously, would affect the film. I’m going to discuss them here to see whether, and how, they influenced me.

As the boy puppet comes to life and sees and hears the adults arguing, he hums the tune to Lean on Me. He approaches them, after falling out of his flower pot, and persuades them to sing with him by humming the tune. The female joins in and helps to persuade the male. I think this could relate to Jung’s idea of his soul being feminine or childlike, taken from The Red Book, although this was not a conscious reference at the time of making. The male represents the rigid, closed mind – the ‘spirit of the times’ in Jung’s language – and the child represents a disregard for the current rules and a sense of freedom to be however he wishes from moment to moment – the ‘spirit of the depths’ in Jung’s language. However, the child is singing Lean on Me, which is a song I tend to sing when I’m drunk as a way of feeling united with others when they join in with me; in the film the child is trying to get the adults to stop arguing by singing with him under the premise that they’ll feel happier and, therefore, be nicer to each other. I suppose, then, that I’m acting out something from childhood: trying to change history by uniting the parents instead of watching them fight and feeling powerless. Jung’s ‘spirit of the depths’ or ‘soul’ does not have intentions; it is what it is in the moment and that could be perceived as good or bad but the point is, in Jung’s mind, to accept everything about it. The child’s actions, then, are about feeling powerful; the child does not accept the adults’ behaviours and tries to enforce his own beliefs on them.

Carolyn Abbate’s theory from her book Unsung Voices: Opera and Musical Narrative in the Nineteenth Century uses the relationship between storyteller and listener to define narrative voice in music. Narrative voice is heard in the dissonance between the ideas being shown in the content and something else, some unconscious, unstated idea or emotion that is heard rather than identified – the quality of the sound, rather than the meaning is picked up on. The voice over in my film is soft, intimate and slow; the visual track is mostly speeded up, which gives a sense of agitation. The voice is talking about bodies and memories, then the effect of authority figures on self belief, then questioning the process of believing the authority figure leading to questioning art and then, finally, coming back to a love of making figures and giving them voices. The voice over does not sound joyful, however; there is dissonance between the apparent love of drawing figures and giving them voices in childhood and the actual process of making the puppets. There is an emotional catch in the voice at 3:20 where I’m telling myself to take “very small steps” so there is some content there that is not shared with the viewer but is discernible; the content could relate to the feelings associated with ‘not good enough’ which the voice over will go on to talk about, or it could relate to the fear of working from a basis of emergent practice which means anything could emerge (what is lurking in the ‘spirit of the depths’ that might make an appearance?), or it could be something else entirely. Therefore, the emotional break in the voice presents us with the narrative voice of the film.

In Damaged Identities, Narrative Repair by Hilde Lindemann Nelson the idea of not accepting the traditional stories that affect identity is put forward; instead, supported by likeminded people by conversing about the damage construed by these stories, a person creates a new narrative that offers options for new, healthier, behaviours. Personal identity is like a story: it is depictive, selective, interpretive and connective, whereas a chronicle is factual and records what happens over time. Therefore, a person can choose which bits to depict, select, interpret and connect. This choice can be conscious or subconscious. In choosing to unite the adults through song, rather than have them fight psychopathically, I critiqued the domestic abuse depicted in Punch and Judy shows; I wanted to show conflict resolution although, I realise now, conflict resolution is about each individual taking responsibility for their feelings and actions, rather than trying to enforce a ‘wholesome’ idea onto those around them.

Sound and vision: Not Punch and Judy: The Chronicle and Story of an Experiment in Emergent Practice

The second year show opened this evening and this is the film displayed inside the Punch and Judy theatre. The film is looped and it doesn’t matter which point you begin watching because you can make sense of the chronicle and the story once you’ve witnessed the whole thing. Friends of mine made the choice to watch from beginning to end, though, after joining it part way through, which I found interesting.

I enjoyed making the theatre knowing an audience would be coming to view it. Knowing the exhibits would be displayed for one week was also appealing. Collaborating with Matt Page on the build was a pleasure and I received help from classmates, Lara (painting) and Edmund (building).

I made the curtains for the theatre by ruching a strip of material to drop down from the pelmet; I fixed it in place with a staple gun. Two straight pieces of material were attached to the sides and the digital image was surrounded by black curtains. I stapled black cloth to the top of the theatre.

A hole was drilled into the front panel beneath the shelf for the headphones wires to feed through. Headphones were placed on white hooks either side of the hole. This invited people to sit side by side to view the film. I noticed if one person sat to watch it they would choose a side rather than sit in the middle. This behaviour makes me realise how arranging objects invites people to use the space.

Matt helped me to put up three shelves, which Justine painted, near to the theatre. I put flower pots with the puppets placed in flower arranging oasis on them. I noticed people seemed immersed as they watched the film.

Sound and vision: lean on me

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I realised the voice over I recorded during the puppet making was perfect for an emergent practice film. The audio tells a personal story of how unhelpful beliefs can form when blindly trusting the word of an authority figure; questioning snips away the ties that bind the belief in place allowing a realisation of some of the reasons why I make art. This realisation will help me to experiment with the purpose of art in future projects.

The audio fits nicely over the speeded up footage of me making the puppets. My words are not scripted and there is plenty of space between questions and answers. The slowness of the audio contrasts with the fast speed of the visuals, although there are occasional clips played at normal speed (23.967 fps), and this creates breathing space in the visual track. The third audio clip is different from the previous two in that tearing sounds can be heard, which do not match the visual images. I like this because it shows the temporal mismatch of the visual and audio tracks; it’s a reminder of the constructed nature of film.

After putting the sound and images together I thought about bringing the puppets to life. I wanted to use them in a way that was fun and nonviolent as an alternative to the domestic violence usually advocated by Punch and Judy professors. There is a song, Lean on Me by Bill Withers, that I’ve sung at parties or (ahem) in the kebab shop or in the street and people join in singing with me. It makes me smile and it feels good to sing together. I decided the puppets would sing this song. I phoned Justine and she agreed to sing for Delores, the female adult. Andy agreed to sing for Bill Senior. I recorded myself singing as Bill Junior then Justine listened to me through headphones and sang along as I recorded her. Andy did likewise.

Next I filmed the puppets (Andy and Justine moved them around in realtime) dancing and ‘singing’ against the backdrop of a large picture frame; the frame has marked out holes for pictures but it’s empty. This links back to audio during puppet making in the film where I talk about the effect of believing I wasn’t good enough to do art: I stopped drawing and painting for a long time. Judy had suggested, during a tutorial, that I film the puppets in my wardrobe with painted scenery backdrops but that was before I was ready to work with the puppets and, of course, now I was ready it didn’t tie in with the emerging story.

Sound and vision: letting go of the script

About a week ago I wrote a script for the puppets based on the adults talking to me as I make the child. The child has wings but the adults don’t because they ripped them off each other in arguments and I’d grown tired of making them. I recorded myself doing the voices for the puppets and tried to edit it into the film but it wasn’t working; it felt like the story was the baseline holding the film together. In my journal I voiced a new idea: to make speeded up footage of the making of the puppets and then go with the stop motion animation.

I suddenly felt at ease; I could let go of the script and put the footage together in the order I shot it as I made the puppets; it would be a chronicle detailing emergent practice. The story made by the puppets interacting will emerge when I play with and film them tomorrow.

Sound and vision: theatre is painted with stripes

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Yesterday Lara (Moving Image student) and I painted black and white stripes onto the theatre, making it look more like an actual theatre. Starting on the left hand side at the back we measured 10 centimetre spaces and drew vertical lines before protecting the soon-to-be white stripes with masking tape. I painted the top section of the front black and there is a shelf to be added, which I also painted black, along with the pelmet, which I sanded (for ages!) first.

Sound and vision: drawing the pelmet

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Matt Page, Moving Image Technician, has offered to cut a decorative pelmet (to hang the theatre curtain from) using the electric saw if I draw it. I started off by drawing round things onto the MDF but that didn’t work. I took a piece of paper, folded it in half and drew round things onto that instead; then I cut the shape out. I didn’t like it so I just cut the paper freestyle and ended up with a design I like. I taped the paper to the MDF at the bottom and drew around the shape onto the MDF and voila: it’s ready for Matt to cut.