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.

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