Monday, 15 September 2008

Un Tempo, Una Volta

7.30 am monday 15th September. I should have written whilst shooting Un Tempo Una Volta in Venice but it was too intense to even think of doing so. We achieved a great deal in a short time. But my mind is whirling so I’d better bring some order to my thoughts. I woke up thinking that I should create an image and sound track of silence so that I could have something that was not flowing past fast - but then a that would be creative, a John Cage like work, and b it would give some credence to a view 5 oppose, that of Jean Baudrillard that the ubiquitous flow is unstoppable and meaningless. Only in the minds of lesser people, Jean.

I may well create that silent track - later though, later.

So, Venice: including myself I organised a trip for 6 people, artists all who were also conscious of how to document, how to make work on the run, how to gather thoughts for later so that works could be made and exhibitions staged. For myself I was there specifically to shoot Un Tempo Una Volta with the 4k Red One. This was a re-formulation of a piece that was a response to the challenge I had set myself many years earlier whilst working on Building SItes, a ten minute series about wonderful architectural designs explored by an artist, journalist, philosopher and not least of course, the director. I had shot Biker Wall with Beatrix Campbell, a favorite thinker of mine, then the Boots Wets Building with Iwona Blaswick who now runs the Whitechapel Gallery. Richard Rogers shiny Lloyds Building had to be done but no one wanted to do it as it had been shot so much before.

Michael Craig-Martin had come forward, brave soul, to present and of course there was I ready to try to re-present the formidable building which was really just an open space cleverly re-imagined to seem to not be so. The challenge was the re-presentation of the iconic in way that made it a fresh experience and so that was the base concept of going to Venice and showing once more but in a fresh way.

The first rule for the artist is to look differently to everyone else, to find a new direction to come from. I had considered looking only at the fading and broken plasterwork of Venice, the beautiful decay - but then that seemed too straightforward and therefore not fresh. Water, boats, old buildings, sky, people, were the stuff of Venice so they either had to be present or obviously not present and also the experience of looking at a work in a gallery space had to be taken into account - or decidedly not a gallery space as Susan Sontag has written of the experience of an accompanied stroll, which in itself disempowers what one is strolling past.

So I decided to hire a boatman and point the camera upward with a wide angle lens to not see the water, but feel it in the boats and therefore image’s motion, nor to see people (except for the odd person putting out washing or idly gazing out, to see the tops of buildings and not the point where land meets water - and so on.

A simple conception to be shown on a 16 feet by 8 feet screen (a 2:1 ratio which I now vastly prefer to 16:9) also, all of my art work will inform my gaze when shooting as a DP.

Here I have to begin to mention the group of artists, in terms of them being artists as opposed to them having specific roles such as fixer, translator, camera assistant, documenter, producer etc. Alex Bynge, who like all of us needs to look through a camera and make images besides helping organise the complex act of shooting with a data camera (which by now we are very happy with), Deborah Weinreb, who took to shooting bursts of photos to co-respond to my act of shooting moving, yet still images (so: still yet moving images), Lucietta WIlliams who made pin-hole exposures of a scene as a direct opposite in terms of technology to the 4k resolutions we were working in, Bronwyn Bradshaw who picked up a small handheld video camera to engage with what we were doing videographically with far less pixels and Charlotte Humpston who will be creating an installation based on textures, textiles and images of the surface of things, inspired by Venetian light.

The second project I was making was a second attempt at the representation of people and space I set up in Portraits of the Tor which I am staging as an exhibition today at Somerset’s Rural Life Museum in Glastonbury. The camera stays still reading the world (like a mobile scanner as Tim Sassoon, LA Grader calls it) in extreme high definition. That in effect is my research - how resolution interfaces with time. SImply put, there is a relationship between higher resolutions of representation and the amount of time the attention is taken up with perusing what has been represented that is mediated by the interface itself. WHat I mean here is if you look directly, then that is the experience you get - you and it. If you look via a medium, film, video, a telescope, a ride on a helter skelter, that’s the elemental resource that mediates that gaze.

The Second project is called Ritratti di Cannaregio or Portraits of Cannaregio, a district where ordinary people live to the north of the island of Venice.

Monday morning we shot some footage for a piece ‘The Unfurling’ at 120 frames per second at 2k resolution.

We went to the airport and took the plane which arrived on Monday evening, Tuesday we met the boatman, Franco who was a shear delight. The rest of Tuesday we met Kishi and Robyn our Venetian contacts who were helping with the local community. Wednesday morning we recce'd what route we might take and so I decided where we wold go from Franco’s suggestions then shot on the boat starting at 3pm by hanging silk banners on several bridges on the route and beginning the one-take shot at 4 and once again directly afterwards. The we hauled all the equipment back to the apartment. Wednesday night I prepared and edited the footage into a work we could show later. Thursday we fetched up at the location near Misericordia and planted down the camera on a bridge and then stood in the heat all day long as our portrait subjects came and went and we occasionally found more people who we could make understand what we were doing there at all. Thursday night I prepared the footage for editing and Friday morning finished the edit in time to go out for a couple of hours before the exhibition itself. We went to my most favorite gallery anywhere in the world, the Palazzo Fortuni.

Friday evening, when the footage had finished rendering at 7.40 p.m. we took the projector we’d brought with us to the Gallery Scarabocchio and arranged it for the exhibition to start at 8 p.m. precisely. That was a fine estimation of time.

When the hardboard came down off the window and the images of Portraits of Cannaregio fell upon the cloth as a back projection I could see around 60 Venetian faces waiting and then seeing with surprise the image of their own neighborhood and familiar people coming to stand in front of camera, then waiting and gazing at them before turning and walking away to be replaced by someone else they knew.

Outside the was a table by the canal side with fresh block of parmesan cheese, a whole wheel, plus prosecco and a lot of delight. The bridge set at 90 degrees to the canal side had people sitting on it drinking, looking and laughing with delight as familiar faces came and went. Yes it was in 4k resolution but shown at 1k and yes resolution etc was important, but more important was the representation of their own world through different yet familiar eyes. Later I showed Un Tempo Una Volta, then I Re Ansel Adams and Portraits of the Tor. Deborah showed a slide show of her portraiture then I again showed Portraits of Cannaregio and finally Portraits of the Tor was again requested.

The audience were presented with their own world, the subjects walked to the camera with pride and stepped up to the mark and took the gaze, the re-presentation in high definition fulfilled the task, the gondolier looked into Un Tempo and said this was world he was familiar with. We were basically accepted into their world - especially when in Portraits of Cannaregio I had asked the crew to walk up to the mark in front of the camera and also hold the gaze. As this was shown I paused the playback and we all walked in front of our own image for real and I started to speak through Robyn and thank them for allowing us into their community and let us make this experiment. Later we went and ate and I had a deeply fulfilling experience with some prosecco and a calzone made the way I like it...

Saturday we packed and then wandered around Venice like tourists for a couple of hours before getting a plane home to Bristol at 12 am. Sunday we sorted the kit and I prepared the footage for this weeks shows. It’s now 8.40 am Monday Morning and I have to stop writing as we have to put up an exhibition at the Rural life museum at 10 am.

I will of course be reflecting more, as these three weeks of exhibitions carry on until I have to file my report on my acts at the end of this month. Not very poetic, but true.