Thursday, 10 December 2009

A friends questionnaire

Bristol University 1921 - from a a recent Portraits Project

A friend asked me to complete a questionnaire on the subject of 'Art' and I realised I've been thinking about this subject area a lot lately and needed to commit myself to 'paper' no matter how pompous it seemed. I write this just having examined the latest thoughts on exposure and compression in wavelet transforms (as used in Red One). So though there's not a technical note at all in what follows, it's written with a mind to the technicalities of producing moving image art with todays digital media.

1.How did your recent Portrait project come about?

I began in photography when I was a student – so the still image is my starting point (in some ways). Having made many documentaries which examine ‘real issues and real people’ and having come to the conclusion that the only thing a documentary documents is the attitude of the maker at the time of making to their subject, I put the documentation of the real on the back burner and became more involved with fiction and with art in the moving image. Having gone through many ideas over 20 years I became interested in doing the opposite to what you should do with moving images – move the camera and change the shots: so moving image portraiture became of interest because you neither moved the camera, not the shot. Portaits iof the Somerset Canivals is my fourth portraiture project and there will be more of these plus developments of the form – Monumental Portraits of the working people of the Somerset levels being the next. In this I’ll turn the screen portrait at 20 feet x 10 feet to aggrandize the subject. It’s a socialist perspective.

2. Where would be the ideal place for you to show Portraits of the Somerset Carnival?

Tow ideal places: The Rural Life Museum because it contrasts the past and contemporary technology and the second would be any foreign environment because using the ‘strangeness of others’ is a useful and impactful staging of work. When Portraits of the Tor was shown in Venice, the Venetians loved it – and – when Ritratti di Cannaregio (Portraits of Cannaregio) showed in Glastonbury, Somerset people love that too. Therefore ‘difference’ works as a staging tool.

3.Do you think the location of where your films are played makes a difference to how people think about your film?

This only appears to be a film – it is s movement of light and a movement of sound which we choose to see as an ‘image’. So I reject ‘film’ as a description – also it doesn’t describe this technology but the late 19th century invention of celluloid. As for the place where people are exposed to this play of light and sound, it is as key as where it was shot and what was shot. The artists selects the subject, the form, the description and where the audience apprehends all of these. Sometimes the artist has to randomize their own preconceptions (as above with the use of ‘the other’). However all you’re trying to do as an artist is to display, depict, transmit your own intuition about the work as clearly as you can – I don’t mean intellectual clarity – that’s an academic position which is explicitly centered on how we apprehend via the frontal lobes of the brain. I’m more interested in the whole or gestalt experience of the audience. If the artwork is ‘true’ to the artists original intuition and realized without too much personal baggage attached, and then staged knowingly, then the audience will receive the ‘transmission’, the artwork, as the artist originally intended (baring in mind that the artists intentions are very wide of the mark in terms of what’s good for their own work – it’s a minefield)

4.What do you think when choosing an angle to film?

So far I utilize western aesthetics – ‘the golden mean’, said to derive from our sensory condition and how ‘beauty’ is derived from the fact of photo-sites, optic nerve weave, data rates of transmission, receptor cells, brain capacity – all that western stuff which like everything else is simply a narrative to tell ourselves how it is for us within the human form. For 30 years I’ve been pointing a camera in professional situations and therefore have experienced the norms of depiction. If you’ve done this enough you can frame with your eyes closed, just listening.

Having said that – I go for pure and direct naturalistic framing with a balanced frame simply to acknowledge the above and not be mired in any of the various ‘problems’ of alternative framing choices.

5.Which is more important to you, the subject for your film, or how it was filmed?

These two are one.

6.What moves you most in life? (Inspires or upsets you)

Art is the only important thing in life. It is the eternal in the now. This very moment, the acknowledgement of which, is the art of the moment. Whether contemporary art school training is turning out artists or ‘noticers’ of the fashions of the mammals and the apes is another question. For those that have managed to not be bogged down in that question – everything is possible. The collegiate of artists, greater or lesser, are people I understand. Anyone who has realized that this is not all that there is is moved to speak about that – and ehat they speak about is art, with greater or lesser talent. The rest are the ones that didn’t volunteer for the job, for one reason or another. Art is a painful route sometimes – as you’ll no doubt know.

I should’ve written this up as a blog…..