Week 8: Redefining Storytelling

This week, we were in the same groups and continuing to build on the objectives we were exploring from the previous week.  As we didn’t have a set recreation this week and we had a new member added to our group, we spent the first portion of the lesson going through our pitches.  We then went through, pulling out elements that we thought we could bring together and intertwine, this produced itself in many different ways such as theme, medium, cross-medium, materiality and process.  We took a slice out of everyone’s work; Chloe’s was scale, Steph’s was retelling a story through editing, David’s was utilising the medium of clay, Sam’s was utilising the medium of broken technologies, Sonny’s was utilising installation to explore the Vietnam War and mine was using projection on an installation.  We also reflected on one of Sam’s previous MEDA assessments, where he projected a colour image onto a white setting.  We went into the gallery space to see how we could execute these ideas.

Our plan began with pulling these elements together into one work; we decided to use the Vietnam War and explore the stories of the two opposing sides, we would do this by using the corner space of the room and projecting each story on the wall next to one another, but separated by the join in the wall.  On the floor we decided to place an image of a keyboard/typewriter with the idea that through development, we could make the keyboard interactive, however, the stories on the wall were already written as they were in the past and couldn’t be changed.  With our limited time, we decided to start with just one story and the typewriter.  We had a few teething issues trying to get the projectors mounted but eventually we got them sorted and had them up and ready.  Unfortunately, our issues with the projectors became much bigger, when we tried to place the image and video onto the projectors using a thumb drive, but we weren’t able to locate the files.  Glenn informed us that it was because our drives were formatted incorrectly and not to MS-DOS (FAT 32), (not windows orientated), however, when we tried to re-format them, they were already in this format.  Without time to work it out, we tried several different drives until we found two that worked.  We then put the files on the drives and tried again, the image still couldn’t be found and the video’s format was incorrect so it wouldn’t play.  I then converted the video into a format (.WMV) that the QUMI Projector website would play in the drive, but it also didn’t work.  With very limited time remaining, we decided to think on our feet and change the presentation for this week.

We used two televisions instead, I plugged my computer using a HDMI cord and played the video Sonny made of a quote being typed out of Ho Chi Minh.  We then plugged a drive into the back of another television, laid it flat on a table and placed a chair behind the table so the viewer would sit above the typewriter and look directly at the television.  We covered the table and chair in a white sheet, so that, for the viewer, it was just the two screens.  We discovered quite quickly that we really liked the materiality of the typewriter on the television screen – I instantly wanted to engage with it, which was our original idea, just executed differently.

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When it came to presenting the work and receiving feedback, we received a lot of interest in the typewriter on the television, with most people not even realising it was a television.  Our tutors in particular said it was a very engaging element that we should cling onto and explore.  They also spoke about how we didn’t have to just use recounts of the war, we could also, for example, integrate lover letters written at the time that reflect the societal impacts the war had.  With this accidental accomplishment, we would obviously like to integrate this idea into our work moving forward.  Ideally, with prototyping, I thought we could still project the stories on the walls, but have the table/chair/television/typewriter set up facing the corner.  I also thought that if we wanted to take it further, we could utilise Steph’s idea of recounting stories through remix, but instead of overtaking the simplistic storytelling element we already have, we could do this through sound instead – which is similar to what we did last week.  We would like to iron out the kinks we had with the projectors, and also play with the other aspects we wanted to explore that we couldn’t get done in time.

 

Week 7: Reconfiguring Space Time

This week we are starting to develop our basis for our major projects.  At the start of the lesson we had to pick a topic that we wanted to explore and the groups would be formed in each category.  I chose reconfiguring space time: storytelling through sounds, image and interaction.  This topic looks at:

  • Reconfiguring space time through sound, image and interaction to tell stories has been the domain of cinema.
  • How can we re-configure space time to create layered experiences or narratives in other ways?
  • How do we create new space time through the use of sound and image?
  • How do we open up story-telling as an activity by configuring human senses through the media of sound and image?
  • What kind of stories can be told? What kind of stories should be told?

From there, collaboratively in a small group, we had to recreate a work that fell under this theme.  As a group, we chose Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller’s The Dark Pool (1995).

This work is a very large workspace that is filled with stuff, but as you walk through the space, sounds begin playing.

The Dark Pool (1995)

We initially were not sure how we were actually going to do it, however we liked the concept behind it.  The concept, for us, could be extended to relate to Virtual Reality technology and if we were to try and create that atmosphere, how would we do it.  To try and form an actual piece, we sat down and told one another our project pitches from the first assessment.  We then took elements from each to try and come up with an idea.  We had the idea of hanging inanimate objects from the ceiling in a small space with a lot of different coloured lights and sound, however, without a concept guiding us, we found it hard to bring the work together.  Finally, we had the idea of hanging lost items, this started off as basic objects that you use and lose all the time, but as we began hanging the objects, we decided a more minimalist approach was more aesthetically pleasing and we eventually used rings – objects that usually hold large sentimental value.  We also wanted to try to recreate the sound in the original work, which was very difficult in a small space and without sensors.  To try to embrace at least the concept, we found excerpts about loss which we put together in Audacity and had different excerpts play at different times, it was very jarring and the sounds would overlap, intersect and stop completely at varying different intervals.  The idea behind this was, like in virtual reality, that everyone would have a different experience of the work, depending on what time they entered or how long they stayed in the work.

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Our Recreation

Both the discussion around our work from our class, tutors and ourselves was that the concept was there, but the execution of the piece wasn’t quite as good.  We would like to build on this concept in the coming weeks, mainly to utilise sensors that engage the sound, so it really would be unique to each audience member, but to also have a more engaging material work.  Personally, I would like to build on the use of materiality and on the excerpts we took from films.  I think playing on the idea of storytelling through other voices is interesting, but I also like the idea that we had very different audio clips in that work and each person would have a different affiliation to each sound, some people may have known every snippet of audio we used, some might have only known a few and some might have not known any.  This diversity also plays into our previous idea of virtual reality and everyone having a different experience, I think utilising this idea can help us develop the concept even further.

Week 6: Project Pitch for Media Arts Project

Following on from my research last week and incorporating my ideas and interests, I would like to create a pitch for a major project.  Having picked Film as my field I want to explore it and see where I can take it.  With video art at the forefront of my mind, I would like to take this concept, in conjunction with a physical installation to create a hybrid work.

My idea is to create a time lapse of a cityscape coming to life; at night, as the sun sets, the lights of the city will become visible.  I would like to also play with the idea of inserting technical based shots that lack obvious meaning, but have a very aesthetic element to them.  I also plan to have some form of structure hanging or sitting in the foreground of the work.  If it’s sitting, I would like for it to either be tall enough that the audience can walk through it (I’m thinking maybe 3 cardboard cut-outs), or it will hang like this, or I will have a small structure hanging; but how extensive this will be I’m not sure of yet, it will require experimentation. The idea is that the structure will be a white cut-out cityscape (either cartoon-ish or taken from the actual cityscape itself) and the screen will be projected onto it.  I may experiment with doing lots of time-lapses and having different landscapes – but that will require experimentation and may change the meaning of my structure, but that can of course adapt with the work.

Sound is another element that I would like to consider.  When I edit footage for films I use quite a lot of sound to tell the story – it’s another source of effects, however, when I have previously created major works, it hasn’t really been a big factor in my mind.  I would like to try and experiment with sound too, whether I end up utilising it will again depend on experimentation but I would like to attempt it.  I imagine I will use sounds that blend with the landscape that I photograph, so in a cityscape it would be urban sounds like cars, traffic lights, sirens and so on.  I might even play with having a soundtrack or something similar over the top, either blended with the sound effects or by itself.

The idea of iteration is what inspired the idea of the passing of time.  Building on that, the concept came from my previous works and interest in time-lapse photography, and works created by my peers.  The outcome of this work will of course be a work in progress, but with my interest in the concept and experience in creating works like this before, I already have the framework to begin such a project.

Week 5: History of My Proposed Project

At this stage, to try and develop an idea for my final project, I have reflected on the previous works we have created for media arts to see what I found the most interesting – both in my own works and my peers.  Personally, given my interest in film, I particularly like video installations, but also when they are in conjunction with a structural installation.  I particularly like immersive works, where you don’t necessarily have to participate in the work, but you are able to ‘explore’ it.  This can be done in many ways, but I have previously hung works from the ceiling so that the viewer can walk around and under it.  When it comes to installations, I find that films can’t be too literal, they need to have an aesthetic ambiguity to them.  I think this can be done using technically charged camera shots and also using still photography and turning it into a film.  I have an interest in time-lapse photography as well and a time-lapse would also work with the iterative theme.  I’m hoping that using a combination of all of these elements can help as a basis for a major project.

Video art is a contemporary art form that is used in both installation, but also as a form in its own right.  According to visual-arts-cork (2017), the practice was initiated by artists such as Nam June Paik, Wolf Vostell and Andy Warhol – who I have used as inspiration for a previous installation with his work Silver Clouds (1966).  Video art will typically appear “in two basic varieties: single-channel and installation.  In single-channel works, a video is screened, projected or shown as a single series of images.  Installations typically comprise either an environment made up of several distinct pieces of video screened simultaneously, or a combination of video with assemblage or performance art.” (visual-arts-cork 2017).

In the history of video installations, “The starring role is taken by video, which – by creating new means of communication – became much more than an appealing tool for avant-garde artists.  With its unprecedented convenience and directness, video incited revolutionary changes in the function of the image throughout contemporary culture, which discovered and recorded new directions for itself through its use of the medium.” (WRO Art Center 2012).  Through the developments in technology, artists were able to utilise new and exciting ways to create art.

Video installation to me is a hybrid medium of film and installation art.  Unlike film, you are not able to tell a lengthy story with a beginning, middle/complication, end/resolution.  It meant that a new way to tell stories was needed.  This can be either conceptual, or can be told in a short a succinct way, or it could have no point at all.  A three minute film of a rainforest, with no story or rhythm, could carry a very important message about conservation.  The beauty of the development of this medium meant that artists had the opportunity to express their ideas in a completely different way.

References:

WRO Art Center 2012, Short History of Video Installation, WRO Art Center, viewed 2 April 2017, http://wrocenter.pl/en/krotka-historia-instalacji-wideo/

Visual-arts-cork 2017, Video Art, visual-arts-cork, viewed 2 April 2017, http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/video-art.htm

Week 4: Opportunities

My chosen field is that of film and more specifically film editing.  According to CareerOne (2017), Editorial Jobs are those where editors create, edit and produce content and in my case, this is in the form of video and audio.  It requires an intense level of technique and understanding of both the skills required to produce material, but also the audience they are producing material for – this is a crucial tool that can set apart a success and failure.

Many of these essential techniques can be self-taught, “the editing industry is unique in that demonstrable skill can be more important than a specific qualification – however, it is the norm for editors of all stripes to have at least completed a secondary education, and a tertiary qualification in a relevant field. There are post-graduate qualifications for those who wish to learn about specific areas of the editorial industry, as well as hundreds of workshops a year.” (CareerOne 2017).  It is therefore important to have both an educational qualification, but also the practical skills to go along with it.

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Planning to grasp these opportunities that are available can be difficult, however, there are avenues in which you can take to secure them.  Personally, the avenues that I would try to pursue are those mentioned in my visual diagram.  Initially, I would try to secure internships, traineeships, unpaid work and casual paid work.  I would then use the skills I acquired to try and gain part-time employment, work on a temporary basis to show potential skills/work ethic and also consider working in administration or management work in a related company, as I have previous employment that could help secure such a position.  Finally, I would utilise both the skills acquired from these roles, but also the responsibility that grew with each step toward full-time employment such as a sub-editor, content producer, video editor, producer or a job that I acquire that I might not realise I am even interested in yet.

As stated by CareerOne above, there are hundreds of workshops available to kick start this search.  Having looked at current job seeking websites, whilst they are not all suitable, there is appropriate internships, part-time work and unpaid work available.  In trying to secure my place in one of these avenues, I would utilise two mentors of mine and two aspects that make up my experience; my previous employment and education.  Firstly, my previous employment is obviously something that any employer would look at and is also where I met one of my mentors.  My manager is very influential to my success thus far.  My role has grown and I have been given much more responsibility during the time I have been there and working under her leadership has helped provide me with many opportunities – including things related to my field.  Another positive attribute would be the education I have acquired, which is where I met my second mentor.  My degree is cross institutional with the University of Wollongong and TAFE Illawarra, and through this collaboration I have been introduced to another learning stream.  In my third year at TAFE, my teacher and second mentor, is utilising our skills to help build our portfolio.  We are creating material for clients that will form part of our assessment for the year.  I am very fortunate to be able to create content that is actually helping to build my connections with local businesses.

Combined with motivation, determination, dedication and knowledge I hope that the skills that I possess will be the experience I need to solidify my journey towards my desired employment.

References:
CareerOne 2017, Editorial Employment & Careers, CareerOne, viewed 25th March 2017, http://jobs.careerone.com.au/q-editorial-jobs.aspx

Week 3: Who Is My Hero?

George Lucas.jpg
George Lucas and Star Wars had a huge impact on the film industry.  Lucas challenged the way in which the film industry functioned, this was mainly due to his upbringing, his father was a businessman, so Lucas was always very commercially oriented.  When he decided to turn Star Wars into a movie, he first had science fiction stories published about the content of the movies so that there was already a following before the film release.  There was also a huge development in that of merchandising; he saw a movie as not just a film but it was a business and he created merchandise that went with the franchise that was worth a huge amount of money.  In the making of Star Wars, he created his own special effects organisation, he brought people into his production from fields outside of the film industry which had never been done before and in doing so, he went against the grain.  “The original trilogy (Episodes IV, V and VI) produced between 1977 and 1983 set the gold standard for visual effects. John Dykstra, the special effects designer who worked on the original Star Wars and was chosen by Lucas to head up the director’s visual effects company, Industrial Light & Magic, has described sitting with a group of friends and building models and robots from scratch in order to achieve the realism Lucas was after.” (Lobo 2014).  Another deviation from the norm was how he was very visually and sound orientated and he wanted his films to sound a certain way, which was not satisfied by the current technologies, so the only way to do it was to develop a new sound system – surround sound.  A brand now known as THX.

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A model from the original Star Wars. John Dykstra and others won an Oscar for their work, The New Economy, 2014

Lucas started by creating a student film whilst at University of Southern California called THX 1138 – which wasn’t great.  Then when he had enough money behind him he created THX 1138 4BE, which wasn’t finically successful.  Lucas was influenced by a lot of European films like his first success, American Graffiti (1973), which wasn’t focused on the story and character development but more about the effects, he wanted the visual aspect and the sound to tell the story instead of the character/script.  In Lucas’ biography Brian Jay Jones quotes Lucas discussing THX 1138 4EB, “I was trying to create emotions through pure cinematic techniques…All the films I made…centre on conveying emotions through cinematic experience, not necessarily through narrative.” (Jones 2016, p. 81). It was a complete departure for him to create Star Wars and Indiana Jones as it wasn’t really the content or technique of storytelling that he wanted to be making.  Star Wars was something that he’d committed to do and Indiana Jones followed; which he didn’t direct, Steven Spielberg did, and they propelled him to huge commercial success, which changed the film industry of the time.  Not only were the films huge success, but the changes he made to audio and visual effects were revolutionary.

 

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The Cover of George Lucas: A Life by Brian Jay Jones, 2016.

Lucas very much went against the industry procedures; many of the students who he worked with felt the same, they wanted to make the kind of films that they wanted to make, they didn’t want to be dictated by the studio guidelines of the time.  Despite a rocky start, he became very successful at going against the grain, he controlled his film studios instead of the preset set by other film studios.  Jones quotes Lucas talking about his visual effects company, Industrial Light & Magic, “It’s a totally controlled environment.” (Jones 2016, p. 301).  Jones (2014) goes on to explain that once a production was completed and the team had finished working, Lucas, not having enough of his own work to keep the team going, made it known that ILM could be hired by anyone to produce effects.  Over the next few years, ILM was on its way to becoming the foremost special effects company; from 1980 to 1995, ILM won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects thirteen times.  This showed that his dedication to the cause was more important than anything else, which I believe is one of his most admirable qualities and core values.

One of the things I respect most about Lucas is that he knew what he wanted and went after it, despite early setbacks.  I think that even though he had a very specific style of filmmaking, when he realised that he couldn’t always rely on that he agreed to make Star Wars, a story that had too much character focus for his taste.  He was willing to compromise on some things, however, when it came to producing the film he had a very set way in which it had to be done.  He challenged the ‘system’ and actually won – I guess I like the idea of the underdog succeeding.

When it comes to his work ethic, he is very single-minded about his projects and how they should work.  He was extremely driven, was very focused on any current project and what he was doing.  However, in terms of the production, he worked collaboratively with a large team as he would have had to to accomplish his goals.  He’s worked with very influential people such as Steven Spielberg, Walter Murch and Francis Ford Coppola.

Whilst Lucas’ career did not instantly take off with his THX 1138 films, after his production of Star Wars, and basically creating the new blockbusters, his career continued to escalate.

References:
A model from the original Star Wars. John Dykstra and others won an Oscar for their work 2014, image, The New Economy, viewed 13th March 2017, http://www.theneweconomy.com/home/how-star-wars-changed-the-special-effects-industry

[Cover of George Lucas: A Life], image, A.V. Club, viewed 17th March 2017, http://www.avclub.com/review/overdue-george-lucas-biography-engaging-read-about-246246

Jones, B J 2016, George Lucas: A Life, Headline Publishing Group, London.

Lobo, R 2014, How Star Wars changed the special effects industry, The New Economy, weblog post, 9 October, viewed 13th March 2017, http://www.theneweconomy.com/home/how-star-wars-changed-the-special-effects-industry