Archive for the MADA Coursework Category

UNIT 2 Assessment

Posted in MADA Coursework on August 30, 2011 by melaniemenardarts

1. Present, in the final exhibition, a resolved body of creative practice that has evidenced the systematic enhancement of your knowledge and understanding

– I wrote a Video tutorial compiling tips from 4 reference books about meaningful cinematography and editing tecniques for low-budget short films and video. It focuses on the concepts of treatment (that is, the subjective/philosophical/moral/ political viewpoint adopted by the filmmamker) of a subject (the raw events of the plot, regardless of the subjective googles chosen by the filmmakers) and establising film mood, and the technical choices that contribute to this.

– Then I used the technical knowledge learnt while writing this tutorial to make new and improved edits of ‘Ghost House’ and ‘Disciplinary Institutions’. The new versions of both videos also incorporate newly shot footage, and the editing is designed to trap the viewer inside a subjective experience. The ‘Disciplinary Institutions’ video was shown at a commercial gallery in London and the ‘Ghost House’ video will be screened at Optica festival (Madrid, 16-18 September). I also made a short video of Woodlawn House, an empty mansion with ornamented decor, with an mood inspired by ‘Last year in Marienbad’. This is a work in progress because I do not have enough footage yet, and need to find similar places to make a longer composite video (both ‘Ghost House’ and ‘Disciplinary Institutions’ are composite containing footage from several actual places with the same look and concept).

– For the photography side of my practice, I wrote a Technical Tutorial about Digital Photograph Post-Processing Workflow (in Photoshop) compiling tips from 2 reference books, then applied the techniques I learned to enhance my photographs (the photographs were shot in Unit 1 but post-processed in Unit 2). Practical examples of processing for the photographs requiring the most post-processing are detailed on my blog, and the whole series of photographs are visible on my website (Ghost House and Disciplinary Institutions). I also experimented with HDR (High Dynamic Range) processing even though I decided in the end to use a different, more creatively appropriate processing.

– Before our show, I wrote a Round up of other MA Digital Art/Media degree shows containing critics’ opinions about the way they were presented to try and find useful tips about what to do and the common mistakes to avoid in our own show. Photographs of my space at the MA Digital Art 2011 show are shown on the blog. The Ghost House and Disciplinary Institutions videos loop one after the other on an Imac screen, and I have curated 7 Disciplinary Institutions and 15 Ghost House photographs on the walls.

– Finally I made a website to showcase my work in a more organised, succint and professional manner. I also made most of the MADA show website (with some help from Jonathan).

2. Analyse and reflect coherently upon your own practice and its context in both written and verbal forms

– An analysis of my current practice can be seen in the first part of my Written paper.

– In depth articles on my blog contextualise my photography practice within the subjective documentary genre and my video practice within experimental film and traditional video-art, especially the genre of ‘psychodrama’.

– In a blog article, I do a comparison of the technical choices of several photographers treating the same subject and discuss how their technical choices are linked to their subjective treatment and interpretation of their subject. I then study more in depth the example of
Robert Polidori and explain in what measure I share his concerns and process.

– Because I could not access the audioconference from my day-job and had a problem with my Firewire cable at the time, my Pecha-kucha presentation for the symposium was text and still images. However the
comments judged the presentation ‘clear’ despite my limited participation.

3. Summarise your overall progress and formulate a constructive plan for continuing Personal and Professional Development.

– Future plans for my art practice are detailed in the second part of my Written paper.

– For professional development, I applied to Phds or equivalent (at UAL, Brighton University and Le Fresnoy). Although I was invited to 2 interviews (UAL and Le Fesnoy), I was not accepted anywhere, but the application process gave me the opportunity to research cognitive film theory (for UAL).

– Developing a project proposal for Le Fresnoy led me to contextualise my practice within digital moving image. Researching artists who use digital technologies (such as sensors and randomness-generating algorithm) together with moving image and share my themes of predilection, led me to think about how I could go about using more cutting-edge digital techniques in future work while still focusing on my non-technology-related themes. This is one of my future plan detailed in my Written paper.

– The second possibility detailed in my Written paper is to make a narrative short film where the cinematic mood would be carefully crafted to reflect the character’s subjective experience. This is also a project originally developped for my Fresnoy application, that I now would like to pursue independently. I started working on the script.

– My third and last plan for my personal art practice is simply to continue my abandoned buildings photography and video practice with both ongoing projects and new ones (abandoned cinemas and theatres). The practical possibility for exploring abandoned buildings is limited in the UK, that is why I want to take my practice in new directions as well, so as not to be prevented from producing work by external circumstances I have no control on (inaccesible buildings).

Apart from my personal art practice, I also started thinking about how I could use the skills gained in this MA commercially. My two goals when I started this MA were to develop my art practice, but also to try and gain useful skills to get a better day-job. I am not sure yet what type of job would be a good match, but I explored a few possibilities.

– Teaching/art workshops/adult education: I wrote a 10 000 word Video tutorial compiling tips from 4 reference books, 1550 word Photography tutorial explaining shooting tips, general principle of exposure and specialised tips for architectural photography compiled from two reference books and a 2500 word tutorial about Digital Photograph Post-Processing Workflow (in Photoshop). I wrote these 3 documents as structured course-type pdfs because I wanted to train myself to write structured teaching material usable by other people.

– I added to my website a section of documentary and architectural photography and video in order to showcase a possible commercial development for my practice (shooting promotional for interior design, publications, architects, monuments and such). This section is still incomplete and only contains a few pictures. My documentary photographs were used in a blog about outsider art environments.

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Written paper evaluating your practice and future development (1000 words)

Posted in MADA Coursework, My practice on August 29, 2011 by melaniemenardarts

Evaluation of my current practice

This MA helped me develop my practice in two main ways: contextualising my practice within relevant traditions of contemporary art, and thinking deeper about the link between technical choices and audience perception, how to use specific techniques and effects to manipulate the audience’s reaction to the artwork.

The main issue I had about my photography practice was that, while it is formally documentary because I do not stage what I photograph, I was not concerned about the ethical issues that typically preoccupy documentary photographers. On the contrary, ambiguity was my main underlying interest, and I favoured distinctive aesthetics rather than clarity of representation. I discovered a ‘niche’ genre of photography: ‘subjective documentary’, that is, unstaged photographs that can technically be considered documentary pictures, but give more insight into the photographer’s mindset than they provide reliable information about the photographed subject. I feel especially close to various American photographers who, since the 1970s, take pictures of backward rural areas, bland suburban settings or urban decay with often an ironic or morally ambiguous subtext (Stephen Shore Robert Polidori, William Eggleston, Alec Soth). Their work share a cinematic look, with dramatic lighting and almost ‘technicolor’ colours that create an ambiguous contrast with the unstaged nature of the scene. I studied the technical aspects of photography, especially achieving good exposure in low light, and digital post-processing, in order to achieve this desired look more efficiently in my own work. Particularly, Robert Polidori explains in an interview how the visual style of his images is crafted to emotionally manipulate the viewer: the apparently straightforward documentary style hides the emotional manipulation aimed at the viewer, making it all the more efficient that it is surreptitious. This process is very close to what I do in my Ghost House and Disciplinary Institutions series, where the real subject is not the architectural documentation of the buildings, but my underlying interest in guilt, outsiderness and the fear of abandonment.

Because my original influences in moving image were from cinema, my research paper studied from three reference films how all the technical elements of moving image may work together to represent on screen the subjective mental experience of a character with an ambiguous degree of truth. After, I continued the research in reference technical books in order to learn more general techniques transferable to my non narrative video-art. I learned the central concept of ‘cinematic mood’, that is, using audio-visual stimuli (such as cinematography, the pace of editing, sound design) rather than narrative techniques to cue the audience about emotions and identification. I used these techniques in my videos in order to trap the viewer inside a subjective experience. In Ghost House, I aimed to keep a very fluid rhythm to give a sense of geographical continuity even though the video was shot at three different houses, to give the impression that a ghost was moving through the house and we were seeing the world through its eyes. In Disciplinary Institutions, I kept a steady rhythm and directional continuity in long corridor tracking shots that progressively get darker, to convey the feeling of powerlessness and crushing fate experienced by the inmates.

Critic A.L. Rees coins the term ‘psychodrama’ to describe a genre of experimental film starting in the 1940s that deal with inner life and conflict. In his reference book ‘Visionary Film: The American Avant-Garde’, P. Adams Sitney calls ‘trance films’ a similar tradition of films depicting dreams or inner visions. My own moving image work is closest to the revival of psychodrama and trance-films from the 1990s until now, when artists like Stan Douglas or Doug Aitken applied the aesthetic conventions of horror, noir or other genre movies to either documentary footage, or staged scenes shot in natural settings, and mixed dream sequences with documentary footage, in order to talk about social concerns without formally resorting to the traditional documentary style. I like the aura of moral and philosophical ambiguity that blurring the lines of documentary and fiction gives to a moving image work.

Future development

The possibility to explore abandoned buildings in the UK is limited, because security is tighter than in Ireland, and the available buildings are mostly stripped down and void of artefacts, which make them visually repetitive quickly. I have however identified an old orphanage whose ornamented décor would make a good fit to use in a composite video with my footage from Woodlawn House, a few asylums, and a few abandoned cinemas that would be a new project. I have applied for permission to shoot at the orphanage and two cinemas, but the negotiations are slow and the success rate low. Therefore I want to continue exploring abandoned buildings as an ongoing background project, but also develop my practice in two possible new directions.

Writing my research paper gave me the desire to move away from purely visual video-art and experiment with narrative in a short film where the cinematic mood would be carefully crafted to reflect the character’s subjective experience. I have started writing a short script about a man who, feeling crushed by a life he judges meaningless, seizes the opportunity to escape. But soon his own guilt at having neglected what he considers his responsibilities causes him to throw his one chance away, and self-destruct. I would probably shot in HD video, with natural ‘noir’ lighting, to achieve an atmospheric look at low cost. Many independent filmmakers self produce their first short film: I think the best way for me to achieve this would be to join an independent filmmakers’ group for mutual support, mentoring and skill-pooling.

Another direction for development would be to use digital technology to go beyond traditional video installation by enhancing the feeling of immersion, or by making the images react to the viewer. I am especially interested in using random generator algorithms to simulate the often erratic and irrational way human beings make decisions and choices. To make an immersive audio-visual installation that reacts to the viewer, sensors could respond to movements and vocal triggers from the viewer, and control the sound design and displayed visuals accordingly. The environment could confront the viewer with feelings they may usually prefer to ignore by using audio-visual stimuli that simulate feelings of spatio-temporal distortion, claustrophobia and disorientation, or trigger instinctive emotional responses.

List of blog posts for Unit 2

Posted in blogging, MADA Coursework on August 29, 2011 by melaniemenardarts

March

Seesaw photography magazine: more American photographers of the subjective documentary genre.
https://melaniemenardarts.wordpress.com/2011/03/06/more-on-american-documentary-photography/

Photographers of post-Katrina New Orleans: comparison of their technical choices and their treatment of their subject.
https://melaniemenardarts.wordpress.com/2011/03/06/photographers-of-post-katrina-new-orleans/

Robert Polidori on his work: about the treatment of his subject, how his philosophical viewpoint influences it, and the question of aestheticizing tragic events.
https://melaniemenardarts.wordpress.com/2011/03/06/robert-polidori-on-his-work/

‘Last address’ by Ira Sachs: an example of architecturally-themed video-art where the underlying subject is not architecture but human and social (AIDS). How art can deal with human issues while showing buildings rather than people.
https://melaniemenardarts.wordpress.com/2011/03/06/last-address-by-ira-sachs/

April

My documentary photographs used in a blog about outsider art environments.
https://melaniemenardarts.wordpress.com/2011/04/26/my-photos-used-in-a-blog-about-outsider-art-environment/

May

Video tutorial compiling tips from 4 reference books about meaningful cinematography and editing tecniques for low-budget short films and video. Focuses on the concepts of treatment (that is, the subjective/philosophical/moral/ political viewpoint adopted by the filmmamker) of a subject (the raw events of the plot, regardless of the subjective googles chosen by the filmmakers) and establising film mood, and the technical choices that contribute to this. 10 000 words pdf that counts as several blog posts for the purpose of Unit 2 assessment. I chose to write a standalone document rather than blog posts because I thought a printable standalone document was more useful and practical to myself and people interested in learning the techniques. I also wanted to train myself to write a structured course-type document in case I go into teaching after graduating.
https://melaniemenardarts.wordpress.com/2011/05/01/video-tutorial/

Pecha-kucha presentation for group tutorial (Symposium).
https://melaniemenardarts.wordpress.com/2011/05/01/pecha-kucha-6min40-sec-presentation-for-group-tutorial/

Symposium: comments on my pecha-kucha presentation (very limited because I could not take part in the audio-conference).
https://melaniemenardarts.wordpress.com/2011/05/03/symposium-comments-on-my-pecha-kucha-presentation/

‘Ghost House’ video: new and improved edit incorporating new footage as well as better technical knowledge learnt while writing the tutorial.
https://melaniemenardarts.wordpress.com/2011/05/30/ghost-house-video-new-improved-2011-edit/

‘Disciplinary Institutions’ video: new and improved edit incorporating new footage as well as better technical knowledge learnt while writing the tutorial.
https://melaniemenardarts.wordpress.com/2011/05/30/disciplinary-institutions-video-new-improved-2011-edit/

July

Degree show planning: starting to think about what to present and how to show it.
https://melaniemenardarts.wordpress.com/2011/07/04/degree-show-planning/

Contextualising my practice within digital moving image: reading report about artists who use digital technologies (such as sensors and randomness-generating algorithm) together with moving image and share my themes of predilection, and reflexion of how I could go about using more cutting-edge digital techniques in future work while still focusing on my non-technology-related themes.
https://melaniemenardarts.wordpress.com/2011/07/10/contextualising-my-practice-within-digital-moving-image/

Contextualising my practice within experimental film and traditional video-art: reading report about artists who share my themes of predilection. Identification of a longstanding tradition of the ‘psychodrama’ genre from the 1940s till now, and of further relevant reading (P. Adams Sitney, ‘Visionary Film: The American Avant-Garde’, bought but not read yet). This gave me more relevant references within gallery-based video-art and underground/experimental film, whereas many of my early references were within recognised art cinema.
https://melaniemenardarts.wordpress.com/2011/07/16/contextualising-my-practice-within-experimental-film-and-traditional-video-art/

Photography tutorial (shooting tips, general principle of exposure, specialised tips for architectural photography) compiled from two reference books. Contains tips I learnt slowly over the past year but had never formally written down, and I wanted to share them (and stop having to hunt through post-it bookmarks in books whenever I needed a refresher before shooting something new 🙂 )Like the previous video tutorial, this is a 1550 words pdf formally structured as a course and counts as several blog posts for the purpose of assessment.
https://melaniemenardarts.wordpress.com/2011/07/18/photography-tutorial-shooting-tips-general-principle-of-exposure-specialised-tips-for-architectural-photography/

Round up of other MA Digital Art/Media degree shows: discussion of the type of student work, and critics’ opinions about the way it is presented to try and find useful tips for our own show.
https://melaniemenardarts.wordpress.com/2011/07/22/round-up-of-other-ma-digital-artmedia-degree-shows/

Professional development: applying to Phds (UAL, Brighton, Le Fresnoy): summary of how I went about applying to further studies, which I spent a lot of time doing in May and June. Reflexion on what went well or not, and how the process of writing 3 proposals made me reflect on my practice and how to develop it in the future, even outside of a Phd context.
https://melaniemenardarts.wordpress.com/2011/07/24/professional-development-applying-to-phds-ual-brighton-le-fresnoy/

Sum-up of theoretical research about cognitive film theory.
https://melaniemenardarts.wordpress.com/2011/07/25/cognitive-film-theory/

August

‘Disciplinary Institutions’ video shown at a commercial gallery in London.
https://melaniemenardarts.wordpress.com/2011/08/16/disciplinary-institutions-showing-wed-17th-sept-in-london/

Made a website to showcase my work in a more organised, succint and professional manner.
https://melaniemenardarts.wordpress.com/2011/08/22/my-website-is-up/

Woodlawn House short video: video of an empty mansion with ornamented decor, with an mood inspired by ‘Last year in Marienbad’. This is a work in progress because I do not have enough footage yet, and need to find similar places to make a longer composite video.
https://melaniemenardarts.wordpress.com/2011/08/28/woodlawn-house-short-video/

Technical Tutorial: Digital Photograph Post-Processing Workflow (in Photoshop). 2500 word structured course-type document in pdf format, counts as several blog posts for the purpose of assessment.
https://melaniemenardarts.wordpress.com/2011/08/28/technical-tutorial-digital-photograph-post-processing-workflow-in-photoshop/

Post-processing and enhancement of photographs (practical examples using the previous tutorial)
https://melaniemenardarts.wordpress.com/2011/08/29/post-processing-and-enhancement-of-photographs-practical-examples/

Experiment with HDR (High Dynamic Range) processing, even though I decided in the end to use a different, more creatively appropriate processing.
https://melaniemenardarts.wordpress.com/2011/08/29/experiment-with-hdr-high-dynamic-range-photography/

Section of documentary and architectural photography and video added to website, in order to showcase a possible commercial development for my practice.
https://melaniemenardarts.wordpress.com/2011/08/29/documentary-and-architectural-photography/

Research to continue my abandoned buildings photography and video practice
https://melaniemenardarts.wordpress.com/2011/08/29/research-to-continue-my-abandoned-buildings-photography-and-video-practice/

‘Ghost House’ screened at Optica festival (Madrid, 16-18 September).
https://melaniemenardarts.wordpress.com/2011/08/29/ghost-house-screened-at-optica-festival-madrid-16-18-september/

Photographs of my space at the MA Digital Art 2011 show.
https://melaniemenardarts.wordpress.com/2011/08/29/my-space-at-the-ma-digital-art-2011-show/

Written paper evaluating your practice and future development (1000 words)
https://melaniemenardarts.wordpress.com/2011/08/29/written-paper-evaluating-your-practice-and-future-development-1000-words/

My space at the MA Digital Art 2011 show

Posted in Degree show, My practice, My shows on August 29, 2011 by melaniemenardarts

Below are photographs of my space at the MA Digital Art 2011 show. The Ghost House and Disciplinary Institutions videos loop one after the other on an Imac screen, and I have curated 7 Disciplinary Institutions and 15 Ghost House photographs on the walls.

The show takes place at Camberwell College of Arts, 45-65 Peckham Road, London SE5 8UF, and is open to public Friday 2 September – Thursday 8 September (closed Sunday 4 September, Opening hours: Monday – Friday: 10.00 – 20.00 / Saturday: 11.00 – 17.00).

See more of our work on our website: http://www.mada2011.com/!

Documentary and Architectural Photography and Video

Posted in documentary, My practice, Photography, Professional Development, Video on August 29, 2011 by melaniemenardarts

I have added to my website a section of documentary and architectural photography and video, separate from my ‘fine art photography’ projects. This section is not complete yet and each project contain only a few photographs so far. It contains 3 types of photographs:

1) Outtakes from my ‘Ghost House’and ‘Disciplinary Institutions’ projects, that show the buildings in a documentary way, but do not have enough aesthetic value to qualify as ‘art’. The difference may not be obvious for anyone but me, but in my main series, the focus is on the creative subjective viewpoint, whereas on those documentary outtakes, the focus is solely on representing the building and my creative input as a photographer is limited to just taking a clear photograph.

2) Photography of building of architectural and/or historical interest.

3) Documentary Photography of Raw Art environments.

In both these last cases, the places are interesting by themselves and the purpose of the photograph is solely to show their architectural features in a clear way, the focus is not on a subjective treatment of them.

I added these sections because, after reading Architectural Photography by Adrian Schulz, I thought that Architectural photography could be a promising way to start taking commercial contracts. I would like to develop this documentary/architectural section as a portfolio showcasing a commercial practice, as opposed to my fine art practice.

On September 5th, I will shoot photographs and a video inside Ketlle Yard’s House in Cambridge. This is a house that used to belong to art collectors and has been turned into a museum, but the artworks are displayed as though it was still a private art lover’s dwelling. I am interested in this space because of the unique way the former owners transformed a functional dwelling into a medium of self expression, as though they remodelled a physical space to be a projection of their inner world, filling it with art representative of their time and the interests of the bohemian social circle they were part of.

When this is done, I will display the photographs and video on my website. Something I would interesting in doing commercially would be to take photographs and videos for interior design companies and publications, and for cultural places and historical monuments, so I decided to try and find interesting buildings to train myself on as unpaid projects first.

Professional development: applying to Phds (UAL, Brighton, Le Fresnoy)

Posted in MADA Coursework, Professional Development on July 24, 2011 by melaniemenardarts

An assessment criteria for Unit 2 of the MA is showing we pursued strategies for professional development. I’ve applied to 3 Phd or equivalent (at UAL, Brighton University and Le Fresnoy in France) and, though I did not get into any of them, the application process gave me the opportunity to do some research that eventually enriched my critical awareness, and to gain experience pitching my ideas at interviews.

UAL PhD application

First, I applied to a Phd at UAL with the subject below. I made it to the interview stage, and the interviewers seemed interested in my proposal, especially when I explained that, as far as I knew from researching my MA research paper, there was currently no specialised literature on the subject (such as a dedicated book), but rather little bits of knowledge about it were scattered in general books about a particular director or film. I explained that the closest to a specialised book I found was ‘Film: a sound Art’ by Michel Chion which compiled the meaningful use of sound design to express abstract ideas or feelings, but no equivalent book existed for the visual part of moving image as far as I knew, and that’s what I would like to do as my thesis. The interviewers however expressed concerns that my subject matter, dealing with moods and potentially dark psychological states, could be daunting as a Phd subject, a Phd being in itself a stressful enterprise. In final, I did not get in because UAL was unable to assemble a supervision team.

Title

Using moving image to represent subjective experiences that trigger emotional responses in the viewer.

Subject Area, Aims and Objectives

Research how a viewer perceives, is influenced by and reacts to moving image works, and which parameters of moving image, such as particular audio-visual characteristics, carry emotional meaning and may trigger specific reactions in the viewer. Then use these theoretical findings to create a new body of moving image work (as short film and/or video art) especially designed to invite the viewer to experience the subjective point of view depicted on screen on an emotional or subconscious level, rather than solely on an intellectual and critical level. In particular, I am interested in making work that confront the viewer with feelings they may usually prefer to ignore such as confusion, delusion, fear or alienation. This may be done by using moving image to simulate feelings of spatio-temporal distortion, claustrophobia and disorientation.

Aims
Research how to use moving image to represent subjective perception and affect the viewer emotionally.
Create a body of work (short film and/or video art) making practical use of those theoretical findings.

Objectives
Survey creative choices of film makers/video artists who focus heavily on creating a particular mood in their work. Look for recurring technical tricks.
Research the psychological mechanism of audience response to moving image.
Look for possible correlation between the creative choices of artists and the physical parameters that trigger specific responses in the audience.
Deduct meaningful aesthetic choices that may help eliciting a specific response in the audience.
Decide which type of moving image (short film/video art, narrative/purely visual, fiction/documentary) is most promising to explore particular subjective experiences.
Use meaningful aesthetic choices within moving image works in order to convey these subjective experiences more effectively to the audience.

Brighton University PhD application

Brighton University had AHRC funding only for a Phd in photography, so I modified my UAL proposal to include photography. They welcomed Phds dealing with the link between photography and moving image, and photography and space, so the subject was a good fit, even though I had a concern that dealing with 2 media may be a bit much for a 3 year project. It was a very competitive award with one funded place only, and I did not get shortlisted. I could have put the project forward for self funded study, and I could possibly have been shortlisted for a non AHRC Phd, but I chose not to pursue this because, should I go down the route of a self-funded part-time Phd, I would rather go back to my original UAL proposal with moving image only. The only reason I had modified it to include photography too was to qualify for the AHRC award. There are two reasons I would rather do a moving image Phd. First, I think working in two media would make the project too ambitious for 3 years (or 5 years part-time). And, more importantly, when I did some critical research during the MA, I found out that my practice of photography was quite intuitive and that, while I benefited from purely technical study to improve my photographic practice, I did not feel that critical study changed or deepened my relationship with the medium. On the other hand, I found that critical and theoretical study (particularly my research paper) improved a lot my understanding of moving image, and dramatically changed the way I used the medium. So a Phd in moving image would be more useful, since it would lead me to do deeper theoretical research.

Title

Subjective Space in Photography and Moving Image.

Overview of the Project

During my MA, I found out that my own interest in the representation of space as psychologically charged was shared by many practitioners in photography and moving image. Yet, critical books dealing with the subject of space or place usually consider them under the documentary or political angle. Anthony Vidler is the only scholar linking space perception and mental states, and his critical work is mostly about architecture, not the representation of space in lens-based artworks.

I would like to correlate knowledge from psychology about audience response to lens-based images with aesthetic choices made by lens-based artists with strong interest in the subjective perception of space, in order to find out whether their aesthetic choices are arbitrary or scientifically designed to trigger a deep involvement of the audience on a subjective and intuitive level. I would then apply these techniques found to be meaningful to my own practice in the hope that it deepens the viewer’s emotional involvement and intuitive interaction with my lens-based work.

Research Questions

Aims
Research how subjective space is presented in moving image.
Research how subjective space is presented in photography.
Create a body of work in photography and moving image (short film and/or video art) making practical use of those theoretical findings.

Objectives
Research the psychological mechanism of audience response to photography.
Research the psychological mechanism of audience response to moving image.
Survey creative choices of film makers/video artists who focus heavily on creating a cinematic mood in their work. Look for recurring technical tricks.
Survey creative choices of film photographer who focus heavily on creating a moody atmosphere in their work. Look for recurring technical tricks.
Look for possible correlation between the creative choices of artists and the physical parameters that trigger intuitive or emotional responses in the audience.
Deduct meaningful aesthetic choices that may help eliciting a specific response in the audience.
Use meaningful aesthetic choices within my own lens-based work in order to convey a subjective experience more effectively to the audience.

Le Fresnoy application

The last thing I applied to was Le Fresnoy Studio National des Arts Contemporains in Lille (France). It is not a Phd, but rather a 2 year programme of professional and practical training one does after a Master. Students have access to a professional budget to produce 2 works, in lens based media or installation the first year, and in digital art the second year. I got to the interview stage but was not selected.

Below were my original proposals for the 2 years, as presented in the original application form:

Proposed work for the first year

In the first year, I would like to make my first narrative short film. Researching my paper gave me the desire to move away from purely visual video-art and experiment with narrative in order for the images to depict more explicitly a subjective viewpoint. I have started writing a short script about a man who, feeling crushed by a life he judges meaningless, seizes the opportunity to escape. But soon his own guilt at having neglected what he considers his responsibilities causes him to throw his one chance away, and self-destruct. I am aiming to keep the number of characters down, and to represent the scenes visually in my mind as I write them, in order to ensure that they can be filmed in natural locations with ‘noir’ lighting, so that the cost is kept minimal and the project is realistic in a school context (and with a school budget). I am aware the story is heavily influenced by David Lynch, but this is my first attempt at writing an original story, and I am very open to it changing as I gain experience and knowledge, both by trial and error and through mentoring by experienced artists. Also, the downfall of Lynch’s characters is usually triggered by an external event (in both Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive, the main character goes criminal because their lover has been unfaithful) whereas I would like to tell the story of a character driven to self-destruction solely by their own feelings of guilt and repression.

Proposed work for the second year

In the second year, I would like to create an immersive audio-visual installation, similar to Eija-Liisa Ahtila’s Talo, but as an environment that reacts to the viewer’s actions to increase their feeling of identification and involvement, rather than as a purely descriptive installation. This could be done using sensors that would command the sound design and the displayed visuals to change when the viewer moves or looks in another direction. In particular, I would like to simulate an environment that would confront the viewer with feelings they may usually prefer to ignore such as confusion, delusion, fear or alienation. This may be done by using audio-visual stimuli that simulate feelings of spatio-temporal distortion, claustrophobia and disorientation, or trigger instinctive emotional responses.

And a shortened 10 lines proposal for the interview:

1st year: narrative short film where the cinematic mood is carefully crafted to reflect the character’s subjective experience in the tradition of David Lynch. I have a draft in-progress story of a character driven to self-destruction solely by their own feelings of guilt and repression, not by an external trigger. I would probably shot in HD video, with natural ‘noir’ lighting, to achieve an atmospheric look at low cost.

2nd year: immersive audio-visual installation that reacts to the viewer’s actions. Sensors could respond to movements and vocal triggers from the viewer, and control the sound design and displayed visuals accordingly. The environment could confront the viewer with feelings they may usually prefer to ignore by using audio-visual stimuli that simulate feelings of spatio-temporal distortion, claustrophobia and disorientation, or trigger instinctive emotional responses.

I felt the interview was more awkward than at UAL, even though I can’t really pinpoint why. At UAL, even though I was not selected, I felt that the interviewers really engaged in a dialogue with me, understood my process, and that the concerns they voiced were pertinent. At Le Fresnoy, I had the subjective impression that communication with the panel of interviewers was not really on the same level, even though the interview flowed smoothly and politely with questions and answers. It is a purely subjective impression, but I felt the interviewers seemed a bit puzzled that I was interested in mood and communication with the audience on an intuitive or subjective level, rather than in a ‘theme’ or a ‘message’. I felt they did not quite know how to handle my subject and therefore struggled to engage in a dialogue with me.

One mistake I made entirely by myself (and realised afterwards) is that I had a tendency to anticipate possible criticism made to me, and address them in advance. My biggest worry was that my first year project was heavily influenced by David Lynch’s ‘Mulholland Drive’ and Ingmar Bergman’s ‘Persona’, and I stated this pre-emptively, so as not to look like a vain young artist who is unaware she is reinventing the wheel! The interviewers did not seem to understand why I was concerned about my project being influenced by someone else’s work. Indeed, when I watched work from graduating students at the degree show, someone made a short film very similar in look and atmosphere to the recent wave of Spanish psychological horror movies, and obviously, the school judged it to be a perfectly acceptable project since they produced it. So, on this point, I was simply too critical about myself. Next time, I will know not to anticipate criticism, but rather wait for them to come.

In any case, the interviewers could not see the link between my story pitch and ‘Mulholland Drive’ or ‘Persona’, but instead, one interviewer said it was very similar to ‘Blue Angel’ with Marlene Dietrich. I was a bit taken aback because, although ‘Blue Angel’ is a film I love, I could not see a relation apart from a very superficial surface plot. For me, fair enough the plot was similar (a love obsession that ends badly), but the treatment was totally different: ‘Blue Angel’ was a dark social satire whereas my script was a psychological thriller. Sadly, the concept of ‘plot’ vs. ‘treatment’ only came to my mind after the interview! If I had thought of explaining things that way immediately, I would have made myself clearer. Instead, I tried to explain why I did not see the two stories as related, but, because it was a question that had never crossed my mind before, I was not very clear about it. I said that, while in ‘Blue Angel’, the object of love (Marlene) remains an object of obsession completely exterior to the hero, in my pitch, the object of love is a projection of the hero’s thwarted ambitions, an embodiment of what he wishes he could be. Thinking backwards on it, I think the main reason I was unable to defend my story in a more articulate way is that I was very shy and insecure about it. I have never written an original story before, and had not talked about it to anyone, so pitching it in front of the panel was the first time I ever presented it to other people. And I am aware I lacked some guts and presented it in a vague way on purpose, in order to tone down the more controversial elements in it. Next time I pitch it, I should make it clear that the story deals with the theme of the double, and that there is a deliberate ambiguity as to whether the object of love is a second character or a projection of the hero’s idealised self. The story as I see it can be read both as a tragic love story, or a psychological battle inside the hero’s mind between his sense of duty to social norms and his ambitions and desires (the supergo vs. the Id). Both interpretations are acceptable and it is for the viewer to choose (or not). I did not have the guts to make this clear because the script is still a draft and I am still insecure about it, so I toned it down on purpose, inviting misunderstanding from the interviewers. Next time, I’ll just go for it because it’s better to have your pitch rejected because the panel does not like it, rather than because they do not understand it.

Another point of slight contention during the interview was that I started explaining that I would probably shoot the film in HD video because it offered the best compromise between a cinematic look and a low budget. The interviewer waved me off, saying it was ‘just techniques’ and he was not interested in it, just in my concept. I don’t consider my talking about technique a mistake: I did it not because I am obsessed with pure form over concept, but to show that I had done my homework properly, that I had read books about how to produce your first short film (‘Making short films’ by Clifford Thurlow) and researched the budget constraints, and the best practical solution to obtain a professional look with a low budget. I wanted to come across as a responsible, realistic person rather than as a dreamer with unrealistic expectations of infinite budget. I still believe this approach was not a mistake and that it may pay off should I pitch my project again for private funding or a grant. I think the reason the interviewers reacted badly to it was purely because of a culture shock: the school gets huge funding from the French government and students are given professional budgets on a scale that you do not see in any other school, so they are not used to worry about money, and they did not understand that it was what I was doing.

However, the interview was a very valuable experience, the first time I pitched a potential narrative work. Writing my research paper gave me the desire to explore narrative, and I would like to continue working on my script after the MA and try and find a way to shoot it as an independent filmmaker. Many people self produce their first short film and that’s something I’m considering for next year, should I find a way to join an independent filmmakers’ group or coop for mutual support and possibly mentoring.

Round up of other MA Digital Art/Media degree shows

Posted in Degree show, Digital Art on July 22, 2011 by melaniemenardarts

I’ve done a round up of degree shows of MA courses similar to ours, and tried to find reviews that could help us know recurring weaknesses to avoid when putting up our own show, or on the other hand things that the critics appreciate.

Brighton University Digital Media Arts MA:

http://www.resonancearts.co.uk/

A review, but it’s not very helpful regarding the strong/weak point of the show, it just sort of sums up the type of artwork.

Norwich University College of the Arts MA Digital Arts:

http://www.nuca.ac.uk/ma-degree-show/show-gallery/view/58

Two students whose work I liked:

Ligita Barauskaite

Jane Vance

There is a MA Digital Media Development at Winchester University, but this course seems much more industry and less Fine Art oriented than ours, plus the pdf of their show only lists works from Ba/Bsc students, even though the MA students are supposed to show with them.

Interactive media MA at Goldsmiths College: Show site.

A review with a quote that gets you thinking:

‘The course combines teaching critical theory with practical programming skills. At the show, Disconnect and Punish, I was struck by what appeared to be a great division in the way the students showed their work. The show seemed completely split between what was presented as art and the work which was presented essentially as interpreted data on a computer screen.’

I’m pretty sure there used to be a MA Digital Art and Technology at Plymouth but it seems to have turned into a MRes.

So it seems that Brighton and Norwich have MA courses pitched similarly as ours, at the crossroads of Fine Art and Technology. The feel I get from the way the shows at Winchester and Goldsmith are presented is that they are much more ‘pure technology/industry oriented’ type of courses.

Also I found places to advertise our degree show:

http://www.creativereview.co.uk/cr-blog/2011/june/graduate-shows-list-2011