Archive for Ghost House

‘Ghost House’ screened at Optica festival (Madrid, 16-18 September)

Posted in Ghost House, My practice, My shows, Video with tags , on August 29, 2011 by melaniemenardarts

My Ghost House video has been selected to be part of the program of Optica Festival in Madrid (Spain), wich will be take place September 16th to 18th.

The projection will take place at La Casa Encendida, one of the most emblematic places for art and culture in Spain.

The website does not have an up to date program yet:
http://www.opticafestival.com

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Ghost House video (new, improved 2011 edit)

Posted in Ghost House, Moving image techniques, My practice, Urban Exploration, Video with tags , , on May 30, 2011 by melaniemenardarts

I have made a new version of ‘Ghost House’, using footage shot in 2009 already used in the 2010 edit, and new, previously unused footage shot in 2010.

I needed to make a 5 minutes version for a submission that required a 5 minute film and found it a worthy exercise. The limited running time forced me to very carefully consider the appropriate length to get the most efficient effect from every single shot. I realised that in the previous version, I sometimes tended to let static shots run for as long as they were beautiful to watch. I realised that in trying to use as much of my footage as I could, I ended up diminishing the efficiency of the shot because, however beautiful the static shot, the audience was getting bored with it before it disappeared from screen. I saw that I could get more striking results by being more ruthless in my cutting, by keeping shots to the minimum length required to get affected by their atmosphere, but short enough not to get bored with it, even if it meant discarding well shot footage. I also took the difficult decision to discard beautiful shots because they did not quite suit the mood of the piece, whereas last year, I always tried to edit in everything pretty.

Reading all those reference cinematography and editing books, and writing down the tutorial helped me realise the paramount importance of coherent mood and precise rhythm. It’s more important to have a piece where the mood is coherent and not disturbed by elements that don’t quite fit, and a rhythm very precisely designed to lull the viewer into the desired reaction that to try and use as much of my good footage as I can just to prove I can shoot good images. Reading those reference books also made me more aware of how easily a viewer may be ‘jerked out’ of the world of the film by bad editing transition or jerky shots. It’s not about aesthetics, it’s about maintaining the illusion.

I feel my technique improved by following those abstract concepts, but ironically, I ended up breaking several textbook rules on purpose. You are supposed to start and end each sequence on a static shot, but I found out I got better results by ending and starting most moving shots on movements, but making sure that there is a continuity in the speed of fluidity of the movement in the 2 thematically different shots each side of the cut. Part of this is due that if I zoom in or out with the camera fixed on a tripod, there is often a slight jerk when I press the zoom button. It’s very slight but noticeable because the camera does not otherwise move. Ironically, it was more natural to start and end slightly jerky hand held shots on a freeze frame, because the slight sway was present all through the sequence and therefore not shocking. The other reason In think this particular rule was not appropriate is that it is designed for traditional narrative cinema where the camera is fixed and the actors move within the frame. Whereas I film static building and the movement comes solely from the camera move. Therefore what matters is to keep the movement of the camera fluid and regular, to give the impression it is travelling through the house without interruption. It’s as though the camera is the only character, the unseen narrator’s eye, and what must be preserved is the coherency of its point of view. Therefore, I aimed to keep a very fluid rhythm all through the piece, 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, no longer limited by laws of physics and Euclidean geometry, and that we were seeing the world through its eyes.

It reminded me of a comment in The Technics of Film Editing by Reisz & Millar about Alain Resnais using moving camera shots in Last Year in Marienbad for the sheer sensual pleasure they procure. And indeed, in Marienbad, the camera moves a lot through the endless corridors while the actors in them are frozen like statues, almost becoming part of the décor, as immobile as the discarded objects of my ghost houses. I think the words ‘sheer sensual pleasure’ struck me, because I had never considered my relation to the moving image medium that way, yet I realised it was very true.

By the way, thank you WordPress for finally allowing to embed youtube videos!! 🙂

‘Ghost House’ and ‘Disciplinary Institutions’ continued during Summer 2010

Posted in Disciplinary Institutions, Ghost House, Methodology, My practice, Photography with tags , , , , , on January 31, 2011 by melaniemenardarts

In June/July 2010, I went back to Ireland to shoot some more photographs and video footage for the ‘Ghost House’ and ‘Disciplinary Institutions’ projects. I mostly revisited previously explored locations; My aim was to try and rely less on the automatic settings of the cameras, make better use of the tripod, and generally be more thoughtful about my images. I have not looked at the video footage in depth yet, but for the photographs, the result were mixed. I did get some good images I did not get before, but some scenes I re-shot look no better in the newer, more worked versions than on the older version where I only specified the ISO and let the camera do the rest of the work.

This is a Ghost House in co. Galway that I visited in 2008. The first picture with the stairs is my favourite of everything I’ve made this year.

Ghost House

Ghost House

This is a Ghost House I saw from the road. I could not go inside because it was locked up, but I thought the exterior shot was very interesting because the walls appear to be bleeding.

'Bloody' Ghost House

I was granted authorisation to go into Woodlawn House, co. Galway. The house is empty and awaiting renovation but the elaborate interior architecture was enough to make interesting pictures.

Woodlawn House

Woodlawn House

I went back to the High Park Magdalene Laundry in Dublin, but I did not get much better pictures than last year.

Magdalene laundry, Dublin.

Magdalene laundry, Dublin.

I went back to the Good Shepherd Magdalene Laundry in Cork and got better pictures, especially from the upstairs floors. Some of these photographs need to be straightened because my tripod was not straight on the uneven floor (I need to find out how to do that).

Magdalene laundry, Cork.

(The book says ‘Ecclesiastical Law’).

Magdalene laundry, Cork.

Magdalene laundry, Cork.

I also got more pictures from Eglington and St Kevin’s insane asylums in Cork.

Eglington insane asylum, Cork.

I found by chance a Magdalene Laundry in Kinsale, co. Cork. The building itself was gutted and being transformed into flats, but the inmates cemetery was still there at the back of the building site.

Magdalene Laundry Cemetery, Kinsale, co. Cork.

Our landlady also tipped me to go see Letterfrack Industrial School: Industrial Schools were the equivalent for boys of what Magdalene Laundries were for girls. The School is now a normal school, but an information panel in the hall tells the story of the former Industrial School and the inmates cemetery has been turned into a sort of memorial.

Of course, erecting memorials afterwards does not change anything for the victims, but the contrast between the tended memorial of the Industrial School and the rusty, abandoned graves of the Magdalenes made me bitter. The wrongs done to the little boys are at least publicly acknowledged and apologies are at least paid lip service to. But the Magdalenes do not even get this: the Catholic Church still refuses to acknowledge any wrong done to the Magdalenes, despite campaigns from inmates’ descendants, and public authorities are all to eager to eradicate the Magdalene Laundries from the face of the earth, turning them into overpriced apartments without as much as a commemorative plate. Seeing this contrast made me all the more determined in my project to document the Magdalene asylums.

Letterfrack industrial school

Letterfrack industrial school

Ghost House II.2 selected for Royal West of England Academy Open Photography 2011

Posted in Ghost House, My practice, My shows, Photography with tags , on January 20, 2011 by melaniemenardarts

My photograph Ghost House II.2 has been selected for the Royal West of England Academy Open Photography 2011 (http://www.rwa.org.uk/curpro.htm).

I’m particularly happy to go back there because I was selected for their very first Open Photography exhibition in 2008, when I had no exhibiting experience and no formal art qualification. I think it is good and too rare that a prestigious gallery is brave enough to give their chance to unknown photographers and to select work purely on the quality of the picture, not the applicant’s CV.

Ghost House II.2

Ghost House video at Electrofringe Festival, Australia.

Posted in Ghost House, My practice, My shows, Video with tags , on January 20, 2011 by melaniemenardarts

I’m catching up on my blog to make sure everything I’ve done during the MA Unit 1 is included in it.

In October 2010, the Ghost House video was shown at Electrofringe festival, a Festival of electronic arts and culture, Newcastle, Australia. It was in the Electroprojections program, that showed single-channel video works, sourced from an international open call.

See the Ghost House video on youtube.

MA Digital Arts – Midpoint Review Presentation and Evaluation

Posted in Audience Response, Critical theory, Disciplinary Institutions, Ghost House, MADA Coursework, My practice, Practice experiments with tags , , , on April 7, 2010 by melaniemenardarts

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Instructions

Hello fellow MADA 1st year students !

For optimal results, please watch the visual presentation on you tube before reading the written evaluation. (You just have to read this post linearly from beginning to end.)

Thank you !

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Visual presentation

I am of course interested in your thoughtful feedback as an artist/academic with cultural references, but also in your instinctive reactions as an individual. This is why I am asking you to watch the visual presentation before reading the evaluation of my project. I want to recreate the conditions in which a random passerby may see an artwork on the internet or in a gallery window, without knowing anything about it, without having even looked at the title yet. This person may not know anything about contemporary art. They may be walking down the street and notice a picture, or have randomly found a video on youtube. What will this person see in the art work? Will the image grab their attention? Will the image awaken feelings/moods/questions in them, despite the absence of cultural context? Making artworks that are able to establish direct communication with the viewer, without the need for explanations or comments is a big concern in my practice. This experiment is designed to find out in which measure I have succeeded or failed so far.

In the visual presentation, you will be shown excerpts from 2 videos, stripped of title, music and context. These videos are made from edited footage, but have no special effects yet. I would like you to watch these videos candidly, without a priori. For the 6 minutes of the presentation, please try and forget (temporarily) about the academic context and watch them not as coursework, but as your Friday night movie or a museum on holidays. This is the closest way I could artificially recreate the situation described above. Please focus on your subjective experience as a viewer. Do the images grab your attention or fail to do so ? Do they create any feelings/moods/reflexions in you? If so which? Do the 2 videos have different, identical or similar feelings to you ? Please tell me anything that crosses your mind.

Watch the visual presentation on youtube

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Please do not read anything below until you have watched the visual presentation and followed the instructions !

Thank you !

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500 word auto-evaluation

Evaluation

My project is about the relationships between places and individuals, observed through 2 main viewpoints:
1) how the physical world is subjectively perceived by individuals, and intersects with their inner world.
2) how space influence individuals’ psyches. This may take a more political aspect by exploring themes of imprisonment and deprivation of private space.

In the theoretical research, I got mainly interested in:
1) Documentary-type (i.e. not staged) photography, both through its link to Surrealism and in its contemporary form. Surrealist documentary aims to physically reveal “surreality”, the higher perception where dream and reality merge. In contemporary practice, the concept of subjective documentary, that says more about the person that makes it than about the documented subject itself.
2) The concept of “chronotope”: the way space is intrinsically linked to time in the context of memory.
3) Manipulating the viewer’s perceptions/feelings using moving image techniques.
4) How much the meaning/impact of an artwork comes from the raw images themselves, and how much comes from the critical comment accompanying them.

In practice, I have mainly edited raw footage shot in abandoned buildings last summer (in prevision of the MA), aiming to use editing techniques in order to create specific atmospheres that would trigger specific feelings.

Work plan

Issue 1: I come from photography. I have lots of references in cinema but know little about video art. In photography, striking symbolic images stand by themselves. In cinema, such atmospheric images come in between bits of informative narrative. I am still unsure about video art as a language: is it a succession of symbolic sequences deprived of narrative ? Or am I missing something ? Do I want to make pure visual video art or do I want to tell stories (even ambiguous ones) but do not know yet how to do it ? Do moving images without narrative get boring for the audience ?

Issue 2: So far I have only used unstaged/documentary type footage. I planned to incorporate staged images, mostly in order to depict dreams. How do I make the staged images ? I am concerned about them looking kitsch (due to lack of budget), too litteral or too didactic (textbook symbolism).

Issue 3: How can I use new digital technologies (rather than pure traditional still/moving image) to serve my purpose, not just for the sake of being modern ? The main idea is to make immersive installations that make the world of the moving images more real to the viewer than traditional projection on a screen. I have not studied the practical/technical feasibility of installations at all yet.

Issue 4: Can I use the still photographs in an innovative way ?

Other practical tasks:
1) start using special effects on the video software
2) shall I try making my own soundtracks or continue using work from a proper musician ?

Further theoretical research:
1) the mechanism of memory
2) dream symbolism

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Constructive comments

After reading this project evaluation, please submit your comments as a student/artist/academic as well as your comments as an individual viewer (as requested in the visual presentation). If your experience on these 2 different levels differs sensibly, please make sure to state clearly on which level you are commenting, since I won’t be able to request clarification of ambiguities while you are commenting on my work. Thank you for your help and cooperation!

For your information, the titles and commercial/critical blurbs usually accompanying the 2 videos were:

Video 1: Disciplinary Institutions

In “Disciplinary Institutions”, I explore places used to make undesirable and/or helpless people disappear discretely such as Magdalene convents (used to imprison women), mental asylums and workhouses. I am interested in showing how the long gone inmates keep imprinting these places long after they are dead, and the malevolent aura still cast by those buildings.

Video 2: Ghost House

The Ghost House series was shot at several abandoned houses in Ireland, whose last occupants probably left 10 to 30 years ago. Traces of their lives and aspirations, and of the disillusions and hardships
that made them leave their homeland, remained in the form of scattered personal belongings.

Do those blurbs influence your perception of the images ?
If so, do they:
– help you get interested in the artwork (while the images alone left you cold) ?
– change your perception of the images ?
– confirm your intuitive perception of the images ?

Ghost House video at Last Friday Shorts (Southend on Sea) tonight !

Posted in Ghost House, My practice, My shows, Video with tags , on March 26, 2010 by melaniemenardarts

Friday March 26th (tonight !) in Southend on Sea, Part of Last Friday Shorts Short Film festival. Screening of a Ghost House video I edited last year from footage shot by fellow artist Bill Cox (available on youtube too).