TLDR – Today we were asked to think about what themes and ideologies we try to convey through our work, and to consider if audiences see the same things we do.
We finally got a chance to meet some other MIAS students today! After the morning lectures, we met Suzie and headed over to the lovely Boardman House and got to see who else was studying Moving Image and Sound. I was quite surprised by how few there were. Part Time Year 1 is me, Emmaalouise, Dom (both in my seminar group), and a girl called Fran. Part Time Year 2 is just two people (that I’m aware of, though their names escape me), and there were about fifteen Full Time students. We also met Liam (course leader) and arranged a group trip to the puppet theatre next week, which I’m really looking forward to.
Afterwards, I went to the Playhouse with four FTs (Adam, Leo, Fozzie, and Ranieri) and we had a tea and chatted for half an hour. They managed to both simultaneously put my mind at ease, and confirm some lingering doubts I had about the course, but overall I came away feeling more positive about NUA. I’m looking forward to next semester now, where we’ll be working on some practical work with other film students.
It was another half-lecture today, this time given by Judith, called A Practical Toolkit. In all honesty, I’m not sure where that title comes from, though it probably has something to do with the fact that while researching, we should remember to also be practical. Even looking back at my notes now, it’s hard to see how the content of the lecture tied into the title, but I suppose half the reason these blog posts exist is to give my brain a second attempt at sorting through the noise.
The first point mentioned centred around Martin Heidegger, who argued that we first experience the world through our body and our senses. Once we have experienced something, the next stage is to make sense of it, at which point we begin to use language. This topic of thought led to our need to be critical of our art and the art of others. We all experience art in different ways, so explaining it through language and critique can lead to further understanding.
Continuing on from those critical thoughts, we were asked to consider our audience (if we want or expect one) and how our work might affect them. This is a key issue in my research this module, and specifically my interest in informative and educational documentaries. By that, I mean films from the likes of David Attenborough, rather than those of someone like Louis Theroux. While I’m a big fan of the style of films Theroux creates, those with very personal stories and quite often minority groups highlighted, I think I would like to work on documentaries on a grander scale. My interests are in natural history, wildlife, social sciences, and technology, and I want to make films that inform the masses. With that in mind, I need to consider how the shows produced by Attenborough and the BBC affect the viewing public (or don’t) so I can look to capitalise and expand on that.
We then moved on to a quote by the Slovenian cultural critic, Slavoj Zizek:
What you don’t know you know controls you, but you don’t control it.
This led to discussions about unknown knowns, known knowns, and known unknowns, which brought us to Barbara Bolt, an Australian artist. She considered the unknown known (i.e., something which is often overlooked or assumed) in the context of landscape paintings. It wasn’t until she started painting landscapes and thinking about the things we often take for granted (composition, colours, etc) that she understood landscape paintings on a deeper level. This research through practice is something which we should be considering during our studies.
From my own documentary point of view, perhaps before I begin thinking about how I make films, I should consider what films I make and why I make them? With that in mind, over the next few months, I intend to make a series of short documentaries about a number of subjects and in a number of ways. Through this experience, I may learn something new about myself or the work I hope to create.
I was overjoyed to discover that we were heading back to FH116 today for our seminar, because I love the way the room there has no external windows and is always 10-15 degrees hotter than the rest of Norwich. It’s so conducive to concentration and learning.
Today didn’t start off well because we were told during our lecture (at around 3pm) that we were supposed to bring a piece of our own work to discuss and evaluate during the seminar. Unfortunately though, the email didn’t go out, so no one brought anything. In the half hour between our lecture and seminar everyone was frantically searching through their phones, laptops, and bags to see if they had a piece of art they could use. Most people were lucky, though a few had to sketch something they were working on at the start of the seminar. I didn’t have a great deal to choose from, so I opted for a video I had edited together and put on Youtube a few years ago – the trailer for the 2013 Norwich Film Festival. I hadn’t created the films, but I had to edit them together in a certain way.
I teamed up with Neal (Games), Scott (Fine Art), and Alison (Fine Art). The idea was to present a piece of our art to our group and ask them what themes they see in the piece. We were not allowed to talk until the end, when we were asked to compare notes and see if what we intended to put into the work was being read by the audience.
I did get some positive feedback in general for the trailer which was nice, but I also found that after repeat viewings they started picking up a several little visual cues which I had dotted through the trailer. To me, they seemed obvious, and I’m glad they noticed them, but I was a little disappointed that it took them two or three views to notice everything. Maybe they had picked up on them subconsciously but couldn’t put their finger on them until rewatching.
The trailer is cut together to give a sense of urgency, intrigue, and excitement. One piece of music plays throughout the trailer and slowly builds tension along with the images, which were designed to flow from one to the next. There are graphic matches between certain ‘scenes’, as well as actions that lead from one to the next (a punch, a man falls, a man uses a parachute…). All these clips are used to create a narrative which keeps the viewer interested until the end, where there is a call to action – asking people to buy tickets. Most of these things were noticed, but not verbalised until the second viewing.
The others also brought their own work. Neal brought a sketch of a woman which he hopes to use in a future game project (see featured image), Scott brought a photo of a set of two (abstract) landscape paintings he had created, and Alison brought a sketch of a coffee grinder which she had painted a few years ago. Each of these were created by the artist with a set of intentions or purposes in mind, but the question was whether or not we, as the audience, recognised those intentions.
For the most part, we did. Neal’s sketch of a woman was in its early stage, but portrayed self-confidence, strength, but also fragility. Scott’s images were designed to make the viewer think about the metaphorical layers which certain landscapes have, and how if you draw back one layer there is always something more to see, and Alison’s close up sketch of a coffee grinder focused on the mechanics of the machine, rather than the machine itself. Most of what we said was agreed on by the artist, but it was nice to hear their thoughts and explanations after the fact.
I think most of the things we talked about today were very general ‘things to consider when making and thinking about art’ topics, much like the last couple of weeks have been. My time probably would have been better spent if these last three lectures had been condensed down into one slightly longer one, then I’d have an extra two weeks to actually do my work.
It might sound like I’m hating on RIPU a little bit, and sometimes it’s hard to deny that, but my main criticism really is that it’s now week 4 and I feel like I’ve had about 5 hours worth of lectures. Everything is so spread out and I come away from most weeks having taken the babiest of steps towards where I want to be, that I would rather cram the rest of the module into two solid days next week, then spend the next two months actually doing something.