It’s been a couple of months since my last post so I’m pausing my research and production to reflect on my project, to think about the themes that I explored in my research paper, the work that I’ve made over the last few weeks and to look at the context that I’m producing work within.
I’ve previously used the term ‘appropriation’ when discussing my work (the repositioning and subverting of an existing object)…
Duchamp’s The Bottle Rack (1914, considered to be the first readymade).
…but I read Nicolas Bourriaud’s ‘Postproduction: Culture as Screenplay: How Art Reprograms the World’. This essay has really changed the way that I think about my own practice and about how I consume as well as produce during this act of Postproduction.
When Marcel Duchamp exhibited a bottle rack in 1914 and used a mass-produced object as a “tool of production,” he brought the capitalist process of production into the sphere of art, while at the same time indexing the role of the artist to the world of exchange: he suddenly found kinship with the merchant, content to move products from one place to another
I’d never linked the sampling of imagery with Duchamp’s practice of recontextualising an object.
I’m pasting in some key quotes from the essay, some of which I’ll expand on and some I’ll just leave there for my own reference:
Overview of the term
Postproduction is a technical term from the audiovisual vocabulary used in television, film and video. As a set of activities linked to the service industry and recycling, postproduction belongs to the tertiary sector, as opposed to the industrial or agricultural sector. i.e:. the production of raw materials.
How does it relate to appropriation?
…art history is now going beyond what we call “the art of appropriation,” which naturally infers an ideology of ownership, and moving toward a culture of the use of forms, a culture of constant activity of signs based on a collective ideal: sharing
Why is it relevant to my practice?
Notions of originality are slowly blurred in the new cultural landscape marked by the twin figures of the DJ and the programmer, both of whom have the task of selecting cultural objects and inserting them into new contexts.
Every work is issued from a script that the artist projects onto culture, considered the framework of a narrative that in turn projects new possible scripts, endlessly.
The link between DJing and navigating culture
To listen to records becomes work in itself, which diminishes the dividing line between reception and practice, producing new cartographies of knowledge
How narrative is an unfolding scenario
This culture of use implies a profound transformation of the status of the work of art…it now functions as an active agent, a musical score, an unfolding scenario
I’ve toyed with narrative within my instagram posts, accompanying the image with a list of words that impose a loose narrative onto the image.
This “culture of use” transforms the artwork from singular vision to a piece of data that is shareable and remixable
the contemporary work of art does not position itself as the termination point of the “creative process” (a “finished product” to be contemplated) but as a site of navigation, a portal, a generator of activities
we insert our forms on existing lines
postproduction is the scrambling of boundaries between consumption and production
the artwork functions as the temporary terminal of a network of interconnected elements, like a narrative that extends and reinterprets preceding narratives
The act of consuming a piece of culture equates with an act of navigation, itself a work of art.
This led me to read Debourd’s ‘Society of the Spectacle’ and how he describes détournement as ‘not a negation of style, but the style of negation’, namely that the act of diversion should negate the power of / provide commentary on the original artwork.
But Postproduction is neutral, there is no political philosophy that guides the artists work. Rather I see it as a theoretical and practical extension to the The MGM slogan ‘Ars Gratia Artis’ and my intital proposal to make ‘art for arts sake’, with no other reason than to make art (which in turn is an attempt to decode and understand the 21st century)
So instead of equating Slats The Lion’s gaze as being out of the screen and onto the viewer, I now think of Slats’ gaze as being mine, the gaze reflected by the light of the screen as I both consume and produce art.
I discussed the act of duplication / doubling in my paper, and how Freud considered this to be an inherently uncanny act. Angela Strassheim’s Evidence series and Corinne May Botz’ The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death both use photography to duplicate, to double an object (domestic spaces where murder has occurred and dollshouses that are designed to train detectives in the art of evidence gathering and interpretation respectively). My own acts of duplication and experiments with narrative certainly exist within the uncanny zone.
So let’s recap the original vision for the project, and the work that I’ve made whilst researching and producing.
To create a sculptural work (let’s call it a lightbox) that changes the imagery displayed within it depending on how the viewer interacts with it. The data that feeds the sculpture (the source being a narrative film created using appropriated footage) and the film will be used to create an online artwork.
So I started looking for this particular moment in cinema that would reflect Slats gaze – a moment where the viewer and the screen meet each other’s gaze
NOT LIKE THIS…
I sampled some moments, treating some as per my previous black works
And looking at other samples, juxtaposing characters who are moving away from the viewer and then returning
But.. After watching 100+ films I found 3 clips that adhered to my self-imposed restriction DOESN’T WORK.I can’t sample the volume of imagery I need to create the piece I envisage and I feel that using such a limited palette is not going to allow me to produce the work that I’m imagining.
So I was stuck, but kept making pieces – starting to mess around changing the context of images by using light shining through / onto them. In some pieces I laid a sheet of glass over the image then used a lamp to reflect / disrupt the image.
And in others I placed the image directly onto a lamp, the light souce revealing both sides of the paper simultaneously in an extension of the ‘auto collage’ pieces I’ve been making
Earlier Auto Collage pieces – these narratives are revealed through the framing of the image through the camera.
I had a studio visit from Dr Ed Kelley, where we discussed this ‘gaze moment’ that I’ve been (mostly fruitlessly) for. We also discussed my recent realisation that I treat still imagery very differently from moving image as I showed the ‘light on / through surface’ pieces. These experiments are with the sculptural, and the capturing of light on the surface of images.
With my collage / redacted pieces I very much interrogate the still image – I’m hesitate working with the moving image in comparison
But the moving image works that I’ve been working with – even though I may re-edit, overdub, juxtapose I haven’t been cutting into and manipulating the moving image nearly as much as the work I’ve made with stills.
I experimented with splitting the frame into multiples
Ed pointed out during our chat that I could consider the moving image works that I’m sampling as a series of images, as opposed to one moving image.
This simple but laser-precise observation unstuck me.
It connected my current practice back to this piece where (to solve a technical hitch with the code I had to export my moving image sample into individual JPGS
So this opened up my practice, to not to so focussed on a particular type of physical movement within the sampled moving image and to instead broaden out my research to encompass
On the interactive part of the project we discussed whether my idea of the physical interaction of the viewer should influence the narrative / which clips are displayed.
I feel that the interaction of the viewer has been contextualised by my research around appropriation, diversion and postproduction.
Duchamp started from the principle that consumption was also a mode of production, as did Marx, who writes in his introduction to Critique of Political Economy that “consumption is simultaneously also production”
Marx wrote in the same book about how “a house which is uninhabited is indeed not really a house” and I feel that this link to my research paper (the home), the uncanny (unheimlich / unhomely) and the Duchampian theory that an artwork is not an artwork without a viewer (the gaze of Slats the MGM Lion) repostions my ‘lightbox’ idea somewhat.
The same installation, but loaded with still images and moving image, some of them layered, redubbed, subtitled, masked and some untouched apart from the edit – no interference of the frame.
We discussed the technical challenges that I face, controlling multiple screens, 100’s (if not 1000’s of clips and stills, and how perhaps Markov’s Theorem could help me create new narratives using my bank of samples.
The term “Markov chain” refers to the sequence of random variables such a process moves through, with the Markov property defining serial dependence only between adjacent periods (as in a “chain”). It can thus be used for describing systems that follow a chain of linked events, where what happens next depends only on the current state of the system.
So broadly, I can create a narrative framework where it is more likely that say, someone walks into a room after a door has been opened, but not have to plot what the link is between the opening of the door and what happens after the person walks into the room. That way I can impose a very loose story onto the sampled imagery, but still allow for random, unfurling narratives.
I started sampling again, now looking for moments that will become part of my lightbox. I taught myself After Effects so I can interrogate the moving image as I do the still:
I used tablets and screens, juxtaposed stills and images, to get a feel for my final piece being in 3 dimensions
The latest piece I’ve made looks at the rough placements and scale of the screens that will be within the lightbox. I projected this onto the wall of my studio and see the scale of this piece being quite large, perhaps 3/4 metres x 2/3. Big challenges lay ahead in terms of constructing it (absolutely out of my comfort zone working in 3D, let alone building a giant box to house all of the screens,) plus I have to get the actual Markov chain working with Processing
Writing this post has been a really positive (and long) exercise for me. I continually produce produce produce, but reflecting and summing up where I am theoretically, conceptually and technically means that I can plough back into my research with a renewed sense of purpose.
Thanks again to Dr Ed Kelley for unsticking me.