Technology and Equipment

Editing found footage and creating my own footage required several different approaches to technology. I did not need to consider lighting and backdrops when working with found footage but post-production effects were essential for all pieces.

A convoluted process involving two separate video editing suites emerged throughout the composition of Portals. Lightworks had a strong set of digital effects which were used to crop images, create and animate the portals. The automated key frame tool reduced animation time significantly by allowing me to record the movement of the portals in real-time: an experience similar to automation of audio panning. I also used ScreenFlow as a compositor as my experience with the software from composing Questioner, 1863 enabled quick and easy experimentations with phrase structures. My approach to the composition of Syncretism required many individual edits to be made on a frame-by-frame basis so I worked exclusively within ScreenFlow. Swapping files between the two suites often interrupted my workflow so following the composition of Syncretism I switched to use the more powerful Sony Vegas Pro exclusively. I found that Sony Vegas Pro operated in a surprisingly similar way to audio editing software which further boosted my productivity: the majority of Étude and the entirety of Apprentice was composed and arranged using Sony Vegas Pro.

Although I had access to the University’s audiovisual equipment practical financial considerations led me to use only my own equipment. Although using basic equipment imposed limitations on the pieces, such as image quality and fixed lens types, I felt compelled to work within the financial and technological means which would persist beyond my time at the University. If I were to tackle further study I would actively engage with more sophisticated technology to achieve specific artistic intentions such as higher frame rates, slow motion and superior image quality.

The Close-Up Shot

Viola’s work was the first video art I purposefully encountered. Viola’s use of close-up shots, high definition imagery and slow motion footage which appeared to lengthen subtle facial and bodily movements, revealing and enlarging them (Benjamin, 2005), provided immediate stimulation. Visiting an exhibition of Viola’s work at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park was a highly rewarding experience as I was able to examine The Return, Three Women and The Trial. For his Transfigurations Series Viola required different types of technology to create the effect of a human figure passing through an invisible barrier as a metaphor for transformation (Viola, 2015). Although the technology employed in Viola’s work was beyond my skill set, the exhibition spurred me to investigate Viola’s work further and find pieces in which slow motion was used without transformative technology. The Quintet of the Astonished and Observance are examples of how Viola created his work to have emotional and spiritual significance (Kidel, 2003; Morgan, 2004; Lilley, 2015). However, my interest was captured by the ways which close-up shots and slow motion can bring the viewer closer to the work through the perception of the amplified physical movements (Benjamin, 2005; Koupil & Vícha, 2011).

The close-up shot is also very well established within mainstream cinema, often used to focus the attention of the viewer and attempt to enhance parts of the narrative (Millerson & Owens, 2008; Dancyger, 2011). The use of the close-up in dancefilm may not be bound to any sort of narrative when it is used to bring ‘attention to the performing body and its micro-movements - the smaller detailed movements of the body and its parts’ (Brannigan, 2011, p. 43), but it does function in focussing the attention of the viewer. RobertsHands, De BemelsScrub Solo Series, Rainer’s Hand Movie and Hill and Sheen’s Hand Film make effective use of the close-up shot to frame the action in dancefilm.

The Body and Negative Space

The methodical arrangement of finger combinations and audio narrative presented in Nauman’s For Children/For Beginners was influential on Apprentice as I employed a method of logical organisation to rhythm and structure. Nauman also alluded to instrumental techniques and rehearsal which become apparent through the difficulty of some of the finger combinations featured in For Children/For Beginners (Spears, 2010).

Several of Hill’s video pieces feature a dark negative space and a recurring theme of the orchestration of the body with a verbal audio track.

Dark negative spaces feature regularly in the video, film and theatre works I have visited, as they do in my own work. I suspended the images of my hands within a void of ‘visual silence’ (Hyde, 2012, p. 175), just as Viola’s figures emerge through darkness from another world (Morgan, 2004) and the spotlight almost eliminates the physical body in Beckett’s play Not I (Pettifer, n.d). Following the development of Vantablack and reading of Kapoor gaining the exclusive right to use the pigment in his work (Delany, 2016) further reinforced the use of dark negative spaces in my own practice. Merleau-Ponty (1962) shows how a dark negative space can amplify the subject:
‘Bodily space can be distinguished from external space and envelop its parts instead of spreading them out, because it is the darkness needed in the theatre to show up the performance, the background of somnolence or reserve of vague power against which the gesture and its aim stand out, the zone of not being in front of which precise beings, figures and points can come to light’ (Merleau-Ponty, 1962, p. 115).

Musical and Conceptual Elements

The origins of video recording have close links to audio recording and tie with early electronic experimental music from Schaeffer, most readily associated with musique concrète, and Cage’s Williams Mix (Meigh-Andrews, 2014). Through composing the portfolio I experienced some of the links between sonic and visual editing myself through the use of video editing software, which I found to have remarkable similarities to audio editing software. Considering that light and sound waves possess similar characteristics it seems logical to work with them in similar ways, something which Fischinger is reported to have commented upon: ‘Light is the same as Sound, and Sound is the same as Light. Sound and Light are merely waves of different length. Sound and Light waves tell us something about the inner and outer structure of things’ (Moritz, 2004, as cited in Connor, 2011, p. 8).

Each piece in the portfolio was created using an economy of material. Short clips were stretched and manipulated to create larger structures through interventional editing processes and a high degree of repetition. I continued to draw and expand these techniques throughout the portfolio with a significant influence coming from the video work of Arnold and De Bemels. Using an economy of material was initially a practical issue related to performer memory in Portals. Providing the performer with various combinations formed from a discrete set of images would be less taxing on the performer’s ability for retention and protention, facilitating a performance of the score in real-time (Snyder, 2001). My economical use of material became more of an aesthetic choice rather than a practical necessity for Syncretism and Etude in which I focussed on presenting the mechanical effects of video editing on the images, which can be aligned with Reich’s tape loop pieces, such as It’s Gonna Rain and Come Out.

A return to using an economy of material through practical concerns arose for Apprentice. Limiting the number of images used throughout the piece was an attempt to focus viewer attention towards non-cochlear sound through cross-modal perception, rather than an identification of visual imagery.

I would like to think of my work as experimental music before considering it as conceptual music or a type of dancefilm or video art. As an undergraduate I enjoyed being consumed by various investigations into experimental and new music at a point in my life where my desire to make music had begun to wain. Studying experimental music showed me that ‘music is something your mind does’ (Nyman, 1999) and perhaps my recent video work can help me to explore further possibilities for musical composition in the future.
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