Picture taken by me on the edge of the Teton National Forest, in Wyoming.
I took this picture yesterday during a night walk in Southwark. London is a giant video game.
Discovering new corners of London. Photo taken by my friend Roberto Alvau.
Reality is wrong. Dreams are for real. (T.S.)
Final project of the Alternative Film and Video module, Brunel University, 2014.
WORDS COUNT: 4,353 WORDS
Inspired by the idea of drifting through the city without a clear destination I took my camera and went out for some dérives! I shot three very different parts of London: residential Battersea, in the middle of nowhere Hillingdon and commercial Oxford Street. Since I really like music, surprises and experiments, I decided to combine all those in the soundtrack of this psychogeographical video. After three afternoons of shooting I have selected the shots that I felt most for, put them in random order and screened this chunk of places that could be anywhere to a group of free improvisers. I’ve recorded this experiment-like jam and synched the music to the video. Then I cut the video back to individual shots, but this time instead of street ambience I’ve had an instant musical response. Now when I am in any of those places, the tunes and motives reappear in my head, and they really fit there. I wonder why. (Kris Dirse, 24/03/2014)
Psychogeography: a subject that is an immense journey through the meanders of the city and of the soul itself. To address this issue I chose to refer to one of the souls that fascinate me more: the one of my friend Kris Dirse. I take into account the short film Three Walks (2014), made by him for the Psychogeography module here at Brunel University. A short film that is the expression of a journey, as mentioned above, in three different corners of London. Will Self in his book Psychogeography writes of this subject as being a very subjective concept and well away from a proper definition, acceptable to all. Merlin Coverley in his book of the same name as Self ‘s, accepts to summarize in broad terms the Psychogeography as “the point at which psychology and geography collide, a means of exploring the behavioural impact of urban place” (Coverley: Introduction). By analyzing what I see in the video made by Kris Dirse, this subject is an exercise of observation. Imagine for a moment to be able to put aside the commitments, to put aside the concerned images into our minds and to swap them with images of the reality that surrounds us. And just observe. The charm of the sky, the cutting of two symmetrical buildings, the colours of a poster on the street, the look of the people. What surrounds us? And how much influence does that surrounding have on us? Looking at the video I tried to put myself as much as possible in the eyes of the observer. I’ve been for a couple of minutes to hear and observe the contained noise of Battersea, the isolated silence of Hillingdon and the urban chaos of Oxford Street. I have found corners that I had never seen and recognised others that I have been staring at for hours before. What strikes me most is how, if you look closely, people become master of the stage one at a time, so that every time one’s look is framed or a gesture mentioned, I would like to continue to follow that man or woman to figure out what they will do next, what their lives are made of. I have always considered the people part of the geography of a place. They are influenced by the place but also affect the appearance and perception of the place itself. How would Oxford Street be if instead of being crowded with enterprising workers, young people and tourists, it was instead the designated destination for drug dealers and criminals? How would it be like if all of a sudden the Battersea Volkswagens were replaced by expensive limousines? I cannot conceive geography without a human factor. So here are some big new questions. The answer lies in a very early morning wake-up, a long walk and a path of empty streets in which to immerse myself in the urban environment.
Dirse, K. (2014) Three Walks, Brunel University: London
Self, W. (2013) Psychogeography, Bloomsbury Publishing: UK
Coverley, M. (2012) Psychogeography, Oldcastle Books: UK
Next task: making a short alternative video. Put into practice what you have learned and researched in the last few months. It ‘s a challenge, and the topic I am going to face this challenge with is: dreams
The dream-like activity has always been a topic of great importance in various fields, from the scientific one to the artistic and philosophical ones. This involuntary activity of our subconscious in fact, has inspired a number of scientific minds who have tried to give a rational explanation to it, and philosophical and artistic minds, that instead tried to learn their secrets to get inspiration for their works. Many of them have given rise to real pieces of art about this topic. One of these, the oneiric distortion (from the Italian word: “distonirismo”), influenced the idea that led my group and I to the creation of the short film of the Alternative Film and Video Practices module.
The “distonirismo” is a movement created by the Italian musician Federico De Caroli, known with the pseudonym of Deca. At the end of the 80s, Deca invited various avant-garde artists to take part in publishing several articles in the journal Introipse. This initiative received a decent success and led its members to write a manifesto that outlined the principles on which this initiative was based on. While discussing these principles it became clear that the central point was this: what is dreamed has an interdependent relationship on equal terms with what is seen or heard during wakefulness, and the latter, in turn, depends on what is seen or heard in the dream.
So they came to the conclusion that there is not an actual reality, but that the reality itself is a unique phenomenon of visions, which is accessed through different modes of perception.
The assumption of these discussions was much more evident in the examination of the creative works of these artists, where the interactive mingling of different perceptions gave a very complete picture of the relationship of distortion of the various “signals”.
This discourse can in a way reconnect to the video we are trying to make; especially the second part of it can reconnect to the depiction of the dream of the protagonist. In fact, through the technique of the split screen (that will be adopted during the post-production of the film) it is possible to show at the same time the activities performed by the characters. This requires the use of four different windows (see Once Upon a Time Code”, posted on the 25th of February 2014), two reserved for the representation of reality and the real world and two dedicated to the representation of the dream of the protagonist. The purpose of this short film is to show how the external activity of an individual is able to influence the “internal” one; i.e. the dream activity is influenced by reality through perception, even if the subject represented is not consciously aware of what is happening, as he is asleep.
In the windows dedicated to the representation of reality, despite the protagonist is asleep, he can perceive the dangerous situation that is taking shape around him, in the case of our short film, a thief who broke into his home, and who’s now staring at him. The protagonist can hear the sound of the thief’s breath and steps, and can feel his presence; this disturbs the sleep of the protagonist and is reflected in the dream, which presents the state of stress and anxiety experienced in the reality. The protagonist is then semi-conscious to be in danger, but his reaction and bound is within the dream itself. The found footage that we plan to use serves to reinforce the idea of danger and fear from which the protagonist tries in vain to escape. The reason why it is in vain is because in the reality the danger is still present and real. The accelerated heartbeat and breath that the protagonist has in the dream is reflected in the reality with jerky movements in his bed. The desperate race of the protagonist within the dream does not stretch, however, the distance between him and the danger inside his room, in fact, the attacker, armed with a gun, shoots the protagonist in the final part of the short film, killing him and ending the dream as well as its life.
This post will be about the alternative cinema of Mike Figgins, in particular the film Timecode (2000) . The title I have given to this is based on the namesake article written on August 11, 2000 by Richard Williams in The Guardian, and based on an interview with the director made a few days before the release of the film. I quote here a small part of the interview , which I was inspired from to develop this post.
“The marriage between editing and plot has got to such an extent now that the audience is hooked on this constant adrenalin delivery.”
As a result, he continued, viewers are reduced to a state of passivity. “I find that really distressing. In America they eat and go for a piss and talk the whole time, and it’s got something to do with the fact that there’s no interaction between them and the screen any more. I’ve been struggling the last couple of years to find different narrative forms. This film is delivering constantly the idea that you might be missing something, so you can’t afford to go and take a piss or take your eyes off the screen. People who watch it seem far more alert, whether they like it or not, because of the degree of attention required to watch the film.” (Williams, 11/08/2000)
Personally I was very impressed by the intentions behind this film. The attempt to bring something different both conceptually and visually succeeds very well. The actors that improvise, time that is real, the contextualization of actions through the division of the screen into four windows are very innovative things. In a first moment, what prompted me to watch the film was recognizing Salma Hayek in one of the quadrants. I thought, “That’s Salma Hayek! But isn’t she a Hollywood actress? I thought that this style of filmmaking had nothing to do with Hollywood!” So I went looking for some biographical data on Mike Figgins. “Beata ignoranza!”, people would say in my beautiful country: MIKE FIGGINS IS A HOLLYWOOD DIRECTOR!
And not just a random one, he is the director of Internal Affairs and Leaving Las Vegas. Well, we are here to learn. Anyway, I was surprised that such an experimental movie was born in the Hollywoods’ home, but then, if you think about it, what Figgins did was nothing more than trying to overcome the limits of an aerea that he is very familiar with. And that’s where I think he has hit the point. That’s why Timecode, in opposition to all the other experimental films I’ve watched so far, is something I can accept both consciously and not. You can not create something innovative, alternative, if you do not know in depth what you are against to. You are more likely to just say a bunch of random things. The name says it all: “alternative” is to give an alternative to something you do not want to adjust to. But it must be an efficient alternative for it to work. And deep down you know that the only way to stay one step ahead of your opponent is to learn to know him very well. Unless you want to create something completely new, but that’s another story.
Williams, R. (11/08/2000) Once upon a Time Code, The Guardian: UK [ONLINE] available at http://www.theguardian.com/film/2000/aug/11/culture.features [ACCESSED ON 25/02/2014]