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This is a journal I keep to record all things I do within the realm of filmmaking.

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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Ketchup is as Thirsty Does, with Jared Caldwell

This is a short experimental exercise created by myself and three other individuals at GSU. The title is a play on another group's title, Thirsty is as Mustard Does. We just thought it was funny. This film is composed visually entirely in still frames. This was our journey across the "concrete campus", as Sue-Ellen lovingly dubbed the infrastructure that is Georgia State.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Symphony dell'Acqua, with Jared Caldwell

Symphony dell'Acqua was filmed by myself and three other members of this week's exercse group. We were given two miniDV tapes, one to record video, and one to record audio. Our group traded our audio tape with another group, and our goal was to take sound that was not recorded for our video and sweeten the tracks so that they meshed with the video. Our footage was supposed to be an object in motion.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Sincerely,, with Jared Caldwell

Sincerely, is a film created by myself and a team of three other students at Georgia State Unversity. We shot and edited this in 2 nights. I was the Director of Photography, concept collaborator, co-editor, and co-director. The goal was to tell a fictional narrative using images and audio with little to no dialogue.

Cinema, by Jared Caldwell

This is my short film Cinema. It is comprised entirely of still frames that I screencapped from some of my favorite dvds. I did not use any other sources save the dvds themselves. There were a couple of stills that look a little distorted (i.e. Silence of the Lambs was actually a full screen copy!), but with the exception of a couple of still replacements, this is pretty much the final form.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

timemachine: Remarks, by Jared Caldwell

In typical commercial films, the viewers place themselves in front of a screen or projector, and watch a film contained within the bounds of a single rectangle. This sort of “windowed” view into the world that these films take place is the oldest and most conventional way of watching films. When the viewer looks into the “window” of the film, the viewer has two choices: watch or do not watch. In this sense, the viewer watches a finished product that filmmakers have made, and the experience of looking into this “window” doesn't change much from screening to screening; the only dimensions that could change would be the size of the projection.

In Timemachine, multiple perspectives are set up to allow the viewer a different kind of experience contrary to commercial film. With multiple perspective movies, the spectator immediately becomes a participant. Not only do multiple perspectives give the partaker a choice of what to look at, a multiple perspective movie forces the participant to choose. Regardless of the outcome, the participant has invested at least a minimal amount into the picture by simply being in the presence of the film. The participatory aspects of multiple perspectives allows the partaker to directly affect the outcome of their film viewing experience. Though these types of films still have a form of authorship that cannot be denied, the participant can take part in that authorship; even though the collaboration between the viewer and the film may only remain between the two, there exists a dialog between the participant and the film, contrary to the passive relationship the typical narrative has to offer.

The notion of tinkering with the participatory and the perception aspects within cinema has been conceived before. Stan Brakhage's more personal films, such as Dog Star Man and Window Water baby Moving, both explore the idea of participation that not only include the spectator with the film, but the director as well to the film and to the participant. Vito Acconci's Centers seems at first to be a “passive” film; however, after a few minutes of watching the film, the viewer becomes a participant. As Acconci struggles to keep his finger pointed at the center of the camera, Centers imparts that conflict to the participant who in turn struggles with him through to the end of the film. Even technologies as hokey as the short lived “3-D” era sought to break away from the traditional “window viewing” of cinema.
The content of Timemachine takes place within a multi-passenger vehicle. The positioning of the screens and the passage of time within the film by means of “temporal cuts” (edits done entirely by speeding up or slowing down the footage) creates the illusion of riding in a car. Similar to how the eye picks up fragments of objects at a time to construct images in the mind, the typical driver stores “clips” of the car travel to create one shorter, continuous memory to pass the time. The effect of being present and aware of everything and nothing simultaneously when in a vehicle allows the traveler to bridge the length of time between “point a” and “point b” in a much more compressed fashion.

The ability of the participant to pick and choose what is seen and what is remembered is an attempt to recreate the natural flow of time and space within the mind. Though more usually means cumbersome, knowing that one cannot look at all four screens really frees the viewer from trying to capture every moment of the film and create in their minds their own edit of the film. This experience makes for a more natural one, and allows the viewer to watch the film multiple times, creating a different movie each time. With the use of multiple perspectives, the viewer is given the opportunity to be more engaged, more creative, and more communicative as this “participant” creates and communes with the film, leaving with a “co-authored” film playing in their mind.

An Approach to Centers, by Jared Caldwell

In Kate Linker's Vito Acconci, Linker chronicles Acconci's early video works in the 1970's as “the notion of penetration and elision of boundaries”. Works such as Applications, Security Zone, and Untitled Piece for Pier 17 all deal with boundaries, how those boundaries are broken, who breaks them, and who fulfills the roles of the aggressor and the person in power versus the vulnerable person relinquishing power. One such work dealing with boundaries was Acconci's video work Centers.

At first glance, Centers seems to be quite simple. The footage shows a man from the chest up, with his finger pointing directly into the camera. Though this seems to be a simple action, there is significance in this motion. When taping this work, Acconci sets up a feedback system where he can see himself being recorded on camera. He then points to the monitor he sees his image on, which in turn points back at him and continues to record. He proceeds to point for twenty minutes.

Linker provides an excerpt quoting Acconci, describing his experience of the film:
Pointing at my own image on the video monitor...I keep narrowing my focus...The result (the TV image) turns the activity around: a pointing away from myself at an outside viewer—I end up widening my focus onto passing viewers. (I'm looking straight out by looking straight in).

In connection with the notion of penetration, Acconci is penetrating and breaking the boundaries of the viewer. Acconci is justified in performing this act because not only is he penetrating the space of the viewer, he is breaking his own boundaries as well. To quote Matthew 7:5, “...first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.” Acconci's actions are not hypocritical, because he is sharing with the viewer in this experience.

After a few minutes into the film, Acconci's arm starts to tire. His arm begins to waver, and his finger begins to move, forcing him to struggle with fatigue in his arm throughout the remainder of the film. Even though Acconci is breaking boundaries, he cannot maintain this form of control. One could draw similarities between Centers and the iconic Uncle Sam poster, pointing the finger to single out the viewer, unable to maintain control forever. It could also be said that the forces of gravity are the only elements in play here, but by judging the content with the aesthetics of the film, the length of time that Acconci struggles against gravity shows that the struggle was an intentional one to satisfy the the performance in the film.

Vito Acconci and his body of work is made up largely of performance art. These performances and experiments were able to be captured visually due to the introduction of video technology during this period. Though much more tame than other works dealing with other issues such as sexuality during this period, Centers is one of his many famous video-performance works, dealing both inward and outward with issues of control, vulnerability, and boundaries.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Against Communication, by Jared Caldwell

In Susan Sontag's essay Against Interpretation, Sontag discusses art, art criticism, and how they relate to the individual experiencing a work of art. Sontag suggests that interpreting the content of a work of art does not strengthen the artwork; interpretation destroys art. Though Sontag uses strong evidence to support her claims, her overdramatic, albeit logical, argument does not come without some skepticism.

Sontag opens her argument by describing the idea of content within art. She uses diction similar to Stan Brakhage when describing how “[n]one of us can ever retrieve that innocence before all theory when art knew no need to justify itself”. The fact that interpretation of art has “run rampant”, Sontag dooms us “with the task of defending art”, “[f]rom now to the end of consciousness”. An example of content and interpretation is that of religious texts. Since the “scientific enlightenment”, what science has uncovered hasn't always necessarily meshed with the literal texts of certain religious scriptures. Sontag suggests that interpretation “is a radical strategy for conserving an old text, which is thought too precious to repudiate, by revamping it”. “To interpret is to impoverish, to deplete the world—in order to set up a shadow world of 'meanings'”. To interpret, or “to bring out meaning”, is to completely change the very nature of the work, according to Sontag.

Though Sontag suggests that the only forms of art that are “safe” from interpretation are those that either have no content or kitsch that leaves no room for interpretation, other forms of art with content should not be treated in the same way as that of kitsch. Works of literature, for example, are created with words. Written and spoken languages are all agreed upon symbols, sounds, and gestures to represent objects, or attach meaning to articles. The very nature of literature is to assign meaning to forms through the content in which it is presented. Not all forms of art exist for aesthetic or entertainment purposes.
Though the argument of deciding what is and isn't art is still debated, Sontag suggests that art should not be used as a medium to communicate ideas. Sontag even goes so far as to say that the works of Tennessee William's and Jean Cocteau are “defective, false, contrived, [and are] lacking in conviction” because of the intentional meanings they try to associate with their works. Works of art are created by humans. To suggest that works of art are monoliths, artifacts, or states of existence separate from the effects of humans; and to claim that these works are meant to be experienced solely through their aesthetic properties in a emotional response seems to be a fallacy in Sontag's argument. Art that is created by an individual has a sense of authorship that supplies the context and the content for the work. Even art that intentionally has “no authorship” is still a for of authorship that the work can not be separated from. To “dissolve considerations of content into those of form” is to deny at the very least the authorship of the work.

It seems to Sontag that “art” is divided into two camps: that of communicating ideas, and that of aesthetic purposes. Though Sontag provides evidence of how interpretation can ruin a work of art, she does not address the argument that maybe interpretations that alter the physical structure of a work may be considered misinterpretations. Further, she suggests that since interpretation can destroy art, criticism should only be confined to that of aesthetic responses. With this assertion, Sontag “waves her hands” at statements such as “transparency is the highest, most liberating value in art”, “we decidedly do not need...Art into Thought...Art into Culture”, and charges us on our task to “cut back content so that we can see the thing at all”. She lashes against artists who use their works to communicate ideas without rebutting why communicating ideas is important; and, she claims that transparency is the greatest state any work of art can achieve without providing evidence why it is the most liberating.

Sontag starts her argument with convincing and persuasive evidence; however, it seems that she uses her evidence to segway onto a platform to perform an overdramatic tirade, slamming the interpretation for meaning of art, and praising criticism solely on the aesthetic art without supplying evidence as to why the charges and assertions she imposes on the reader should be executed.

Thoughts on the Whitney's by Jared Caldwell

After the inception of visual music during the Dada era of the 1920's and 30's, other artists started to experiment with different ways in which sound could be translated into images. Two such artists were John Whitney and James Whitney. Dadaists such as Hans Richter and Viking Eggling composed works of visual music such as Symphony Diagonale through hand drawn or cutout animation. During the WWII and post-WWII era, the Whitney's created their own devices to compose their works. On the cusp of the computer age, the Whitney's used analogue and optical apparatuses to produce their films. What tools that didn't exist or weren't made readily available, the brother would create themselves. With the use of a pendulum to produce electronic tones, created by John, and an optical printer, the Whitney's were able to use light to “animate” their movies. These composed films are described by Brougher as “sound is image, and image is sound, with no fundamental difference”.

From the early 1950's onward, the Whitney brothers delved into studies and experiments on visual representations of music. During this time of a technological Renaissance, towards the end of and immediately following after WWII, mathematical patterns, eastern metaphysics, and atomic energy were a major influence on the Whitney's, and are prevalent throughout the Whitney's works.

In James Whitney's Lapis, light, color, movement, and sound are used to create the work. Considered by Rougher to be “[o]ne of the great visual-music works”, James uses a series of perforated index cards to filter a light source, onto which an optical printer (created by John) records the movements and patterns of the light to create Lapis. In the work, the images are reduced to their “most basic fundamental state—essentially [points] of light”. These particles of light, bearing semblance to representations of atomic particles, are placed into patterns and shift position, color, brightness and transparency compelled by sitar music. The symmetric shapes and highly saturated color schemes used in Lapis are influenced by mathematics and eastern culture. This blending of music, mathematics, energy, and metaphysics creates a web of “truths”, in “'an attempt to approximate mind forms'”. James thought that these particles and their behavior based on harmonic movements were a way of creating a head space in which to contemplate the cosmos.

The brothers are an example of what it truly means to be part of the avant-garde; the Whitney's were at the forefront of visual music from the 1950's onward. With the creation of original optical devices and electronic tone producers, the Whitney's were able to erect these apparatuses to create truly original works in ways that no other filmmakers working in visual music had before. Meshing together technology, art, eastern philosophies, mathematics, and light, the Whitney's facilitate an environment in their films to show energy and how it is interconnected with all of these elements within visual music.