Monday, 13 February 2012

United Enemies

Last week, I went to the Leeds City Art Gallery for the United Enemies Film Screenings, as part of the Henry Moore Institute's current exhibition. Sculpture is a medium that I have little experience working with, but it is also a medium which I have a stuck stereotype of in my head. Admittedly, classic figures dominate my idea of what sculpture is, and for this reason I've enjoyed and thoroughly appreciated having the Henry Moore Institute as an educational resource. United Enemies examines the problem of sculpture in the 1960's and 1970's, presenting work by a large amount of artists made in a period when the very idea of sculpture was radically contested.
After having missed te first of the series of three screenings ('Manual Thinking'), the second, 'Standing', was something very new to me. I walked into the lecture theatre at the gallery and was immediately confronted by three huge projectors - machines that I had never seen so close before. It was pretty exciting when they were turned on and made that well-known fantastic reeling sound, accompanied by the dusty, glinting imagery on the screen before the images make sense.
I was given a recommendation to attend the screening by the leader of my Curation module at Uni, during a discussion about the distinction between artist and curator. Will Rose, who is curating the screenings with Jon Wood, is someone I know little about, however, the interesting interactions between the films, as well as the order in which they were played made so much sense to me. It seems as though the curators had found that perect place as mediator between the private orders of the individual artist's films and the public order and contect of United Enemies. Perhaps what also helped me throughout the screenings was the overall concern with the body, and the operation of the body with film. My own very figurative conception of sculpture was thus gradually deconstructed through the use of the figure within the chosen films, and this also enabled me to consider the similarities between as well as the potential transition from sculpter to film-maker.
I have been thinking about film and film-making a lot during the past few weeks, as a result of many reasons. One of these reasons, however, has to be to do with my course at Uni, which currently involves the consideration of Mass Culture in Aesthetics. We have been following the debate for and against by studying the important work of Theodor Adorno and Walter Benjamin in parallel, and I've found the discussion incredibly time consuming in that there is so much to consider. Particulalry Benjamin's theories on the impact that modern technology has had on art (The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, 1936) have led to the consideration of the value of film: whether mass culture is a democratisation of art which retains a revolutionary potential, or whether the film gives too much a chance for that bourgeois sado-masicism (Letters to Walter Benjamin from Adorno, 1936). I watched Man With A Movie Camera (1929) by Vertov as an example of a film in which Benjamin's ideas are manifest: the canera makes ordinary things and people extraordinary, and by engaging with the present, everyday people could access with his film.

In addition to these ideas, I really enjoyed the experimentation employed within the film. Camera angles and movement are simple but investigational. I noted down particulalry effective shots, as I do for the majority of whatever I happen to watch.
I'm hoping to start work on my own film project very soon, which is certainly fuelling my interest in screenings at the moment. I'd like to keep it relevent to my interests (namely skiing), so by keeping note of visuals that I love from other things I watch, I hope ot make something that I'll love watching myself.

In addition to the number of short films screened at 'Standing', there was also a multi-projector 16mm film performance called Horror Film 1by Malcolm Le Grice.

The three large projectors at theback of the room worked together as RGB to create two ever-changing, colourful planes on the screen. This in itslef was very beautiful to me, and also rather cathartic when partnered with the ocean/breathing sounds. The performance really begain when the half-naked artist stepped infront of the screen to create a shadow, which changed depending on the distance the man was from the projectors. The interaction between these different coloured shadows was fascinating in that neither had more importance than the next - regardless of what you might expect. The combination of colourplay was thought-provoking, and reminded me of some gel lighting experiments that my friends and I did in the studio a few weeks ago.

The performance had a sculptural aspect to it that I may not have considered without the context of a Henry Moore Institute exhibition. But I loved its positioning at the end of the evening, and it really helped me consider the purpose of the screening. The three dimension/two dimension blurred distinction in film made it an entirely appropriate medium for United Enemies, and also allowed for much more consideration after the event. I've been experimeting with animation ideas for my current project, and in doing so I've been reminded of some of the issues that 'Standing' presented. The first film, Vertical by David Hall, manipulates dimension and distance by playing with the lines, angles and patterns that make up the structure of the three dimensional world that we experience daily as well as on the screen.

By highlighting form via his simple constructions (using upright and flat poles), he deconstructs what we understand to be reality by manipulating our expectations. Like an optical illusion, I thought it was clever, but more than that, I liked Vertical because it was simply very good at identifying and observing how we consider the structure of what we see.
I've had to think about the same kinds of problem in deciding how to make my own animation. In order to adapt the frames that I took from my short video, I have deconstructed each image according to a set of rules I made in my head. These rules adhere to the idea of layers within the image, which ultimately relate to the distances and perspective I have chosen from the pictures.

After initially wanting to sketch each frame (removing everything from the picture but the skiier and the rail), I tested cutting up the image into sections using my scissors and glue, and also using photoshop. I really like the angular yet scrapbook effect of simply dissecting the image on the computer, and deconstructing the image by highlighting the distances in the three dimensional aspect of the photograph relates to David Hall's work.

I'm feeling great about how everything I'm interested in and learning about can connect and contribute toone another.