The following day began with a presentation by Matt Rogalsky, ‘Recording, installing and performing sound in space’, and was followed bu a practice session. Matt opened with an 11-minute video piece which was beautiful: slow change over time, stasis with movement within it. A real-time video which resembled a still-image, except for the chance movement of leaves and the sound of ice melting. Drawing inspiration form the experimental musicians Alvin Lucier and John Cage, Matt outlined his interest in process-pieces and embraced chance and the accidental. Learning by doing, he showed us some of his work which were rehearsals of previous experimental pieces (repetition and difference?). It was more than simply showing on a screen though; Matt wanted us to experiment ourselves. Asking us to blow up a balloon (I’m normally terrible at this) and then hold it carefully, we would walk around the room we were in as stereo speakers would play a sine wave. Where the waves meet there are patterns of interference and lines of silence. I was so caught up in exploring the vibrations and waves that I failed to take what must have been a very funny photo of a room-full of people moving around with balloons in their hands (and plugs in their ears). The following session involved Matt firing a gun to produce impulse responses of the the different spaces we were in (the earplugs came in useful again). An impulse response is a short recording of the echo of a particular impulse (in this case the gun being fired) and can be used in conjunction with audio software to recreate particular sound-spaces. For example, film crews may take impulse responses of the different locations in case they need to add lines later and make them sound as if they were spoken in the same place.
After lunch Victoria Claire Bernie presented her work (‘Fieldworking films and fictions’) and discussed her on-going set of questions which drives her art. The various sub-headings of her talk were strikingly geographical: ‘On landscape and representation’, ‘On mapping and truth’, ‘On mapping and fiction’ and ‘On seeing differently’. Victoria mainly talked about her most recent project ‘Slow Water’:
a project to map the present condition of water in Scotland through the device of a site-specific visual arts residency at SAMS, the Scottish Association for Marine Science’s research laboratory at Dunstaffnage, near Oban on the west coast of Scotland. Designed to operate between the disciplines of visual art and research science, the residency is an address to the representation of knowledge of place in art and in science. It is an attempt to learn from the intellectual, material, physical and conceptual logics of the other; to deploy the resources of digital video sound and image installation, photography, drawing, interview, ‘found’ sound and image collection, collation and representation in the realisation of an inhabitable map.
Whilst in Scotland, she was involved in both lab-working and field-working with marine scientists and her work was both graphic and photographic. The accompanying ‘practical’ session was a challenge for the participants to take seriously Victoria’s technique of storyboarding, which she employed when creating videos. The storyboard for Victoria was a preparation for what she might see, a preparation for the field, a preparation of planned creativity or ‘designed opportunism’ as she put it. With a logic of recording as construction, she urged us to think the storyboard as an object for focusing and/or generating dialogue. We watched the opening 16 or so shots of Krystof Kieslowski’s (1993) Three Colours Blue, instead of reading a text on how to do this. We were then asked to walk the city for an hour or so, and let Edinburgh tell us a story or find one ourselves. We were allowed to take no more than 20 photos, which could be annotated, and each would give an idea of a particular shot (still photography as a way of thinking/creating moving images). Since then, I’ve been keen to experiment with storyboarding and thinking about shooting moving tableaux, rather than photos…
In the evening, a short film programme, ‘Fieldwork’, was arranged and curated by Matt Lloyd. The films all engaged with space and place in some way, and were fascinating (see the list below). In particular, John Smith’s film Blight was incredible and Takshi Ito’s Spacy was something else! Blight
revolves around the building of the M11 Link Road in East London, which provoked a long and bitter campaign by local residents to protect their homes from demolition. The images in the film record some of the changes which occurred in the area over a two-year period, from the demolition of houses through to the start of motorway building work. The soundtrack incorporates natural sounds associated with these events together with speech fragments taken from recorded conversations with local people1
and Spacy is:
an odd experiment: … simply 700 photographs of the inside of an empty school gymnasium, shot in various different orders, frame-by-frame2.
Pollphail | Matt Lloyd | UK| 2009 | 10min
Cobra Mist | Emily Richardson | UK | 2008 | 7min
Seven Primary School Spaces | Ben Ewart-Dean/Michael Gallagher | UK | 2008 | 12min
Replay | Matt Hulse | UK | 2005 | 9min
Blight | John Smith | UK | 1994-96 | 14min
Spacy | Takashi Ito | Japan | 1981 | 10min