The Korsakow Workshop in Words

Honours students, PhD students, staff. School of Media and Communication, Victorian College of the Arts. Matt Soar, discussing, explaining, teaching Korsakow. The first hour was Matt with slides going through the history, and we’ll call it the hypertextual poetics, of Korsakow. Of how it is conceived as a particular sort of generative nonfiction documentary system. He had a great anecdote about a student observing that the Korsakow films seemed “languid, more than propulsive”, which I think is certainly the case. I think for Matt this let him see that not only are they languid, but that it’s OK to be languid. Personally I think all the good Korsakow films I’ve seen to date are closer to affect images, using Deleuze’s tripartite schema, than action or perception images. They enlarge the intervals between noticing and doing, which is their strength.

The slides Matt used, and the general outline of how Korsakow works, was fantastic, and gave me a lot of material that I can use in the undergrad subject I teach that revolves around Korsakow. I realised that too much of what I do with students assumes that various ideas, concepts and possibilities are explicit, when really they are only implicit – and then if you have the literacies or methodologies to be able to unpack them. (I suppose I should say that I don’t think that I do this, as I provide a lot of context around all the ideas I teach, but the context is often already quite theoretically informed with a mix of quotidian example, you know, to make it ‘stick’, but listening to Mat I realised just how much I should be slowing down things.)

Finally, the other big takeaway for me was the emphasis on making stuff. I remember Phil Hoffman from the DNA symposium, looking and sounding every bit the maverick 16mm film artist he is. Matt has been to his film camp twice now, where you’re handed a Bolex and some 16mm film, you expose it however you’re going to, don gloves in the basement of the barn to process the footage in buckets, hang it on the clothesline to dry, then cut it together using scissors, tape, Steenbeck, for viewing. What I like here is not just the emphasis on the making, but more significantly the importance of the materiality of the making. In digital media this is the single biggest misunderstanding that those new, or who just don’t grok digital media, make, which is thinking making here lacks the same sorts of materiality as any other sort of making. It doesn’t. It shouldn’t. The pleasures of making in the digital are the same sorts of pleasures that people experience working with bits of timber, celluloid or even words. A mix of technical skill, problem solving, and creative action.

There were plenty of good questions, and then people were ready to get onto computers and actually try out the software. It helped that we had a few experienced hands in the room, and as is usually the case with Korsakow, it didn’t take long for everyone to have put together and exported something. (Indeed, the trickiest aspect of Korsakow for most new to video or not very au fait for video online is getting their heads around the spaghetti that is compression, resolution, codecs, file formats and so on.) I had provided a small library of clips that I knew where already in the right format (they were all shot using vine which as it is an iOS app intended to publish directly from phone to network is already H.264 and bandwidth friendly), with jpegs as thumbnails. Some kept playing with this source material, others moved towards their own media, and after the usual badgering questions from me of the workshop I’m hoping that everyone left knowing if Korsakow was what they could use for what they had in mind, that if it wasn’t they were beguiled enough to consider making something in it anyway, and that I can bring most of them back another time to get an informal Korsakow or online interactive doco happening – more on that soon.

And I didn’t know you could click different parts of the Keyword window to auto populate in and out Keywords in the SNU editor!

A summary:

  • languid
  • make, and make, then make some more
  • structure emerges in the making, not before
  • (think of the film as, like an essay film, a thinking with about something rather, it is ill suited to didactic documentary)
  • good housekeeping – right files, in the right place, and kept there