The slides (now still images, the actual slides had video on every slide) and the text commentary I used for my presentation at Placing Nonfiction are now available on academia.edu, “About 7am, An Ontographic Video”.Tags: practice, research, softvideo
Today was the Placing Nonfiction Symposium at RMIT. Ross Gibson and Jeff Sparrow as keynotes, and then a think raft – or perhaps slew (stew even?) – of RMIT researchers presenting work and ideas in progress. Four honours students and two from last year presented, and they were outstanding. In case you’re wondering, I’m not making that up, I had people coming up to me to let me know how impressive they were, and that had outstanding students and were clearly doing something well. We are.
But enough trumpet blowing tump thumping chest beating. The notes I wanted to make were from Ross’ talk because (as often happens with his particular brand of intellectual perambulation, it provided fertile fields) it provided some new ways for me to think about some recent work and ideas.
So, these are the quick notes I took.
There is an oscillation between actual experience, the world, and the urge to account for these experiences (and the world). This oscillation is the site of fiction and nonfiction, of narrative. He used Lukács’ essay “Narrate or Describe” to outline the bipartite distinction between these two impulses. The one to go deep, to tell, the other to describe, to pass over all that is there, as Lukács says, Tolstoy and Zola. Gibson talked about this in some depth, but what I concentrated on was his comments about our acceptance of depth but our suspicion of the surface. He used a series of word riffs as epistemological prompts to talk about the task of the sheen of the surface, of sheening and shining this surface, to make it shimmer from our encounter with it. So we need methodologies of not only going deep, but of going across, sideways, transactional and transitioning with surfaces. These surfaces, our surfaces, should be buffed and shined until they shimmer and in their shimmering we find things to know, that this shimmering is the shimmering of the things to know.
For me this is describing a surface aesthetics, or more specifically a methodology of surfaces, which is certainly a very interesting way to think about the About 7am project I’m currently doing (touched upon here, there, here again, and there) which is very much about surface. This also led me to quickly wonder in the margins if the shimmer and bobble that was being described, the glimmering between different regimes, was similar to things I toyed with years ago about text and image as different semiotic economies that then set up a frisson come wavering, well, let’s say, a shimmering, between themselves as they are bought near.
So, there was described a certain refusal to settle, a shimmering because of surface and surfaces are things that shimmer. From here he moved to Kluge and the issue of October on Kluge. There’s an essay in there that I don’t know about the silent cinema and Kluge argues that just before sound that the silent cinema was the most replete, or full, cinema. A scene, in silence, would be proposed, it would all be a contention that you, as audience, thought with and responded to. This scene was proposing ideas, and your responded with what you thought might happen, what might be. There would be an inter title, which sort of then told you what the film thought it would be, what it thinks and proposes. Yet you’d already done this, and so a sort of squabble happens between you and the film, where it contends with you, continuously. Again, for Gibson this is a movement between modes, now separated by the visual and spatial of the film image, then the different register and mode of the inter title. A flipping of modes, yet both still close enough to propose and respond, a different sort of shimmering, but a shimmering between all the same.
And from here we traversed to Benjamin Libet’s Mind Time and what neuroscience currently thinks about time and consciousness. Here we get a model that scans what is current which is immediate, and briefly held and is now, scanning this there is a cognitive casting forward which is prospective. Again, Gibson turned this into the describe and narrate refrain, where description is the casting and scanning that we do immediately, while the narrative is this brief into the very near future (mere fractions of seconds) projection of speculative wondering what might, is, could.
That’ll do. I want to write and think about surface and shimmer, or at least riff with them as well, in some other things. Was good.Tags: practice
Just needed to share that in Keynote I added a Vine clip as a background, scaled up to 800 x 800, plays automatically and loops. Text on top with dissolves in and out. Then over 30 seconds I zoom in 10x closer onto the video, then over 30 seconds back out again. Plays fine. Then I stuck it on my iPad and it still works.
F$*k me. When I started working in video 120 x 120 was the viable window size for online work. Maybe 12 fps. To have a little sliver of a screen in my hand that could do this. If you’d told me that back then. I really would not have believed you. Seriously.Tags: Lifes Little Pieces, practice, softvideo, video, Vogging Theory
Straight off the email. Be good. Can’t go, other deadlines but would’ve liked to have had the opportunity.
Interested people are invited to a workshop on Digital Publishing and Open Access Publishing. The workshop features some of the leading people involved in contemporary scholarly communication during the past decade. These include Fibreculture founder, Geert Lovink, who will be in Australia.
The workshop will take place from 10am-4pm, on Wednesday, December 18, 2013, in room 327 of the Robert Webster Building, University of New South Wales, 2052. The Robert Webster building is in the middle of the campus, near the top of the boulevard that runs up from Anzac Parade.
Speakers will discuss both practical issues and ideas. There will plenty of time for questions and discussion. Indeed the final session of the day will invite speculations about future possibilities for academic/para-academic/non-academic scholarly communication.
The workshop is organised by Sigi Jöttkandt and Andrew Murphie from the School of the Arts and Media at UNSW.
Attendance is free (although we’re afraid there will be no catering). It’s entirely likely we might move to a local establishment for drinks afterwards.
If you wish to attend can you please make sure you let Andrew Murphie know by December 10, at email@example.com.Tags: network practices, practice
Fiction creates a bounded universe within which narrative is sovereign. It is all inside. Nonfiction finds itself within an unbounded universe where the world is sovereign. It is all outside. This makes documentary, as form and in its modes of address, necessarily and inevitably insecure.Tags: documentary, practice
Hot off the new documentary list.
Jeni Thornley on September 24 wrote: “Sure the digital turn beckons in the era of the active co-creator-maker of the text, as Gaudenzi’s four interactive modes indicates, but a sentence like this seems quite a sweeping statement: “….to move documentary studies from its obsession with representation to a wider focus on documentary systems. From questions of what does documentary mean to questions of what does documentary do?” (Aston, Dovey & Gaudenzi 2013: 124) I don’t think that documentary studies is ‘obsessed’ with representation; and also plenty of documentarists and scholars have investigated deeply ‘what documentary does’. I am thinking of Thomas Elsaesser’s application of being ‘stung into action’ by one’s own intense and empathic engagement and response to a film – in his terrific essay: ‘Subject positions, speaking positions: from Holocaust, Our Hitler, and Heimat, to Shoah and Schindler’s List’, in The Persistence of History, Routledge, 1996.”
Again I think Jeni’s picked a really important part of this essay. The shift from representation to ‘doing’ is picked up in lots of recent theoretical work, part of the stuff being critiqued via ‘new materialism’ and the ‘media archeology’ sort of stuff. This work argues that media (and we’ll stick doco studies in there for now) has been fascinated with representation, with what things mean, what people do with them, and what institutions do with or around them (the audiences, texts, institutions which defines media, communication and much cinema studies). The criticism of the recent work is that this research looks straight ‘past’ what the media is, to what we think it does in relation to whatever social system we want to investigate it through, but in that moment we don’t see or can’t see what the thing is in itself. I think Jeni’s point from Elsaesser is a good one, though still within the regime of ‘documentary doing’ that is representational or at least as a call outside of itself towards something else. (This could well be an elegant definition of documentary in relation to fiction.)
On the other hand I don’t think Aston and Gaudenzi quite get to where they could. Documentary systems is where the research needs to go. Partly to pick up and intersect with all the work being done in software studies, platform studies, new media and so on. I’m currently writing about how Korsakow, We Feel Fine, and Cowbird could all be thought of as documentaries, but as systems they are qualitatively different and this is a difference that makes a difference. (Bettina F. also used Cowbird as an example at Visible Evidence last year in Canberra.) The shift we are now defining is post digital to the extent that it is computational (procedural and processual) and networked. Yes it relies on the digital but the first wave digital was really only about access and ease. Just because I shot and edited digital I could still make the same sorts of things in much the same sorts of ways. But once we think of them as systems, then representation falls to some extent by the wayside, certainly to begin with because system dynamics (different systems produce different representational epistemes and experiences), and it is the relations afforded by the systems (between content and its parts, people, other systems, as well as procedural and computational processes) that matter.
Why don’t I think it quite gets there? Because the focus on what ‘documentary does’ risks becoming another way to representation, of what it means. Which is fine. But there is a lot to be learnt and understood by first thinking and answering what documentary systems there are, where system is closer to systems theory (let’s not forget Burnham’s system aesthetics either) and Actor Network Theory than socio-political conceptions of system. Different systems, different documentary possibilities, at all points/moments/facets of these systems.Tags: documentary, material-media, Network Literacy, practice, softvideo