In this text I will briefly detail the research and production trajectories of three video works made over the last year. Two of these are complete and one is in archiving and research stages. The aim being the identification of similarities in approach and the success of particular strategies. Identifying research as an open process, with goals nascent in its unfurling, and articulating the value of its internal processes, rather than research being a justification process for a predesignated project outcome. This is a quick critical look at methods as they have emerged with a view to assessing how appropriate they are and accelerating by simplification future research processes.
I try to look at the consistencies in approach to the creation of an archive and the production of research tactics which can pull in material from diverse and fragmentary sources.
The Earth is not at rest, 2013
This is an HD video without audio, 13 minutes 13 seconds long, produced in collaboration with another video artist; Frances Scott. It consists of 5 chapters, released one chapter per week over the period of its original exhibition. Each opens with a title leader featuring the names of paired planetary bodies and each ends with astrological transits for the following week, specifying the dates on which events within the show were scheduled to occur.
The Woodmill curators, who invited our participation proposed a Sandman comic, (Neil Gaiman, The Sandman, A midsummer Nights Dream, 1991) as the genesis point for a group discussion: In the comic the Sandman commissions Shakespeare to write and perform a Midsummer Nights Dream to the characters it features. Titania, Oberon and their courts are brought through from an alternative universe to watch and provide commentary on their depictions and the fictionalisation of their lives.
Throughout, subtitles follow a narrative aggregated from disparate sources; primarily 'Rosencrantz and Gildenstern are dead' (Tom Stoppard, 1966), 'A Midsummer Nights Dream' (William Shakespeare 1590-1596), interviews with an astrologer (who also provided transit bookends to each segment), and information from various websites and books on astronomy and astrology.
Frances and I wrote, shot, and edited together, at the same time, and on the same machines or through shared script files. We read through the texts and extracted lines which suggested a general relation to astrology, games, chance and predetermination, the governing of subjects by planetary bodies, incursions of the fantastic or magical into the mundane and sometimes just lines we liked the flavour of. We then started to structure them into a fictional dialogue between the astrologer and the texts. This formed a very large archive of quotes, fragments and lines, much greater than we could have included in a single work, or from which we could have produced a consistent tone and the writing process was one dominated by excision. We processed this both together and apart. The headers for each chapter and the events of the week following its release dictate a particular tone or set of astrological relations which produced the first organising method, we then deleted within each subsection to reduce and even out a tone. This was primarily carried out independently and then charted the overlaps, talked through disagreements and developed a consensus. We aimed for a rough length for each chapter and then for a rough number of possible lines based on the speed of reading them aloud and our internal editing clocks, which happen to be very closely aligned.
We shot a lot of footage throughout the spaces of the show, which took place in a public park in London, with particular focus on the objects and spaces to be activated by other exhibitors in performance or other work and with a focus on behaviours which related to some of our interests in the source text and its relation to change, chance, gaming, prediction and predetermination. We filmed mostly around twilight on midsummers day. This produced another large archive of footage from which to proceed. We followed a similar process of arranging into groups and matching tones, text fragments and abutment of clips. Except for the jogger, a child on a bike who briefly passes in chapter 4 and a group of men dressed in white, in the middle distance and out of focus there are no living human figures.
This at the time felt like quite a natural process of coalescing and constructing, but that might just be that we have similar collection and arrangement (over strict archiving) methods.
Each week we would shoot, edit and 'release' a new instalment, added on to the first to form a 5 chapter single length linear video.
BLACK SUN 2014
Black Sun follows a slightly more linear narrative loosely based on Heart of Darkness (Joseph Conrad, 1899). A trading algorithm going in search of a missing data scraping algorithm, lost in streams of data. Using the first off-screen (disembodied/acousmatic) narrator, voiced by computer text-to-speech software, as a device to assimilate an information aggregate primarily about the physical effects on the world resulting from the infrastructure of high speed stock trading.
The script was produced through a lengthy aggregation and editing process where the processes of gathering and assimilating sources ran concurrently and was performed in quite a physical manner. Across multiple text files and print outs it is essentially a process of deletion and partial rewriting, editing into the film format/sequence, reassessment and rewriting (primarily deletion) resulting in a process which sort of mirrors the initial gathering process as one of selection and reduction. This is quite a lengthy process and one which I think could benefit from identifying clear parameters for the successful inclusion of new material, rather than the possibly blunt tool of inserting material and gradually wrangling a structure out of it as I go along. The construction of an armature for the text to hang off is something which I persistently desire, but which persistently evades the process. Recognising the essential writing characteristics of this and developing it as a structural essayist exercise is probably a wise move.
The unseen narrator is a device, particularly one using a synthetic voice, if one I have used repeatedly, primarily to allow for this plastic editing process as without the need for rerecording a script partially or entirely rewrites can be incorporated swiftly and without altering already edited sequences I might like (though its unusual for much of a previous sequence to survive a re-edit) but also as it allows for the production of a character of unclear provenance. I enjoy the ambiguity of geographical origin, the weirdness of gender or dialect specificity in an artificially produced voice and the simple reflexivity of using a computer to describe a computer.
HFT takes place at incredibly fast rates and channels which are being cut around the world. Now trade signals can transmit through mountains, as the time difference produced by curving around means loosing millions of dollars a day. A flash economic collapse can happen in minutes, chain reactions escalate too quickly for a regulator to understand. Black Sun is effectively an attempt to humanise a global data set on a sublime scale into a group of small scale units within a short story. To humanise a global situation which, while created by humans, lacks human qualities, while having a real effect on us; austerity politics as a result of financial breakdowns.
The gathering of text information and the gathering of visual information run concurrently and continue through the editing process. Both text and image go through a similar process of being collected together and assembled as discrete units within a timeline and proceeding by deletion, aiming for a position where the two streams run together, but maintaining a dual position where each acts as both open and shut gate to the other in order to enact the symptoms of knowing empirically and rationally when mediated by the screen and the technologies like the internet.
A great deal of the source material comes from Dark Pools (Scott Patterson, 2012), a biographical history of the origns of high speed trading, Gaming the plumbing: High frequency trading and the spaces of capital (Alberto Toscano, Mute Magazine, 2013), Destructive or destruction? An ecological study of high frequency trading (Inigo Wilkins & Bogdan Dragos, mute magazine, 2013), Pythagoras by way of Tristram Shandy (Laurence Sterne, 1759), BBC natural history documentaries (Planet Earth, 2006), De vita libri tres (Marsilio Ficino, 1489)
HOME FARM it sounds like a love story (WORKING TITLE)
Stubton, a small faming village in Lincolnshire, England. A region notable largely for being of little note, its low population density, its easterly location in England, its flat horizons, and its high concentration of Air Force bases. Just after lunch on March 23rd 1962 a Handley Page Victor, an experimental nuclear bomber jet, crash landed into a farmhouse. In the crash two women in the house and 2 passengers on the plane died. The farmer and his wife were blown clear and survived, though severely injured, thanks to their foreman dragging them them clear of the explosion.
I am in the process at the moment of winnowing sense out of a collection of quite disparate materials, but for the first time this isn't proceeding from a collection of text, but from a collection of filmed interviews.
Thus far this work/collection exists as about 8 hours of conversational (rambling) video interviews with the two surviving subject/witnesses; the Farm wife and the foreman, and a (slightly later) pilot who flew Victors for the RAF throughout the Cold War. Photos and statements from the declassified military inquest in the national archives, extensive footage around the village, and footage of the cockpit of a victor jet, some footage of drainage works in. I am gradually establishing both placement and categories as I go, but this is taking place much more heavily within the sequential structure of Final Cut than within a text editing program. But I realise now is more or less the same process. Its just a lengthier process and one which has a different set of possibilities for cut and pasting, without breaking down the flow or reality or possible veracity of the content.
The conversations cover a broad swathe of the subjects lives, and I have been cherry picking points which address perforations of the membrane between local and global narratives, the incident itself; when an object of a global arms race devastatingly entered rural isolation, the creation of farm land within the membership of the newly formed EU drainage committee, the labour of German prisoners of war, etc. The Pilot goes into great detail about the spaces of the plane, the position of it within the British “defence” force, its position within the development of nuclear arms and its role during the Falklands conflict. The overall sense of this is currently a little vague and being worked through. it will structurally form scenarios stepping around around the threshold of the particular or locally beautiful and the global sublime, lives fragmented by a body of the military industrial global machine and the productive potential of trauma.
This project grew out of research into witness accounts of the Tunguska incident in 1908 and the meteorite crash in Siberia in 2013 as methods of telling and distributing stories. This was being considered through Walter Benjamins Storyteller essay (1936, from Illuminations 1968) which deals with the demise of the possibility of embodied storytelling as being characteristic of the development of modernity, particularly observed in the incapacity of veterans returning from WWI to tell their stories as embodied experience as participating in a narrative of global and strategic scales which enormously exceeds the bodily.
Material has been sourced in a fairly serendipitous way, access to people and spaces like the plane itself followed on from one another and has been generating the archive of the research process as it has been generating the trajectory it takes, and now I am at a point where I have been separated from the sources of material (unlike before) and so running a recursive gathering process whilst editing is not very feasible. As an exercise in the discipline of making sense this is a challenge but also, hopefully one which cements possible techniques for working with the available and the actual construction of a piece which makes sense within a closed set.
here is a working trailer
Conclusions or w/e/v/r
I guess what I'm attempting is in someway the construction of a realm of intertextuality, where all things will be a text, all things will be a source. A human body containing a story will be a text, a video of a meteorite will be a text. The purpose of the research is to establish a plain wherein all things generate an equivalence. To produce in all possible sources an archival technique in which the productive potentials of compression and conjunction can articulate the reality the collection exists within.
A part of this is to investigate the gradations of veracity inherent within particular witnessing technologies, e.g. the record without memory from CCTV or the camera, and the burden of proof history places on the shoulders of it, the embodied memory of the witness as the opposite of that, the memory without record and the processes which contextualise and biographise the event into HISTORY and life. And how these processes themselves change over time, the witness statement taken the day of an event is an altogether different beast to the one taken many years later. I have been working primarily with video as a means of charting courses through aggregated data. A number of the key ideas to which I will return to further down the page are well suited to visual time based work, and are;
Construction and expansion of alternative narratives through the repurposing, reworking, aggregating, collision and adjunction of existing texts.
Savage Detective, Roberto Bolano
2666, Roberto Bolano
Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad, 1899
Dark Pools, Scott Patterson, 2012
Tristram Shandy, Laurence Sterne, 1759
Rosencrantz and Gildensterne are Dead, Tom Stoppard, 1966
A Midsummer Nights Dream, William Shakespeare, 1605
Illuminations, Walter Benjamin
Alberto Toscano articules in Mute Magazine,
The Village that died for england, Patrick White
The View from the train, Patrick keiller
the robinson trilogy, Patrick keiller
for one or more voice, cavarrero
the human condition, hannah arendt
the sandman chronicles, neil gaiman
summa technologiae, stanislaw lem
collected story, anton leskov
de vita libres tres, Marsilio Ficino
Remnants of Auschwitz: The Witness and the Archive, Giorgio Agamben