Thesis draft

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The light, The orange


The light.

It’s the temperature, it’s the color, it’s the space, it’s what you see in front of the screen, it’s what you hear without the screen, it’s changing, it’s not changing, it’s bright, it’s overcast.

The orange.

It’s the beat, it’s the rhythm, it’s the orange, it’s the arm, it’s the rotation, it’s the repetition, it’s the difference, it’s interesting, it’s boring, it’s normal, it’s unusual, it’s concentration, it’s an escape.

In this thesis, it mainly focuses on the sense of participation in simple form and repetition, which is related to my final project research, as well as leading to the following issues: What is the minimalistic way to attract an attention? Duration in a simple and repeating structure. Meditating experience in simple form and repetition.

When it feels that time slows down, when the surroundings turn quiet, when the environment becomes different or when there is simply not much to do. I start to observe and re-observe things surrounding me. However, what could attract my attention is not something huge or intense, but something slow and subtle. I see it’s an exploration of the connection between me and the environment or community, it’s a sense of participation, a feeling of being involved. However, in a quite subtle, slow process and repetition.

By doing research of simple and repeating form, I found structural films are mostly involved with the concept. Structural film do not document various film procedures, the film produces certain relations between what the camera is aimed at and in what way that image is presented. This kind of film focuses and analyses the structure and the procedure of the film, in a way it’s the purest way of how an object or image is presented. Therefore, it’s not necessary for structural films to be involved with specific narrative or storytelling. Structural film attempts to be non-illusionist, as P. Adams Sitney defines the structural film in his book “Visionary film,” it is a “cinema of structure in which the shape of the whole film is predeterminded and simplified, and it is that shape which is the primal impression of the film”. In a way related to what Frank Stella said of his paintings in 1964, “What you see is what you see,” a phrase that exemplified the minimalist movement. However, is it always so or it’s also possible to transfer “what you see is what you see” to “what you see is not what you see”? In the article <Structural Films: Meditation through Simple Forms>, it says: Usually, in a structural film, the form is so simple that the viewer does not have to spend much energy on understanding their place in the work. Moreover, In the structure of film, this paper would emphasis the form of repetition, how repetition is related to difference and how repetition lead to a new meaning to our brain or mind.

In addition, leading to the next issue for the thesis: simple form/ minimalism. How does minimalism work in video art? Minimalism appeared in the stage of art in the mid 1950s firstly in the language of painting and sculpture. What is the spirit of minimalism? Some say minimalism is a tool that can assist you in finding freedom. Freedom from fear. Freedom from worry. Freedom from overwhelm. Freedom from guilt. Freedom from depression. Freedom from the trappings of the consumer culture we’ve built our lives around. In a way, minimalism is a way to extract physical objects or spirits from a chaotic environment. Through the development of technology and art, it is not difficult to find the reflection of minimalism in video art, particularly in contemporary art scene.

When the form of a video focus on its simple or minimalistic side, the issue of time appears. How do video artists and filmmakers deal with time in structural film and simple form? By designing the time and duration intentionally can catch and keep the attention of audiences. However, it’s possible that the artists don’t care much about the elaborately design in time and duration. Thus, either it’s boring or interesting, repeating or different, to be trapped or involved. The space of these exploration could be controlled more by the audiences themselves, which in another way, is to leave the freedom of thinking to the audiences.

Minimalism is closely connected with abstraction. In the book < Abstract Video, The Moving Image in Contemporary Art >, Gabrielle Jennings who is an artist and writer mentioned his question in abstract video art: The late art historian Kirk Varnedoe’s book Picture of Nothing. Together the lectures form an inspirational meditation on why anyone (particularly the art-viewing public) would want to look at “pictures of nothing”. I began thinking about how this question relates to the moving image, particularly in the field known as video art. His this question or confusion is as well as mine, additionally, what I found more interesting is several Chinese ancient philosophies in Zen and Taoism can be related to abstract art closely and subtly. Therefore, in the chapter: abstraction & sound, the paper would start with a classic Chinese philosophy which still influences our ways of thinking nowadays. During the process of my project, I realized more about the sound part, particularly to an abstract video, sounds have to be selected, recorded, created excessively. This part of the thesis is as well as an exploration of my project in sound. It experiments the coherence of abstract visual and non-abstract sounds, for instance: environmental sounds.

Through repetition, minimalism, duration, abstraction in videos. My research explores the sense of participation. I see this sense of participation as a sense of being involved in a procedure or an environment, a connection, an interaction. It can be a meditation, a spiritual experience, a resonance or eventually an illusion. Again, it can come back to the question: Why people would stare at a “picture of nothing”? The paper will demonstrate why and how I collected the materials for the project. To create the project as a metaphor to reflect the relationship between me and the new environment, community. In the last chapter – Final project, the process of the development of my concept, in the paper, it would be elaborated about my very early concept and research on my project, additionally, the change and development of it, where it led me to and where it would lead me to. Moreover, the further thinking, for example: how it comes and expands to anti-entertainment, as well as the relationship between anti-entertainment with my project. Moreover, the difference and relations between my work and other similar works would be analyzed and elaborated in this chapter.

Structure & Minimalism:

-This chapter will describe structural film and its attributes, i.e.: fixed camera position, flicker effect, looping printing, repetition, etc. Furthermore, to analyze different film in this format such as: Hollis Frampton’s <Lemon> and Warhol’s <Sleep>, and the impacts to my personal project. Moreover, the relationship between structural film and minimalistic art.


a). Flicker:

(Briefly intro)

b). Repetition:


How repetition forms new meanings and new ways of perceiving reality.

- Difference & repetition;

A things repeatability in language or symbolic system ensures its existence. Repetition ensures the possibility of a thing.

Repeating symbols, imagery, technique, it attempts fix and stabilize what is in actuality a state of constant flux, offering images of “order, duration, and stability”

it is difference that is infinite and repetition that is always variant.

There is no such thing as an infinite repeatability without difference, the only repetition without difference is the operation of repetition itself, not what is repeated. There is always difference, and when there is difference there is always the production of something new.

Repetition sits at these two positions. It’s production and death. Movement and blockage. It’s about getting it out the way.

The dissolution of the subject and a rupture for something to be inserted or seen. A structure close to the infinite and nothingness.

Usually, the ideas are repeated again and again so that it becomes a meditative process where the viewer starts thinking only about the choice made by the filmmaker that can be called “a simple shape”. There can be no illusions of reality as the “shape” attracts all the attention, making the content of secondary importance. The fact that an illusion is created by a representation becomes the subject of the film. This meditative process cannot be achieved if there is a story or many different forms that viewer has to make connections with, there has to be a simple form.


3.Time matters:

Time &duration.

Time plays a quite crucial role in time based artworks, especially in structural films. Thus, how do structural film artists deal with time in their works? How do they materialize time through moving images? What time tricks can they play, furthermore the impacts? This chapter will mainly discuss about these. Small changes make big or small differences.

4.Feeling bored? Is it supposed to be boring? (not sure about this paragraph yet) This part will analyze the subtle relationship between boredom and non-boredom, how those structural filmmakers deal with the relationship in their works and how they deal with the challenge of durations.

Abstraction & Sound:

Abstract video.

In Song dynasty of China, a master of Zen -- Qing Yuan xingsi said three sentences about the journey of Zen, which are:1. A mountain seen is a mountain being, a river seen is a river being. 2. A mountain seen is no mountain being, a river seen is no river being. 3. A mountain seen remains a mountain being, a river seen remains a river being. These three different ways of seeing of the mountain and the river mean three different spiritual levels of humans. The first level: A mountain seen is a mountain being, a river seen is a river being. Every new born individual is curious about the world and surroundings, they believe what they see is the truth. The second level: A mountain seen is no mountain being, a river seen is no river being. Individuals start to get lost in the living society and community. They start to doubt if it’s true that what they see is the reality, they start to think more and be more rational when observing the world. The third level: A mountain seen remains a mountain being, a river seen remains a river being. It is a statues of returning to one’s original nature, recovering one’s original simplicity after seeing and experiencing the world’s complicities and chaos. It’s a cognition of one’s awareness of what he/she wants, what he/she needs to give up. By that time, you notice the mountain and river are still the mountain and river, yet with more inner thoughts. According to Qing Yuan xingsi, the third level is the rarest and most precious level of a human being. This ancient Chinese Zen philosophy somehow can be applied to abstraction in art. Connecting to my final project – “The Light”, the three levels could be: 1. What you see is the light. 2. What you see is not only light. 3. What you see could be just the light.

People have images in their minds about things that they’re familiar with, as well as they only have concepts about things they’re not familiar with. However, images can fade away with things or objects, yet concepts somehow can be forever. The process of abstracting something is a process of reduction. Keeping the core of a work helps transfer the concept. However, if it would achieve an opposite way if this reducing process is too extreme. So how to find the perfect balance becomes an essential, challenging and charming part to an abstract artist.

Abstract art is an ideal vehicle for communicating spiritual realities for several reasons. It removes viewers from the world they think they know and allows them to focus their contemplation on symbols, the experience of a work, or its meditative character. Kandinsky said, “the spirit is often concealed within matter to such an extent that few people are generally capable of perceiving it.” Abstraction allows for an exclusive focus on the experiential or conceptual realms, which are the primary concerns of the spiritual. In a way, it’s similar with what it says in Taoism: the mountain is still the mountain, the river is still the river, what has changed is only our minds.

Sound in abstract video.

Sounds add another layer to a video, sounds can also destroy or disturb the vibe of a video. Particularly to abstract video. This part tries to analyze from recorded sounds to synthetic sounds, from human sounds to environmental sounds in abstract video. The collision of abstract video and non-abstract yet not necessarily specific sounds.

Sense of participation:

Meditation through simple formats. What are the mental influences from watching those artworks? Is it important to build this obvious or subtle connection between the artwork and viewers? The fact that an illusion is created by a representation becomes the subject of the film. This meditative process cannot be achieved if there is a story or many different forms that viewer has to make connections with; there has to be a simple form.

Final Project: This chapter will focus on analyzing my final project. How do I choose the content, scenes, objects and the reasons/ stories behind. Creating & accepting: Additionally, to compare and analyze the difference and similarities between camera shooting and computer graphics. Computer generated moving image / graphics and camera shooting moving images. Moreover, to analyze the difference and relationship between my work and other structural films and abstract videos such as: Hollis Frampton’s <Lemon> and Warhol’s <Sleep>


The MIT Press & Whitechapel Gallery, [2017], <Boredom, Documents of Contemporary Art>.

Hollis Frampton’s Lemon Analysis—The Nature of Film and Vision

Ways of Seeing, Structural Films: Meditation through Simple Forms

Peter Gidal, Structural Film Anthology, Theory and Definition of Structural/ Materialist Film

“Structural Film,” as Technique of History, Jonathan TD Neil

Who’s afraid of structural film, Jonathan TD Neil

Film as film: formal experiment in film 1910-1975, Birgit Hein, chapter “The Structural Film”

Structural Digital Video, Clint Enns

Abstract Video: The Moving Image in Contemporary Art, Sep. 2015, Gabrielle Jennings