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1.3 Critical Reflection

I make observations on the process of image-making in text and film and make an attempt to clarify the relationship between image and meaning. My main inquiries are: How does an image move someone? Perhaps by a different measure, how does an image embody meaning? When does an image evoke empathy?

These inquiries are informed by my own practice as well as readings of feminist film theory. A longitudinal reading of Laura Mulvey’s essays published from 1975 till 2015 has affirmed my position to maintain a subjective, almost radically personal, approach — by observing how my own memory, narrative/narrativity and aesthetics (appearances, as John Berger calls it) interconnect. I will limit my engagement with, and therefore criticism of discourses that hinge on psychoanalytic, Marxist or Perician/Lacanian frameworks.

My practice in filmmaking has made me more aware of how I use words to construct images. As such, I will investigate two kinds of scenes. First, those I have created in my films: for example, the activity of coffee-making in my graduation project and the hands in my short film Seek (2019). Second, those that have resided in me over the years and that I rewrite for the memoir, including: a cabin I have never visited, lemons and the sky from my childhood. These lead to more specific questions: Am I translating the voice of a writer to that of a filmmaker? How do I convey meaning: with language or with image? How does each procedure of filmmaking (composing an image, blocking a shot, editing) express, interpret or change a feeling?

I will refer to close readings of films and theories that have helped me further these lines of thought. (I have included the list of references in my project proposal, section 3.3.) As I write out this part of the thesis, I hope to define my personal grammar within the poetics of film.

Note: I would like to discuss with Natasha how much abstraction I can — or rather, should — reach within the given word limit with integrity. I have noted the following discourses as relevant, but have not read much of them: life writing, autotheory, phenomenology, new materialism (Deleuzian), haptic visuality (Laura Marks).

reading the Cinematics

I read The Cinematic, an anthology of film and photography theories, with the intention to familiarize myself with relevant film theory vocabularies. The benefit of reading the anthology is the quick access to a sizable amount of different perspectives in one single volume. The drawback, on the other hand, is the density of abstract ideas and abstraction. The anthology includes pieces of canonical texts as well as criticisms regarding these pieces. This anachronism was confusing.

Luckily, I was shooting for a video project while reading these and had a chance to contemplate the theories through doing. My script featured a voice in search of a lost past with imageries based in nature.

Discussions about certain photographic quality of cinema [cite text] and the contemplations on real versus cinema time [cite text] had an impact on me during the production.

I came to realize that I am more interested in the cinematic — movement, association, directed experience in a set time — than the photographic — the captive moment that allows pondering for as long as one wishes.

So far, theories play a few roles in my practice:

1. Theories give me a historical perspective of what has been done. I am not studying art history in any comprehensive fashion, but through theories I am gradually learning to place my works and their relevance in accordance to the form(s) I choose.

2. Theories provide soundbites for rumination. I avoid jargons in describing my work (or even writing the imaginary wall text for it). When I read jargon-sounding words, however, the terms become starting points for connecting systems of knowledge. In articulating these connections I can strive to be genuine, specific, and unpretentious.

3. The case studies from theories give me works to see/watch/research, which helps widen my perspective. The fact that some of them resonate with me more than others drive me to inquire about my own preference — visually, narratively, affectively. By reflecting on other people's work I can also be more certain about my own aesthetics and processes.