‘Through a photograph you can make people believe anything. It’s not really the camera’s doing, it’s the person behind it. Figuring out ways to tell lies through the camera … it’s more interesting to show perhaps what you might never see.’
‘Glasgow is a magnificent city,’ said Thaw.’ … Think of Florence, Paris, London, New York. Nobody visiting them for the first time is a stranger, because he’s already visited them in paintings, novels, history books, and films. But if a city hasn’t been used by an artist not even the inhabitants live there imaginatively.’
(Gray, 1981; 243)
taken from Alasdair Gray’s novel Lanark
A city’s discourse, as framed by artists, by newspapers, by demography or any other official report determines popular attitudes towards that city and hence shapes subsequent narratives about it. The inhabitants of that place live an imagined life there along side their real life and this imagined life is caught in a feedback loop with the city’s discourse. One could define a genre for the discourse of a place and its influence on the aesthetic of the narratives that flow through it. In the case of my home city Melbourne, it is hard for any one in the film industry to go past the recent mythology attributed to organised crime as seen in films such as Animal Kingdom or TV dramas such as Underbelly. As an artist is it not completely unexciting to conform to a status quo such as the accepted genre of the representation of a city’s spirit? It’s inner life? Not to say there’s anything wrong with previous expressions of this place but more to say that discourse implies an evolving to and fro. It is hard to see where the change in conversation is happening in our arts and in our imaginations. The political dimension stays consistent, the entertainment invokes the same sets of signs and signifiers and the so-called discourse stays as it was perhaps even 20 years ago.
By living imaginatively I mean to say attributing a framework of myth and history, fiction and fact to the very heartbeat of the urban landscape – the eb and flow of the population day to day through the CBD; the police presence found on the city street corners on a Saturday night; the back streets and alley ways so teeming with nightlife.
‘[…] cities (and, indeed, all urban spaces and even ‘natural’ landscapes) are always already social and ideological, immersed in narrative, constantly moving chess pieces in the game of defining and redefining utopias and dystopias.’
Colin McArthur in The Cinematic City
The meaning that a city has, and the imaginative characterisations attributed to it have no fixed or absolute meaning.
I see mobile videography as a way to explore and see the city with fresh eyes – to re-imagine it. This is the goal of my mobile videography sketches and project. The goal of my film practice is also framed in such a light – to redefine and redefine again and again possible utopias and dystopias and not just of the city we find ourselves living in but also of the human mind and soul itself.
“Men can see nothing around them that is not their own image; everything speaks to them of themselves. Their very landscape is alive.”
Why the mobile? A different tool for a different vision.
“Light is meaningful only in relation to darkness, and truth presupposes error. It is these mingled opposites which people our life, which make it pungent, intoxicating. We only exist in terms of this conflict, in the zone where black and white clash…”
“Every human-technology relation is also a body-tool relation, and as such every mobile-body merger invokes certain kinds of being-in-the-world, and particular ways of knowing and making that world.”
Mobile media is a way of having a body. Heidegger – our being is always-already within domains of equipment. There is a relation between the tools/technologies we use and the ways we have a body – the ways in which we we will to power. This having-a-body is phenomenological and how we interact ontologically with the world – ontological here means to project questioning and meaning onto the world – . This interaction is precisely what stops us from seeing the world – the present-at-hand (the hammer, the mobile phone) can’t allow the world to show itself. The present-at-hand view also presupposes a network of practical relations amongst the things that we use – this is Dasein and Worldhood. Could it be that media and in particular mobile media is a new way in which this network of practical relations is made visible? So an affordance of the phone-as-media-maker might be its illumination of Dasein and Worldhood – once again I believe this is close to the interpretive practice around Chris Marker.
“Contemporary Western culture can be said to have a particular epistemological and perceptual bias, an ocularcentrism which works to prioritise visual and screen representations. The multistable and disparate nature of contemporary vision is a partial effect of the many screens encountered in the everyday – televisual, cinematic, information/text display, closed circuit, video – each with their own technical, environmental and interfacial specificities. What we experience is an aggregate vision , a continuous slippage and merging between televisual events, temporal zones, ‘culture fragments’, and genres of visual meaning.”
Pockets in the Screen-scrape; movies on the move
Paper presented at MIT 6,
Stone and Papyrus, Storage and Transmission
MIT April 24 -26, 2009
University of Amsterdam
This is all about moving images produced for and by the mobile phone. A couple of genre names: the micromovie, portable film, cell phone movie, mobile movie, cine pocket. The key theme that emerges out of this analysis of the then fresh concept of the mobile movie in my mind is the idea that the small screen demands a small attention span and ‘quick fix’ nature at the level of audience reception. This is an interesting paradox in that the question becomes what type of communication can take place at lightning speed? The article argues that in the contemporary, networked world of screen culture communication has taken precedence over representation (something found in classic Hollywood for instance). If this is communication (at the level of the media made for mobile dissemination) then it is fragmentary, bite sized communication.
Representation – imagine the production of a Hollywood film. It is so resource heavy that the depiction of the world it creates is one imagined by the filmmakers – it is a representation – purely subjective to the filmmakers gaze. Everything is under control.
Communication – so fast and un-doctored that it is a more pure slice of the world as it is. Still at a fundamental level subjective and lacking in objective clarity (an impossibility anyway) yet more an impression of the everyday experience of the world.
Here I return to another key theme that constantly turns up when I encounter fragmentary and non-linear texts – memory and memory’s interaction with consciousness. The article quite rightly cites Eisenstein as the grandfather of this style of practice. Eisenstein’s theories of montage focus on collision, juxtaposition and the micro and the micro’s relationship with the macro – all the considerations necessary for the mobile platform.
“The practitioners of the pocket cinema seem to be more aware of the gap that separates the cinema-as-we-knew-it from contemporary digital visual culture […]”
This is a pertinent comment – one thing does not necessarily replace another but sets up a new barracks. Cinema-as-we-knew-it still exists (thank god) but we also now have the montage/collage/real/amateur/observational/ridiculous/fragmented and non-linear. Now comes the creative question – what to do with it? Like any art form, a good start is to identify its uniqueness, its potential, its affordance. For me, it is the closeness of the networked media landscape to the epistemological – the knowledge structures of the modern mind. Just as the bicycle or the car is an extension of our need to walk or run, or the hammer an extension of an arm or a will-to-power the network and the phone is an extension of knowledge structures and the communication of them.
An important structural element on La Jette’s narrative is the dialogue: ‘Later, he new he had seen a man die.’
This use of the word ‘later’ is a promise to the audience to deliver the significance of the event. At this point the audience has become absorbed into the dreamlike world of the main character and now awaits an emergence into conscious reality – an explanation. Being a mediation on time, memory and the present moment this emergence into conscious reality is always deconstructed, or underscored, by an uncertainty. Images and perceptions of the present moment cannot be trusted. Hence why the subjects upon whom time travel is imposed are all driven mad.
Somewhere in the thesis of this film lies the notion that the wounds of history, the apparent real-ness of history, exists for us only via our memory and only via our interpretation of the events that surround us in the present moment. We are hermeneutically hemmed in. This is another viewpoint from which to understand the source of madness for the test-subjects – when this compass – this structure of memories that keeps us orientated in the present – is ruptured and fragmented across the totality of time. Our ability to stabilise ourselves in the present is shattered and any sense of the empirical world starts to dissolve.