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Monday, April 7, 2014

On Laurie Anderson

I suppose, when I hear the word "lecture", I think of an especially narrow sort of presentation. I fully expected anderson's piece to be didactic, evenly paced and prosaic, like most lectures. "Lecture", in our culture, refers both to public speaking events and a stern talking-to from one's parents, which means that it can be easy to get them mixed up.

Perhaps the event should not have been advertised as such.

But I liked it, because Anderson eventually got around to talking about her process (being aware of how you work and who you are), and about all manner of things, and then she hit us with

"They can come from the air? Now they will. And there is no going back."

And

"Their mother's [maiden] name becomes a word so obscure it can be used as a password."


I live for those moments of revelation.



And then she showed the video with the buildings stretching forward into the sky, and I got lost in the fact that she'd managed to create a basso profundo voice at regular taking speed. Either she got the person with the world's deepest voice to speak for her, or she talked real fast and then slowed the track down. I forgot what she was saying. Something about how the day exists to wake us up?

In any case, most of what I was writing during the performance was about coming to logical conclusions about an ocean with infinite depth. I was paying attention, but my relevant notes are fragmentary.

What I remember about the piece is that it was a piece, not so much a lecture, and it was autobiographical, in the style of the finalist artists of the late 1960s and early 1970s. The autobiography, as a way of explaining intentions and working up to the physical part of the performance, is part of the performance, the way an introduction is part of a book.




Sunday, April 6, 2014

Project 5 and reflection

Memory, Sorrow, and Shame

For this project, I sat on a table in front of a screen, upon which was projected a video of my hands engaged in sewing. The video itself was slowed down and given a blurry, dreamlike filter. Ah, why don't I just show you?

video

The reason I played that video behind me was because I intended to refer to it in my monologue -- or at least hint at it. Having decided I wanted to do some sewing, I would explain, in the monologue, that sewing was on my mind. The fact of not being able to find my sewing kit, if it occurred, was supposed to be ironic/tragic/something of that sort, when juxtaposed to the daydream.

I don't remember if that actually came up in the monologue. Most of what I said was about the other stuff I've  misplaced and lost, like my hats. My goal was to quickly reach the part where I fell to the floor, although, as it turned out, that didn't happen before the video finished.

Now that I think about it, this piece seems more like theater than performance. Performance art usually involves a measure of surprise for the artist, as well as for the audience; unlike theater, where every aspect is controlled, performance art depends upon chance. Who knows what will happen when one measures an entire museum using the length of one's body, or locks oneself in a room with a coyote, or nails one's hands to a volkswagen? Admittedly the last one has less to do with chance than a simple lack of knowledge of what the pain will be like, and how much one can endure.

The element of chance distinguishes performance art from video art as well, for videos can be cropped, edited, filtered, muted, etc.

Project 4, reflection, and revision

Eating Habits

video

I intended to make this video as annoying as I could. I was attempting to evoke, in my audience, the same reaction I have when listening to someone chew their food loudly.

The graininess of the original video is partly the fault of the camera on my computer; it is subdued with normal video effects, but is made apparent with the use of a high-contrast filter and the removal of color. There is the same constant shifting of tones in both versions, but in color, the tones waver between similar tones, concealing the graininess, whereas in black-and-white the tones have a restricted palette and the graininess cannot hide so easily.

The composition is not entirely deliberate. I filmed the original version in haste, without considering much besides the idea of chewing granola as loudly as possibly. That explains the camera angle. The frame occurred because iMovie didn't let me zoom as close as I wanted. had I been able to capture my mouth alone, or to crop the video to be narrow, the bed in the background would not have appeared and I would not have done the video in bright black-and-white in a desperate attempt to obscure my mistake.

The sound itself was simply the best audio-distortion effect iMovie presented me. I think that worked out well. It made the sound of chewing granola big and pompous. One expects big and pompous sounds out of cathedrals. They've gone to all that expense to create a massive, echoing indoor space, after all. It would be a shame to let that effort go to waste.

Revision:


video

This one is a different animal. 

As all the video cameras were checked out of the Academic Media Studio, I made do with the recording function on my own digital camera. It takes a much better-quality picture than my computer. BUT the computer lets me see what I'm doing while I'm doing it. So for this video, I had to look into the camera more attentively. Also, where the camera on my computer would be at a low angle as I set it on the floor, the digital camera was on a tripod at eye level. The combination of these factors (attention and angle) meant that the mocking, half-lidded gaze of the first video was replaced by an unsettling, wide-eyed stare. Annoyance has been replaced by uncertainty. 

The background was an attempt to make a more anonymous location. Who knows where that door is? Only, it clashes with the sound of the video, for a cathedral is a deep space and the space in the video is shallow.

I'm not sure if the revision works any better than the first video, but it's less grainy, at least. 


Sunday, March 30, 2014

Project 3: My Little Runaway and reflection

video

Black-and-white makes everything darker, because all color falls into shadow.

Which is why I wanted to make it black-and-white. What I did in class was, I felt, not creepy enough. Also, because I used the camera on my computer, I was able to see my face while filming, so I had a better idea of what I was doing. Better placement of the glare from the screen, for example.

I decided to make the piece completely silent because sound -- any sound -- can affect the mood of a piece. Movies are well-known for using music to set a mood. I wanted the viewer to focus on the image.

I'm not going to explain the title.


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Sound Environments

The Sound of rain indoors: 2 AM Saturday, march 22
Tak. Tak. Tak. Tak. Tak tak tak tak tak.
I wake up to the sound of an old-fashioned keyboard, the one with tall keys that types loudly.
There's a ghost in the room!
Tak. Tak. Tak. Wait. That isn't a keyboard. That is the drip of water. It is the sound of water falling on soaked cloth. I extend my hand in the darkness. The pile of cloth I keep at the head of my bed is wet.
I step out of bed. SPLASH!
"Shit."
The clatter of objects, as I move them out of harm's way.
My roommate says to take care of the problem in the morning.
The tapping of water as it falls on sill, deal, and floor. Tap. Tap. Tap.
The sound of water as it drips into containers set out for it, on desk and floor.
A quiet pinging noise as water falls into a metal thermos.
The soft splash of toes in water as I try to keep the greater part of my feet dry.
 The dripping continues. Tap. Tap. Tap tap. Tap. Tap tap tap.
The rustle of cloth as I dry my feet.
Occasionally the water gushes out all at once, and for a few moments, the room is silent.
Then the tapping begins again.


Empty Classroom in McWethy: 10:11 AM, march 25
Above, there is the hum of one of the machines that pipes air through the building, so unceasing that it soon fades into unnoticed background noise.
Below, someone teaches a class, exhorting and discussing, pointing things out with great flourish.
From somewhere before me, someone is playing soft, soulful music.
The rustle of paper. Voices.
Someone coughs below.
The teacher's voice rises.
Paper rustles.


Morning after unexpected snowfall:
 8 AM, march 25
The hiss of snow blown over fields of snow, in the cold morning.
A rushing begins. The wind is picking up as a train comes by. The train is far away and down a hill, but I can hear it from here. Sounds carry farther in the silence of a winter morning.
The soft tramp of feet as students make their way to breakfast.
Wind rustles the branches of a cedar tree.

reflection on project 2 : Forgotten English

Ah, that didn't go as well as I expected.

I should have made the instructions clearer, but I chose experimentation and decided to see if people could pick up what to do just from a demonstration. And it worked! Except that the demonstration by itself offered no way for anyone in the audience to know that the definitions weren't supposed to be read.

Whoops.

I also felt that the way I was too imperious. Commands were an integral part of the last performance, but here such a style was superfluous. Maybe I didn't need to read over everyone's shoulder? I was just trying to make sure I knew when to take the notebook back and do the conclusion.

I'm not certain what I was doing with the opening monologue. Maybe that was unnecessary too. What I was going for was a fluxes-inspired music, the music of old English words, long forgotten -- in our practice earlier that morning, Haley said that the words we were working with sounded interesting. See, there's music in our lives every day.

The notebook is a found object in the stye of John Cage, because I rediscovered it after losing it for a few years. The words in it are also found objects, because I rediscovered them while looking for what was int he back. I forget why I added them in the first place.

As for the length, the piece went on so long because I had all the weird old words interspersed with more ordinary ones, and I wanted to include all my favorites and I couldn't alter the notebook or re-write it without changing its nature.


Foo.

I think I need to plan my pieces better.



Reflection on project 1: Striptease

I've never commanded like that before.

Not outright. Not in a way that actually had people listen and follow.

A taste of power! Bwa ha ha ha!

Ahem.

That first performance was not actually thought of on the spot -- I brought the cloak thinking I might use it if I had the courage to perform despite having missed two days of class. Turns out it wasn't as difficult as I thought.

As for the performance itself --

I got the idea from the course description in the syllabus, the one about using our own bodies as a medium for performance. My immediate reaction was "well if it means wild movements that involve kicking up my legs, I don't want to do that because I don't like showing my legs, so ON WITH THE CLOAK.

I maintain that the "tease" part of "striptease" means it can go either way. I chose MY WAY because I don't like to subject anyone to the interstate.


It's only interesting if you use photoshop filters, unless you're driving through the Alleghenies, my God that place is beautiful.

Anyway, I didn't get to do everything I wanted to do, because I forgot. I could have commanded Haley to leave the gravel and I could have turned off the lights on the stage. But everything else went well. Except that when I got into the darkroom I had no idea how to end the performance. I couldn't see anyone because of the hood so I wasn't certain what people were doing. I fully meant to forbid use of the light, but I did so before somebody turned it on, so that went a bit different than expected.

But you all liked it, so.