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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."


"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?

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

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.


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.