As part of my research for my next project, Don’t Have Nightmares 0.2, I am looking at site-specific art where the artist uses a specific location to create a body of work. Last week I went to the Towner Gallery in Eastbourne to see the Ori Gersht exhibition-Don’t Look Back’. Ori Gersht was born in Israel in 1967. He is a fine art photographer and currently works as a professor of Photography at the University for Creative Arts in Rochester, Kent. In short, this exhibition focuses in areas which have endured extreme devastation. The show is divided into three bodies of work.
White Noise documents a train journey from Krakow to Austvitz in Poland. The images echo the prisoners that were taken to the concentration camps.
Liquidation focuses the border between Ukraine and Romania. Gersht revives personal history. The imagery is based around his father surviving the holocaust as a 5 year old boy. Places where he was hiding or places he was staying during the WWII. In Gersht’s own words, ‘this work is exploring the subjective and the objective between what we know and what is seen’
Evaders follows the journey by German philosopher Walter Benjamin. This is represented by a split screen reconstructing the journey of Benjamin. Screen one using an actor walking walking along the Pyrenees (apparently fleeing from the Nazis). Screen two uses footage of still images of the Pyrenees. Ambient sounds from the location connect the still and the moving.
Many of Gersht’s images have a very painterly characteristic. The images have an intense beauty heavily contrasting to the context. Having prior knowledge about the exhibition, I assumed I would be viewing dark, sombre landscapes (thinking representationally as usual!). I was very impressed with the body of work and how the artist combines his concepts with conflict, time, history and landscape.
Ori Gersht will be talking about his work at the Towner Gallery in Eastbourne on Saturday, March 28th at 3 p.m. Tickets: £6/£5
Recently I have collaborating with a sound engineer (Jonny) on the Don’t Have Nightmares 0.1 rotoscope. To begin, it was decided that a conventional sound piece would be a sensible choice.
Pre-sound discussion/considerations (early March)
The recording will be made by analogue synthesizers. One will be conventional sound effects tied to the visual activity on screen. The second will be sound made by analogue synthesizers which will represent some of the action on screen (shower noise) and screams. Also, there will be some musical representations of motion and emotion (i.e. glissando as her hand slides down the wall). There will be one recurring background sound to represent the growing tension before the attack.
Post-sound discussion/considerations (mid March)
The original audio was severely revamped. Stock sound fx downloaded and manipulated in pitch or speed. Analogue synthesizer used for simple “heartbeat” pulse. Reverb plug ins used to simulate tiled bathroom ambience. Delay with lfo sweep used to emulate water going down a plughole, swirling psycho effect. Overall, I was very pleased with Jonny’s work. However, the screams were still too prominent for me so I decided to make amendments in Audacity. I reduced the scream amplification and added much more ‘delay’ effects on screams.
To present the sound, originally, I was going to upload a wave file. No, seemed a bit boring. Mmmm and there was me applauding a Will Self article only last week saying that the net is suffering from visual overload! Then, I thought a rotoscoped drawing could be a ‘nice’ spectatorial pleasure for the viewer. After all, this is a sound piece. After playing around with original footage on a movie editor, I made up my mind. The original (edited) footage is used though subltly. Effects: Contrast and various toners are used for a ‘heated’ visual effect. I thought about making the graphics stronger and denser by blurring the colours so the actual footage would became non-existent. I did and at one point it looked like a Mark Rothko painting. Before finalising, I decided on typography. First, I typed ‘Don’t Have Nightmares 0.1 about five or six times. No, all the fonts looked plain. Then, I converted the type into Windings 3. The graphic softens the visuals so I decided to use three (Red,Yellow & Black) layers of Windings 3. The graphical element hints at voyeurism. Like looking in on someone through a small space. I bit like what Norman was doing in the film.
As stated in the credits, to REALLY HEAR, headphones are recommended.
This morning I considered the tools and materials for making the maquettes. However, when I got to the nearby 100 Yen (57p) shop, I discovered more interesting materials such as polystyrene, vinyl and aluminium so I ended up getting all sorts of materials and functional objects that I could experiment with. Bar the pair of scissors, the total cost for the tools and materials came to, 1,080 yen which is roughly £6 quid…bargain!
I measured the monitor which gave me a rough idea when cutting the polystyrene boards. Fortunately, the boards are A4 so I didn’t need to spend a lot of time cutting and measuring. I wish I had my voice recorder with me, the acoustics in my apartment when cutting and breaking the polystyrene were absorbing. I purposely didn’t work to music like I usually do. As a result, I could think about new ideas while I was cutting, sticking, measuring.
I liked the eerie aesthetic of the polystyrene. I was considering marking in square tiles, glad I went against the idea now though the orange masking tape spoilt the effect and bugged me so much that before uploading the photo, I digitally wiped it out using extreme contrast.
While strolling down the Peckham Road earlier this week with a few students on my course, an ambulance with a screaming siren screeched past us interrupting our conversation. As a result, a conversation ensued about how loud emergency service sirens have become in recent years. Why is that? A thought occurred. Well, it is possible that as we now live in a ‘wired’ society, wearing headphones/ earphones and being preoccupied with our devices have blunted our street awareness and our peripheral vision. Just a thought. Anyway, back to sounds in the suburbs. We continued talking about annoying, familiar sounds you hear in shops especially supermarkets. The repetitive voices from the self-service check-out machines have seemed to replace background music. And for those of you that love a bit of trivia, a former well-known actor from the British TV soap Eastenders is one of the voices used on the self-service check-out. Check it out (excuse the pun).
Earlier Last year I made sound study while walking through a shop in Tokyo. The shop in question, Village Vanguard is regarded as Tokyo kitsch. The products are usually a mix of low-brow style with mass-produced art or design using popular Japanese or Western icons. The products can be quite pricey yet very popular among Japanese and foreigners. As I’m interested in retro industrial design, it’s a great place to kill time for a few hours. I’ve always been intrigued by the assortment of sounds that can be heard in these shops. Even though the sound quality in my film isn’t exactly high-tech (filmed with a basic Nikon digital point and shoot camera), you can get a general feeling of character and atmosphere inside the shop. Hopefully, I can follow this study up again but next time using an audio recorder.
TEST: First, try watching the film with your eyes closed. Imagine the visuals from the audio. Then, watch the film normally. Were your initial preconceptions similar or different? Oh, and make sure to crank up the sound before listening!
My Graphics B.A. (Hons) program at the The University of the West of England offered modular courses in Year 1 and 2. The modules are designed to develop the student in areas which would be beneficial in their self-directed project in Year 3. As I had a project in mind involving film and animation for Year 3, it was necessary for me to become accustomed to working with sound. The sound modules enabled me to experiment creatively and explore different possibilities. The more I experimented, the more ideas were generated. A Play Without Words: The Suicide was a sound module project in Year 1. The project had to be under 1 minute in duration, voices could be recorded though not in dialogue form. The process of the assignment made me consider the following questions: How is the suicide committed? Which sounds/ sound bites will be used bites? How much time is needed recording outdoor ambience’s? Which sound effects should I employ? In which order will I use the sounds? At which points should the audio levels be high/low? Do I want the listener to understand what is happening? Will my concepts be too abstract or pretentious? The process allowed me to be creative, original and audacious. I could learn how sounds worked together. Also, there were times when I created new sounds accidentally. Smooth transitions from one sound to another were very challenging and often frustrating. Too much going on at once would end up as a cacophony of disorder. By the end of the first sound module I had taken a lot of notes which helped me reflect on how I worked through the process. The experience gained from the modules and my reflective diary became invaluable to me when working on a rotoscope project in Year 3.
Rotoscoping involves the process of drawing on film. A lot of early Disney films were rotoscoped and more recent examples can be seen in Richard Linklater’s work. He employed the rotoscoping technique in films such as Waking Life (2001) and A Scanner Darkly (2006).
The first time I used this technique was when making a short film called The Duellists in my final year at university. The process- Initially, I shot about 9 minutes of footage on Super 8 film then transferred the 8mm film onto a camcorder. After editing ,the film was about 4 minutes long. To animate, my portable 14″ TV was placed face up on the carpet while I positioned myself over the TV with pen and paper. An animator’s peg bar was cello taped to one side of the screen to ensure that the paper would always be placed in exactly the same position. I drew about 3 frames every second. As you can see it’s VERY jerky! I can still vividly remember the laborious process of clicking the VHS frame counter every time I drew a frame. By the end of the week the VHS player was seriously damaged the and tape was just one big glitch. At the time I never contemplated making the sequel for sanity reasons! All in all, it took around 700 drawings before being shot under an old EOS stop frame camera. The sound score is mainly Morricone, though I used soundbites from other well-known films. Looking back at this animation 18 years on, the work employs the same principles as DIY punk ethics. Basically, a heap of shoddy charcoal drawings awkwardly mashed together. The result being a confusing manic montage. After editing the rotoscoped version, it was whittled down to 2:32 seconds in duration. I still have the Super 8 footage-for a future project, I intend to make a digital version of The Duellists.