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Flop Sculpting

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Before I start explaining what this post is about, I should give a definition of Flop Sculpting. To make a Flop Sculpture, one gathers a few different ideas, concepts, materials, pieces of work etc, flops them all together and sculpts them up into a developmental or finished piece. It is very abstract and the realms of possibilities are endless.

This particular Flop started as a three person group project with the aim of taking part in three different creative activities with three different outcomes, each inspired by our own creative practices. We had a photographer (me), a graphic designer (Chrissy), and a creative writer (Daniel).

We had a lot of difficulties at first. It is hard to move someone out of their comfort zone to try new activities working in mediums they are not familiar with, especially if they don’t really want to. Ideas were thrown around, then subsequently shot down, and it seemed that the first task became trying to get everyone onto the same page, with activities that everyone was comfortable with. This is how Flop Sculpting was born.

Flop 1

The first Flop was initially going to be my activity. I set a brief that I would like my fellow Floppers to take an image- a photograph they had taken or one found elsewhere (online, magazine cover…)- and alter it in some way by adding to it, drawing on it, etching or scratching into it etc. Since one member of our group wasn’t a visual practitioner, such a visual task didn’t translate particularly well. We sat down together and decided to gather some materials in the form of leaflets, and began to work from them. We drew on them, wrote a form of poem inspired by their titles directly onto the leaflet, and eventually developed Flop Theatre.

Very loosely, Flop Theatre is based on a group of students shown on the front of a University leaflet. We created character biographies, a relationship chart and a series of scenes containing each of the different characters. We then handed these scenes out to the groups and asked them to create a short performance based on the scenes. An activity which had interesting results, such as this oulipo inspired performance by Tom and John.

(There will one day be a video here, I promise! Once I get it to upload successfully…)

 

Flop 2

The second Flop grew out of the initial idea for the first one. Chrissy sent across a copy of one of her paintings and asked both myself and Daniel to respond to it and create our own versions. This then became Flop Graphic.

Since I am a visual artist, but not one that ever(!) uses painting or hand drawn mediums, I decided that since I was working with a painting, I would move out of my usual comfort zone and try drawing and painting. But in a style that I would usually adopt with my photography work. Chrissy’s painting sparked images of a dystopian Alice in Wonderland. The way the figure is sitting, reminded me of Alice growing whilst inside the house, her limbs manifesting themselves out of the windows. Luckily I had an photograph, taken in Gorky Park, Moscow, which would work well as a combination.

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I started with a digital version, made in Photoshop, that I could use as a reference. Then Printed out Chrissy’s painting and Charcoal drew (mutilated??) it. Like I say, I’m not a drawer or a painter but it gives a typically Megan overlay (weird person/landscape mashup) effect.

 

Flop 3 – The Final Flop

FINALLY, after a very roundabout way, we get to the final flop. My activity. I stuck with the original general theme of using an image and adding to it, but changed it to have a more direct purpose. A lot of my work relates to heritage and family albums.

I asked my group to take a current photograph of themselves, and somehow add components of their younger selves to it. Since we had a non-visual person in the group who had no experience with editing software, I suggested making copies of the photos and gluing them together.

And there we have it. Flop Heritage.

Creative Writing 05: Self-Reflexive Documentary Film (Practical)

OK – so this about as self reflexive as I can get…

and remember, its not necessary to watch it (in fact – its quite embarrassing so maybe don’t).

Some frames could do with a few more colour correcting touches, but I really need to put time into the summer project now. Also some sound levels could have been adjusted – the diegetic sound is louder than the non-diegetic and in most places it shouldn’t be.

In the words of Bill Nichols, “every documentary has its own distinct voice” (Nichols 2001, Loc 1356). For Godmillow and Shapiro, “the visual languages with which [documentary] operates have quite different effects than does the written text” (Godmillow et. Al, p.80). So, as a creative writing module this was quite an exciting process. The short experimental documentary text itself is in a fast-paced contemporary style, and consciously manipulates narrative conventions, that is, through text, close-ups and such.

The film is modelled on Todorov’s narrative theory and also takes inspiration from Barthes’ narrative theory. Todorov’s theory consists of 5 stages:

1. equilibrium
2. force
3. disequilibrium
4. force
5. equilibrium

This composes the overall sequence and within this sequence is the text, made up of smaller sequences. In terms of Barthes, it utilises the idea that text, narrative, and character is inextricably linked. Barthes argues that “functions” are tactically placed, to “include all elements of narrative […] there is nothing which does not have a meaning in a narrative text” (Allen 2003, p.58). Barthes describes two types of functions:

Distributive functions involve a kind of cause and effect logic: if a telephone rings it will be answered or not […] Contrasted to distributive functions come another type which Barthes calls indices […] for example, what we call the ‘character’ in a narrative […] is never named directly, but is usually indexed by a host of functional details (Allen 2003, p.58).

It is with this in mind that the project has served as an experiment which investigates a range of styles, adhering to Stella Bruzzi’s observation of “the directions in which documentary film has gone recently […] broadly representative cross-section in terms of style and subject matter” (Bruzzi 2006, p.221).

Allen, G. (2003) Roland Barthes. London: Routledge.

Bruzzi, S. (2006) New Documentary. 2nd ed. London and New York: Routledge.

Godmilow, J and Shapiro, A. L. (1997) How Real is the Reality in Documentary Film? History and Theory: Theme Issue 36: Producing the Past: Making Histories Inside and Outside the Academy. 36 (4), p. 80 – 101.

Nichols, B. (2001) Introduction to Documentary. [e-book] Indiana: Indiana University Press. Available from: amazon.co.uk/Introduction-Documentary-Bill-Nichols-ebook/dp/B001C6KDT4/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1402574014&sr=8-2&keywords=bill+nichols+introduction+to+documentary [Accessed 12 June 2014]

Selden, R. Widdowson, P. and Brooker, P. A Readers Guide to Contemporary Literary Theory. 5th ed. UK: Pearson Education Ltd.

Creative Writing 04: Self-Reflexive Documentary Film (Concept)

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“Nobody will love you because you don’t wanna deal with other people… You do do things wrong and that’s the first ******* step to being human is realising that you do and making them better” – Dig! (2005)

First, when I realised that I had to make a short experimental documentary about myself for the Self-Reflexive Documentary Film module I was very apprehensive. For some reason, I had concluded that the film could be about anything and that the self reflexive part was concerned with evaluating the process of making the film itself. However, it turned out that there was no escape in making a documentary about me. Initially, I saw this as a barrier but once I realised it was the only option I was forced to confront this, and so, like in many scenarios, solutions for this problem started to form. To begin with, I thought about ideas for themes of the documentary. It seems that often, which is probably the case for many people, I am forced to force myself to try to overcome problems. So, the documentary itself, inevitably, ended up being about overcoming problems. The challenges that arise in the documentary narrative are seemingly small, however I have concluded that attempting to confront these small problems – which at the time may seem like a big deal – are perhaps a means of gaining a sense of control in conjunction with more complex and less visible issues of the bigger picture, which are not so easy to understand. This starting point was reached after a number of stages. In class it was made clear that the documentary had to be personal, and it had to captivate the audience emotionally. Again, for me, this was intimidating. So, I asked for the opinions and advice from my peers and friends who pointed out a number of scenarios that could be included, and this helped me to think of ways the documentary could perhaps become comic or relatable by focusing on small details of the present moment. As such, I was consistently encouraged to consider the documentary from the perspective of people that I know, and this helped me to consider myself from another point of view.

The documentary takes inspiration from 4 main texts: Dig! (2005), A Complete History of My Sexual Failures (2008), Slomo (2013), and Tarnation (2003). Dig! is a humorous look at the life of petulant drug addict and musician Anton from the Brian Jonestown Massacre. The elements of this documentary that appealed to me are, first, the complex and unique character of Anton who encompasses a juxtaposition of naïvety and childishness alongside the behaviours of a person who seriously fails to overcome his own pitfalls and impossible mental state with devastating consequences. Contrary to this, my own documentary is about recognising and avoiding the consequences of counterproductive behaviours. The second element is the 1990s stylistic pastiche of low quality videos and filtered images, which is an aspect I have experimented with part-way through the documentary. In A Complete History of My Sexual Failures, the subject deliberately mocks himself in order to create humour, but it is also an example of confronting failure and transforming attitude, which is an aspect that my own documentary attempts to examine. In Slomo, initially, the viewer is prompted to make conclusions about the subject as being absent minded and a member of society who is not taken seriously, however, as the documentary progresses, the viewer discovers the subject’s past and comes to understand that his character is actually the opposite of what the viewer would first assume. This has inspired the documentary on one level in that, at first it appears that it is a narrative about what could be interpreted as the normal day of a student, however it hints that people’s lives can be more complex or unprediactable than they may appear on the surface. Tarnation details consequences of being a child with a mentally ill relative, and also uses pastiche for aesthetic and stylistic purposes. The difference between Tarnation and my own documentary, however, is that my own documentary focuses on visible things in the present moment; it is not an autobiographical account of the past and, although people do feature in the documentary, this representation is wholly constructive, not destructive, in the plain sense of the words. The people featured in the documentary are not associated with negative experience whatsoever, quite the contrary. And it is in this way that the documentary considers what it means to value the help of other people, and what it means to try.

Currently, I am editing the final part of the short documentary and it will be uploaded soon. The finishing stages are involving the adjustment of colour and white balance, as shots inside and outside are differing in aesthetic quality. As for Final Cut, it has been a more enjoyable experience for me than Premier Pro, mainly because I think it is more visual and simplistic. Finally, once this has been done, I will be able to start properly working on the summer project after what has seemingly been a marathon of completing 5 modules at the same time.

A Complete History of My Sexual Failures (2008) Directed by Chris Waitt. 90 mins. Warp X, EM Media, Film 4. UK. DVD.

Dig! (2005) Directed by Ondi Timoner. 107 mins. Interloper Films. USA. DVD.

Slomo (2013) Directed by Joshua Izenberg. 18 mins. Big Young Films, Runaway Films. USA. DVD.

Tarnation (2003) Directed by Jonathan Caouette. 88 mins. Wellspring Media. USA. DVD.