Beyond Photography: Project research – Nadja Sveir

Consumed by whom of which captured them, Sveir’s subjects are stripped of their identity, their story and their purpose; instead functioning as proxies, surrogates for the mind behind the camera.

With the distinct subtlety (seemingly an unknowingness on the photographer’s behalf) in which it is achieved, I initially found the images to be alluringly intangible. There existed a strangeness, an uncanniness that transcended and permeated all of which were overtly recognisable sources of such, one that was not merely the sum of their subjects, distortions, moods etc. or seemingly any conscious act on the photographer’s part. Instead, one that can be seen as an unintended emergent property of all conscious constituent components, of the subconscious drives behind the image’s, decisions made and way in which the shots were compiled. The images stories do not belong to that of their subjects, for they merely play host to the photographer’s introspections, the photographer’s story.

Source:

http://www.worbz.com/nadja-sveir/

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Beyond Photography: Project research – Psychiatric hospital (Binarual audio)

Movies and pizza, strawberries and cream, pancakes and maple syrup, Christmas and satanic rituals, bad analogies and me.

Some things are just made for one another. Virtual reality and horror are two of those things. And so, if phantom Italians suffocating you with a plastic bag, very nearly cutting your ears off and shaving a suspicious shape into the back of your head wasn’t already traumatising enough, then you my lionhearted friend, should pay a visit to the psychiatric hospital!

psychiatric-hospital

A seemingly staff-less psychiatric hospital at that, where patients are free to run amok, use kitchenware for percussion and generally make as much noise and mayhem as they can. Privileges that unfortunately for you, aren’t taken for granted. I loved the disquieting unpredictability of Psychiatric hospital – Madness, I never knew what was coming next or when I’d be hit with a bowel moving jump scare. A virtue that bestows our virtual experience with a profound sense of dread, angst and us with an eagerness to pause the video and rip off our headphones like the big baby we are (apart from you, of course). I also particularly enjoyed the lack of certainty of what was happening when it did happen, and whether what was happening was actually happening at all. For the subject we are oh so lucky to embody is presumably a patient of the psychiatric hospital (or the hospital is in fact staffed and a staff member is having a real bad day), and therefore it wouldn’t be a stretch for the noises that are heard to be the delusions of a mentally ill man.

Unpredictability and uncertainty play a large role in my film, Deadlock. For precisely the reasons outlined above; to provide further sources of dread and angst. The voice acting and noises captured for this piece were of an impressively high standard and will help sculpt the audio present within my film.

Psychiatric hospital – Madness

Beyond Photography: Project research – Binaural audio & Virtual barber shop

Please take a seat, two men brandishing the most unapologetically stereotypical portrayals of the Italian accent you’ll ever hear will be with you shortly. Enter Manuel and his brother, Luigi, the hairdressing brothers (not to be confused with Mario and Luigi, the plumbing brothers). A questionable duo, whose service includes a live guitar solo, the placing of a plastic bag over your head and a worrying lack of hair cutting.

It’s all fine though, for this satirical hairdressing experience isn’t meant to be real to life (that’d be very boring), it is in fact a tech demo and a rather brilliant piece of marketing for a binaural audio company. Over the course of the video, our ‘Italian’ friends move around us left to right, front to back, near to far. It is an uncanny, disquieting experience. So very real in fact, that I frequently found myself wincing and cringing to noises that were oh so there in the room around me.

Binaural recording is the wizardry that facilitates the reconstruction of the original 3D sound space around the listener. By placing two omnidirectional microphones at the entrance to the ear canals (either on a mannequin head complete with flesh-like human ears or in the form of earbuds containing microphones that can be worn) the microphones are separated by the human headspace. This is vital, and it is not just a case of separating the microphones by the width of the average human head, the solid headspace in between is essential in reconstructing a realistic 3D sound space, essential in accurately replicating the, ‘minute differences in cues or sound intensity and arrival time from two open ears’. For the solid mass that is the human head sculpts the sound, just as the ridges and folds of the human ear do too. Despite how seemingly insignificant these variations are, they are essential to the human brain in its task of accurately determining the locality of their source.

And much akin to how our brain creates a 3D image from two 2D images (stereoscopy – see image one), the brain combines the two separate channels (left and right) and constructs a third dimension, placing the sounds within the space in which we occupy.

‘Virtual barber shop’ – Video

steroscopic-image

Image one – ‘Stereoscopic views of the Boston Water Works Sudbury River Conduit from Robert Dennis’s collection of stereoscopic views’

Notes:

Binaural audio is at its best without visual input, allowing the listener to fully envision themselves within its space of origin. Though the effect still persists when accompanied by visual stimulus, it is rather diminished and the intensity of the listeners experience is never fully realised. I’d like to liken it to trying to imagine the world described within a book as you read, only for it to be drowned out by a screaming child on the train.

This is why the binaural audio featured within my horror short, ‘Deadlock‘, will be played to a black screen that continually interrupts the video.

Sources:

http://www.binaural.com/binfaq.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Binaural_recording

Beyond Photography: Project research – ‘Five Year Diary’

‘Begun in the early 1980s and running to over thirty eight hours of Super 8 film, Anne Charlotte Robertson’s Five Year Diary stands as one of the major works of diary film-making. The films are an intimate and exhaustively narrated chronicle of her daily life in Framingham, Massachusetts and her battles with depression, paranoia, and borderline schizophrenia. Over the course of the Diary, Robertson unflinchingly documents nervous breakdowns and hospitalisations, her obsessive crush on Doctor Who actor Tom Baker, her battles with weight, the side effects of prescription medication and the death of her three-year-old niece, Emily. Though often painfully raw and emotional the diary is not entirely bleak but leavened with self-awareness and humour it becomes a redemptive form of self-therapy which for Robertson ultimately tells the story of a mind’s survival.’

five-year-diary

‘Five Year Diary’ is rather curiously, a body of work that in fact spanned 15 years of Anne Charlotte Robertson’s life, not five as its titling would suggest, beginning in 1981 and concluding in 1997. It provides a profoundly intimate insight into her complex struggles with numerous mental health problems, including manic depression, bipolar disorder, paranoia and borderline schizophrenia. Though it lays in stark contrast to the modes in which I have explored my struggles with anxiety (an explicit documentary of real experiences, as opposed to my fictional, metaphorical representation of real experiences) I drew a deep affinity with the significance the outputting and exploration of her experiences through art had on her ability to manage her illnesses.

Lisa Blackman in her essay, ‘The dissociation of anxiety’ speculates that Robertson’s documenting and exploration of her illnesses through the act of filming allows her to, ‘displace self-control or will as being a distinctly human capacity’. Robertson’s filming then, to paraphrase Blackman can be seen to allow her to, ‘…distribute and extend control (or will) via machines and technologies’. Robertson herself in her synopsis of Five Year Diary, notes, ‘Making my diary has literally saved my life; it is an inspiration to others, that “examining one’s life can help make life worth living”.

Film grants Robertson, not only the ability to establish control in the understanding of her experiences (upon review), but also establish it by means of disconnect from the present, at the very moment she documents them her camera acts as an aperture to a better future. Allowing her to view the present as if reviewing it in the future, as if it was a memory of something she’d already overcome.

The strange temporal displacement and subsequent respite and solace from the present kindly provided to us by the camera, is something I’m sure many can relate to. It reminds me that my project is not only an act of eliciting my experiences in the viewer, but also an act of self-examination and understanding, and subsequently of self-control. Furthermore, it is also a means of disconnect, a welcome respite from my feelings in the present via the vicarious experiencing of future feelings, upon reflection, from a better place.

Sources:

http://www.desorg.org/titols/a-breakdown-and-after-the-mental-hospital/

http://www.anxietyartsfestival.org/assets/files/Anne-Charlotte-Robertson-2.pdf

‘Deadlock’ project: Synopsis

Falling, falling, falling. Weightlessly, hopelessly, you cower, coil and brace awaiting impact, salvation. Deadlock is a veritable nightmare. A spiralling, helpless, dread-filled fall of a nightmare that follows the tragic events that lead a son to murder his beloved mother. Chaotic in construction, chaotic in narrative, Deadlock seeks to mislead, confound and disorientate its viewers. Functioning as a perplexing metaphorical manifestation of the very real and deeply oppressive anxiety that governed its creation. Ultimately, Deadlock in all its chaos and confusion, in all its misleading, hopes to evoke exactly that. To leave the viewer full of doubt, unsure of themselves, of what they’ve just seen, of where the true direction lies.

Beyond photography: Project research – ‘Skuld’ (Guilt)

Thrown in at the deep end, ‘Skuld’ takes no time in revealing its true colours. Within the first few scenes we encounter household objects inexplicably seeping blood, a creepy phantom child watching somebody sleep from a darkened corner of their bedroom, a sink that also felt the urge to join in on the blood seeping fun and a shadow that quickly passes an open door in the very corner of our protagonist’s periphery. Tick, tick, tick and TICK!

skuld

From its offset, it would be easy to palm off this horror short as a just another amalgamation of the same tried and tested horror clichés that can be found in oh so many horror stories. But that isn’t quite this case. For Skuld isn’t just a skin deep, ‘for God’s sake just leave the damned house (!!)’ horror in which a vulnerable protagonist with bucket loads of curiosity but a complete lack of rational judgement decides to stick around in a hell house until even the ghost finally gets sick of their insensibility and decides to consume their soul. No, no, no! Skuld is instead a lesson in deceiving the viewer, leading them to false conclusions before throwing in a twist, leading them on again, and so forth.

For what we at first believe to be a classic horror movie haunting, turns into a story of a grieving mother experiencing vivid hallucinations of her son who was killed in a tragic accident. Turns back into a haunting with the phantom child grassing on his mother by telling her dying patient she murdered him. Which then finally turns back to a hallucination when she comes face-to-face with an undead grudge embodiment of herself embracing the son she murdered.

We are left second guessing ourselves to the true nature of the story. For how is it so the dying woman can also see her child, if it is but a hallucination? But how is it so, if it is but a haunting, our protagonist meets herself? Perhaps it is a combination of the two? No, for the dying woman also comments on seeing ‘a creature’ following the child, presumably the grudge embodiment of his mother (the nurse), at a time before she was even aware the protagonist ever had a child.

Pehaps the story ultimately doesn’t make sense. Or perhaps the grudge embodiment is actually her time travelling guilt-ridden corpse from the future, which is why she can be seen by the dying woman too. That makes sense, right?

Whatever the case, I loved the disorientating, second guessing, self-doubt inducing ride that was Skuld. For this is exactly the sort of self-doubt I wish to arise in those viewing my short, though ultimately, I have a logical explanation for the events that unfold within my short… I look to mask it with the noise, confusion and self-doubt created by false leads.

I am (by sheer coincidence, I promise!) also looking to include an embodiment of guilt within my short, that also takes on the form of that of whom is its host, as can be seen in Skuld.

Beyond Photography: Project research – Rosie Anne Prosser

Throughout the course of my first year at University, I have discovered a deep fascination with the melancholic, one that I feel has been present for a while, but only surfaced upon the revival of my creative process and outputting.

I am of two minds as to whether my final submission will include any still images, but I am of a clear mind with how I would wish those potential images to look and feel. Rosie Anne Prosser’s work frequently deals with the melancholic, the surreal and the fantastical. Her deeply cinematic images, have a strange nostalgic quality, perhaps resultant to their reproduction of the dream-world. For it is through this dream-world that I find myself to connect on a personal level, as if it’s my own, as if they’re dreams I’ve lived. This vicarious viewing and transferal of ownership endow Prosser’s images with a sense of nostalgia and subsequent of that, an intensely melancholic feel.

My project is very much interested in the recreation (or representation) of the dream-world. Though my project is distinctly sad and depressing, rather than melancholic, Prosser’s work has not only inspired the aesthetic of the dream-world I wish to create, but also brought to my awareness the possibility of the emergence of an (at least in my case) unwanted trait in the nostalgic. Though the presence of which is unwanted in my film, that may not also be true for any potential still imagery.

on the neighbour's grounds

careful where you hang your hopes

self reflection

the rowan

a sunless world

rosie-anne-prosser