Tuesday, 22 December 2009
This exhibition is a great demonstration of beautiful Digital Arts projects, a complete manifestation of the theory in books.
Monday, 21 December 2009
In Sophie Calle’s images, texts, videos, in brief narratives, she exposes her private experience to the collective. In the exhibition running at the Whitechapel Gallery Prenez soin de vous or Take Care of Yourself, she invites 107 women from different professions to decode an email in which her lover breaks up with her. The reactions were very much different; each is interpreting in her own way. In general the idea of this exhibition was appealing to me, but when I started plunging into the artworks, I realized that I was thinking about the artist’s lover, what would be his reaction when he discovers this parade happening all around him? I thought of how far in intimacy would artists go showcasing their personal life. Sophie Calle’s approach is always a push to the extreme, I was annoyed by the bombardment of the women’s judgments, I sympathized with the artist's lover and pitied the artist.
Friday, 18 December 2009
The film, now showing on the big screen, made during the 2008 USA presidential elections, discussing issues like money, work, the economy, and set up around a Manhattan call-girl, is far from being a sex film, rather it is a political film about prostitution in the contemporary term, the economy and ethics of that subject matter.
The style of the film is playing on docu-fictional cinema, it is a beautiful sweet masterpiece free from add-ons and extra long shots. The after taste of the screening for me was: 'why do we keep busying ourselves with trying to figure out the more specific and the bigger picture, spontaneity and condensing thoughts might be a solution, the solution.'
Wednesday, 9 December 2009
With the will to return to his 'solitary practice of painting', Damien Hirst reveals a series of 'Blue Paintings' at the Wallace Collection, a family assortment always displaying old paintings, furniture, porcelain, armour, and sculptures in their villa like museum.
Hirst’ theme of mortality is portrayed through a series of blue painted floating skulls, framed with classical wooden edges, placed against wallpaper covered walls in between the Wallace Collection’s rooms and corridors.
A ‘radical departure’ from the artist’s established working practice’, Hirst is figuring out new ways of showcasing his artworks. For me, this exhibit demonstrates how an artwork could be imposed on a museum instead of being displayed in a museum.
Monday, 7 December 2009
'The Times that remains' of Elia Suleiman (2009) is a 'semi biographic film', about the director's family, archived since 1948 until recent times. The scenario is based on the director's father diaries and his mother's letters to family members who have left Palestine to other countries, escaping the Israeli occupation. Arab-Israelis is the main theme of the film, the film is neither a documentary nor a fiction but somewhere in the 2 playgrounds at the same time; And the film does not follow a traditional form of narration, It is based on archival matters to which the director added his sense of irony and melancholia, and shaped the whole in a series of short scenes, each could be a short on itself, but when placed together, the scenes constitute some sort of a narrative flow, or a continuation.
Monday, 30 November 2009
Tuesday, 17 November 2009
The author of the website speaks of a ' thriving online community ... A place where you can hone your craft, learn about the world of publishing and find like-minded friends along the way. There will always be expert advice available when you want it.'
I am still new to this, I will be posting more about it if I fall on something good in there.
I am not sure how great is this, or would it turn out to be a too good to be true kind of idea?
The author's website is: ShahrukhHusain.com.
Wednesday, 11 November 2009
Monday, 9 November 2009
A foot kicking a ball: Narrative falling apart in the VJing playground
2- Aims and Objectives:
It all started when I realized that I am intrigued by storytelling and how it can be used in the visual field, being a practitioner in graphic design. I recollect stories and link them with concepts that I am recently becoming aware of, despite the fact that I don’t have great communication skills, which makes my storytelling experiences a bit complicated. And being from Beirut, in the Middle East, my character has been molded in a way that politics and economy is a vital interest.
Based on an incident of a football hitting my face when I was four years old, to my nosebleed ruining the removable collar of my mother’s dress, to the boutique where my mother purchased this dress and the boutique’s high stature, to the deterioration of the middle class’s economical situation in Beirut the nineties, I will be looking at football practice and its implications on the sociopolitical, discussing the ‘bread and circus’ phenomenon, driven by personal narrative and subjective judgments.
Far from being a novelist and intrigued by little stories, the accident of the football strike is the start of a narrative leading to a VJing project. VJing (in my case) comes from living in Beirut, a city renowned for its nightlife despite the destructive civil war. So I figured that the best way of campaigning an idea (bread and circus) is through this hub. I want to explore the logic of digital moving image in general and VJing in particular in relation to narratives, therefore I will be writing short stories related to my theme, filming, editing, animating and juggling between the audio and the visual. The lack of communication skills from which I suffered during my teenage years, its repercussions and the nature of the VJing medium directed me to wanting the narrative to fall apart in the VJing playground. If a narrative is deciphered, does it become a set of databases? I will be looking at Lev Manovich’s ‘The Language of New Media’ to discuss this concern. In my previous experience in graphic design, I have found a comfort zone to initiate the projects, that is the mood boards I create at the beginning; how can a mood board be translated in digital moving image and will it help in randomizing the course of events? An arbitrary decision of a football player is random, and randomness is a valid concept in the digital arts world. In Christiane Paul’s words digital art did not develop in an art-historical vacuum, but has strong connections to previous art movements among them Dada, Fluxus and Conceptual Art. As for interactivity, a football game is naturally interactive. How could one embed meaning in VJing? Would that be altering the role of this means? Devising a system that allows freeing my personal narratives from the traditional form and throwing them in the VJing arena will be developed through loops of filmed and animated material.
From a historical point of view, a wide range of thinkers has studied the issue of mass-supported sports and its consequences. I will be looking at Theodore Adorno, Marc Augé, Roland Barthes and Herbert Marcuse in this part of the research.
To start, defining ‘bread and circus’ seems essential. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, ‘bread and circus’ is a ‘terminology used to explain the offerings, such as benefits or entertainments, intended to placate discontent or distract attention from a policy or situation.’
Theodore Adorno speaks about how the removal or reduction of the ‘bread and circus’ or what others term as ‘useful lies’ from mass culture will threaten the continued operation of the market and society as well as higher philosophical truth.
Elena Bertozzi, in her paper ‘At Stake: Play, Pleasure and Power in Cyberspace’, describes playing football as a ‘socially permitted aggression’. In a football game, the player reads and anticipates the action of the other, never quite sure what will really happen. Mastering football is a matter of time and skill. In the aftermath of a match, the idea of restoration of dialogue between the two teams, two enemies or two competitors is omnipresent: so much so that one can see the relation of football to politics, to rulers or governors using ‘bread and circus’ policies to fulfill and distract the governed in their basic needs, diverting their attention away from politics and interfering in the political scene.
Jean-Marie Brohm and Marc Perelman, in ‘Football: From Ecstasy to Nightmare’, discuss the illusion big football games provide society’s masses. It is presented as a ‘social elevator’ for poor people. The ideology behind these big football games is that of war, an apology for physical force. Fanatic supporters encouraged and promoted by the shadow of multiculturalism – or a form of belonging in the sectarian, national, regional or ideological sense.
Marc Augé, in ‘An Ethnologist in the World Cup’, speaks about how, during big football games, the masses reclaim symbols of the republic, the flag and the national anthem which otherwise are confiscated as the property of right wing nationalists. Augé studied the football language through television screens. On small screen televisions and monitors, audiences watching a football match plunge into a so-called ‘voluntarism of imagination’, that is, the tendency of the spectator to go beyond the game by screaming and trying to visually force the relatively small-scale football players to get closer to the ball and score. This phenomenon arises from the fact that the screen is small; therefore the simulacrum of the field is a field in reduction or a micro-field. This implies football players and the ball appear in miniature, making the viewer imagine that the process of getting a goal is actually quite simple. Later, Augé speaks about ultra big screens displayed in public spaces; here, the player appears larger than usual and thus, the ability to imagine is reduced to zero. In this case, the spectator’s perception with regard to the scale of the football match becomes more complicated: The screen enlarges players, giving back to the audience, as in their early days of movie theaters, their childhood perceptions… a period where all adults appeared as giants. For Augé, the relation between the public and the television screen is revealed at the end of the match. Suddenly the event is no longer inside the screen but totally outside it. The screen is, in this case, reduced to its modest role as witness or substitute with the mere task of giving older and sick people a reflection of what is happening elsewhere. The remarkable fact, at game end, becomes the urge instantly felt by each viewer to meet the crowd. There’s something to share, something that doesn’t exist outside the sharing process; and that is the object that the screen cannot contain. It is at the same time the victory and the limits of the media… the moment when television screens become abandoned by all those who rush to the streets to congratulate each other.
Roland Barthes in ‘Mythologies’ continues the case study of mass-supported sports using the boxing scene in Paris in the 1960s. In trying to understand the football scene, one needs to question the core subject of popular games where the central event happens outside the playing field in the football sense or the arena in boxing: The delirious crowd, the intellectuals glued to their television screens and the public literally colonized by magical passes or punches.
According to author Michael G. Horowitz, philosopher Herbert Marcuse ‘sees history as an endless confrontation between reason and imposed ignorance’… The ruling class, Marcuse insists, will resort to anything to preserve its privileged position, from the artificial creation of pointless wars and weapons to the maintenance of a sterile morality to a massive ‘bread and circus’ campaign designed to numb you into bliss with new cars, football and moon landings.
I will also be looking at the repercussions of capitalism on society and humankind in general, as well as looking at the concept of ‘Normalization’ and the ‘potential’ and ‘achieved’ society by Marcuse to further support my mission.
In trying to argument the medium (VJing) in relation to the content, I will be reading about new forms of representation. I will be looking at the ‘instantaneous’ according to Paul Virilio who would argue, “Where the last century's revolution in transportation gave rise to an era of generalized mobility, our own tools of instantaneous transmission are reversing the tendency. With the dissolution of the scale of our human environment (prefigured by the telescope and radicalized by the satellite), the very reality of the world is reduced to nil (or next to nothing), leading inevitably to a catastrophic sense of incarceration now that humanity is literally deprived of horizon. Having lost our sense of the journey in the commutation of space during the industrial age, we now lose departure in the age of electromagnetics and the speed of light.” I will also look at the connotation of museums and the choice of wanting to interact live with a crowd in a nightclub.
In placing ‘bread and circus’ at the center of my narrative, I will try to argue that it is not mere coincidence that the economy in Beirut in the nineties deteriorated, leading to my mother’s inability to buy her wardrobe from this fancy boutique. Inflation was a post war fact in Beirut; nevertheless Beirut had become a potential ‘winning’ project, or at least that is what the leaders wanted people to have faith in… the mere existence of the country on the map was a victory; debt was not an issue. Politicians in Lebanon were thus investing in the economy of football, consuming football practice and football teams rather than empowering diverse institutions.
Having researched the historical background of the football theme, I do not wish to portray football as a main issue. Philippe Parreno and Douglas Gordon in their film ‘Zidane, a 21st Century Portrait’ managed to immerse the viewer in an awkward situation, not to film the actual ball but the star player during a football match, without showing the actual game. They were playing on the ‘ordinary’ mentioned in the beginning of the film when the sentence appears on the screen, “Who could have imagined that in the future, an ordinary day like this, might be forgotten or remembered as anything more or less significant than a walk in the park.”
Storytelling becomes the main issue behind the foot kicking the ball. It is in Marc Amerika’s words that I find the pathway to follow; in a Tate Intermedia Art interview, he describes the novel in the digital field as what print cannot contain. Amerika remixes personal narrative, philosophical inquiry, spontaneous theories and cyberpunk fictions that investigate the emergence of digitally constructed identities, fictional personas, narrative mythologies and collaborative networks. He has been working on expanding the concept of writing to include multimedia formats... He starts with a written and then tries to locate different kinds of audiences through the Internet, in nightclubs, museums, galleries, etc… For him net art is trying to blur the boundaries so the difference between cinema, digital video, digital narrative, net art and so on… is to be revisited.
At this stage, I will investigate Lev Manovich’s ‘Soft Cinema’ project that relates to the above concerns.
Watching Amerika’s films and his technique of expanding the concept of writing, I want to come out with a personal narrative about the football story and see how I can make it fall apart in a VJing environment.
Challenging a medium was the main subject to ‘Five Obstructions’, a documentary by Jørgen Leth and Lars Von Trier about ‘The Perfect Human’, a film created by Jørgen Leth in 1967. In ‘Five Obstructions’, director and mentor of Lars Von Trier, Jørgen Leth, is invited to recreate his film in five different ways or experimenting with the narrative in five different ways, each time, carrying a set of obstructions placed by Von Trier. The outcome is heart breaking, and in a way, made me wonder about the flexibility of the digital moving image field, how endless the possibilities of the outcome are. Thus the idea of VJing becomes a means to an end, where the video loops that I will create are the main content I will be working on, while their order is to be decided later.
Another contemporary practitioner in the digital arts field whose work serves as a support to my research is Jill Magid, an MIT graduate whose work revolves around the theme of recognition and identity. In her exhibition ‘Authority to Remove’ at Tate Modern, she challenges technology into sensuality, using spy cameras, videos, texts, emails on intranets, narratives, performances… to engage the systems in romantic journeys, juggling between the profile of artist, surveillance subject and surveyor. Fairly political, she questions issues of identity, power, protection and trust… It is the playfulness and challenging the system once again that comes to mind whenever I mention her work.
At this point I should try to treat the sharpness of the narrative tone in a subtle way, this will be defined once I proceed with the project’s experimentations. For instance, when I speak about the narrative style (or maybe is it too early to discuss this issue) the fighting ignorance with ignorance and corruption with an even more corrupt mentality, I think of Rose Jackson’s comment on Rebecca Horn’s artwork ‘Concert for Anarchy’ (1990) when she says, “My first visit to Tate Modern was memorable due to this piece (among others). I love grand, surreal spectacle and it doesn’t come much grander or more surreal than a piano hanging from the ceiling. It seems slightly ridiculous and makes you wonder – what’s the point of it, but then again… why not? Where else in life would this fit?”
Narrative falling apart is a challenge, narrator in Wim Wender’s ‘Wings of Desire’ states: “With time, those who listened to me became my readers. They no longer sit in a circle, but apart and one doesn’t know anything about the other… What is wrong with peace and its inspiration doesn’t endure and that its story is hardly told? Must I give up now? Then mankind will lose its storyteller. And once mankind loses its storyteller it will also lose its childhood.” What Wim Wender is discussing sounds like narrative in a problematic environment – in his film it is the divided Berlin, in my research project it is football as entertainment in the sociopolitical economical scene.
I will be reading novels, theories related to the theme and visually translating them into mood boards, watching films and shorts and experimenting with VJing gigs in nightclubs. This is crucial for the theory usually helps me come up with ideas. I will keep track of this material on my blogspot, using it as an archive and interactive space.
I might produce a digital application form to be filled by Lebanese citizens, to help restore bits of my memory by telling me what happened with them in 1985, the year the football struck my nose.
Coming up with narrative bits based on my research process seems to be the first step in the execution of the project then working on deciphering it into small units. Then I will start filming and editing to create small loops inspired by a part of the narrative. Working on my technical skills in pure date (VJing being a means to an end) will enable me to start experimenting with randomizing the course of events.
How to diffuse my narrative and make it fall apart?
The idea of using the screen’s full potential, experimenting with its dimensions, emphasizing details and scrutinizing wide thoughts, creating a sort of a visual dictionary / library sounds like the best possibility at this stage.
I will go into VJing as an end, clubbing is the dramatic end to this project when everyone’s there; the people with a drink in their hands are my target audience. It sounds appealing to me to expose my childhood memories and come up with statements full of extreme brouhahas to a bunch of nice people chilling in a club environment.
6- Work Plan:
Unit 1: Week 1 – 60 Research, development and practice
To read, watch, research, report on the blogspot, write the narrative, come up with visuals, figure out ways and styles of filming, edit and create loops to experiment, learn pure data and contact Ed Kelly.
Unit 2:Week 30 – 60 Reflection and presentation
Finalize the narrative and the visuals and apply in the VJing environment.
• Elena Bertozzi, “At Stake: Play, Pleasure and Power in Cyberspace”
• Marc Augé, “An Ethnologist in the World Cup”; http://www.monde-diplomatique.fr/1998/08/AUGE/10819
• Jean-Marie Brohm and Marc Perelman, “Football: From Ecstasy to Nightmare”
• Jill Magid, “Authority to remove”; Tate Modern, September 2009
• Tate Members; 1958-2008
• Wim Wender, “Wings of Desire”
• Jorgen Leth and Lars Von Trier, “The Five Obstructions”
• Philippe Parreno and Douglas Gordon, “Zidane, a 21st Century Portrait”
• Theodore Adorno, “Minima Moralia: Reflections from Damaged Life”; Verso, 2006
• Paul Virilio, “Open Sky”; Verso, 2008
• Roland Barthes, “Mythologies”; Seuil, 1970
• Herbert Marcuse, “One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society”; Routledge Classics, 2002
• Lev Manovich, “The Language of New Media”; The MIT Press, 2001
• Mark Hansen, “New Philosophy for New Media”; The MIT Press, 2004
• Peter Lunenfeld, “The Digital Dialectic: New Essays on New Media”; The MIT Press, 2000
• Pramod K. Nayar, “Virtual Worlds: Culture and Politics in the Age of Cybertechnology”; Sage Publications India Pvt Ltd, 2004
• Christiane Paul, “Digital Art”; Thames & Hudson Ltd, 2003
• Michael Faulkner and D-Fuse Editors, “VJ: Audio-Visual Art + VJ Culture”; Laurence King, 2006
• Onedotzero, “Motion Blur”; Laurence King, 2004
• Paul Auster, “Oracle Night”; Henry Holt and Co., 2003
• Mark Amerika: Interview with Tate Intermedia Art:
• Lev Manovich's Soft Cinema: softcinema.net/?reload
• Beirut on Wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beirut
• Yasmin - moderated list for art-science-technology interactions around the Mediterranean Rim: media.uoa.gr/yasmin
Monday, 2 November 2009
Getting lost with the fact that I cannot figure out what the research question of my project would be, I was discussing this issue with a friend of mine who happened to be in the field of communication.
The following is to be considered a brainstorming session:
In my research proposal there’s an appearance of Marc Augé who has already studied the football language through television screens. According to him, on small screen televisions and monitors, audiences watching a football match plunge into a so-called “voluntarism of imagination”, that is, the tendency of the spectator to go beyond the game by screaming and trying to visually force the relatively small-scale football players to get closer to the ball and score. This phenomenon arises to the fact that the screen is small; therefore the simulacrum of the field is a field in reduction, or a micro-field. This implies that the football players and the ball appear in miniature, making the viewer imagine that the process of getting a goal is actually quite simple. At a later stage, Augé speaks about ultra big screens displayed in public spaces; here, the player appears larger than usual, and thus, the ability to imagine is reduced to zero. In this case, the spectator’s perception with regard to the scale of the football match becomes more complicated: The screen enlarges players, giving back to the audience, as in their early days of movie theaters, their childhood perceptions… a period where all adults appeared as giants. The relation between the public and the television screen is revealed at the end of the match; suddenly the event is no longer inside the screen, but totally outside it. The screen is, in this case, reduced to its modest role as witness, or substitute with the mere task of giving older and sick people a reflection of what is happening elsewhere.
Marc Augé’s field is the ‘Anthropology of the near’ that is the antithesis of Anthropology, being the study of humankind in particular. Anthropology in Europe dealt with the studies of the ‘Other’, that is the 3rd world, The Middle East, Africa…) that’s why Edward Said for instance named this kind of Anthropology ‘Orientalism’. Anthropology of the near came as a response to the European treatment of Anthropology, mainly to show the repercussions of Capitalism on the society and humankind in general. Super modernity is Augé’s field, it is a critique of globalization and its effect on football for instance. Augé was part of the group of thinkers who were named the ‘the technological pessimists’, even though he was not against technology development, he actually discusses how new technology is abusing the society. In the case of football, people buy the rights to broadcasting for example, which feeds the ideology of control.
The conversation ended up leading to Marcuse who have discussed the concept of Normalization, (a interesting approach to the research question); for Marcuse, Capitalism is setting the concept of the normal. Society has no choice, it is an illusion of a choice that is has (you get to choose for instance between Ariel or Persil), so the options of freedom are non-existent. In his book ‘one-dimensional man’ he discusses how we are living in a one-dimensional society since Capitalism is refusing the dialect (being the fact that the thesis and antithesis create a new formula = a change), the refusal of the dialect is manifested through the fact that capitalism create the thesis and its antithesis very close to each other (again the Ariel and Persil example) to narrow down the options thus claiming that we are living in an ‘achieved’ society. For Marcuse ‘potential’ society is his ultimate goal, the kind that Capitalism hide from the masses. In order to reach this potential society, one should start by negating everything, question everything from scratch leading to the truth that is critical thinking is the basic of the dialect(for instance, shall I buy Ariel or Persil, why should I buy a cleaning detergent, do I need a cleaning detergent, what if I don’t buy one… and so on…).
Just like Augé and Marcuse, Baudrillard discussed Mass Media and New Technology. He related this field to the obscene (obese + scene), for Baudrillard New technology is actually distorting the reality, so the representation of reality is not reality, it could be hyper-reality instead, a creation of another reality (just like the example he uses with the porn industry not being related to the sex scene, it is a distortion of the reality of sex).
So am I discussing some kind of reality of the society? I am not sure I have this kind of qualifications.
Monday, 26 October 2009
As he climbs the library stairs and bumps into one of the angels, the narrator in Wim Wender's 'Wings of Desire' says:
'With time, those who listened to me became my readers. They no longer sit in a circle, but apart and one doesn't know anything about the other. I am an old man with a broken voice... but the story still rises from the depths and the slowly opened mouth repeats it as clearly as it does powerfully. A liturgy for which no one needs to be initiated to the meaning of the words and sentences.'
'Finished with the sweeping over the centuries as in the past. Now I can only think only day by day. My heroes are no longer the warriors and kings but the things of peace, one equal to the other. The drying onions equal to the tree trunk crossing the marsh. But no one has so far succeeded in signing an epic of peace. What is wrong with peace that its inspiration doesn't endure and that its story is hardly told? Must I give up now? If I do give up, then mankind will lose its storyteller. And once a mankind loses its storyteller I will also lose its childhood.'
Monday, 19 October 2009
A visual essay I have challenged myself to create inspired from and based on the film 'The 5 Obstructions' directed by Jørgen Leth and Lars Von Trier; 'The 5 Obstructions' is a documentary based on 'The Perfect Human' (1967), Lars Von Trier's favorite film (created by Jørgen Leth), where Von Trier challenges his mentor Leth to remake this film five times, each time with a different obstruction. The documentary ends up to become a series of experimental films put together in a game of style. The importance of this film (in my opinion, regarding the subject matter I am working on), is the help it provides in choosing the style of the final artwork, meaning that there might be infinite possible ways to portray the subject, how to make the decision?
While watching the film, I could link 'The 5 Obstructions' to 'Exercice de Style' (exercises in style), written by Raymond Queneau, French poet and novelist, member of the OULIPO [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oulipo], the story being a collection of 99 retelling of the same story, each time in a different style. The story would include the same character going on the same bus watching the same fight then bump into the same man few hours later in another situation at the Gare.
Monday, 12 October 2009
Sunday, 11 October 2009
We were two kids, my older sister and I, living with our parents and grandparents with our main entertainment being watching the plants grow and the flowers blossom. My mother’s efforts in providing us amusement included, one day, an outing to watch a football game at the only playing field in the village. Upon our arrival, one of the players kicks the ball and the ball hits me squarely in the face. As my nose starts bleeding, my mom quickly takes me into her lap and places my head on her shoulder. She runs back with me towards our house to nurse my injury.
That day, my nose bled so much it ruined the removable collar of my mom’s brown checkered dress she had bought from Carel. It was a sparkling day, that’s what I remember. The crisp colors of the green grass and the red blood still shine in my mind whenever I reconstruct the accident in my memory. After the incident, my mom’s dress lost its sublime quality as the blood stains on the collar couldn’t be removed; and the dress without its collar no longer held any of its original appeal. It was its raison d’être, the only indicator of its Bauhaus connotation. I kept seeing the dress left lying around somewhere in her bedroom. Every effort had been made to remove the stains; but unfortunately, nothing could solve this glitch.
Years later, when I was to turn 17, my mother finally declared that she was no longer able to buy any more items for her wardrobe from Carel. It was then that I realized the economic situation of my family was no longer as it was during wartime.
Fourteen years later, the accident of the football hitting my face, the nose bleed, its consequences and my mom’s subsequent declaration would become like a wake-up call for me. I would question its implications. It was so connected, like threads woven with threads, like links in a contour of an amorphous form, a timeline and a grid, a population and a country.
I began deciphering the elements of my story. I thought about the strike of the football, the blood as a form of art, the reconstruction of the scene in my memory with the crispness of its colors, football practice, the implications of identity and nationalism in a game, my mother’s brown checkered dress and our financial situation pre and post war. I revisited the Bauhaus sensibility, the bread and circuses phenomena, sports in general, and the case study of Lebanon, in specific, with its public and the excitement, slogans and chants of Lebanese sports teams, the inherent sectarian and regional distribution of these teams, the representation and the aftermath of football…
Elena Bertozzi, in her paper ‘At Stake: Play, Pleasure and Power in Cyberspace’, describes playing football as a “socially permitted aggression”. In a football game, the player reads and anticipates the action of the other, never quite sure what will really happen. Mastering football is a matter of time and skill. In the aftermath of a match, the idea of restoration of dialogue between the two teams, two enemies, or two competitors is omnipresent: so much so that one can see the relation of football to politics, to rulers or governors using ‘bread and circuses’ policies to fulfill and distract the governed in their basic needs, diverting their attention away from politics and interfering in the political scene.
According to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, ‘bread and circuses’ is a terminology used to explain the offerings, such as benefits or entertainments, intended to placate discontent or distract attention from a policy or situation.
Philosophers such as Theodore Adorno speak about how the removal or reduction of the ‘bread and circuses’, or what others term as ‘useful lies’ from mass culture will threaten the continued operation of the market and society, as well as higher philosophical truth.
It was therefore no accident or mere coincidence that my mother’s inability to buy her wardrobe from Carel was declared at the same period some leaders in Lebanon were buying football teams and encouraging youth to focus their attention to sports in the country. In post war Beirut, we can actually discuss the economy of football, neo-liberalism, and investments in similar institutions rather than in cultural projects.
The new economy of Beirut of the 90s, based on a credit system, was cutting its way into the shadow of football practice consumption and the consumption of football teams. Inflation was the post war fact; nevertheless Beirut had become a potential ‘winning’ project, or at least this is what the leaders wanted people to have faith in… the mere existence of the country on the map was a victory; debt was not an issue; and we should keep the game going.
Jean-Marie Brohm and Marc Perelman, in an article entitled ‘Football: From Ecstasy to Nightmare’, discuss the illusion big football games provide to society’s masses. It is presented as a “social elevator” for poor people. The ideology behind these big football games is the ideology of war, an apology for physical force – or a socially permitted aggression in Bertozzi’s words. Fanatic supporters encouraged and promoted by the shadow of multiculturalism – or a form of belonging in the sectarian, national, regional or ideological sense.
Marc Augé, in an article entitled ‘An Ethnologist in the World Cup’, speaks about how, during big football games, citizens (or the masses) reclaim symbols of the republic, the flag and the national anthem which otherwise are usually confiscated as the property of right wing nationalists.
Roland Barthes, in his book ‘Mythologies’ continues the case study of mass-supported sports using the boxing scene in Paris in the 1960s. In trying to understand the football scene in Beirut of 2006, one needs to question the core subject of popular games where the central event happens outside the playing field in the football sense, or the arena in boxing: The delirious crowd, the intellectuals glued to their television screens, and the public literally colonized by magical passes or punches.
In Lebanon, a major redistribution of local football teams would take place after the war ended according to the surviving sectarian and ideological alignments. I will not tackle this issue in my final outcome but researching it and putting it out there is essential to assimilate the situation.
A series of rules in the Lebanese Football League is obligatory, among which is the fact that in the Lebanese Football League, league seats are distributed according to the sects, similar to the method used in the Lebanese parliament’s distribution of seats; that is, the head of the league must be Shiite, the league secretary must be Druze, one of the head’s deputies must be a Sunnite and the other a Christian; the rest are represented by one Armenian, six Christians and six Muslims.
According to sectarian, national and ideological associations, the chants of a team’s public represent or adapt to changes or events in the domestic political scene.
As for Lebanon’s regional distribution, all the areas are represented except for the Bekaa valley.
As long as Lebanese society remains in the shadow of such delineations (such as sectarian ideology) and the neo-liberal tenets which highlight rivalry and competition, football as a metaphor for ‘friendship, solidarity, and fraternity’ will never come to pass. It will remain a paradigm of war, battle and combat and the illusion of unity will remain hanging in temporal stage, or virtual unity.
Martin Heidegger in ‘Murder of the Body: A Jury Verdict Pending’ discusses the video game culture, saying that “our culture is fascinated with the immaterial body which knows no aging process and may overcome even death.”
In this spirit, I want to create a video (or series of loops, depending whether I want to publish the final narrative as an interactive project), based on stories – both narrative and informative – to discuss my society and culture as seen through a football match.
Marc Augé studied the football language through television screens. According to him, on small screen televisions and monitors, audiences watching a football match plunge into a so-called “voluntarism of imagination”, that is, the tendency of the spectator to go beyond the game by screaming and trying to visually force the relatively small-scale football players to get closer to the ball and score.
This phenomenon arises to the fact that the screen is small; therefore the simulacrum of the field is a field in reduction, or a micro-field. This implies that the football players and the ball appear in miniature, making the viewer imagine that the process of getting a goal is actually quite simple. At a later stage, Augé speaks about ultra big screens displayed in public spaces; here, the player appears larger than usual, and thus, the ability to imagine is reduced to zero. In this case, the spectator’s perception with regard to the scale of the football match becomes more complicated: The screen enlarges players, giving back to the audience, as in their early days of movie theaters, their childhood perceptions… a period where all adults appeared as giants.
The relation between the public and the television screen is revealed at the end of the match; suddenly the event is no longer inside the screen, but totally outside it. The screen is, in this case, reduced to its modest role as witness, or substitute with the mere task of giving older and sick people a reflection of what is happening elsewhere.
The remarkable fact, at game end, becomes the urge instantly felt by each viewer to meet the crowd. There’s something to share, something that doesn’t exist outside the sharing process; and that is the object that the screen cannot contain. It is at the same time the victory and the limits of the media… the moment when television screens become abandoned by all those who rush to the streets to congratulate each other.
I will be researching throughout my project the football language and technical terms, with elements or techniques such as ‘replay’ and ‘slow motion’ that allow for a more clinical decipherment of an arbitrary decision, or the exploration of a detail that otherwise could not be seen. In a way, these visual techniques used to present a football match to TV screen viewers, teach us how to see. It urges the viewer to encourage, to be inside the event. After all, a football game is half-carnival, half manifestation; it is a feast to re-conquer something that resembles reality.
At this point, I have a vague idea of the type of imagery, but I was thinking of the video game type as a possibility to include icons representing players and football teams, the ambassadors of this intense sport’s event; an event which becomes, for mere mortals, an occasion to measure one’s history to the larger history, or to history simply.
More than any other sport, football remains one etched into our memory: It possesses, to a high degree, the force of souvenir, incomparable mixes, a rare aroma provoking drunkenness that blends the past with the present, myth and ritual.
It is not by accident that, twenty years later, I still recall the football hitting my face that day in my parent’s village. It has become the alarm that wakes me up every morning.
I am intending to proceed by interviewing a leftist economist ‘Kamal Hamdan’ regarding the issue of the economical situation in 90s Beirut, since I think I have some kind of a lack in this area. Then I will continue doing my readings on the narrative in the cyberspace, for that I have to start from earlier theoreticians who wrote about structuralism and narration, to include Roland Barthes’ ‘Introduction to the Structural Analysis of Narratives’ and contemporary practitioners to include Mark Amerika’s way of describing the novel in the digital realm. For the style, I will be going through a whole range of narrative approaches from animation series (for instance Beavis and Butt-head) to comic artists (David Shrigley per se), television shows (the MTV Jackass world) and other forms of art that included narration. Then, I will start writing a script, using both personal stories, and trying to link them to the economical, social, and national aspects of the Football and political practice and aftermath. I will have to research potential visual elements, potential style (deconstruction style so far) and location hunting for the filming spots. Once I decide on the final outcome, I will have access to a tutorial to the relative software needed to start the actual realization of the project.
Tokyo! is a compilation of 3 short films freely inspired by Tokyo and shot in the heart of the city. ‘Interior Design’, the short by Michel Gondry is briefly the story of a young couple who move to Tokyo in search of a future. Both of them will be drowned in the immensity until the girl, feeling alone, discovers something strange. She starts alternating, an actual hole perforates her bust, she’s in a process of mutation. Her human leg becomes a wooden leg, her arm becomes a wooden arm… she becomes a wooden chair with the ability to switch back to the human mode, she would live in a stranger’s house, the stranger that picked up the chair from the street, without him noticing, disguised in a chair when he’s around and functioning as a human when he leaves.
The poetic of the material is what triggers this little post; flesh to wood then a floating soul that roams in the city, hides in the ‘in betweens’ of the buildings, in the cavities… Just today the idea of a couple was occurring to my mind, I thought how, when you’re around someone you love, you have the tendency to ‘fill the gaps’ in his/her body with your own body, the space between the head and the shoulder would become a space for the other to occupy, you embrace the other’s ‘in betweens’ exactly the same way an annex is adjusted to a building. Michel Gondry’s fairy tale treatment of the theme (man/architecture) generates a sparkle, a phantom chill (to be discussed. The theme suits Melanie’s proposal, a great example for the ghost houses research.
In an interview with the director asked about whether Kafka’s ‘Metamorphosis’ was the main inspiration of the film, Gondry answers: ‘Gabrielle wrote the story. I think that was her friend Sadie who was the main character, who felt more and more useless. Now I know Sadie, and she's very quiet and always feels like she's removed from the scene, from the room. I guess she was complaining about something, and she had this idea that she wished she'd just be a chair. There's something quite self-deprecating about that. My contribution was to make the transformation slow and painful, 'cause in the book it's just sort of a morph, two or three frames. It's not very much Kafka because in "Metamorphosis" the guy wakes up and he's a cockroach. Of course, it's a masterpiece. I always avoided reading it because I'd heard of it too much, but finally I said, "Okay I have to read it," and I just realized how much you get a different idea from what the piece actually is. It's very witty and funny and surprising. Basically, I think the Kafka story takes the most extreme situation and puts it in a normal context. It's genius. This is different. I was mostly thinking of the Polanski film "Repulsion," this sort of slow deterioration. I wanted the audience to not see it coming that she would become a chair. So it starts with a hole in the chest and there are two slots of wood, but it looks like she has lost her heart. It is misleading. The feet are in wood, and I thought about the "Pinocchio" from 1973 by Comencini where they switch back-and-forth between a piece of wood and the real boy's flesh. As a kid when I watched that I was terrified. Like when he tried to cut the log of wood and the log of wood has this little nose and he hears the little boy's voice and he jumps! That was enough to scare me to death.’
Friday, 2 October 2009
In Arcade Fire’s video ‘black mirror’ (directed by Oliver Groulx and Tracey Maurice, director of photography Jean-François Lord) a giant head appears in one of the scenes, in the middle of the water, beautifully composited, a little bit à la Theo Angelopoulos ‘Ulysses’ gaze’ scene of the famous Lenin sculpture being transported in the still river.
Check the Arcade Fire video on: http://www.rorrimkcalb.com/
The giant head in the Arcade fire video is a virtual sculpture while the Lenin sculpture is an actual cement based traditional monument, both appear in a digital format, that of film or video that could be watched on a screen.
It is an example for the introductory question that I have been reading about lately, technology as a tool or a medium? Till what extent can video be considered digital art? Does digital art require the presence of the ‘interactive’, the ‘user’s manipulation of the artwork’? or could it simply be an all set video that has been shot, edited, and finalized, so that the viewer can do nothing but watch it?
Thursday, 1 October 2009
‘From the first kick of the ball until the final whistle.’
‘Madrid, Saturday 23rd, 2005, who could have imagined that in the future, an ordinary day like this, might be forgotten or remembered as anything more or less significant than a walk in the park. Face to face, as close as it lasts, for as long as it takes’ These are the words that release the football match filmed by the two directors, Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno with their super quality cameras. The film starts with an extreme close up on the field and the match, a zoom in to the extent that the only visible material the spectator gets is the digitized coloured bits, changing from green to red then yellow and so on, depending on what the camera is rolling over. 17 cameras around the set with magnificent zoom lenses, the longest, for the first time in the commercial use, all the cameras are following the football player Zinédine Zidane, the icon of the national French football team, playing for Real Madrid.
The directors manage to scrutinize Zidane’s movements, his sweat is so close to the film viewer, and so are his spits, the movement of his eyes, his sight’s fields, the scratch of his nose, having researched the techniques of filming a football match, Gordon and Parreno add their artistic practice on that layer to create a football related cinematic language with moments of abstraction or gazing in a another world, could be a detail of the green grass, a projector emitting heat, a digital clock hanging on a banner, a kellogg’s frosties advertising in motion… Immersion is definitely part of the viewing experience, and at moments, I started thinking that it is actually becoming awkward not to film the actual ball but a star player, it was playing on the ‘ordinary’, the one they mention in the beginning of the film. A fall on the ground would become a poetic landscape, using the same technique of replaying the scene but with a slower pace, and played against Mogwai’s music, created for the original soundtrack of the film. Football never seemed so lonely for me, it was no longer a collective play, it was Zidane, alone, the football field as a deserted place, with the whole ‘ghost like’ ambiance that is out there but that we - the film’s spectators - cannot reach or see.
In the ‘following Zidane’ trip, the directors are looking closely and lovingly to him, Zidane would look up to the sky, and the cameramen follow his sight field, only to show us what is on his mind at this specific brief second, they show us the heat emitted by the light projectors and carry on by a narrative, in Zidane’s words, that takes us backwards to his early childhood years, yet giving a backup for the directors’ way of working; ‘As a child, I had a running commentary in my head when I was playing. It wasn’t really my own voice; it was the voice of Pierre Cangioni, a television anchor of the 1970s. Every time I heard his voice, I would run towards the TV as close as I could get, for as long as I could. It wasn’t that his words were so important, but the tone, the accent, the atmosphere was everything…’
I was taken by Zidane t-shirt’s number 5, for me when I was 5 years old, I thought I looked like number 5, very thin on the top with a big belly, and this is practically the age that as far as I know, is the limit of when I remember myself in my childhood years.
‘When you step into the field, you can hear and feel, the presence of the crowd. There is sound, the sound of noise.’ Zidane follows the appearance of these words, standing alone in the frame, applauding, but we - film’s spectators – did not see what happened on the field to deserve applause, while the field spectators did. ‘When you are immersed in the game, you don’t really hear the crowd, you can almost decide for yourself what you want to hear, you are never alone, I can hear someone shift around in their chair, I can hear someone coughing, I can hear someone whisper in the ear of the person next to him, I can imagine that I can hear the ticking of a watch. Maybe if things are going badly, you become conscious of people’s reaction. When it is not going well, you feel less involved and more likely to hear the insults, the whistles. You start to have negative thoughts sometimes you want to forget.’
‘The game, the event, is not necessarily experienced or remembered in ‘real time’, my memories of games and events are fragmented, sometimes when you arrive in the stadium, you feel that everything has already been decided, the script has already been written’.
It is a whole match, one whole match for Real Madrid, Zidane manages to do it all, he helps Ronaldinho score, Ronaldinho kisses Zidane on the cheek, Zidane fights with the other team’s player, he is penalized, the jury’s red card forces him to leave the field, the directors zoom out from the player to the football field, the whole architecture of the playing field, and it is in Zidane’s words that the film ends: ‘magic is sometimes close to nothing at all, when I retire I will miss the green of the field, ‘le carré vert’’.
Friday, 25 September 2009
It is an aspect that is inspired by David Shrigley’s artwork, Music Televisions’ ‘Jackass’ show, the famous ‘Beavis and Butt-head’ 90s animated series, and some underdeveloped politicians in their spontaneous -off the camera- manners.
To brief the reader about the jackass world, their official website states that it is ‘an entertainment world gone mad with high production value and professionalism, Jeff Tremaine, Johnny Knoxville, and Spike Jonze brought the amateur, lo-fi fun of jackass to television in what seemed like a lark but became an influential smear of pop culture crap. Sociological ramifications aside, sit back and pinch a loaf off with an absurd bevy of stunts, pranks, and silliness…’
As for David Shrigley’s contemporary artwork, in an article entitled 'Come to me those who labour or are heavy laden and I will give you rest and a nice hot cup of tea’, the author gives a brief and thorough glimpse of Shrigley’s art, he says ‘David’s drawings and sculptures are concerned with the unreported tragedies of everyday life, or with the confines of daily routine which breed a kind of autism. Time and again Shrigley will conclude his pieces with a pessimism, which must be taken as thinly-coded despair: ‘They eventually found him hanging beneath the bridge.’ (Small Town Blues, 1995); ‘Failure to complete what one has started’ (Failure, 1995); ‘The hopes and dreams of worthless losers’ (Things in Bits, 1995). And yet there is a morbid fascination in following the narrative logic of Shrigley’s drawings, partly because the despair is delivered with unique comedy, and partly because the blatancy of his tragic pronouncements is wholly recognizable as an articulation of our darkest moods or fears. Shrigley’s notion of the brute indifference of fate towards the frailty of lives and communities provides a paradoxical frisson of pleasure when it is described with neither saving clauses nor intellectual qualification: we seem to experience the enjoyment of having our worst fears justified.’
Having read the above-mentioned artists’ statements; I realized that the idea of using this style of narration in my project is a strategy that consists of fighting ignorance with ignorance and corruption with even a more corrupt mentality.
The narrator believes that ‘politically correct’ is an act of ‘don juanism’, imported and bottled and does not suit the narrator’s way of thinking.
Dealing with a narration that tackles the political/economical, I gave myself the right to use this technique.
I have been doing some reading on narration in general, and came up with some valid questions. In regard of ‘Beavis and Butt-head’, MTV describes the two characters as no one does ‘deliberately unintelligent and crude ‘… ‘They (Beavis and Butt-head) became self-appointed arbiters of "cool." And Beavis and Butt-head loved stuff that was cool. But, for the most part, Beavis and Butt-head spent their time just sitting on a couch making fun of MTV's music video staples and talking about stuff that "sucks." Apparently, a lot of stuff sucked back then.’ This applies to the Lebanese political scene, there is so much junk on television, shows hosting politicians, opinionated, corrupt, and but still leaders in the whole sense of the word. It is in this direction that I wish to take my project on the speech level. Reading Walter Benjamin’s ‘the storyteller’ (excerpted from the book ‘Illuminations’) made me realize that narration is a very vague word.
According to Benjamin, ‘the art of storytelling is coming to an end. Less and less frequently do we encounter people with the ability to tell a tale properly. More and more often there is embarrassment all around when the wish to hear a story is expressed. It is as if something that seemed inalienable to us, the securest among our possessions, were taken from us: the ability to exchange experiences.’ From this point, the whole narration aspect that I wish to work on is doomed, but then Benjamin would argue that ‘the earliest symptom of a process whose end is the decline of storytelling is the rise of the novel at the beginning of modern times. What distinguishes the novel from the story (and from the epic in the narrower sense) it its essential dependence on the book. The dissemination of the novel became possible only with the invention of printing. What can be handed on orally, the wealth of the epic, is of a different kind from what constitutes the stock in trade of the novel. What differentiates the novel from all other forms of prose literature – the fairy tale, the legend, even the novella – is that it neither comes from oral tradition nor goes into it. This distinguishes it from storytelling in particular/ the storyteller takes what he tells from experience – his own or that reported by others. And he in turn makes it the experience of those who are listening to his tale. The novelist has isolated himself. The birthplace of the novel is the solitary individual, who is no longer able to express himself by giving examples of his most important concerns, is himself uncounselled, and cannot counsel others. To write a novel means to carry the incommensurable to extremes in the representation of human life.’ Having read this, I thought about the print form and narration, it is not my intent to go into publishing a printed book, my research will be showcased somewhere between the digital moving image and the interactivity…
It is in Mark Amerika’s words in an interview with Tate Intermedia Art where I find back my pathway of the process. ‘Amerika remixes personal narrative, philosophical inquiry, spontaneous theories, and cyberpunk fictions that investigate the emergence of digitally constructed identities, fictional personas, narrative mythologies, and collaborative networks.’ In the interview, I learned that he has been working expanding the concept of writing to include multimedia formats. He starts with a written and then tries to locate different kinds of audiences whether through the Internet, in nightclubs, museums, galleries, etc… he started his career as a novelist, and at a certain point, he wanted to see his writings in a different form, other than in print, this is how he ended up in the digital art form. As a cultural background, Amerika is fascinated with foreign films, not only because they come from different parts of the world, but he’s also intrigued by the subtitles, that translate dialogues of what is being said as a form of art. Foreignness in general is intriguing for him. This comes from his love of reading, he argues. So this is how he came with the idea of having the subtitles persona always present in his films - but they are never seen in his films - it is a way of creating another persona effect within the context of a narrative drift. At a certain point in the interview, he thought of how could his writing appear in this foreign film environment? The subtitles were written first and then you had to read the subtitles to understand the cinematic experience. He would question who are we when we become a sort of virtual representation of ourselves/ when we switch roles, now that the media apparatus is allowing us to switch more fluidly, and then states that we no longer have to think of a character as an entity composed of social psychological realist elements… since we are becoming a fictional identity. For him, net art is trying to blur the boundaries, so the difference between cinema, digital video, digital narrative, net art and so on… is to be revisited, he would insist on the why does he have to succumb to the logic of independent cinema and send my works to film festivals and why succumb to the logic of video art in the art galleries and why succumb to the idea of breaking up my work and put it in multiple parts on youtube and then anyone can see it when they want to, in that particular format. The aesthetic of mixing up the physiological and the cinematic is very appealing to him.
For more info about my references, please check the follow links:
and the book: Walter Benjamin 'Illuminations'