Friday, 25 September 2009

The narrator's voice

One aspect I would like to emphasize during my research is my narrator’s voice that could be described as follows: extremely judgmental, promotes laziness, ‘jackassness’, ‘airheadness’ and extreme honesty to the silliness extent.

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'

Monday, 21 September 2009

1W2 onedotzero’s ‘adventures in motion’

The onedotzero festival ‘adventures in motion’ took place last week at BFI Southbank.
Very inspiring, the selection embraced a wide variety of techniques, great videos juggling through multiple types of imagery. I watched 2 sets, ‘extended play 09’ narrative shorts from different visual approaches, and ‘partizan: the next generation’, showcasing their music videos, commercials, and animations.
It took me a week to write about this event on this blogspot maybe because I was very impressed by the artworks screened. I was taking personal notes during the screenings, I would read them now and filter some few good ones that might help me with research related decisions; assumptions like 3D animation doesn’t appeal to me, the importance of generating visuals in my project’s final outcome and throughout the whole research process, 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…
Check the festival’s website:

Friday, 18 September 2009

1W1 Bus Stories

Bus on diversion:
The other day, the bus was on diversion, so I had to walk to another bus to continue my journey. Road works were taking place; at a certain point I heard the sizzling sound of the asphalt; the heat and odor emitted were really strong. I was intrigued to research the sounds of still material.
Later that day, I was telling a friend about that, so she practically told me that, when filming a football match, there are actual microphones that are inserted inside the balls, which makes the sounds of the ball hitting the ground audible to the spectators.

Bus 48 to London Bridge:
On the bus 48 to London Bridge, the driver was humming and whistling the ‘London Bridge is falling down’ nursery rhyme.

All is happening in my brain

I was reflecting on my actual project proposal and I realized that the missing bit is the technical aspect. I think I have a skeleton, the narrative story; I should research more the ways of visualizing the project. What is it that I want to do with my project? How do I want to diffuse the events of my story? Vjing? (it sounds appealing to me, and may suit the non-linearity that I wish to create) or stills? stills distilled? (I actually like how this last one sounds) digitally manipulated moving image?
In all cases, I have come to terms with myself that I should take a deep breath and plunge into one big subject for the full length of this course. I never had a chance before to work on a project for a period exceeding three to six months. I have adapted myself in my way of working to a fast pace that could definitely be re-questioned. I will consider exploring more, reading instead of skimming through and use a wider variety of resources.

Monday, 14 September 2009

1W1 Presenting myself and my proposal

My name is Maya Chami, I am graphic designer working in the field since 2002. Other than the market’s work, I have been working independently on graphic interventions in a Lebanese newspaper, an initiative that intended to provide graphic designers with a space to get involved in the public sphere through an idea with social or political dimensions. This graphic intervention became a statement, a weekly narration of political, social and even poetic thought – presented graphically.
After some years of work, with a focus on various aspects of design for print media, I have reached a stage where I am seeking a further education to enhance my capabilities as a designer in the digital moving image and the digital arts field, and this is why I opted for The MA in Digital Arts Online at Camberwell College of Arts.
Recently I have worked on a stop-motion short in order to experiment with the relative technique; it’s a story that I have written that recounts the incidents that my uncle encountered the night of his death. This project was entitled playground 1956-1994, portraying in a way Beirut the battleground that he used as a recreational area.
It is has been a while now that I started to realize that I love storytelling and could easily use it as visual material. I recollect stories that I remember and link them with concepts that, just now, I am becoming aware of. I don’t have great communication skills though, which makes my storytelling experiences a little bit unusual, for me at least. I am intending to research non-linear narratives, it could help me discover some pathway.
Being from the Middle East, I am involved in the social political economical or not? I still have not decided, I am still researching and resisting this idea. But living in Beirut is definitely what molded my character. I am a city person, cannot stand being in nature for more than three hours. Beirut is a sea city (on the Mediterranean), sunny most of the time, I don’t consider the sea as nature; it is mainly the trees and its insects that get on my nerves.
The project proposal that I am wishing to work on is based on an incident. I was 4 years old when the war in Beirut started, so school was dismissed early this year and we escaped to the village for an early summer vacation in the middle of February. Our village in the south was very boring, so the main source of entertainment was to watch the plants grow and the flowers blossom. My mother’s efforts to entertain us including one day an outing to watch a football game in the only playing field in the village; Once we reached the football field, one of the football players kicks the ball and the ball hits me squarely in my face. As my nose starts bleeding my mother takes me into her lap and places my head on her shoulder. That day, my nose bled so much it ruined the removable collar of my mother’s brown-checkered dress she had bought from ‘Carel’. It was a sparkling day. 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 mother’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’ĂȘtre, 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. ‘Carel’ is a fancy boutique in Beirut, targeting mainly upper middle class and the high-class society. This is where she used to buy all her wardrobe as far as I remember.
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 mother’s subsequent declaration would become like a wake-up call for me. I would question its implications. It was so connected.
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…
It was 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; one should keep the game going.
In my research I will be discussing the illusion big football games provide to society’s masses, the ‘apology for physical force’ and the ‘socially permitted aggression’, reclaiming symbols of the republic including flags and national anthems, delirious crowds, intellectuals glued to their television screens, and the public literally colonized by magical passes. I will also be examining the relation between public and the screen, the clinical decipherment of a player’s arbitrary decision, the abandonment of the screen at the moment of victory when a game ends, the viewer that becomes a member of a nationalist crowd...

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Jill Magid's 'Authority to Remove'

Yesterday I had the chance to go see the ‘Authority to Remove’ exhibition by Jill Magid, an American artist showing in Tate modern. I have read some time last year about her projects, she usually plays around challenging 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. Pretty political, she questions issues of identity, power, protection, and trust… this show is a one-time-only exhibition due to censorship reasons (Authority to remove was a commissioned project originally).

Below are links related to Jill’s artwork:

And this project’s link is the following:

Friday, 11 September 2009

A Foot Kicking A Ball: The Romance of Football

Originally, when I had written the proposal for the research question that I wished to investigate, I based myself around the idea of “representation and the aftermath of football”. I proposed to explore the football world and how it could be revisited through digital moving image. By means of video game culture and new technologies, I wished to re-examine the relation between the public and the screen, the clinical decipherment of a player’s arbitrary decision, exploring a detail that otherwise could not be seen, the abandonment of the screen at the moment of victory when a game ends, the viewer that becomes a member of a nationalist crowd...

Technology has brought us the ability to decode, plunge into details, scrutinize, and come up with our own conclusions; I wanted to experiment with the “bread and circuses” phenomena, whether if it will still work if scandalized, if advertized and massacred in public?

In my original research, I revisited theorists such as Marc AugĂ© and Roland Barthes to assimilate the idea of ‘voluntarism of imagination’ and theories about perceiving through screens. I also tried to explore the work of artists working on decipherment of images and digital imagery that speak to the real on a digital level.

I was planning to investigate a particular case study, which could be the Lebanese football scene. I wanted explore the sectarian, national and ideological associations, and the chants of a team’s public relatively to the domestic political scene. I aimed to produce a sort of an interactive digital moving image that detects the movements of the viewers and connect them to the digital image, wishing to create in that way some sort of complicity between the viewer and the screen.

Nowadays my proposal emerges from a more personal narrative story; I will be working on refining it now before posting it.