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'

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