Nine Practice as Research Portfolios
For the purposes of what follows I define a practice as research protfolio as comprised of an investigation of an aspect of a core research question which has a series of outcomes: the first is to originate a first response which is a work of art, that is then exhibited, critically reflected upon in articles, papers and presentations at conferences and symposia. The links to the left will show detail about the first 4 portfolios. Some of the other 5 portfolios below have various aspects of this definition fulfilled, the latter are in development. My most recent work responds to the concers oputlined in Portfolio 7 around the idea of the 'photographic moment'. I have created a 73 minute work called 'To Stand and Stare: An English Landscape' which is currently being submitted to various festivals. This work is related to a piece made in 1980 called 'Towards Intuition: An American Landscape' and next year I hope to begin work on 'Looking for Los Angeles: A New American Landscape'which further develops the concerns in portfolio 7.
In 2006 I wrote a 3 year AHRC Creative Research Fellowship based on the idea that the research artworks would become acts of navigation – that each work would plot a position, that would then be building blocks towards answering my core research question: ‘In what ways will High Resolution Imaging change the work produced in the convergence of art and visual technologies and consequently, our experience of that work? Having been a long-time artist and professional cinematographer I had previously seen evidence that incresing the resolution of an image would have some effect on the audiences response - it certainly had on me whilst I worked with the material of cinematography. So I developed a three-fold strategy to reveal the answer to my core question:
• i) Practice as Research Portfolio 1: ‘Experiences of Immediacy and the Environment’, PARP with artefacts, exhibitions, journal articles & Conference Papers (and additional Invited Talks to Research Communities).
To photograph small parts of the real world - a table, a bed, a chair - and present those things projected back onto themselves at different resolutions - then note the times of engagement people spend with them, then correlate increased resolution and times of engagement. Through this method I identified that engagement increases in quantum jumps rather than simply increasing bit by bit. I have to add here that ultimately I am interested in scientific method in others hands - not my own.
To explore increased engagement I made my installation In Other People’s Skins that projected a dinner party on to a table (I had made other versions at lower resolutions and noted the power of how people 'read' an image and how the maker can re-distribute certain strategies to enhance that engagement - like withholding the narrative as in standard entertainment forms). I found that people became engaged for long periods of time and the artist/researcher in me decided that more important than the actual fascination of engagement was the borderline where fascination came and went - so I then started to create interruptions in the flow to interrupt the 'belief' in the artifact that the projection created. It was not after all a table, but a projection of a table, on top of a table. A philosophical issue developed at this borderline. So here’s an example of the kind of interruptions I began to eventually make in the installation to break up the engagement with the work as a ‘dinner party’.
• ii) Practice as Research Portfolio 2: ‘High Resolution Motion Imaging and the Iconic Image’, PARP with artefacts, exhibitions, journal articles & Conference Papers (and additional Invited Talks to Research Communities), Various.
The 2nd strategy was to move outward from the small specifics of the interior to the larger exterior world to re-photograph places where iconic images have been made, then re-interpret them in a way that reflects an enquiry into my research question. One of the works involved making a short installation piece on Red 4K equipment, which relates to my interest in the high-resolution photography of Ansel Adams. I zoomed in 6 miles then held my breath for 30 seconds so that later in post I could zoom into the pixels and slowly reveal what Adams caught in a still image. This is shown in exhibition 20 feet x 10 feet.
Later I developed this form with different kinds of re-photographing of other iconic places such as Venice where the 20 x 10 foot screen hangs 15 feet above the audience at an angle of 45 degrees and the audience is encouraged to lie beneath the buildings and sky of Venice as we float slowly beneath (this replicates the Venetian fascination with looking upward in their own city).
• iii) Practice as Research Portfolio 3, ‘Images of High Resolution Portraiture’, PARP with artefacts, exhibitions, journal articles & Conference Papers (and additional Invited Talks to Research Communities).
The 3rd strategy was to create a series of portraiture works where the subject was as aware of us as we of them, and that the resolution were sufficiently high to present them at full size so the audience could scrutinize them and allow the idea that they too might scrutinize us across time. Beneath this strand lay the growing understanding around mirror neurons as mechanisms for empathy and the measurability of the small voltage changes that course through the brains of an audience – so I effectively decided to examine the energy of the gaze. In these the subjects remain still for one minute.
I then went on to a series of single 10 minute shots of people gazing at the audience which presented on 3 x 42 inch plasma displays - in these works, even the subject breathing attracts interest and then fascination in the audience and always plays with the question: 'is this a still or moving image?’ The series continues and I am working portraits of Cornwall (because I have a continued interest in community and presenting that community to other communities which raises questions of identity, plus Portraits of Hollywood to investigate celebrity and also, those that manufacture celebrity - like Cinematographers, Directors and Editors).
• iv) : ‘Understanding Digital Cinematography’ Digital Video Online Oral Histryr, Contextualising Peer Reviewed Article and other text based resource, plus online symposium and Workflow Document for Digital Cinematographic Capture and Display.
Before moving on to the issues I'll write about in PARP 4, and coming out of my long time documentary experience is a thrust towards various series of interviews with different people within specific themes with no editing involved. I'm convinced that the idea that all of those things that disappear from the rushes because of editing and the need to be 'professional' are the very things that are valuable with regard to future researchers looking back into the material. It is the pauses and the dilemmas, body language, un-comfortableness, laughter with the interviewer that will produce extra meaning with regard to the subject under investigation, from the position of hindsight. This style of interviewing produces a different rhythm in the interview itself. Whereas a clip might not go beyond 30 seconds because the audience is thought to tire, in these interviews the norm is 15, if not 30 minutes - and through this duration a different level of interest can arise. Because of this I have begun a new still-yet-moving-image-portraits series with attendant interviews - all of which are unedited. In the past I have been researching the oral history around Digital Cinematography, plus I have been involved with a European project that looked into the memory of a previous generation around the issue of the war as seen from inhabitants of different countries within the conflict - these interviews went one stage further and in fact after the first question, did not then interrogate the subject further. There was preparation with the subject, but from then on the subject was allowed to just remember.
• Click anywhere in this sentence for access to the 12 of the 60 interviews in the European Memory Project.
• Click anywhere in this sentence for access to 16 interviews in the Oral History of Somerset Working People
• Click anywhere in this sentence for access to 20 interviews on the subject of Digital Cinematography
- The Verbatim History of Digital Cinematography is currently comprised of over 25 people significant in the inception of digital cinematography who discuss the effect of emerging digital moving Image capabilities and what their effect might have on the audience. These involve the development of Higher Frame Rates, Higher Resolution and Higher Dynamic Range. There are interviews with prominent academics, people who are involved in the design of the new capture and display media, artists and professionals working in the new medium. http://www.visualfields.co.uk/indexHDresource.htm
- There are a set of online resources comprising various reference works:
- There is a summation of relevant issues in Digital Cinematography produced for Watershed Media Center and Creative England, on the subject of Digital Workflows for academics and students of cinematography alike: http://www.visualfields.co.uk/DIGITALWORKFLOWS.pdf
- There is an 80,000 word blog updated regularly and maintained to keep abreast of this ever changing subject area, ‘High Definition and High Resolution Motion Imaging’: http://highdefinition-nomercy.blogspot.co.uk/
- There is a recording of a symposium held to try to integrate both professional and academic understanding within the subject area. This took place in April 2011 and was entitled: The Look from Capture to Display. This can be found at the following URL where there is around 5 hours online footage of the subject:
There is a peer-reviewed article published in the subject area:
I am now working on 4 further practice as research portfolios derived from questions further developed from the first four - but my work is also changing towards some work in Higher DYnamic Range, Higher Frame Rate and Higher Resolutions. However, here are the extra 4 visualised::
v) The 5th portfolio is the investigation of what happens when artificial light is introduced into the equation relating to the effect of resolution with regard to immersion (all prior works worked with natural light and the Portraits of Somerset is the 1st gesture towards exploring artificial light and its effects). Different sensors are balanced individually to various colour schemes. The camera I principally used, the Red One was balanced to daylight or 5600K.
vi) The 6th portfolio looks at and is concerned with: What happens when the image is abstracted but the resolution is still as high as in previous research works? Effectively I am developing the research from its 'natural' and representational level towards abstraction (an earlier work in the 1st portfolio, 'Water Table' went some way towards this investigation) as did the single screen piece: Until I'm Gone which eventuated in plasma display alongside same sized-prints. I am also thinking around the issue of 'unheimlich' (strangeness) which automatically occurs when a representation of the thing is cast upon the real thing. The development of this could be the projection of things other than the thing itself which are in juxtaposition to the nature of that thing. This is not direct abstraction and could be argued to be conceptual, but I am not interested in the simple contradistinctions of juxtaposition, but rather the abstraction of the original.
vii) The seventh portfolio will explore 'the photographic moment' within moving images, whereas Conrad Hall the great Cinematographer noted (and I paraphrase): in a moving image stream every frame should be imbued with the essence of the 'photographic moment', that intangible quality that resides in still images. So I shall be researching the essence of the photographic moment - which when translated becomes the cinematic moment - I am currently developing strategies to reveal what this actually is. Cartier Bresson said: 'Photography is simultaneously and instantaneously the recognition of a fact and the rigorous organization of visually perceived forms that express and signify that fact' plus 'Oop! The Moment! Once you miss it, it is gone forever'. Obviously Bresson was working with a technology that was selective of an individual frame and therefore other imperatives become important so that the photographer had to become decisive and that the 'photographic' diminished in import as a decision had to be made between a series of criteria like editorialisation into narrative, pictorial qualities that included light, frame, clarity of intent plus several other qualities that could be boiled down into the term 'decisive moment'.
But Conrad Hall was working with a technology that delivered a 'stream of images' so at first look these two positions are contradictory - yet Hall was speaking not from the photographic perspective but instead used the metaphor to be found within photography to get at what happens when one is delivering a stream of images, but wanted to efficively quality control each of those in the stream - even though they were flashing past faster than his perceptual mechanism could cathegorise and effect the individual quality. Hall was proposing that everything that happens in a slice of time can happen within a flow of time - if the cinematographer can detach from the time-slice and enter the streaming nature of the decisive moment and all of the qualities that are required to deliver this, rather than decision as the main imperative, the photographic can be utilised to govern that delivery. Hall perhaps relates his practice to the Buddhist paradigm of co-dependent origination, a similar position to Bill Viola when he said: 'Duration is to consciousness as Light is to the eye'. In my own research I have to add to Violas statement (and I would hope that Conrad Hall would have agreed): Resolution is to Consciousness as Luminance is to the Eye.
The point of Hall's masterly comment is that there is more to be had by the cinematographer when they 'intuit' or transcend what is to be 'known' about their medium and then pursue what their intuition tells them is possible. When using the word 'intuition' I mean it in its literal sense of inward teaching -that is to listen to a voice that delivers as potently as narrative consciousness, but due to its subtlety is far, far quieter. Hall iseffectively insisting that one might unlink ratiocination from the senses and instead apply something that works at a faster rate, which the accomplished coinematographer has developed through continuous practice. In this case it is my 'intuition' that one of the portraiture projects, Portraits of the Somerset Carnivals, touches on the issue I have been talking about as does another work from the 1st portfolio, The Sum of Hands.
I am currently identifying practical strategies to reveal the content of the following 2 practice as research portfolios in relation to my core research question: How will High Definition Imaging affect the nature of art and entertainment from the point of view of both practitioners and audiences?.
Since initally framing this question the term 'High Definition Imaging' has given way to the term 'Digital Cinematography', besides the issue of resolution comes Higher dynamic range capture and display and increased frame rates.
Click for criteria for defining the nature of Digital Cinematography.
TO explore the issues oputlined above I have created a 75 minute work called 'To Stand and Stare: An English Landscape' which is currently being submitted to various festivals. This work is related to a piece made in 1980 called 'Towards Intuition: An American Landscape' and next year I hope to begin work on 'Looking for Los Angeles: A New American Landscape'which further develops the concerns in portfolio 7.
viii) Many years before this period of research in 1988 I had submitted a proposal to Channel 4 and the Arts Council to make a programme to respond to a project that a friend had made to inaugurate the beginning of the French Satellite Arts Channel, La Sept. The programme that arose from the project was called L'Object d'Art, a l'Age Electronic and made by John Wyver of Illuminations to bring Walter Benjamin's famous essay of 1936 up to date: The Object of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.As was the fashion then and now, French philosophy in translation, was de rigeur the canon to abide by. It was important because it followed on and developed Marxist Theory, it worked through the structural and the semiological and to my mind then, completely traduced meaning as represented by practice in relation and in juxtaposition to theory. Baudrillard and Virilio pronounced on the meaning of the image - yet somehow McLuhan was holding true in the face of what was for me a tsunami of dis and mis information. So the programme I suggest in response and in answer was: The Inevitability of Colour which I was given some £20,000 to make by both commissioners and showed on Channel 4. The thesis was that meaning is a property of the viewer who gazes and invests meaning and significant into various things, some of which had meaning and significance through context. But I was going to concentrate on a 'meaningless' image track and by repetition and the use of grammar, induce meaning through the functions of texturally induced meaning: assumption, expectation, linear reading towards a conclusion, and a set of operational functionalities that created associative meaning and significance. This work contained a series of 'dialogues' with reference to Socratic systems of logic - but my work was not concerned with logic - rather it's central point was an argument which contributed to the idea of a priori as opposed to a posteri - or put another way, internal knowledge which requires being revealed, as opposed to the gathering of data towards a proof.
One of the dialogues concerned Echo and Narcissus, because I had seen the symmetry with sound and image and its procession along say, an editing timeline, or diegesis and mimesis in relation to how meaning is delivered from the one knowing to the one that wants to know. I staged that discussion/argument between the personified Echo and the personified Narcissus. This work was called Echo's Revenge. Then I had the idea to imagine Narcissus' state of mind in his fascination after Nemesis' judgement upon hi: to fall in love with the next person he was to see - his own reflection - this thought alone made me think of the fascination of the proliferation of images at that time (91) and in fact that holds true until today. So I put these three pieces together and renamed the work, The Colour Trilogy (where colour represented meaning). This premiered at the '92 Bonn Bienalle. This also showed at that years London Film Festival and the Tate.
But the work wasn't over and I then wrote another 4 parts and shot the footage, but it was many years later that I edited them together - this became the Colour Myths. And the work went on. In fact it went on until 2010 until there were 11 parts and I named the whole work 14 History lessons, 18 Visions, 21, Beatification. This title referred to the fact that at 14, in a history lesson I had an epiphany concerning my relationship to reality, at 18 I had a vision again which took me into the relationship of the world and myself and the ultimate lack of difference between the two and finally at 21 a dream which resulted in what my unconscious mind served up as 'beatification' and what that might feel like. Yet the final 77 minute work is a meditation on the idea of digital reality, began in analogue reality. This is in fact my first practice as research portfolio which examines the nature of the tension between a priori knowledge and a posteri knowledge - and feature a series of phone calls to those most relevant to me in some way, throughout history. This work is not yet finished, because I must now reflexively examine and write up the theoretical consequences of the work. It is effectively the 1st and the 8th practice as research portfolio of my work.
ix) In 2006 I made a piece of work, One Second to Midnight, which pointed towards the state of conflict within international relations, where the golden West was in consumer heaven whilst our brothers and sisters in the third and second worlds suffer in a kind of silence. The brief I gave myself was by pointing a camnera at a tv at that very moment, could I make something meaningful - what visual images could I make? On seeing the work I produced l - One Second to Midnight' - whilst meeting in Milan at the OnVideo Festival, my friend, the French Artist Robert Cahen decided to make a piece of work that was a response to my piece and then the idea was born: we would askother artists from different countries to respond, in a linear fashion, one by one, to the work before theirs, but also in ana ovveral sense to the chain of works. So far we have around 15 artists involved making work from all over the world - this project is called Blink, because the blink interrupts the gaze but not significantly - sometimes it simply clears the onward rush of images into the self. We are stopping and gazing at the world. Eventually there will be 30 works in the sequence. The 1st work within Blink:
One Second to Midnight