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Spiral Workshop Video Curriculum
The future is the becoming of possibilities. The present is the moment in which what has been and is disappearing crosses swords with what is on the brink of becoming…Video, with its instant playback and its ability to record sound and image thrusts forward the instability of the present as possibility.
Sean Cubitt in
Time Shift: On Video Culture, 1991
The mission of the Time Travel group was to use video editing as a vehicle for moving through time, as a tool to explore our connections to the past, present and future. Students looked to the past and early animation techniques of creating the illusion of motion frame by frame. They learned editing through re-editing a seemingly indelible trace of mainstream media (a late night commercial) and altered its original meanings through the juxtaposition and repetition of the found footage. Students performed Fluxus event scores to physically interrupt the present and blur the distinction between art and everyday life. Finally, they explored their hopes and fears for the future at a particularly critical moment in history through collaborative sci fi scenarios.
The Time Travel group began by exploring the possibility of moving beyond the rational world by drawing on the subconscious via the Surrealist paranoiac-critical method. We looked at the early animation techniques of Len Lye and the anachronistic techniques of contemporary artist Jeff Scher to discover how the illusion of motion created one frame at a time can still have startling and interesting results.
Artists such as Jeff Scher and Chris Marker use the space of the white screen to explore unalterable traces of memory.Due to the impossibility of total recall, memory itself is an edited form of personal history. Many of us have spent much of our past in front of the TV. For us, time travel is possible by virtue of play back and reruns. If the present can change based on our memories of the past, then appropriating and re-editing the source of media memories offers myriad possibilities for the future.
The Time Travel group investigated their own memories of formative and nostalgic commercial media. They viewed work by Paper Rad and Jimmie Joe Roach and discussed these artists’ responses to the over-accumulation and detritus of media by gleaning and recycling the most memorable parts.
Students looked at video’s capacity to document the ever-changing flux and flow of the present by performing Fluxus event scores to interrupt the flow of everyday life. Such interventions are used by contemporary artists as opportunities to call attention to the constructed nature of the seemingly natural order of American culture. In the final project, students explored their own hopes and fears for the future. Film is often symptomatic of the time and culture it’s produced in and can reflect a society's ambitions and anxieties. Students used b-movie techniques such as green screen, found footage and voice over to speculate on possibilities for utopian or dystopian futures in collaborative videos.
With so much of the world now streaming and instantly available to us on-line, a world in which the “image has become the final form of commodity reification,” students must have the means to mediate themselves and re-edit the pervasive dominant image world into a place where creativity and possibility are present. The mission of the Time Travel was to set forth the past, present, and future as perspectives capable of change.
60 Morphing Minutes
The Surrealists developed the Paranoiac-Critical Method in which the artist would take an abstract form, such as a pencil rubbing or an ink-stained sheet of paper, and articulate through drawing or painting the images that they saw emerge on the page. By drawing out images from blotches of ink, the artists believed that they were accessing the contents of the unconscious mind. André Breton, Salvador Dali and other Surrealist artists were also interested in the meaningful linking of images that might not be rationally linked.
The Time Travel group added the variable of time to the Paranoiac-Critical Method, bringing transformed inkblots to life. This was achieved by staining a stack of papers so the ink seeped from page to page creating a moving image of a changing inkblot. Each student had 60 minutes to interpret 60 sequential ink stained pages, drawing on one page per minute. Each drawing became one frame in an animation and revealed the student’s changing interpretations of the morphing shapes of ink.
The Time Travel group looked at frame-by-frame animation techniques to explore the possibilities of making continuous flow of movement as well as the flicker of disjunctive images. Len Lye’s animations of the 1930s, composed of colorful frames of lines and shapes “dancing” to music, used the technology of the time to make abstract moving images. Today, even with the advanced possibilities of readily available computer-generated animation, artists like Jeff Scher create frame-by-frame hand drawn movies. The students utilized these anachronistic techniques of single frame drawings to create a fast-paced contemporary animation.
Seven Acres of Used Parts
The Chicago Sun Times described the commercial for Victory Auto Wreckers as "an indelible commercial image known to almost any television viewer" in the Chicago area. This commercial has aired in Chicagoland since 1985 and has hardly been changed since its original airdate.
Dedicated to recycling the past, the Time Travelers learned the video editing program Final Cut Pro to recycle this classic commercial. The manipulation of found footage parallels the process of auto wrecking–the original is broken down into pieces and repurposed to become useful again.
Students became familiar with various editing functions such as copy and cut and paste as well as manipulating speed to reassemble rhythmic compositions. They reordered the audio and video to create surprising juxtapositions between sound and image. Students discovered that the manipulation of time and sequencing can create new meanings that are greater than the sum of its parts.
Many artists recycle and appropriate found footage to respond to the over saturation of moving image media in today’s world. Artists conceptually explore and exploit with the significance and aesthetic properties of the original footage while inscribing something of themselves into the altered video. These artists reinterpret familiar images, thus turning the passive viewing process into an active form of creative agency.
Media Memories: Re-memory
Our initial experience of the world is constantly edited by consciousness and then further edited as recalled in memory. With so much of our experience of the world mediated through television and commercial media, it isn’t surprising that a commercial jingle, movie sequence or TV theme song could incite warm feelings of nostalgia for a not too distant past.
The Time Travel group investigated their own recollections of formative commercial media and re-edited these memories using Final Cut Pro.Students discussed their shared experiences of nostalgia and collectively decided on three clips that had left an impression on all of them. They then discussed how the memories of certain decades are often revived, recycled and re-experienced through commercial media and popular culture. The students viewed work by Paper Rad and Jimmie Joe Roach and discussed these artists’ responses to the over-accumulation and detritus of media. Paper Rad’s reverent nostalgia for the early 90’s is seen in their bright color palette and appropriation of old cartoons and bad commercials. Jimmie Joe Roach’s appropriation of Arnold Schwarzenegger movies re-writes a post-apocalyptic narrative in Ultimate Reality.
The Time Travel group recycled, re-edited and altered the original meanings of their chosen media to form unique responses to their shared memories.
Fluxus, meaning to purge, flow, or negate stasis, was an international group of artists who aimed to democratize the role of the artist and blur the distinction between art and everyday life. Acting out Fluxus event scores is a way for the performer to be conscious of his or her unique presence in their environment.
Event Scores are a set of instructions or directions that anyone can do in order to make the everyday, formulaic and mundane appear strange and unfamiliar. These instructions are usually simple short texts that are very direct. For example Lee Heflin’s event score Fall, instructs one to:
Throw things that are difficult to throw because of their light weight.
In this project all students participated as performers, directors, and editors. The students used tripods and conventional camera angles to document their own Fluxus Event Scores.Allison Knowles, Joseph Beuys, and John Cage were Fluxus members who used music and sound in many of their performances. Students appropriated these sound pieces as the source of sound for their videos.
The Time Travel group also looked at contemporary performance groups, such as the Yes Men and Improv Everywhere to investigate how such performances can use humor as a critique of and intervention into American consumer culture.
Movies can offer unique insight into a society’s hopes and fears. Science fiction films in particular deal with varied interpretations about what the future might hold. Many of these films share common themes including: technology surpassing human capacity, an expanding controlling government, hostile alien takeover and the destruction of the human race by atomic war.
The Time Travel students investigated the hopes and fears addressed by various Hollywood movies and grappled with their personal concerns about the future. Many of the students’ personal fears resonate with those represented in Hollywood movies and reveal elements of a collective mythology about the uncertainty of the future. In the 1950s the threat of nuclear annihilation emerged as a pervasive theme in science fiction films whereas today, fears of natural disasters and the exponential increase of computer capabilities occupy Hollywood’s representations of the collective imagination.
Many of the best science fiction movies dealing with these themes have been made with low budgets outside of Hollywood system. These movies are free to express more personal, idiosyncratic and socially critical concerns because they are not bound by Hollywood protocols, conventions, or finances. The students used some common b-movie techniques such as green screen, voice over, and cheap costuming to manifest their utopian and apocalyptic visions of the future.