Reading Media Culture – Friday’s class notes

January 19, 2009

FIRST WRITTEN ASSIGNMENT DUE NEXT WEEK – NEEDS TO BE PRINTED – NOT EMAILED!!!
Summarize in 500 words (2 pages) one of the readings for next week
– Digital Encounters – deal with animation and interface
– Introduction to Gramophone – linking technologies / theorizing military and ideological reasoning behind the technologies

MEDIATION
– film, video and media were used to expand our minds to make us speculate and understand what Egoyan was up to when he made the film, Calendar
– we are all media consumers, producers
– medium = plural of media = collective of mass types of media
– ceramics, painting, writing = media as well (think outside the box to what is considered media and artists who create them are still media makers)
– systems or vehicles for the transmission of ideas or entertainment = transportation method
– media are the materials that communicate – early examples, hieroglyphs, alphabet, radio, moving image…
– the human body produces a form of mediation such as shown in the public performance (dance, spoken word, music…)
– Calendar had multiple types of media and media technologies listed
– translation, transcription and interpretation or size have an effect on the distribution method and overall interpretation that the media has on the audience (ie: watching a movie on your iPod vs. watching it on an iMax screen)
– all media give shape to experience – human experiences are affected
– selectivity of media and method of distribution helps set the tone of the piece (amplify, extends, restricts or prohibits)
– may open or close doors (reveal, conceal)

Issue of memory / morality
– rise of video distribution has enhanced the dissemination of culture, thought, ideas and art can be compared to the Guttenberg press – more people who can read and access information
– the loss that results is that people do not have to remember anything when they can simply look it up
– medium is another term for language (create dialog and communicate with an audience and articulate an idea or way of thinking)
– The medium is the Message
– mode of transmission that forms part of our total environment
– in the film Calendar, the telephone becomes a medium that mediates communication between two people on either end of the phone
– character relationships are mediated through the various technologies shown in the film (phone, video camera, answering machine, many different languages, written notes and letter, human body of Egoyan’s wife in the way she interacts with the guide)

Marshall McLuhan
– canadian scholar who embraced various media technologies during the 1960’s
– the professor in the film Videodrome, by David Cronenberg was a satire of him


– book called Understanding Media – Extensions of Man and Guttenberg Galaxy
– metaphor of a paradox – medium is the message – global village
– most important = tools to provide understanding technology
– all technological advances produce a new type of sensorial experience and alters human embodiment and reaction to the technology
– seduction and power of media technology – humans become mesmerized by technology
– called his ideas prose so they are designed as thought pieces to change perspectives in the reader
– writings were prophetic – anticipated the persuasiveness of the extent of media technologies available to the general public today
– cross-disciplinary media has further contributed to his idea of the global village and is being documented by a new generation of media savvy artists
– size of the day changed for many with the introduction of the electric light = communication media with no overt content
– message of electric light = purest form of information because it makes thing instant – acceleration of time
– invention of electrical light irrevocably changed human culture (revolutionary media)

“The message of electric light is like the message of electric power in industry, totally radical, persuasive and decentralized. For electric light and power are separate from their uses, yet they eliminate time and space factors in human association exactly as do radio, telegraph, telephone and TV, creating involvement and depth.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marshall_McLuhan
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Gutenberg_Galaxy
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Understanding_Media

Mothlight – Stan Brakhage

– this is used as an example of McLuhan’s ideation about technology being required to disseminate information
– the purest form of watching this film would be to watch it on film and have the actual light to shine through the moth wings onto a screen

MEDIA SPECIFICITY ESSENTIALISM
– what are the properties common to all media and what and what are the specific to individual types of media – what are the properties associated with that media? (ie: film vs video vs photography vs print vs painting vs sculpture…) – what is essential for the medium to consist of in order to convey the associated ideation to the audience?
– McLuhan talks about when we use the medium for a particular purpose, it becomes a part of that purpose (form of content)
– subscribe to the idea that the medium that is chosen to convey the art that that technology becomes prominent and has a voice
– technologies become interpretative frameworks – representation is a major theme of this course
– what messages are encoded in the choices made in how they publish their work
– ie: Fast Film
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Td6UObEEaQQ
– brain shifting = ability to question to what you as the audience are viewing – what is the artist trying to convey to me and not in any other way?
– process by media and process of mediation interact with one another
– personal, social consequence of particular types of media – introduction of TV changed the family dynamic (eat dinner at the table or in front of the tv)

FUJI – by Robert Breer (1974)
– an experimental animation – very original for its time – good use of rotoscoping – animating over existing film stock and combining film footage with animated overlays
– framing an artwork is a method of mediation (process of inclusion and exclusion)
– composing the frame and deciding more importantly what is in the frame is also an act of mediation
– framing devices used in both Calendar and Fuji
– page 375 (bordwell & thompson) – use of rotoscoping – use of motion picture footage and print over it with frame by frame animation or otherwise manipulate
– original derivation comes from motion picture (series of images)
– motion capture is a form of rotoscoping (different but related)
– Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly are contemporary examples of this process
– window frame of the picture frame is on display in Fuji = frame within a frame
– 24 views of Mount Fuji is mediated by this footage of the place on the train and looking out of the window and then further extrapolated by the rotoscoping
– technological applications that appear in the film (line art, colour splotches) become mediations in their own right as well as existing as the sum of the piece
– perspective is dictated by the person who took the footage (north american tourist visiting Japan and the inaccessibility to outsiders = culture is alien to him)
– commentary on representation – as a cultural outsider truthfully represent that culture or that cultural icon in a media presentation
– the subject matter is further mediated by his body language and interaction with Japanese people on the train
– he’s not trying to be politically correct and act with reverence to such an iconic Japanese symbol – he was simply trying to illustrate his personal connection to Mt. Fuji as a tourist and as an artist — he’s acknowledging his own subjective, highly mediated experience of Mt. Fuji

Calendar – by Atom Egoyan
– deals with issues of tourism and also uses framing devices
– various storylines run through the film and they each have their own transmission mode
– the film itself exists as a signature medium to begin with – base layer for the other transmission methods to be projected
– video footage within the film acts as above as a frame within a frame so as the audience to experience and feel different emotions then the base film itself
– video camera is mobile and handheld lacking the resolution of the high-end production film camera
– a trauma has been inflicted on the Armenian people by the Ottoman/Turkish empire – not overtly referenced yet that is the reason why the Churches were abandoned and now revered as holy shrines
– they were the headquarters of religious identity and for the christian armenian population but also their own headquarters of population control (christian dogma being forced on the masses)
– cultural tourist in Armenia but also in his own marriage – without knowledge of what the significance of the churches signify, but more importantly without knowledge of the significance of the growing relationship between his wife and the guide
– ideation of separation and language barriers are developed and referenced
– obsession – he becomes paranoid at the aspect of feeling estranged of losing understanding of the situation
– interesting duality in the fact that Egoyan himself appears in it and plays the part of the fool and not understanding the importance of what the churches represent to the history of the massacre of the Armenian people – he would eventually make a future film called Ararat which specifically addresses this massacre, which is still denied by the Turkish government to this day
– further framing is shown in Egoyan’s kitchen as he has multiple dinner encounters with several different escorts, yet whom each are a different cultural background and speak different languages
– the phone scenes are further compared as each escort asks to use the phone and make outgoing calls vs. his ex wife making incoming calls
– there is a sick fascination for Egoyan to reconstruct the visceral and deeply hurtful experience of losing his wife in order to create the urge to write the letter
– forced alienation is the message being portrayed in each location (Armenia, kitchen)
– idea that memory is as collective as it is individual – community of two and individual conscience of the cameraman
– engages in a pathetic way in how he responds to his lack of interest in the history behind the churches and also in his pathetic attempt to write the letter but only with the reconstruction of traumatic memories with the escorts

http://www.ecuad.ca/~rburnett/calendar.html

A new type of media permeates the scene, a new problem of memory can be observed. (positive and negative charge – change for both good and bad)


Reading the Screen – This week’s film clips

October 3, 2008

CONCEPTUAL / EXPERIMENTAL FILM
– what are your physiological responses to watching this film?
– how is the film engaging you?
– using new technology to inquire about itself (optical printer)
– goldrush to explore new possibilities that the technologies can usher in

Ballet Mechanique – dir Fernand Leger

Part 1

Part 2

Mothlight – dir Stan Brakhage

Wavelength – dir Michael Snow

Pas de Deux – dir. Norman McLaren

Part 1 – all I have to say is WOW – what an incredible film

Part 2

Un Chien Andalou – dir. Luis Banuel

Meshes of the Afternoon – dir Maya Deren

Variations on a Cellophane Wrapper – dir David Rimmer
– I couldn’t find a clip of the film, but here are some informational links if you want to learn more
http://www.google.ca/search?q=Variations+on+a+Cellophane+Wrapper+David+Rimmer&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a
– – – – – – – – – –

Pièce Touchée – dir Martin Arnold

“pièce touchée, Martin Arnold, Austria,16mm Film, b&w, 16 min
Arnold’s breakthrough film, pièce touchée, is based on a single 18-second shot from The Human Jungle (dir. Joseph M. Newman, 1954). Woman sitting in a chair. Man enters the room. Man and woman kiss. Exit man.”
– from the YouTube description

– this is only half of the film as a whole – could only get the first 9 minutes of the piece from YouTube

personal notes:

– b/w film – opens with a woman sitting on a chair in a living room reading a newspaper
– humming / mechanical noise overlay
– repetitive film – no movement at all other than fingers and head
– starts with only one frame then slowly builds up with the number of frames
– back and forth with forward and backward movement of the frames as the man enters the room
– mirroring imagery from left to right = cool effect on the eyes
– her head appears to swivel a complete 360 as the scene repeats and mirrors itself
– the man goes down and kisses the woman finally
– various editing techniques follow to the end…

in-class round table discussion:

– motion study / repetitive motion study
– changes of planes / changes of perception
– disorientation and uncomfortable
– dealt with time – kept revisiting and repeating frames
– absurdity of everyday domestic scene
– sound was mechanic humming
– story interpretation of repetition
– negation of story narrative
– metaphor / felt like we were inside a washing machine
– creation of new images using existing frames / transformation
– underlying issues of domesticity (violence / sexuality)
– issues of dominance, power and gender
– introduction of new editing techniques
– abstraction of shapes and creation of negative space
– interesting effects of animation (head spinning / rotating)
– soundtrack gives a dehumanized / mechanized theme to the piece (lack of humanity)
– unexpected editing techniques (reversals, mirrors, motion, movement)
– Experimental / Found Footage film piece
– too long? too repetitive? (was it intended?)
– no finality at the end – felt incomplete – where did it end? what does it mean?
– resolution irrelevant – it is an experimental film by nature
– A Touching Piece / Touched Piece – what does the title actually refer to?
– critique of cinema / society at the time (Hollywood system and view of society)
– expanded cinema (new term for avant-garde / experimental / innovative)