International Conference | 29 June - 03 July 2005
Adams: John | UK
‘After Hindsight: reflections on the a practice-led research project in expanded cinema’
Area of research practice
The term ‘expanded cinema’ has been applied to a range of film-based installations over many years, gaining a significant degree of currency in the 1960s although with antecedents that may be traced back to the earliest days of cinema. The Expanded Cinema and Screen Media research project (ExCiSM) based at the University of Bristol has developed as a collaboration between academics and practitioners in the creative arts and computer science together with industry partners, with the aim of exploring ways in which emerging digital technologies of production and exhibition offer new possibilities for the experience of cinema that, in mainstream forms, have remained much the same since the early 1900s.
Outline of Project to be presented
The current project, entitled Hindsight, is a fictional screenwork with spatialised acoustic presented within a multiple screen environment. It locates narrative film in a model of cinema that draws on the ubiquity of multiple screen environments in everyday life: the workplace and commercial spheres (advertising and information installations, observation and surveillance systems), and leisure sites (clubs, concert venues, pubs, community centres, galleries and museums) in which multiple screen installations operate at different modes of intensity at different times. This model assumes that such environments produce transferable sensibilities and competencies. Within this frame, the research questions are conceived and developed through the screenplay and screenwork to allow an empirical exploration of relations between authorship (architecture, narrative, cinematics and discourse), apprehension and affect. Some of these elements are shared with conventional film form whilst others are specific to the experience of the multiple screen work with spatialised acoustic.
Types of knowledge and where located
Hindsight develops a contemporary reading of the myth of Eurydice and Orpheus. The nature and progression of events is determined by the myth, and the screenwork embodies the pivotal events of the myth through image tropes centred on 'looking back' and ‘dismemberment / re-membrance’. This imagined world draws on the idea of archaeology as both a contested practice in which material artefacts (contemporary artefacts / debris, skeletal remains, shards, images) provide the basis for the attempt to recover meanings, and as a metaphor for a wider discourse centred on desire, presence and loss. This is developed with reference to relations between memory and the digital archive (photography, video, the internet) in which traces of past events and experience reside, open to challenge and interpretation.
These themes are developed through the particular form of the screenwork. Drawing on Eisenstein’s concepts of intellectual and other forms of montage, the narrative acts as a ‘pre-text’ whereby these themes develop through the association and accumulation of tropes (created by mise-en-scène, cinematography and sound design). These also connect with wider iconographic and technical systems, and may be read as specific, materialised instances of genre and intertextual figures that permeate a range of media and related forms (digital video, web cam, museum exhibit, advertisement hoarding) and genres (‘classic’ realist / art film, TV commercial, documentary, music video).
Within a framework of inter-textual and authored knowledge (acquired from a range of sources before and during the experience of the screenwork) each participant follows a personal path through the excessive imagery and spatialised sound, guided to an extent by audio and / or visual ‘cues’ of varying intensity (looks, sounds, movements, luminosity, and many others). Individual experience and understandings develop in response to the formal provocations, creating a personal archive of iconic shards and fragments available for recollection through memory and imagination. A reflexive strand within the screenwork engages with this process of re-membrance, through which story and image fragments are recovered in a variety of contexts - casual conversation, scholastic reflection...
Empirical observation and discussion feed into an account of reception located in concepts of apprehension and affect. This account centres on (1) viewing strategies developed by participants to negotiate uncertainties and anxieties arising from a narrative form that lacks a secure framework of convention; (2) the extent to which elements of discourse emerge through different kinds and categories of montage; and (3) ways in which such strategies are mediated by an understanding of the exhibition space (as ‘cinema’, ‘gallery’, or ‘conference venue’, for example), access and temporal presentation (open or restricted access, timed or continuous screenings), and the perceived ontology of the artefact / event (as film or installation, for example).
Strategies used to express / disseminate ways of knowing
The conference paper discusses the project in terms of the research outcomes with reference to the four inter-related research fields, each with specific aims and methods:
(1) the scaleable audio-visual platform for a multiple-screen environment with spatialised acoustic;
(2) the screenplay and screen work, designed to explore relations between architecture, narrative, cinematics and discourse;
(3) empirical observations on strategies of apprehension and affect;
(4) forms of documentation that (a) reciprocate and extend the experience of the screenwork, and (b) frame the research outcomes.
Potential Models or articulations of meta-practice, methodological guidelines in par, participation in peer review, engagement with documentation discourse
The project is presented for peer review at the conference as practice-led research (rather than practice-as-research) and should be considered in the context of the reflexive documentation. Broader reflections arising form the project will feed into an article addressing constructions of media practice in research contexts.
The project was funded by a Major Research Grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Board.
PARIP Writing Panel
A - Way with Words: Writing and Embodied Practice in Screen Media
I’d like to offer some reflections arising from the experience of editing the Journal of Media Practice, which centre on the role of writing as the prime means of constructing creative, critical and research practices within the academy. The journal was established in 1998 for a largely pragmatic reasons centred on the perceived need to establish a stronger presence and voice for media practitioners in the academy. Since that time, however, radically re-determined academic, political, institutional, technological and funding regimes have created a context that challenges the role and form of a practice-centred ‘journal’ in an evolving digital environment. I want to raise some points that centre on the nature of writing about practice in contexts of teaching, professional practice and, as a principle focus, practice / research. These include:
What might be the future shape, direction and media form(s) of a ‘journal’ of media practice in these contexts?