Throughout this course I’ve read many books and below you can see some of the selection. Click on each title for my thoughts of each book.
My tutor recommended looking into the critical theory of the Gaze. I wasn’t familiar with this theory and my tutor warned it was quite heavy.
Before beginning the article I thought of what the the verb ‘gaze’ conjured up. It can be to look intently at something. To be scrutinised severely. To lay your eyes upon something truly magnificent. To stare seems more powerful than to gaze However, after an in depth study there are far more connotations of meaning relating to gaze. There generally aren’t pleasant connotations of the word stare. You would stare at someone you were suspicious of, something you were alarmed by. To gaze however is something more powerful, relaxed or romantic, something that might take longer or be more general in a sweeping way. One would gaze at a sublime view, their true love, they may even gaze longingly at their meal in a elegant restaurant. From an art POV, I assumed we would be looking into the effect of gazing at the cinema screen or a painting. Such as the theory in The Power of Movies where Colin McGinn likens watching cinema to gazing into a new dimension.
I read the article here
It was very informative and interesting reading the article. I have ventured into the psychology of photography but philosophy is something I haven’t considered as such. I will research more into this in the next part of the course. The article showed how the word gaze is used in art forms. It explored the many synonyms of the word and investigated how it could be perceived. Each paragraph asked questions, focusing on a different subject each time.
“In this painting, the spectator himself becomes the subject of the painting, captured by the gaze of the painter insofar as he remains a spectator gazing at the painting. As the spectator thus becomes part of the spectacle the “observer and the observed take part in a ceaseless exchange. No gaze is stable…subject and object, spectator and model reverse their roles into infinity.”2 The interplay (or communication) between the two gazes thus blurs the boundaries between the two roles until it becomes unclear who exactly is gazing at whom; the gaze becomes a mode of interaction between spectator and the work of art.”
With this statement it is suggesting that the power of the gaze is so intense that the viewer abruptly becomes part of the painting. Almost as though the artist realised the full power of the painting would only be created on human contact. Though all art only comes alive with this contact. That said you could imagine a painting left in the attic, it’s eyes staring out of the painting, perhaps something worthy of a horror movie or to portray something nostalgic.
This suggests that the viewer is a removable part of the art. Thinking about this, could one say that we are the one gazing or the one being gazed at. Just because one object may be in the real world and another in a two dimensional form is the power any more less powerful from that of the two dimensional being. Such as the intense stare of a subject in a painting.
I bring attention here to the quote in Doctor Who in which Amy Pond, one of the main protagonists, was trapped in a trailer with the deadly Weeping Angel. The weeping angel is a creature that you will never see move. Instead whenever you blink it moves violently fast so it is suddenly much closer. The only way in which to beat this creature was to keep eye contact and not blink. “The eyes are the window to the soul.” However later this is turned on it’s head as the Doctor realises, ‘The eyes are not the windows to the soul they are the doors,” and in this they have possessed her with this gaze. The intensity of the gaze between painting and viewer could be irrevocably linked as they become petrified. Indeed the article states “there is a perverse pleasure in looking and not being able to look away. Much like the gaze of Medusa turned the onlooker into stone, so too does the image hold the power to immobilize its viewer.” This makes the connection of a painting and viewer almost mystical, ethereal, of ascending to another dimension for the moment frozen in time.
The Male Gaze
The article delves further into the gaze from both genders. Laura Mulvey a British feminist film theorist saw, “that the cinema is the medium for male subjects to further exert their mastery over female objects, identifying with the dominant gaze of the camera.”
This opens all new pathways from the generic gaze to the Male Gaze which has been studied in great depth. It suggests that the ‘male gaze strips all identity and humanity from the woman on screen, rendering them as an object for the male gaze to ravish. When you read the percentage of how around only 16% of characters in the movies are female does this suggest that the cinema is made purely for the enjoyment and sexual satisfaction of men. Mulvey argues that women serve for only two functions, of an erotic subject to be enjoyed in the narrative and also for the viewers. Nowadays with feminism and equal rights we see more feminine heroes in roles usually played by the opposite sex. Katnis in the Hunger Games, Tris Prior in Divergent and Rey in Star Wars, the Force Awakens. See my piece on Feminism in StarWars
All are good examples of strong female characters, they become characters to look up to and transcend beyond the movie screen.
It is believed that watching movies is a Socophilia practise, love of watching. However the way it is described makes cinema feel like something distasteful, that people who go to the cinema are going for voyeuristic reasons. When in actual fact we all go to the cinema or watch a movie for escapism, to see a good story. I do feel that the issues with investigation of theories such as this is that some seek to over sexualise every situation. Why can’t going to the cinema be seen as something innocent?
There are even those that see the gaze as unseeing. Becoming more blind the more one forces themselves to see the painting.
In conclusion it is clear that the gaze is a very powerful force, drawing the viewer into participating in the painting or movie, albeit it often unintentionally. The gaze can be interpreted by each individual person in a different way however the power of the gaze will always latch onto the viewer. I will finish this off with a thought from the photographer Michael Freeman, who says that the human eye is always irrevocably drawn to another person in a photo, painting or video no matter how small or seemingly unapparent that person is. People are drawn to people thus we will always interact with another person in a painting and one of the most intense ways of this is to have the eyes meet. To gaze upon one another.
“Symbolism is the language of the Mysteries. By symbols men have ever sought to communicate to each other those thoughts which transcend the limitations of language.” – Manly Hall
In a Skype conversation my tutor brought to my attention about the symbolism of the Death Hawks Head Moth. As a keen wildlife enthusiast, I had heard of this beautiful creature, however, I did not know of its great role it plays in symbolism. Featured in everything from the Pre Raphelite painting, The Hireling Shepherd by William Holman Hunt to the sickening and twisted movie, the Silence of the Lambs (which I have no wish to watch) Dracula, Un Chien Andalou it’s fluttered its way throughout history as a hidden symbol. The symbol it represents however always has dark connotations. It serves as a symbol of the death of the church in the Hireling Shepherd painting. A dead moth is found in Un Chien Andalou an equally dark movie.
My tutor suggested including footage of a Deaths Head Hawk Moth in Assignment Three as he felt it would be stronger to have something suggested earlier on about the poison. I wasn’t sure where to find such footage. I have used occasional stock sounds such as the dawn chorus in Assignment Four but felt it would be cheating myself to use stock footage of a moth, plus I wasn’t sure it would be allowed. I considered several ideas of how to incorporate the moth into my assignment. Some of my ideas were.
I printed off an image of the moth planning the gift card but as I did so I noticed the sun slanting onto the wall. I held the moth up to the light and it had such a dramatic shadow. The wings of death.
The problem was holding the moth so my hand didn’t show. I held it up with scissors. I dropped it from a height.
Some of the versions that didn’t work. As you can see the moth is washed out under the torch light and you can see my hand in the other picture.
Eventually I used the ornamental flowers. As I set it up I happened to move the torch and the shadow extended upwards with the moth. This was the shot I needed.
I removed the shot of the rose being cut and replaced with the moth. It’s very ominous as the thunder strikes. I sent it to my tutor who am I waiting to hear back from.
Here is the finished version –
However on conferring with my tutor he said that whilst the idea was good he didn’t think it blended with the film which he felt was more documentary. As such he suggested that I leave it out though leave my analysis and reasons for doing so as above. With this in mind the final version does not include the moth.
I received my feedback in a different way. My tutor provided me with the annotated version of my written work and then he gave me the rest via Skype. This was the first time I had done Skype with Peter and it was great to see him and to ask questions.
I think to be able to Skype your tutor is something that’s very important and whilst perhaps nerve wracking before hand it’s something I would like to do with all my tutors, if they offer that option. It’s good to talk face to face and build a tutor student rapport.
Peter spoke to me about the painting The Hireling Shepherd and when I asked what all the hidden meanings he was only too happy to tell me. It was fascinating I felt more inspired to research symbolism in paintings. He also mentioned the Deah’sHead Hawkmoth which I will speak about more later.
As I am submitting for the November assessment, Peter returned my report very quickly so I could amend anything. I was really pleased that he enjoyed Assignment Five. And below is the annotated version.
After speaking he sent me a list of subjects we discussed. I was also really grateful as he suggested how to fix this particular part in Assignment Four. There is a moment where I want to use silence and negative space to convey the fact that the bee has been winded by the strimmer. I had tried many different shots to fix this but still felt it didn’t quite work. Peter suggested that the reason it doesn’t have this impact is mostly to due with the fact that a) the strimmer sounds too suddenly and b) the silence is much too long. I am going to be changing this and including it in the edited version of Assignment Four.
His main points were
We discussed the underwater look, this is due to the image stabilisation of iMovie. Instead of changing the shot he recommended mentioning what this was due to and I agreed I would use different software in the future.
Peter finished his report saying “In general you have engaged well with the unit well.” he also said I had been on a journey and regarding Assignment Four said;
“I did like it. I think it works pretty well. Seeing as you’re using ordinary kit I think you’ve done very well. When you floated the idea, I thought well I bet you don’t do it in the end because it’s a good idea but I wasn’t sure that you’d make something that would satisfy you. But no I think you’ve done well.”
The final version. Uploaded at a very slighter resolution due to Vimeo upload limits.
I have just seen my tutor feedback for assignment two failed to upload hence why I am posting it now.
Having read through Peter’s feedback several times I am feeling motivated to investigate different aspects of film making and also to try things outside the box and beyond what is expected. I’ve ordered the British Documentary movement boxset which I’m sure will keep me busy with 40 movies! I found it on Amazon secondhand for only twenty pounds as opposed to eighty pounds for brand new.
Some points I found especially useful –
His comment regarding the theme of the assignment is a good one. Perhaps it would have been more suited to choose the atmosphere of calmness, relaxation or purely peace. It did seem to encompass mindfulness with all the elements though. I will have to think what to do for assessment.
I’m pleased Peter thinks my blog is progressing and that I could be successful in final assessment. It feels like the end of the course is creeping up fast and I’m going to miss it when I finish it. So I want to learn as much as I possibly can and research a wide and diverse range of subjects. What appealed to me especially of his comments were ‘to think about more relevant or less relevant subjects (sometimes the ‘less’ ones are the most revealing and useful in the long run!)
I’ve been thinking about assignment three and have decided to go for the poisoned drink scenario. I don’t usually start with the assignment plan in mind but I feel for Part three it will be interesting to take part in the exercises and determine how it will work with the assignment.
Finished Video (Note due to Vimeo upload limits I had to submit at a slightly lower resolution)
I took on board the points Peter had made and changed the following.
During this course I made friends with a fellow course mate, Ashley. It feels like we have crossed the finished line together.
It was Ashley who introduced me to the the fantastic data base of music, Incompetech. There are thousands of songs on there, each one individual and unique and without knowing we both used the same song, Ashley in her assignment and myself in a personal project video.
It was an interesting discovery, to see how the same song can be used to convey completely different emotions.
Things they had in common were
Things that were different.
Whilst they both focused on sadness and loss they were each used in a different way to convey a different story. With that in mind I decided to find other videos the song had been used in and research the emotions it provokes.
Here the song has been used to highlight it’s medieval melody. It is the background to the world of Skyrim which we are shown around. Interesting to see where the harpsichord melody is used, after a slow pause showing a Skyrim character, the melody begins again and we are on a journey through an underground canal.
It would appear that using an especially somber song out of context doesn’t always work. In this video it is used in a video of a modelling shoot. While the photography is successful I don’t feel the two match well. The music is dark and haunting whereas the shoot is light and doesn’t feature anything dark or upsetting at all. They clash throughout, like two opposite poles of a magnet.
So therefore it would appear that whilst there are many stories that can be told with the same song in a variety of genres, sometimes a song is so specifically made for a certain genre that is clashes when used for any other purpose. Even if you were to make an optimistic video of say a girl blowing out birthday candles, to play this music over it would give a very different feeling to the happy birthday. Perhaps the girl is mourning her childhood, maybe it is the film makers way of warning the viewer that all is not as it seems.
Through the analysis of these songs and the way in which they have been chosen and used, I have come to the conclusion that this song in particular is powerful in that it conveys variations of a dark mood, that one mood can have connotations of sadness, fear, death, worry, but it generally is on the dark side of things. This shows how important it is to choose the right song. If you choose the wrong song it may end up conveying the opposite meaning, the story and music will not work harmoniously, it could ruin a sequence yet choosing wisely it could make that sequence. It’s essential to spend a little time working through the selection of songs. The music is like a main actor and just as a bad actor can spoil a movie so too can the choice of music. Overall it highlights what an essential part the music plays.
I decided to experiment with something conducive to the course, similar to the Mosjukhin experiment, using one clip what emotion could be conveyed with the music.I created a new file in iMovie and grabbed some of my video clips. It was clear which worked and which didn’t. I realised that the song could be used not just for darkness but it also worked very well with landscape shots and animals, such as the red kite flying over the landscape. It captures a primeval, raw connection with the earth.
Below is the video I made. Please comment what you feel from it. I had to change the file size hence the lower quality.
And so we reach the final assignment. I feel on the edge of a void ready to jump into the next course but first I have the abyss to cross of the final assignment. Despite describing it as an abyss I am really looking forward to this. At the moment ideas are flowing and need the restriction of a blank piece of paper to harness them.
For this assignment you’ll gather documentary footage and use it to create a short documentary sequence representing a portrait of a place. You should try and capture the spirit and feel of the place as well as representing what happens there.
As I’ve worked through this unit I have come to some decisions on how I want the documentary to go.
My first idea was to film Lytham Seafront as my destination. Initially I had wondered about shooting it at the Zoo yet while sitting on the seafront the other day I realised just how many stories were being written on the seafront, small stories, big stories, from the tall windmill to the tiny cinnabar moth clinging for a grim life to a flower in the sea breeze.
Lytham is important to me. It’s where I was born and where I grew up. Whilst we lived in was for several years we returned back here when I was fourteen and I plan to spend the rest of my life here. It’s part of who I am, I love the sounds, the people, the culture, the energy, the flowers abounding in the town, the art galleries and cafes. But I wanted to focus in on a smaller part. The seafront.
My plan was to shoot Lytham from dawn until dusk. Ideally beginning with a sunrise and ending on a sunset. To focus on the nature, the people and the monument such as the iconic Lytham Windmill. As I write this the proms are taking place, the whole green has dissapeared under stages, people, and helter skeleters. I could have focused on this but I want to focus on the smaller stories. After all it is usually the small stories that produce the strongest memories.
Some photos of Lytham seafront that I have already taken through the years.
I decided not to go for this option after having the idea of the Tiny Cities. I felt the seafront was rather general and wanted to do something that would challenge me in every way, inspire me and create something unique.