Archive for February, 2012

Nick Broomfield Techniques Research

February 25, 2012

I have found that these videos have helped me in a way that I am able to use his technique but in my own way/style. I will not research too much into Caroline Molloy and Molly Dineen, but I will view their documentary to see if there are any new ideas I can pick out from them, and also ways of editing the audio.

I like how Nick lets the subjects talk and I have found this when I have recorded Jean, I just let her talk and it gives her the freedom to talk. A kind of freedom, the opposite of a closed conversation a formal interview may contain.


Nick Broomfield Research

February 25, 2012

I hired out two DVD’s of Nick Broomfield’s documentaries from the Coventry University library. Suky Best, my mentor advised me to look at him when thinking of the structure because I was going to do a film for the exhibition. I have canged my plans and instead I am going to have audio included in the exhibition. However, I still managed to collect ideas from these documentaries. I developed an idea on how to tell Jean’s story through the audio. Also, I developed an idea of how I can add to the audio.

I started off watching the documentary called Proud to be British. This is a documentary is Broomfield’s way but ultimately troubling examination of the very british attitudes of this affluent and influential area of England. When watching this documentary I felt that I could not engage with it. This is because it was not keeping me focused. Therefore, I could not watch the whole of it.  From vieing the documentary, I can see how Broomfield worked at this time. In the introduction of the film the person who is in it being documented does not start off by introducing himself, instead Nick Broomfield uses a quote from the person who is called Mr Fantham by using his audio that says his own view on Britian when he says; “this is my country, i’m proud of what I am and what we stand for”.  This belief of Mr Fantham is shown over moving video clips of soldiers from the army walking through the streets of Britain. I like how the music gets quiet as Mr Fantham starts to talk and then after he finishes talking the music gets louder. The ending of the film again shows Mr Fanthams strong beliefs and this brings you back to the start and sums up the whole story and what this documentary is all about.

I then watched the Who Cares film, which provides a unique snap shot of life in the slums in Liverpool in 1970. About the Liverpool people being re-housed from inner city terraces to suburban high-rise estates. In the documentary it describes how the moves have affected them negatively . The starting for this film does not start with music but instead background noise, which I liked as it gave you a feel of the area at the time when he was doing the film. Again, the subject that is being documented starts by saying a strong point on her thoughts about the working class. This quote expresses her anger which is a great introduction of what the film is about. I was not sure about the background noise at first but  when I thought in my head about if I did that with Jean’s story- incorporate sound from DVD’s that she owns of the times that she is talking about- then it will give you a feel of what it was like of where she was at the time and also what she is talking about. I think that I will have this before she starts to talk about a certain part of her story as it will keep the viewer listening and interacts them with knowing there is music before a story.  Nick uses this technique I have noticed, he uses the sounds before the talking and when I was viewing this documentary it made me think of what the next part of the story was going to talk about. I like also how he uses music at the end and I think that this is something that I am also going to do in Jean’s story it will be an ideal finish.

The last documentary that I had watched was called Gypsy Blood and.  I did not know  this was a documentary made by Nick Broomfield. I really enjoyed watching this documentary. This is a documentary about how fighting is in the gypsy’s blood. It shows the lives of gypsy as they go head-to-head fighting, living up to their familie name. I Like Nick Broomfield’s older documentaries where there is the use of music  in the start and ending. Again just like his older documentaries he does not start with the person being documented, introducing themeselves, but their strong belief that is about them, the gypsy talks about the fighting and how they feel and also the rules of their fighting. It introduces what the documentary is about but not in alot of detail, not giving too much away. This keept me engaged with the documentary. When the gypsy says this speech the music goes quiet but then when the talking stops it  gets louder. I also like in this documentary how there is a little boy and he says something negative about the fighting and how he does not want his dad to get killed but then it goes on to something that is not positive, and how these boys have the gypsy blood of fighting in them aswell. After noticing this I thought that when editing Jean’s stories I could show a part that is really touching to the heart. i think this will bring distress but then show something positive, of how great these people are and the love they still have in them. Or how the police brutality is over there and how over here in England she feels the younger generation do not adapt to rules. Therefore, it could talk about the difference of the both leadings of England and Jamaica or Africa and how it was when coming back to England after such strictness. There would then be a showing of the negative and the positive sides of things. In the documentary, Nick Broomfield shows the moods of the subjects and this I feel gives the viewer a feel of their anger or happiness. With this in mind, I would like to show the moods of Jean in the audio as it will give the viewer a sense of how she feels at the certain parts of the story.

The new ideas after wathcing the documentaries and how I want to show my story in the audio now:

* Start with music or background noise. The noise will be taken from DVD’s that Jean has of herself, that were taken from the time of when she was in Jamaica and Africa.

* Use the sounds before she talks about a certain part of the story

* Find the best sound that goes with this part

* For the music use something that Jean feels relates to the project or something that I find suits

* For the music use artists from these countries- I may use Bob Marley as he has played a big part in her life.

* Show negative and positive sides in the story

* Show the moods and how certains parts make Jean feel

* End with something that Jean says like in one of my audios she says she wants to visit one more time before she closes her eyes. This shows her love, and then with music low and then louder at the end.

Nan Goldin Research

February 22, 2012

The work by Nan Goldin called The Ballad of Sexual Dependency began in 1979; this was just by her continuously taking photographs of her friends.  She produced hundreds and hundreds of photographs, showing her friends and also herself. In New York this was the time of the new wave music scene and hard drug taking was taking place. She documented her life around this era and her friends, as well as the gay subculture.  The Ballad of Sexual Dependency is a title taken from a song in Bertolt Brecht’s Threepenny Opera. The images that Nan Goldin produced show aesthetic images of moments when drug use took place; there was violence (this she shows in her own self portraits of when she was beaten up), aggressive couples and autobiographical moments.  Most of  the ‘Ballad’ subjects that she had shown were dead by the 1990’s and were lost to either drug overdose or AIDS.  In a lot of these images she portrays her close friends, Greer Lankton and Cookie Mueller. In addition to ‘Ballad’, she combined her photographs in two other series; I’ll Be Your Mirror (from a song on The Velvet Underground’s ‘The Velvet Underground & Nico’ album) and All by Myself. In the slide of photographs accompanied by the music there are in total 690 slides and the piece is 43 minutes long.  I have only ever seen this work of Nan Goldin’s in a book and never knew that she did a slide with music until I was told by Suky Best. I think the music really goes pleasantly well with the people that she is documenting and also what she is showing in the photographs, the loss of people and the lives of drug takers. The music and the images keep you engaged, you can kind of see what she is trying to say in her photographs but you just want to know everything about everyone that you see in the slide. I felt when I viewed these slides the music made the images stay in my mind more than if it was not with music.  I think that this would be a great way to show my FMP of Jean’s life. A presentation of my own images along with hers and music accompanying it and maybe if it is possible edits from films of when she was over in Ethiopia and Jamaica.

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Mentor Suky Best

February 21, 2012

My mentor for this term is Suky Best, I really enjoy her work and her feedback has been really helpful. She has introduced me to some exciting film makers. It is more exciting because this kind of research area I would normally not look into.  I feel as if I have been invited to learn more about film makers, which really adds another dimension of knowledge for me to look into.

For my final major project I am carrying on with my work about Jean, this will be continuing on from the Phonar module. I am currently working on a piece when she changed her life to live as a poor woman in Ethiopia and Jamaica. She was living in the bush, making her house from scratch and helping the people of Ethiopia and Jamiaca, as well as raising 38 street boys.

I have showed Suky Best what I have done for Phonar and I am glad that she liked it, but she said that I needed a structure of how I was going to document this stor. Suky gave me some great people and their work to look at, I feel this will help with my own structure of showing Jean for the exhibition and also develop my structure of how I want to show her story. She said to look at Nan Goldin’s Ballard Of Sexual Dependency and how Nan Goldin shows her photographs with music that relates to them. I was glad that she had said Nan Goldin because she is one of my favourite photographers and I had never thought of looking at that structure of work. I also looked at Molly Dineen and Nick Broomfield. Suky suggested these film makers and I am continuing my research into these people.

Research: Annie Leibovitz

February 5, 2012

Annie Leibovitz photographer her close friend Susan Sontag, an intermate moment before she sees her friend for the last time, the last memory. So I found this research and how it is similar to h0w Nan Goldin also captured her friends when they were dead. One photograph becomes a big part of someones life and them saying goodbye. I think I was looking at this as it something that is really upsetting to see but the others it is their way of portraying a person, a piece of their own life involved.

As a writer Susan Sontag located herself behind her subject. After her death it is her personality that is memorialised. Angela McRobbie deciphers this use of a great intellectual’s legacy.
About the author
Angela McRobbie is professor of communications at Goldsmiths College. She has also written extensively on young women and popular culture.

The unseemliness of Annie Leibovitz, one of the world’s best-known photographers, publishing (in the Guardian), intimate portraits of her lover Susan Sontag in the months before she died in December 2004 and then in the immediate aftermath of her death as she was laid out in the mortuary gurney, is perhaps only explicable in terms of her mourning, anger and outrage at being abandoned.

In this respect it outflanks an article by Sontag’s son David Rieff published some months earlier. At her bedside, he presented an account of her dying which also might better have remained an important private moment between mother and son. It surely cheapened her stature to describe what seemed to be her sheer disbelief and fury that she too, like everyone else, was having to face extinction. “I’m special”, she appeared to be saying, “so special”.

Even earlier, Terry Castle, a Californian-based writer and sometime friend of Sontag’s wrote a particularly scurrilous, indeed spiteful memoir which was published in the London Review of Books (“Desperately Seeking Susan“, 17 March 2005) It was a well-rehearsed piece, as though the author had been saving up for this opportunity for many years, having been sidelined by Sontag despite some period of friendship and even intimacy.

Sontag it seemed had never reciprocated with sufficient warmth and zeal, the abundance of emotion and admiration displayed by the repudiated Castle; but so self-pitying and moralistic was Castle’s account of her years of servitude, that this reader at least sympathised fully with Sontag’s sudden and unexplained disappearance into a taxi, midway through an evening out with Castle, leaving her friend bewildered on the pavement.

Love’s work

Love is invariably shot through with ambivalence, and in death an opportunity arises to castigate she or he who has done the leaving. But what is surprisingly conventional about these outbursts in print or in image is the revelation of personality. It is unimaginable in contemporary life not to “have” a personality and, in possession of such a thing, not subsequently to project this authentic self in the context of one’s other attributes and capacities.

Sontag has been endlessly berated for many years by gay and lesbian activists for refusing to wholeheartedly take on a lesbian identity, and again it is only on her death and the publication of some of her diaries dating back to the 1950s that her self-description as queer really surfaces. But still this refusal to project identity or personality, a refusal which is now being so busily countered by these biographical sketches, undermines what was surely one of Sontag’s most marked contributions – which was to refute the position of writer as dogmatic personality; as the person who presided over the text, who was its owner as well as its author.

Sontag spent a good deal of time in France in the early 1960s, at that moment when literary modernism (Samuel Beckett, Antonin Artaud) with its insistence on divided selves was just about to be supplanted by the even more forceful undermining of the magisterial, authorial self which semiology, structuralism and then post-structuralism inaugurated.

Sontag’s writing at that time reflected both these trends, her short fictions I Etcetera and indeed her foray into film-directing each revealing a cold, erotically-charged modernism, with few, if any, traces of authorial personality; while her introduction of Roland Barthes to a wider public demonstrated her enthusiasm for his “death of the author” stance, and for his crisp analysis of those structures set in place which merely had to be activated by the writer. The work writes you, Roland Barthes said, and this permitted a kind of downgrading or removal of the author-God from the scene of the narrative and from the whole burden of originality, inspiration and uniqueness.

It is ironic then that Susan Sontag is now being deified in a way which counters the sensibility of her own style, which was invariably to locate herself behind the work which she wrote about. Her much-quoted comment about mind as passion, her commitment to seriousness, her disavowal of the chat-show circuit, and latterly, her stance on the stifling of dissent in the United States after 9/11, as well as her late return to the portrayal of suffering in the photographic image, all mark her out as an intellectual for whom social and cultural critique are forms of public service, a kind of dedicating of one’s intellect to the principle of democracy.

Of course the outpourings of those who loved her most will also bear the signs of the wish that she be remembered, as well as being their staking of a claim to her emotional world. But it is Leibovitz’s images which are most disquieting, if only for the reason that they almost ask to be deciphered as Sontag would herself have surely, with enthusiasm, set about doing.

The claim of intimacy

This makes them strange, uncanny, uncomfortable to look at, but not because they have the capacity to illuminate beyond the frame of the domestic world which they show. Ostensibly they could be considered a treatise on the impending death of one who has both written magnificently about the cultural meanings which are invoked in response to life threatening illness, and who has therefore been well prepared as it were for mortality.

But much more prominent is the narrative they tell about the complexity of love, the rivalry, and anger of abandonment and loss, and the betrayals and disloyalties which also comprise the “psychic life of power”. By so inflating, in her death, the stature of Sontag, those who were closest to her produce a kind of grand fictional identity which dwarves the painstaking nature of the work itself, a good deal of which was actually dedicated to bringing to the attention of the world, great writers who like Robert Walser, Leonid Tsypkin, Juan Rulfo or even the filmmaker as well as writer Alexander Kluge, all of whom would otherwise have remained obscure, untranslated or overlooked in the English-speaking world.

If one was to sum up an underlying ethos in Sontag’s oeuvre it was to overturn and angrily contest the drive towards simplification and anti-intellectualism, little Englandism and self-congratulatory Americanism, and the cult of the personality in literature, autobiography and confessional life-writing, all of which shape and police the landscape of literary culture today. (It was widely known to those in the field of European and world literature that often the only possibility of having work translated was to send Sontag a copy requesting that she submit a letter of support to publishers, which invariably she would do).

Most of the pictures printed in the Guardian merit consideration primarily on the topics of love, intrusiveness, publicity and exposure. This includes a banal shot of Sontag in her hotel bed awake, but covering most of her face with a white sheet, as though to ward off the unwelcome gaze of the camera, a moment of private vanity, the desire not to be snapped without having time to compose oneself, having not yet got up and brushed one’s teeth, as it were.

Pictures in her office or walking on a beach with agent Andrew Wylie, or sitting amidst pyramids or again looking weary and tired over a hotel-room breakfast, have little to say other than that there is a claim being made by Leibovitz in terms of proximity, intimacy and of she having-being-there with Sontag, sharing her bed, one assumes, sitting with her at breakfast and accompanying her on trips (see the photographer’s interview with Emma Brockes, “My time with Susan”, Guardian, 7 October 2006).

Those which show Sontag suffering, and undergoing chemotherapy, especially the shot of her on a stretcher on a cold-looking open tarmac about to be carried onto a waiting plane, and also those of her corpse laid out, further extend this act of claiming. We are meant to be impressed by Sontag’s courage in the months before she died, but the publication of these images conveys instead simply a kind of resignation, sadness and fortitude on Sontag’s part.

What else, after all, can one do when having to undergo chemotherapy, which may or may not work? The green-tinted image of her body laid out, wearing a pleated dress, serves primarily to ask the viewer to reflect on the nature of love and its claims on the other. Leibovitz is doing here what only she can do, this is her privilege. And so the pictures are as much about possession and about being dispossessed in loss, as they are about any social commentary on dying. These pictures suggest that the taker is temporarily “out of her mind” with grief.

A gift to life

There are only two photographs where the intensity of the dialogue between Leibovitz’s work and Sontag’s thinking is realised. The first is the cover image (in the Guardian supplement), a marvellous dark orange-tinted shot of Susan Sontag standing against the stern of a ferry, wrapped in a blanket to ward off the chill air, seemingly at dusk. There is a lifebelt attached to the rail, and the coastline can be seen in the distance. Sontag is tall, slim, and her beauty still proud, animated and engaged. She is undefeated, though it would seem fully aware that this is also for her, a ferry journey to the other side of life. This is so effective as an image of portending death that Leibovitz could easily have omitted the hospital scenes.

The other photograph which transcends the boundaries of domestic intimacy is one which shows Sontag naked, in bed, still sleeping it seems, and shot from the side, amidst the bed clothes, and with a pillow over her breasts, though revealing in a gesture to the life of sexuality and eroticism, even in middle age, part of a large, dark nipple.This is an extraordinary sculptured image, conveying the intensity of an emotional partnership, as well as the power of love and erotic passion to create art from the passage of life as it is inscribed on the body. Sontag’s thighs are sensuously open, as though in invitation, they are heavy, marbled, and the pubic hair is still black.

There is what looks like a Caesarian scar-line, and her stomach is neither smooth nor shapely, her waist almost disappeared, yet the overall sense is of voluptuousness and sexual energy. Also total self-confidence and disregard for a world otherwise beholden to narrow and tyrannical definitions as to what constitutes female desirability. If Sontag moved uncomfortably around the word feminism, as she also did lesbianism, in her life, then in her death she makes here, of herself, something of a gift, that art and politics can indeed be productively intertwined.

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