Recently I had the great opportunity to visit Montreal, Canada as part of a conference trip for the Society of Cinema and Media Studies. The trip was primarily for the purposes of advertising the Journal of Short Film and my recent publication in Teaching Media’s latest dossier about online teaching. Being a moving image artist I could not pass up the chance to create work while both in another country and in such a beautiful city. Every inch of Montreal inspired me in a plethora of ways. The downfall was that the weather during my stay was not cooperative for any kind of prolonged outdoor shooting. Also, it was a working trip which during my free hours in the evening left me fairly exhausted. With these caveats in place, I had to find a way to in act my creativity with the limitations imposed upon me.
Currently, I am working on this new piece – Les formes et le coulleurs de la Reine Elizabeth. It is hard to define the piece. It is 100% moving image art. It was shot on video. But…the end result embodies a past imagery more fitting for film, specifically the structuralist film movement from over 40 years ago. The movement and images of this piece excite me like nothing before but as I work on it I realize that excitement is because I feel the world of moving image art has become obsessed with two polar modes of production which I feel are counter productive to being an artists within this medium. 1. The lack of production quality in some circles to the point that only the concept of the film is what is important combined with the post modern showcase of the material that creates the work. 2. The use of high production values simply for the sake of showing off the newest technical advancement with only moderate concern for the progression of moving image art. Basically how do you reconcile the fact that in some circles you must create the most beautiful technologically advanced and awe inspiring piece with the other side of the coin that is so concept driven with a lack of image and sound quality that only the most avid fans of high art film will give a chance?
These questions are not specifically a part of the piece I am working on but they are in the background of my thought process. During a recent conversations about a draft of this work, focused mainly on the question of the soundtrack, I have received three varying criticisms which I think illustrates my point further.
1. The images are beautiful and even at 14 minutes the big question is “Why must moving images sound?”
The piece was originally developed as a silent film but given the short attention spans of mass viewership, it is is not easy to come to terms with the reality that most viewers will not be able to sustain their attention for 14 minutes of silence regardless of the quality of images and conceptual meaning. This is a very sad reality.
2. Given #1, maybe the use of ambient noise from the production of the film, since it is documentary in mode, could aid in the engagement.
This argument is valid but changes the piece from a structuralist moving image painting that is about the viewers engagement with the image and its movement that transcends time and in some instances spacial relationships to a very specific time, and place which grounds it more in the realm of Experimental Documentary modes.
One part of me is pleased at the recognition of this piece providing a present day argument for an art form that seems to be relapsing into old habits of commercially viable art and highly bourgeoisie art with very little room for anything in between out side of cat videos, autotuned music mashups, and jackass style self endangerment. One the other hand, today’s mass video culture, with more images available than time in a day, has effectively put an end to this type of moving image art in the minds of the masses.
So the real struggle here is that I have created a piece that fits more securely with in the high art realm as far as moving images are concerned. But as one who does not make art for arts sake but makes it both for myself enjoyment, and for the education of others through art providing evidence that moving images can be used more artfully to express oneself outside of the two poles previously, I fear that both myself and my art are being forced to pick a team; commercially viable highly engagable lacking a true conversation with the medium, highly conceptual barely engagable with no true sense of importance to the masses, or the third category of the middle path trying to converse with both the medium and the technology that makes moving images viewable and alienates one from the acceptance by the other two ends of the spectrum.
This is a problem that is not easily answered and in the end will probably boil down to my own aesthetic engagement regardless of external viewers and any of the questions posed above.
As I ponder more … thanks for listening and enjoy some images, and a vine sample of the first draft of – Les formes et le coulleurs de la Reine Elizabeth.