I heard about the One Day on Earth project on the radio while staying at the apartment of new friends in Seattle: the idea is that people around the world would film on October 10, 2010 and submit their footage to the initiative’s website. The footage can be seen on the site via individual users profiles and will also be edited into a film (submit at least 1 min of video and you will get online access to the film). I am interested to see what that will be.
What will the archive of footage look like? Who will have submitted? Will this in itself be a portrait of the world? Who has access to video technology & the internet and what do they care about?
I spent most of 10/10/10 on an airplane.
I found the perfect detail to film while waiting for my bags to arrive on the baggage carousel: a 24-hour vending machine for fresh flowers. What an odd and lonely commentary on nature and culture! Unfortunately I couldn’t get my camera settings set correctly and had to give up to catch the train into the city.
Chris Milk’s interactive online film The Wilderness Downtown mixes music video + documentary + personal history + Google satellite images + browser art. Try it out! The project is a collaboration with the band Arcade Fire, and is labeled “an experiment”.
Earlier Chris Milk worked on The Johnny Cash Project, a crowd-sourced video set to Cash’s “Ain’t No Grave.”
Filed under: Documentary
Here is a smart mockumentary from Heal the Bay about the life cycle and habitat of a plastic bag.
Filed under: Distribution | Tags: archive, concrete poetry, curator, ethnography, experimental film
UBUWEB is a wonderful site for viewing often hard-to-find films of 100+ artists, poets and researchers, including:
Trinh T. Minh-ha
The site has a clear curatorial eye and presents full-length works, Trinh T. Minh-ha’s Shoot for the Contents (1991, 101 min) for example. It was created on a voluntary basis by “an alliance of interests” including media archives and bandwidth providers. The site presents not only films but concrete poetry in visual / text / sound forms.
Filed under: Documentary, Duration, Information Entertainment | Tags: ethnography, japan
See a beautiful short document of a Tokyo restaurant by Dennis Wheatley and Stefan McClean here. The camera is set on a conveyor belt which takes plates of sushi by customers sitting around the small bar. It gazes both at the patrons and the filmmakers. More than any news report it gives a sense of what it is like to linger in a Japanese restaurant after work – of everyday life in Japan.
I had a conversation last night that has got me thinking about the incredible ubiquity of images: with digital cameras and the Internet the photographic image has proliferated to a point were it has little novelty. At this point of image-saturation, can we begin to use images in new ways? Perhaps, less as documents and more as tools for reflection?
Here is one way of using the image, both “written images” and “video images” as tools of observation:
In 2005 and 2006 I spent time in Beijing. While in China I both kept both a written and a video journal. There, I observed “everyday” things, including peoples’ homes, the textures of the sidewalks, hand movements used in cooking, the ways people cross the street. Through writing and filming I began to become aware of the things that I was noticing. While, in an overall sense, both journals are about “what I did” in Beijing – where I went, who I met, the two are more characterized by the details of objects, experiences, and social interactions. In particular, observations about things that seemed similar to and different from home, for example, the oddness of seeing plain white tea pots and cups in nearly every restaurant, and the familiarity of Starbucks Coffee shops (ubiquitous in Beijing). The journals are documents of the process of getting to know a place, not simply through its language, but through its social and aesthetic patterns. They are a record of what I thought was beautiful, but also what seemed ugly and surprising, of how I arranged my apartment, and of the foods that I gradually began to like.
In Beijing, I ask my friend Yan Li if she would show me what her kitchen looks like. I’ve been in China twice before, but I tell her that I’ve never really been inside a Chinese kitchen. She laughs, and replies, “I don’t think it’s that different from a Western one.” But, humoring me, Yan Li walks in. Her kitchen is a small one, a little bit tricky for two people to stand inside and move around together. There are vegetable peels on a paper on one side of the sink and steamer with warm water in it on the stove from the meal we’ve just finished. It’s true that the familiar parts of a kitchen are there: a white refrigerator with a few magnets on the door, a gas stove, cupboards above, below, and opposite from the sink, a silverware drawer, a microwave, and places and containers to store dry foods.
But, also, looking deeper, the objects that are there, the details, ways things are organized, are different from my kitchen. Above the stove there is a sort of ventilation hood, essential for cooking with hot oil, but, below, there is no oven. Next to the sink, a typical stainless steel model, there are no sponges for washing dishes, and behind it there is a set of blue and white painted tiles showing a scene from a traditional Chinese painting. In the cupboard below the kitchen’s far window are old large soda bottles filled with rice and also red beans – the bottles keep bugs out in the summer. Next to them, there is a collection of containers of a dark liquid (soy sauces?), and two large plastic jugs of a golden-colored cooking oil. Another set of low cabinets is crammed with cooking devices that can be plugged into the wall. The only one I recognize is a rice cooker, the others, Yan Li, explains are for things like making a flat bread, or eating hot pot, something similar to fondue.
What is the purpose of this kind of “everyday” documentation? Can it change the way we see things?
I’ve recently published a paper with cartographer Sebastien Caquard in the Art & Cartography special issue of The Cartographic Journal. Here’s a description:
Mapping Globalization: A Conversation between a Filmmaker and a Cartographer
This paper is an edited version of a written dialogue that took place between the fall of 2008 and the summer of 2009 between a filmmaker (Amelia Bryne) and a cartographer (Sebastien Caquard) around the issue of representing globalization. In these conversations, we define some of the key means for representing globalization in both mapmaking and filmmaking discussing local/global, strategic/tactical, data/narrative and unique/multiple perspectives. We conclude by emphasizing the potential impact of new media in ushering in hybrid digital products that merge means of representation traditional to filmmaking and cartography.
It begins …
SC. Why would a filmmaker like you involved in exploring globalization through film be interested in maps and cartography?
AB. In my view cartography and cinema have a similar problem at heart: how can we represent the world in a meaningful and engaging way? These representations can be made with many kinds of information – fragments of the world – including information in the form of scientific data, or about spatial and temporal relationships, cultural practices, and even individual perceptions or emotions. These two disciplines seemingly address the challenge of constructing representations of the world from different angles, and I am interested in exploring them. More specifically, I am interested in exploring how the combination of these two practices could be complementary in terms of understanding and representing globalization, which is a significant focus of the work of many contemporary filmmakers, including myself.
SC. So, you are interested in cartography as a domain that could help you to better represent globalization in your films. Could you elaborate a bit?
AB. My desire to represent globalization is perhaps my way of saying that I want to find ways of making sense of what is happening in the world today, and I think that cartography might be able to help me do that. Globalization is a name for a collection of phenomena that characterize and influence contemporary politics, business and everyday life. Globalization operates at multiple scales, from the personal to the global, and impacts both humans and our environment. It spans issues ranging from the influence of transnational organisations, to global labour and global capital movements, to deregulation and privatisation, oil, scarce resources, intellectual property rights, China, containerized shipping, export processing zones, and anti-globalization movements (Zaniello, 2007, p. 2). Globalization and its associated flows of capital, people, and objects is challenging to make sense of. It challenges traditional forms of representation and resistance (Jameson, 1991).
Film theorist Holly Willis suggests an explicit connection between films and maps in the context of globalization. She frames films as a type of ‘map’ that may be able to capture the increasing complexity of the world in a different way than more literal cartographic representations. This desire for alternative or hybrid forms of mapping stems from a dilemma of representation: ‘How do you ‘‘map’’ a global economy, a vast military industrial complex, or the convergence of gigantic corporations? How do you chart multinational banking and stock exchanges, or the increasingly powerful web of bureaucratic control?’ (Willis, 2005, pp. 74–75). Those are the questions I hope cartography could help me to address. Maybe, as Willis suggests, filmmaking and cartography could be helpful to each other.