Monday, June 18, 2007

Here, a treatise on hallucinema

1. Rationale.

This project explores the nature of the authorial voice via the media of video, sound and text by remixing a pre-existing work - a digitised version of a VHS video transfer of a 16mm print of a television programme made in 1966. The pre-existing work was THE ERPINGHAM CAMP by JOE ORTON, which was commissioned by Rediffusion Television and produced in June 1966 and directed by James Ormerod. The work has been renamed 'Here'.

"Here" is a remix of this TV play, not only of its sound and its images, but also its order and its original text, utilising new actors and new musicians. Elements of the original are kept, in image and in sound, but not in their original form. Jim Hollands was present at the only public screening of this work since 1966 at the National Film Theatre, 1998, and recorded the reaction by the audience to it. Elements of this are also incorporated within the finished work. The original screenplay has never been published.
In its complete remixing, "Here" delineates 'The Death Of The Author', a work of Roland Barthes, using multiple voices to mimic various strands of thought arising from the process of making the work.

2. Introduction.

"Here" is Jacques Lacan on The Magic Roundabout, a work which in itself was re-dubbed by Eric Thompson deciding to ignore the original scripts altogether. By working with the volume turned down to avoid distraction, he completely rewrote the French stories and redefined and renamed the characters, injecting much irony,
wit and melancholy in to the re-edited shows.

In its original form as The Erpingham Camp, the work was first produced for television and later re-written for theatre, with 60 percent new material added.

Its current remixer, Jim Hollands, has taken the theatrical version and erased Orton's original dialogue, replacing it with a lateral dialogue composing of elements of text collected over the five years prior. Working backwards, he obtained a copy of the television production, which is timecoded and transcribed for new dialogue to be inserted. Using theories of homosexual literatures ranging from Catullus to Burroughs and Gluck via Firbank, the author/director has inserted into the pre-exisitng work an interior transtextual dialogue, a re-animation, of the present homosexual experience, taking as his main theme the death of the Father, which is also the dominant narrative of the original author's text.

The desire to use this work ( Joe Orton's The Erpingham Camp ) was both a random decision ( literally pulling a book from a bookshelf, eyes shut, opening a page and scoring out a word, it turned out to be the play ) and also after that initial action, a desire to re-habilitate Orton's work from the 60s revivalist productions that his work is now known for, and to place his work back into the experimental and shocking tradition from which he came.

'Here' is a remix in sound, image and narrative with added subtitles.

3. Preliminary Research.

3.1

The Death Of the Author

Roland Barthes ( 1915-80 )

"Death of the Author" (1967) is an essay by the French literary critic Roland Barthes that was first published in the American journal Aspen. It argues against incorporating the intentions and biographical context of an author in an interpretation of text; that writing and creator are unrelated.

In his essay, Barthes states that “To give a text an Author” and assign a single, corresponding interpretation to it “is to impose a limit on that text.” Readers must separate a literary work from its creator in order to liberate it from interpretive tyranny , for each piece of writing contains multiple layers and meanings.

In a famous quotation, Barthes draws an analogy between text and textiles, declaring that a “text is a tissue [or fabric] of quotations,” drawn from “innumerable centers of culture,” rather than from one, individual experience. The essential meaning of a work depends on the impressions of the reader, rather than the “passions” or “tastes” of the writer; “a text’s unity lies not in its origins,” or its creator, “but in its destination,” or its audience.

No longer the locus of creative influence, the author is merely a “scriptor” (a word Barthes uses expressly to disrupt the traditional continuity of power between the terms “author” and “authority”). The scriptor exists to produce but not to explain the work and “is born simultaneously with the text, is in no way equipped with a being preceding or exceeding the writing, [and] is not the subject with the book as predicate.” Every work is “eternally written here and now,” ( my emphasis ) with each re-reading, because the “origin” of meaning lies exclusively in “language itself” and its impressions on the reader.

Barthes' best-known work, the essay “The Death of the Author” (1968), saw the notion of the author, or authorial authority, as the forced projection of an ultimate meaning of the text. By imagining an ultimate intended meaning of a piece of literature one could infer an ultimate explanation for it. But Barthes points out that the great proliferation of meaning in language and the unknowable state of the author’s mind makes any such ultimate realization impossible. As such, the whole notion of the ‘knowable text’ acts as little more than another delusion of Western bourgeois culture.

I've obviously been indebted to Barthes in my work, but also the work of Jacques Derrida within deconstructionist thought, and the writing of Giles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, whose ideas of multiplicity, planes of reference and rhizomatic identity one can see within both the visual style of the piece and the writing.

3.2

The radio work of Glenn Gould, with reference to contrapuntal radio.

Glenn Gould was a composer in Canada, born in 1932, died in 1982, who was celebrated in his lifetime as a virtuoso concert pianist, who gave up live performance in 1964, dedicating himself to recording.

In the 1960s and 70s he produced a series of innovative radio and TV documentaries for the Canadian Broadcast Company.

His most famous documentary The Idea of North was first broadcast on CBC Radio in 1967. It was the first installment of the Solitude Trilogy.
The trilogy deals with people outside the mainstream in remote circumstances such as the North. Gould focuses on how northerners' spiritual strength helps them cope with solitude and isolation.

The musical structure of the fugue influences Gould's radio documentary work. He would mix two or three voices as well as music on top of each other, using the human voice like different melodies in a piece of music. He calls this method "contrapuntal style."

Counterpoint in music is the relationship between two or more voices that are independent in countour and rhythm, and interdependent in harmony.

Contrapuntal radio was an idea invented by Gould for his idea of North, which in operative effect was montage, creating new forms, effects and emotional connotations through strategic editing. In 1971 in an interview he gave he says he wanted to "create a structure in which one could feel free to have different approaches and responses to the same problems that emerge simultaneously". he acheived this effect through vocal counterpoint.

For his purposes, the voices in Idea of North were not people so much as disembodied voices representing points of view, and by abstracting them, by taking names and personalities ( and hard data and topical references ) out of the equation, he was underscoring the metaphorical and autobiographical import of the program.
"It's very much about me" he is quoted as saying "In terms of what it says, its about as close to an autobiographical statement as i am probably going to make at this stage of my life".

In 'The Idea of North Gould synthesises three ideas, documentary,drama and music.In order to achieve this effect he often edited the raw interviews into more polished vocal 'music' - splicing word by word, syllable by syllable; an idea used contemporaneously by King Tubby, nee Oswald Ruddock, in Jamaica, who is cited as the first person to have invented dub. regularly used now by modern hiphop, RnB and especially 2 step garage producers, but which was nascent when Gould made his work, having only been adopted by experimental composers such as Ligeti or Stockhausen. These forms are used extensively within 'Here'.


3.3
Rober Racine

"For each of the pages, a reading has been made, but by a reader who has left his reading on the text" Racine explains. "I touch, blow on, underline, gild, mark, cut out, colour, delimit or encircle an apparently neutral text to make it unique - like what an actor does on stage. Looking at this choreography of stage directions, you would say to yourself "Someone spent time on this."

The mark Rober Racine has left on the dictionary is indelible.

First, spending what he himself calls a 'strange task' - cutting out the 55,000 words in the French dictionary, gluing them onto small pieces of card, 2,130 pages of work, 5,000 days of labour.

Then, in his work, 1600 Mirror-pages, the dictionary becomes a symphony, all that was required was to read it. Every day from 1981 to 1995 - fourteen years - Racine illuminated the 2,130 pages of the 1979 edition of the petit Robert 1. He giled the openings of the letters a, b, d, e, g,o, p and q, numbers andd nonalphabetcial signs, highlighted th espace between the text columns with the same gold, underlined in green the names of Quebec authors quoted, indicated refernces to music with a teble clef, added red, green, pink and blue squares in accordance with an obscure codification, pricked pinholes and, beneath the lines of print, cut slits that illuminated the page, and pointed out the notes of the scale embbeded within the words.

Racine picked out the notes within each word ( do - ssier, re- pit, mi-toyen ). Using an extremly basic musical form, he copied them out as a musical form and then played out and recorded the notes of the scale, forming a synaesthetic work of sounds created from words. his work has never been exhibited in the UK, and parts of this text come from a meeting I had with him in Quebec 2005.

4. Methodology.

4.1 Imagery

"Here" is a video remix of a pre-existing work.

Utilising Final Cut Pro, imovie, and VJ software Arkaos and Modul8, the original work is shaped and transformed, giving an impression of frame by frame remixing upon viewing. Indeed within Scene 7 of the work, the scene has been rendered into 1900 still jpegs which were then re-animated. Effects are applied in the style of mimicking seminal animation works such as Stephen Lisberger's 'Tron' and the live visual effects created by analogue video synthesisers such as the Scanimate. This gives an effect of digital distortion, as if the pixels themselves are corroding, creating a hallucinegenic effect, a hallucinema, the desired effect mimics the visuals processes of current drugs such as 2CB and ketamine. Parts of the work - though not all - have been rendered into anaglyphic 3D ( red/cyan ) to heighten this hallucinematic effect.

The work also has subtitles which sometimes match the text being said, and sometimes form a commentary to that text. These are added using LiveType and then masked on in Final Cut.

4.2 Audio

The original work is transcribed and re-written, line by line, to incorporate new dialogue for the existing characters to speak. Parts of this resemble the original speech of the characters in its vowel formations. These lines are then workshopped with actors, and recorded for reinsertion into the original work.

The audio of each character within 'Here' has been recorded separately, with each actor having no knowledge of what they were speaking or it's context, in order to lend an isolated style to each character's voice, a mimickry of sampling. These were recorded on minidisc and the vocal samples then collected into a sound file of each character's samples.
These are then edited together as full scenes of the video, and on occasion matched using the BPM, pitch and autotune functions of Melodyne, again this function is to startle when it happens rather than impress, 'Here' is a durational work, and as such has to keep momentum.

The sound is added to the visual work in both Final Cut and imovie, using Gargeband, ProTools, Ableton, and Native Instruments Melodyne programmes. For music, the works comprise either beats made by myself on an MPC1000 or other tracks from contemporary artists in the Uk grime / dubstep and alternative noise scenes. The beats reference the cut and paste / montage history and culture of hiphop, and the effects on the vocals reference the work made in dub of externalising the vocal track.
The process of the audio ( sometimes ) matching the visuals is a form of audio dubbing. For this I obtained information from Steve Roberts at St Martins Animation Studio
http://www.characteranimationin3d.com/
in his study of basic phonemes.


4.3 Presentation platform

As a digital work, 'Here' lends itself to varied presentation formats. The work could also be burnt to DVD, and distributed thus, or due to its flexible nature and the director's previous history of never repeating a screening, the work will be available without music to be re-soundtracked live by musicians. The work can be shown in theatres, cinemas, pubs, flat screens, TVs; there are no specific format ideals - it could be an installation, a movie, a live theatre piece or a gig.
Indeed the director welcomes any new suggestions. In order to distribute it widely, I will be burning it to DVD and also recording it to VHS tape.

4.4 Presentation Environment / Space requirements

In the praxis of my work I am against any prerequisites with regard to screenings, type of screening, available equipment, space requirements, types of space, and am flexible with regard any type of exhibition of the work, I've shown in squats in Leipzig and in purpose built halls in Sao Paulo, I wouldn't want to restrict my work at all, to anyone.

The first screening of this work will be at a central London venue on August 9th, which is the 40th anniversary of the murder of Joe Orton, the original author.




5. Technical requirements

The techincal requirements for this piece are dictated by the space within which it is shown, which could be one VHS video player and one RGB output cable to projector or screen and one audio lead to amp, amp to set of speakers, in people's homes, or could be using a 15K sound rig and the IMAX. The size of the projection, and the format upon which it is projected, will be dictated by the space. I use these vagiaries of technical requirements due to a 10 year history of film presentation and curation, and find that these forms of equipment definitely work without hitches. I have shown in galleries and cinemas from America to the NFT in this fashion


6 Bibliography / sources.


Can't Stop Won't Stop - A History Of The Hip-Hop Generation - Jeff Chang, Ebury Press 2005

Hollywood Flatlands - Animation, Critical Theory and The Avant-Garde - Esther Leslie Verso 2004

New Vocabularies In Film Semiotics - Stam, Burgoyne, Flitterman-Lewis, Routledge 1992

Subtitles, on the foreigness of film, ed Atom Egoyan and Ian Balfour 2004 MIT and Alphabet City

Soundscape - The School Of Sound Lectures 1998 - 2001 ed Sider, Sider and Freeman 2003 Wallflower Press

Michel Chion, The Voice in Cinema trans Claudia Gorbman 1999 UK ed Columbia

Michel Chion - Audio-Vision - Sound On Screen trans Claudia Gorbman 1994 Columbia

Mladen Dolar - A Voice and nothing more - short circuits, edited by Slavoj Zizek, MIT 2006.

L'Emploi Du Temps - Acqisitions recentes en art actuel - Musee National des Beaux-Arts du Quebec, 2003

Rober Racine - Jean-Paul Dubois - Musee National des Beaux-Arts du Quebec, 2001.

Wondrous Strange - The Life and Art of Glenn Gould - Kevin Bazzana, Yale Press, 2003.

Culler, Jonathan. Barthes: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

3 Comments:

Blogger Orrin said...

Can't wait to see it.

"...and on occasion matched using the BPM, pitch and autotune functions of Melodyne, again this function is to startle when it happens rather than impress" ...especially this. Contacts, I think. (To let the 3D glasses work.)
xX

1:47 PM  
Blogger Orrin said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

1:48 PM  
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