during november 2016 the first period of filming took place capturing the museum’s model railway, ground floor public activity and behind the scenes looks at the stores and the social club used by the electricity board when they had their offices in the building.

in may 2017 the second tranche begins with filming set to take place over the next three months during the preparatory work happening throughout the building.

in january 2018 questions set in november 17 begin to be answered and thoughts of submitting to doc fest start to be entertained.  the project is now being thought of as a non linear documentary.


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i’m getting there – finishing this tranche.  thinking about submitting to doc fest has been a good thing, it’s pushed me into creating a linear trailer for the project.  i’ve spent time this afternoon editting and tweaking and i’ve ended with something i feel good about.

one small detail will feedback into the project – so i now have my tuesday morning work schedule tied down.

to be honest making a short linear trailer for the project with a link in the description makes so much sense.  would i have thought of it ? yes – eventually !

its certainly something to take forward into the third tranche.

 


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so the last question and possibly the “biggee”.  answered over several attempts this answer evolves very much in the manner in which this commission has.

so sitting comfortable with minh-ha’s essay as company ….. question 4 ….

 

4) What ‘artistic’ elements/formal features (sound/darkness; the artist’s hand; the camera on the train etc) did you explore in the last round of filming? how might you take these into the next round of filming in the decant phase?

 

i like this question, it sets out an opportunity to comment, review, reflect.

minh-ha states there is no such thing as documentary(1).  a great start and so we can state whatever we want to be documentary – so my non linear project is a non linear documentary and this fits with the concept that documentary is a continually re-emerging form of practice.(1)

minh-ha continues that documentary exists due to the response to cinema and the control over which this has of narrative.  documentary being an independent voice for informing the viewer of something.  i love how minh-ha describes cinema as a means of indoctrination and comment because of its capacity for ‘observing and selecting from life itself'(2).

the formal feature of non linearity is an emerging narrative form (at the time of writing) and borrows from the cinematic tradition of observing and selecting from life and challenges the tradition by extending this through to the viewer.

my foundation artistic element is the first person view.  made by my choice of recording equipment it gives me the ability to be present with those in the shot in a manner that doesn’t impede their natural actions within the activity.

the project can define itself as documentary as in creating the project i’m making selection, elimination and co-ordination of natural elements that are factual(2). – they happened.

there’s a caveat though – it’s a non linear documentary – an emerging documentary form.

it sits well with how the museum wants to see itself once it’s open – social, democratic, using the past to inform the present and inspire the future.

reading on into minh-ha’s essay he covers ‘honest’ and ‘manipulative’ in documentary.(2)

i get how a linear documentary has the potential to be honest and at the same time manipulative because of the methods and intentions adopted in the production of the work.

minh-ha examines the methods of recording and using sound in documentary.  in shimmering place the sound is synchronised (when there is accompanying video) as for me this is an absolute essential component of the final work.  the sound is recorded binaurally so when listening on headphones the listener will hear exactly what i heard – it’s more than likely that there is spatial information included in the sound recordings – i’m vague as the hearing in my left ear has reduced spectral range which makes stereo imaging compromised for me in a particular frequency range.

an artistic decision made with the second tranche was to set the angle of view from the camera as fixed.  so instead of having a static camera and using zoom as a means to get closer or further away, i’ve physically moved to create a dynamic shot.  the majority of shots are presented in real time.  occasionally i have used editing to shorten the shot to make it easier to watch.

the video content for the most part has had only a light touch of post production on it to get as close to the original colours as possible. (bounded by my production screen.)

 

a formal feature of the project is the choice to use only sound recorded in the space – there is no additional voice over.  we hear what happened, we see what i saw(3)

The lift is fab … It really works as you feel like you’re in it – I guess that’s the link with the hand closing the door : )

complimenting the observed are the artist moments – observations and interactions with the building placing the viewer into the action, making a phycological connection for them.  these are carefully managed within the project to give a balance to the observations.

the lift is special. i chose to focus the viewers attention on the sound of the lift in this tranche.  it reminds me of the lift in steve mcqueen’s western deep.

 

“truth has to be made made vivid, interesting, it has to be dramatised….”  trinh t minha-ha(3).

 

what emerged for me while putting the project together was the feeling of calm in what i was observing.  this realisation came to me in response to being involved operationally in the museum elsewhere.  so artistically i’ve tried to convey how being involved in the activities in the silk mill has a benefit to one’s wellbeing.  its subtle so i look forward to hearing what your reaction to this is.

the museum promotes means by which one can become involved with the museum.  the project speaks of this through how the documentary becomes viewable through the involvement of the viewer.(4)

 

i’ve not commented so far on the sound extensions.  these are sound files that run after the video has finished.  they extend the experience of the project.  they are set to loop so in an exhibition setting will punctuate the ambient state of the space.  the silk mill museum is a place of very diverse sound.   the extensions are an experiment based on feedback from the first tranche.

 

“reality is more fabulous, more maddening, more strangely manipulative than fiction.”  trinh t minh-ha (5)

its about technique  – aesthetics of documentary.  i’m documenting the museum as a place to be with people, making, doing, talking – informed by the collection, being done now, watched in the future present.

 

in rewriting this post i’m arriving at a different conclusion from the first version.  i chose to rewrite it as i felt i could do better.

minh-ha’s essay lost me from about half way through.  the essay seems to end around the notion of how documentary balances out injustice.  i’m a realist.  if you don’t look you won’t find.

for tranche 3 i’ll use all the artistic / formal features from the first two and as its tranche 3 there will be new ones too as the space will be saying something new.  a question for me to answer is as well as listening to the building who will be present to listen to ?  from what i’ve done so far i haven’t set anything up to film – its all what has been there to observe.  how might this be different in the coming months ?  it felt unknown beginning the second tranche and the third feels even more so now.

maybe the third version will be more about the dialogue i have with the building as i encounter those working there.  that statement fills me with calm – its simple, to the point and understandable.

it infers using the same technical set up that made the second.  it infers being present at progress meetings within the space.  it infers needing to research being onsite during the building work.   this is a shift from thinking about tranche 3 preceding today.

 

and it feels good.

 

 

 

 

(1) stallabrass: documentary page 68

(2) stallabrass: documentary page 69

(3) stallabrass: documentary page 70

(4) stallabrass: documentary page 71

(5) stallabrass: documentary page 73


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before answering the question today i want to make reference to a tweet from yesterday.

https://twitter.com/derbysilkmill/status/956468477480480768

(i’m disappointed at not being able to embed this tweet by the way.)

 

the tweet has a periscope video of sally and daniel describing “decant day”.  the day of the beginning of the physical movement of the collection objects from the silk mill to an off site store.

i watched it last night at felt some emotion of my own at viewing and listening to the video.  mentioned in it are the library and the model railway, both featuring in the first two tranches of my on going non linear documentary project of the museum of making at derby silk mill’s journey to realisation.

i pause a moment and the thought of personal journy – personal storey comes to mind.  hang onto that because i want to return to it again within the answer of the three question :

 

3) You filmed activity that happened to occur when you were in the museum, by serendipity. What were the opportunities and pitfalls of this approach? what would it allow you to do if you received a schedule of activities in relation to the decant or engagement programme? (intervene i.e. like placing the camera on the model train, go into hard hat areas/ interview construction people etc).

 

 

before entering into the full answer of this i need to add a note to answer two.  writing deeply about this is having an emotional impact upon me and i think i need to hold this gently as i’m learning something about myself and the non linear project.

onto answering question three.

actually before the answer another thing i need to note.  during this project i’m observing how the langauge we use to talk and describe it is evolving as we learn more about what a non linear film – non linear documentary –  is and how we think and feel about it.

serendipity – according to google

noun

  1. the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.

there’s something about the word that is romantic,  spiritual if you like.

within the museum of making project there is very little left to chance.  the project knows what it is and knows where it’s going and like a toy boat in the bath has had gentle guidance to keep it on course.

so this for me suggests an attitude of view for the happenings i witnessed.

in setting up me being in and around the building i took time to talk with the members of staff and volunteers involved with the work during the period of filming.  incidentally this became longer than originally intended by about a month.

you might argue there was serendipity in the moments i was filming and i wonder if this is the case as maybe we don’t have the language to describe in any other way.

there’s one narrative unit that springs to mind in the library, smiths of derby are mentioned.  thinking about this now it sounds really significant and it’s something i captured as i was there to capture it.  decisions prior to that moment had led me to be there at that time.  the way i’ve been working will produce these moments of surprise and wonder as a result of working at not setting something up.

the richness of the documentary is down to the richness of the building and the people within it.

the decisions i made as an artist to be in a certain space at a certain time set me up in that place – to be a filmmaker to document what i saw.

that artist being driven by curiosity and wonder – what’s happening today ?

this approach worked because of the amount of work needing to be done and the time over which it occurred.  i wanted to try to infer work over time with the footage i created.

while in the midst of filming i realised that what i was filming where periods of calm in amongst all the conversations and actions happening around the silk mill.  i had somehow captured the wellbeing aspect of what was happening in the silk mill, something that as an organisation derby museums has an ambition (1).

there were of course pitfalls.  the main one is the not being there for certain things occurring.  very early on was the structural ceramics day and late on was the harrison clock being taken apart by the smiths of derby apprentices.

from a practical viewpoint i can’t possibly be there for everything and this leads me to a space of thought.

as a visitor i can go somewhere to view something, do something, be something.  i can go to the museum, there will be permanent exhibitions, temporary exhibitions between set dates and there will be one offs.  through prior knowledge i can plan my visit to see a specific thing.  through a feeling on the day i can visit and experience what is available that day.

my work in the silk mill over the summer was to some extent very similar to be ing a visitor to a museum.  i might argue that the finished project gives the viewer a visiting experience because of the non linear format.  the viewer may or may not see everything that is on offer.

 

within the four questions i’m answering there is a subtle overall question of what are you going to do next.  this is certainly a question i’m asking of myself.

in question two there’s the focus on dialogues.  with the collections moved and the people altered, what remains constant is the building and me as the artist being onsite, observing and being a filmmaker.

i have a romantic minds eye of the building being empty and quiet and me roaming within it.  experience shows me that the visualisation is usually not fully realised.

i said the people have altered.  here i’m thinking about those working in the building.  those who remain the same are the project team and it is here that the dialogues about the next tranche will begin.

i expect that being in the building during the building work will be bounded by those managing the space and as such i may need to adapt my filming strategy.  i’ve imagined being in the building with the camera(s) fixed and me walking in the space chatting with a member of the project team.

the building will become about stories so why not explore stories while the building is at its emptiest ?

note to self – film a conversation – edit it into several narrative units.  sit with this – let the thought develop.

in keeping with what i’ve already done, the next tranche will be my response as an artist to what the space is like and the people currently working there.  i’ll talk with project staff after chatting with hannah fox the project leader and i know that after talking with her there will be a guiding framework in which to work.

the second tranche had less snu(2) than the first so this pattern suggests the third will have less than the second.

the more information and knowledge i have of what is happening and when will help me to create a piece of work that captures the feeling within building.

i’ll add that making a non linear project isn’t easier than making a linear one.  this may not be a question you’ve ever asked yourself however it was certainly one i wrestled with while filming, editing and authoring.

the second tranche has taught me alot and the most important being in the beginning don’t worry if the whole(the what it is at the end) seems unattainable.  simply keep focussed on the feeling while filming and wait for it to come together over time.  note to self – it will do because of the work you do to discover what the whole is.

 

summing up.

i like to work with what is there and what is happening.  this is underpinned by researching what this is with those directly involved and making those within the activity comfortable with my presence.   on site i let playful curiosity, the feeling from already shot footage and the feeling of being there guide what i film.  working non linearly is an accumulative process.

 

 

(1) page 6 https://www.derbymuseums.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Derby-Silk-Mill_Exec-Summary_2014.pdf

accessed 24.1.18

(2) snu – small narrative unit – a single viewable piece within a korsakow non linear documentary project.


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my strategy for answering the four questions set by sue ball of maap is to answer one a day for four days.  today is day two and my motivation to complete the answer is the bluesky and sunshine i see through the window.  a walk beckons.

todays question is …

2) You are in dialogue with 1) the building 2) with staff/people and their activity 3) with yourself as the filmmaker. How was this expressed in the last tranche of films? How could this be taken forward?

 

a deep breath as i consider the question.  while i was filming i did all of these in an unconcious manner.  the question is good as its getting me to consciously consider my process.

once again i might refer to the essay starting on page 68 of document edited by julian stallabrass.  the essay is entitled documentary is/not a name//1990 by trinh t. minha-ha.

looking back at the question i’m being told i was in dialogue with the building the people and myself so thats all good.  however the crunch comes when i need to understand this and be able to express it in order to help me inform what comes next.

 

 

my dialogue with the building … i scratch my chin look out the window, reach for my tea.

this is hard to formally answer.  while on site in and around the building my conversation with the building was more pronounced in areas where the building was the the main subject of the conversation.  for example the area between the mill and the blast wall of the electricity substation.  this space currently has the container for an rb 211 engine.

from my research about the development plans for the building i knew this area is earmarked for development.  knowing this i went out into the area and filmed while thinking about what the area might be like in the future.  i wanted to get a sense of the space in 2017 that can be looked at in 2020 and beyond as …. i pause.

i reflect about …. am i in writing this starting to get emotional and sentimental ?  for the record i did and stopped to regain my composure.

the day i filmed this area there were workmen still dismantling the weeping window exhibition.  i wanted to have a reference to the installation being at the silk mill without heavily featuring it as it was there but for a glimpse in the overall history of the building.

today writing this i feel a respect for the building, specifically focussing on the area in question.  historically i think the area would have been with water and a wheel and formed the main power source of the mill.  fitting i suppose that an engine features and continues to be featured in that area.

i take a moment to think …

i see i can’t isolate the conversation with myself from the building and the people.  each and every time i went into the building to film the conversation with myself was pretty non stop.

i felt a certain responsibility / pressure to record as much as i could to give a sense of what was happening in the mill during the period of filming.  this was with structure –  found in the moment of filming – informed by the conversation with myself.

returning to focussing on the conversation with the mill, i knew that all the areas i went into will look different as a result of the upcoming works.  the stairs and the goods lift felt really important to me.  the lift because of the sounds it makes.

i feel today my conversation with the building was in part attempting to represent the building’s voice at a time prior to it getting a make over and having something different to say.  i listened while the building spoke and i did my best to get as much of what it said into the final version of this tranche.

wow, i have developed a relationship with the building that i’m only now formally recognising.  importantly it’s one where there is no need to become overly sentimental as the plans are so fantastic.

its a dynamic relationship.

part of my conversation with the building is to be able to give a voice to be listened to by those who have found memories of the rb211 when they visited it while at school.

my conversation with the building also gives a voice to be listened to by those who are interested in what came before in this area of the building.

i have another moment to think.

while filming aspects of the building my conversation with myself as filmmaker is being visually captured in what i shoot.  at a personal level i often felt excitement and playfulness at being able to be in the building at such an important time.  the conversation with myself over flowing into at times a physical conversation with the building and objects within it.

the placement of the camera capturing this playful curiosity from a first person point of view.

i take a moment to further reflect on an aspect of the answer to question one.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hmSuy2YG6k8&t=5s

 

shot framing and the close up.

in question one in which technical things were considered i was asked about lens choice.  in the you tube video  i’ve used my smartphone to get close to the engine and feature certain aspects of it.  for the second tranche of the film i have kept a constant angle of view and used my distance from the subject to alter the framing.

i see today how this technique has had a positive impace for the viewer as i’ve reduced to some extent the hand of the film maker upon what is seen.  i see this a very positive aspect of the project.

 

 

taking a moment i read again the question.  how is my dialogue with the staff / volunteers and the activities expressed in this tranche ?

the question actually infers this tranche and the first.  if this is the case then there is big progress here.

in the second tranche i wanted to feature more people than the first.  the first being a grounding for the tranches.

i knew form my research with the project staff there was going to be a range of activities being undertaken by volunteers under the leadership of the staff.  with the building mostly closed during the filming period i wanted to show what was happening in preparation for a successful funding bid.  the result was not going to be known until sometime in early october.

what we see of the activities, especially the ones where there are less participants are a result of spending time chatting about the project and giving those involved time to become comfortable with me being in their space.

i very much wanted the activities to happen as though i wasn’t there.  what i filmed was what they were doing as they were doing it.  my role was merely to observer, moving the camera enough to keep the shot alive.  i tried to keep movement fluid and in keeping with the mood of the room.  i was trying to capture the wellbeing aspect of the activities.

and finally to the big question – how to take all of this forward ?

how to keep the dialogue with the building, people, activities and myself going ?

i draw on what i know so far  – the building is going to be cleared of collections and made ready for works.

from the first to second tranche i got close to the people involved in the project both volunteers and those delivering it.  i feel drawn to hearing individual voices but unsure as to how this might work and what i want to hear.  what might they want to say ?

i’m interested in the building when cleared.  might my continued relationship with the building be and what it has to say when laid bare – to explore and walk around in ?  in doing this i am focussing on what i want to do and film but what of the viewer ?  might this tranche be very short ?  in the overall timeline of the building and the museum of making the laid bare time will be a blip.

there will need to be conversations.  with the producers, with the staff in the museum – now there will be external contractors too.

how do i feel about this coming time ?  i am starting to consider it a fresh and expect that i might have to wait to be invited into the building and shoot what i see – as i have done with the second tranche.

this answer has taken me sometime to put together and i think its time well spent.

i”ve begun to challenge my preconceptions about the third tranche and wait for the upcoming conversations to happen …

 


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things are starting to get a little more serious.  i want to submit shimmering place to doc fest 18 and this is requiring me to look at and consider questions set as a result of a meeting with part of the producing group.

the questions are designed to push my understanding and help underpin the thinking for a third tranche of the project.

the book accompanying me in the forthcoming posts is documentary edited by julian stallabrass, part of the documents of contemporary art series by whitechapel gallery.

back in november i read one of the essays and this was the basis of a conversation with producer sue ball.  following this, four questions were posed and as hard as they appear to answer i am going to answer in some way through this blog platform.

 

so here goes starting with question 1.

 

1) You are interested in depicting a ‘true’ document of the Museum in its transformation over time. If this is so, what formal qualities or technical devices have you adopted in your last tranche of filming (equipment, use of sound/recording audio, lens, particular shots….). Maybe refer to the article by Trinh T. Minh-ha, Documentary Is/Not a Name that we read.

 

ok. a lot going on within this question and a lot inferred too.  going into this tranche the most important aspect of me being present at the activities i  filmed was that i wasn’t there.  i wanted those working, making, doing to be as authentic to their process as possible.

i did this through a process of getting to know them and talking with them about what i was wanting to do and listened to their reactions.  in no way did i set out what i wanted them to do for the sake of the filming.

my choice of technical equipment also helped this.  using wearable technology i was able to move amongst them without needing to carry anything bulky that might distract their attention.  i did require to make some noise at the beginning of filming as i choose to record moving image and audio on separate devices.  i did this in as a subtle manner as possible.

each time i set up to film i watched / looked at / walked around the subject as much as i could and shot as much as it felt necessary to capture what was happening at the time.  this was done with the available light at the time.

what i was setting up to film was informed by a knowledge of what was happening in the building through ongoing dialogues with members of the project staff.

drawing on past linear film projects i have an understanding of how panning and moving – non static shots – are more interesting for the viewer so worked at making the shots as fluid and interesting as possible.

fluid movement has been the biggest technical improvement upon the first tranche.  new equipment being brought to the filming to allow much more stabilised video shots.

this stabilisation was used in conjunction with a less wide angle lens than the first trance.  this narrower angle view being more in keeping with normal vision.

for this tranche i worked at getting more sound into the project by producing sound clips that continue once the video has completed.  technically they loop around so in a viewing context like an exhibition these sounds will punctuate the silence in the gallery.

shot duration was a consideration when filming.  as time duration increases so does the file size.  large files makes post production slower.  from experience i know about what you might describe as editing in camera.  this is being selective about what is shot and for what duration.  being in and around the activity gave me a feel of what to record and for how long.  i always made sure i left each session with what felt like enough material to work with.  this was informed by knowing what i was going to shoot and a sense of what i needed to get to fulfil my expectation of what i might need.

now i need to read the essay again to be able to reference anything said within it.

 

reading the essay to the end of he first paragragh of page 70, minh-ha covers several tings that i’ve touched upon in this post.  the one aspect that minh-ha doesn’t write about is the nature of non linear documentary and how that impacts upon the notion of documentary.

for me non linear implies that there is no preset meaning i want to get across to the viewer.  in fact i invite the viewer to choose what they goto next and for how long they stay with that.  they watch as i did what happens in front of them, my role maybe becoming a guide through the building that they are free to vary from as their mood takes them.

minha-ha talks of how the technical aspects of the production shouldn’t impose themselves on the production, for example the sound being synchronised with the pictures.  this basic need remaining the same today as when the essay was written.

it then strikes me that there is one documentary component that is not present in shimmering place.  i’m considering the narrative voice over.

the non linear format opens up the storey so there is no need for a preset voice over.  i would much rather the voice over be made up at the point of viewing, as a dialogue might develop between visitors while looking at an exhibit in the museum.

i read on a few paragraphs.

minha-ha covers theorectical models of documenatry film making.  i read about Cinéma vérité and see it described as observational cinema.

so documentary has a value in social commentary and informing the viewer.

so how does this aspect emerge in shimmering place ?

 

within the museum of making there is a connection with past, present and future through the inspiration of the makers of the past informing what makers do today and in turn how this empowers makers of the future.

 

shimmering place made in the present, becomes the past and waits to be viewed in the future and in so doing becomes the present.

 

 

 


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