november 2016 : the first period of filming 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 during their residency in the building, ending in the 1970’s

may  – september2017 :the second tranche is filmed.  post production takes until january 18.

january 2018 : questions set in november 17 are answered and the second tranche is submitted to doc fest 18.

march 18 : filming in the nearly decanted museum.


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i’ve known for a while that at some point another tranche of the non linear project at derby silk mill will begin.  initial discussions are suggesting a realistic budget with good access to the building.  the when is dynamic.

last sunday while walking to join friends to relax and catch up in the sun an email notified me of an opportunity – deadline was in 2 days time.

a collaboration between york university and bbc research and development – it appeared to be within the sphere of non linear programming.

wether the sun got to me or the gin and tonic – i convinced myself i should have a go.

to help with my research i did some initial googling for inspiration for a title.  with great joy i found a blog post from 2015 by tony butler.  i got what i needed and proceeded to look through the criteria for submission.

the document was large and many things were being explored and invited to be presented.  through the google group i shared my decision to have a go and this was to prove beneficial later in the process.

since completing the submission i’ve taken time to watch a video from the re:make stage of the museum development.  i’ve watched it before.  from it i get a sense of time through how the building and people look within the video by owen davies.

monday was spent adding words in answer to everything i thought needed some sort of response.  tuesday began with contact from sue – the google group alerting her to this surprise submission.   with word of support proofing the draft i sat back down with determination to get something together.

 

 

to help me i did something i’ve not done before – i wrote down all that i thought there needed to be answers to  and used these scraps of paper to start to build a structure for my submission.

i looked at the pieces of paper – i saw a submission in non linear form.

 

 

with sue’s help i got the submission into 2 sides of a4 and sent it in with about 2 hours to spare before the deadline.

reflecting about the method i adopted to construct the submission – non linearly to begin with – it occurred to me, why have i not used this approach before ?  it might be that the criteria and information required was so wide and many that maybe in the past the submissions haven’t needed such handling.

my decision to use the non linear approach was good because i knew i was struggling to hold and visualise how to put the blocks of words i had together.

in my tired state afterwards i did get a little down about my disability with handling words – i wonder even after 10 years of knowing about it i’m still not fully in a state of acceptance about it.

 

 

knowing the submission needed to be in two sections i was able to assemble the non linear components into a structure that i felt would work.  i also get some interesting pictures of pieces of paper for my blog.

 

since submitting i’ve been more in a head space to consider the third tranche.  i’m closer to wanting more speaking from those involved.  the building will still feature – documenting how it evolves – i do feel that i want to capture people who are involved in the project in a manner that allows them to share about them and their involvement in the project.

how might we represent the people within the project through giving them space to tell us about about themselves and their relationship to the project ?

the third tranche also presents me with an opportunity to to push my my own practice.  there still remains the possibility of the third tranche being funded through the submission and it’ll be interesting to see how using the bbc’s experimental authoring tools the third tranche further evolves from where the second is.

in the event of an unsuccessful bbc / york bid – i will get to push myself with the platform i already know to create a third tranche.

little did i expect upon leaving the house on sunday to have done so much work on the third tranche  by thursday.

 

 

 

 

 


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spring is in the air, the clocks have gone forward and there’s been some movement within the non linear project.  i’ve done some more filming and been able to present the work so far to the arts and heritage group at the mill.

 

 

going back into mill over the past few months has been exciting as each time the ground floor is packed with a new array of objects waiting to be decanted to the offsite stores.  i’m told there are 1000’s of objects, all have been wrapped and packed and moved, an incredible achievement in the time.

 

 

i love the idea of presenting projects and have dreamed for years of doing it more regularly.  past experiences involved spending weeks agonising of how to tell the storey and making appropriate slides to accompany the script i write for myself in my head.

when sue ball invited me to speak at the arts and heritage group, i took one step back and took time to consider what i would do in response.

gathering together the resources i had to illustrate and demonstrate the project so far i realised that the majority of them were browser based.  i thought “how might i use browser based resources in a presentation setting ?”

in preparing for previous presentations i have to admit to slightly tying myself in a knot as i try to remember what to say with each subsequent slide.

using the browser resources i saw the opportunity to talk about each one as we got to them.

i’d arrived at a non linear presentation method.

 

 

the group meets in the blue room of the silk mill.  its a lovely space and the number of the group works well in it.

through the google group this blog post will be shared with them and i take this moment to say hello to members of the group arriving here through the google group link.

i’ll add i really enjoyed sharing my journey with the nonlinear project and really appreciated the positive comments/feedback and ideas of how the project might evolve as the work towards the museum of making at derby silk mill progresses.

 

yesterday i was at the mill with my equipment and have been through the space with both stills and video cameras.

it took me a while to find the feel necessary to drive the recording.  in the east midlands railway research centre space i found the feeling.

the key was the window.  as the space evolves in the coming months and years the windows are going to remain.  i wonder if the frames are going to be updated ?

this morning i’ve collected all the files together.  looking at the rushes it strikes me how important the collections are and the amount of work put into keeping them safe during the works at the museum.

with the spaces empty i saw the amount of space available and had a small insight into the process of how that space is utilised for both the public and the collections once the museum of making is fully operational.

reflecting about yesterday i sense the shift/turning/movement/progress/progression – i struggle with the words to describe my observations of a process the staff are involved with.

after all the months of planning – its time … day by day … to move towards the museum of making at derby silk mill.

for the volunteers of the arts and heritage group i’ll add that whatever you feel towards the project at the moment that will evolve and alter as you get to know more those taking part.  making can be difficult at times  – thats why its so rewarding when you stand back at look at what you made / help to make.

 

 


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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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