My second art project at Lancaster University was a group video installation. Having already made a plethora of videos in the years before arriving at Lancaster, I had a good idea of how to use editing software and was confident that our group would have a strong final product.
The title for this project, 'Space - Time - Remix', was a little more revealing than the previous assignment 'Drawing the Unseen: Private'. The task asked us, as a group, to take the LICA building, the new contemporary arts building that sits on the northern tip of the campus, and make it more interesting by breaking it up, fuzzing its edged, mixing it with new material, making it leak with ideas and thoughts, creating digital holes in the walls and opening up portals to different locations and times. The project aimed to give the LICA building character, noting that in its current state it was "a little too blank".
In our group of four, we were given a piece of paper, a HD video camera, a Canon 500d and two tripods. The piece of paper gave us our means of playing our media: a CRT monitor, and an area in the building where our installation would be displayed: a dark space in A29 - one of the large theatre rooms. The cameras gave us the means to go out and capture what we wanted. As a group, we discussed the importance of our screen and how this would effect what we shot/edited. CRT monitors are large, box-like screens that were used as TV screens and early Computer monitors. Whilst these types of monitors have recently been pushed aside in the past 10 years or so by Plasma/LED screens and HD TV, they were extremely common for 30-40 odd years before. Greater video quality and aesthetics have meant that these old technologies have consequently been replaced and forgotten. We wanted to play on this idea of forgotten. We decided that our installation would centre on the notion that this screen had been left; abandoned; not touched for years. We agreed that in post-production we would distort our footage and make it glitch, making it seem as though the screen was completely useless and faulty. Following this, we determined how we would depict the LICA building in this glitchy way.
After spending some time discussing our ideas, we concluded that we would focus on one main element: Time. Time was specifically relevant to us because our monitor was dated; the period of time when it was once useful had now passed. This gave us great scope for experimentation. When we went out, we filmed a number of different shots that focussed primarily on the wind turbine in the North-East section of campus. The spinning arms of the turbine signified the passing time - the arms never stop; they are, like time, continuous. Ultimately, the wind turbine displays the idea that time doesn't always move at the same pace. At some points, the arms of the turbine may spin sluggishly whilst at different points they may rotate hastily. Similarly, when we want time to pass it seems to drag, but when we are having fun, time flies. To portray this aspect, we included a number of time-lapses into our project. To create these time-lapses, I used my own camera (Canon 70d) and a remote control. These time-lapses can be seen in the video below. In the majority, the shutter speed was set to 0"4, ISO 100 on manual focus on 'Shutter Priority mode' to make the ducks, clouds and the turbine appear blurred, as though time was passing quickly. Whilst this was more successful in the first couple of clips shown in the video, it did not work well with some water shots. One problem I encountered was camera shake from the wind. If I were to take these time-lapses again, I would root the tripod more firmly to the floor. Another thing that I found was that I was not in these positions long enough to show time progressing as quick as I had hoped. Again, if I were to do these time-lapses again, I would ensure to be in the position for at least 10 minutes minimum.
One important and often overlooked aspect of film and video is sound. Sound comes secondary to video, but is just as, or more, important in the final cut. We wanted our video to depict a notion of time but also tranquility and peace. We used a sound clip of a clock ticking over the sound of rainfall, and incorporated a variety of glitch sounds to emphasise how broken the TV was. This meant that at no point in the video is there complete silence.
In post-production, the footage was cut into short clips and mixed with juxtaposing shots. Each clip was given its own effect which both distorted the colour as well as its image. This distortion is clearly visible in the opening shots, but becomes less strong in clips that highlight something specific. For example, in the time-lapse clip of the wind turbine at the beginning, the visual distortion is lowered so the viewer can see how fast the blades are spinning to show the passing of time. However, in the clip that follows shortly afterwards which shows the field of sheep and the wind turbine, the visual distortion is extremely strong. This contrast shows the TVs lack of consistency and its uselessness.
Along with our own clips, a variety of clips were taken from the internet and incorporated into the video. These clips were used to show that the TV was once used for personal enjoyment, but now was not used at all. These clips are clearly dated to show that it was a long time ago that this TV was used. For example, short snippets of Pacman are incorporated early on, along with a TV programme that looks at the reinvention of the home computer in the 1980s and a documentary on coal production in the UK. These are all extremely obsolete pieces of content which give the video an interesting edge. To support our video, we had to consider how we would present our installation.
We decided that, because we were in a dark space, we would leave the TV on the floor and face it away from the entrance to the room, meaning the audience would have to walk around to see what the screen was actually depicting. This emphasised the idea that the TV had been forgotten and was left to rust. We also considered leaving litter around the monitor to make it seem as though it was in a dump, but felt this would distract from the video itself. In order to play our content on the monitor, we had to export the video onto a DVD and play it directly through the inbuilt DVD player. We encountered a number of problems in attempting to export the project to DVD, however.
Unlike the other groups' projects, our video was put together using Final Cut Pro. In order to make Final Cut file-sizes smaller, video projects have to be sent to a compressor and shrunk. This does not deteriorate the quality of the project, it merely compresses the size of the video. For some unknown reason, the compressor was not working and the video refused to be compressed. As a result, we had to export our 1GB project straight to the DVD. This failed the first time and meant one member of our group had to quickly rush out and buy another re-writtable DVD while the initial disk was wiped. Eventually, after some time, the project exported to the DVD. This was not the end of our troubles, however. This DVD was then inserted directly into the inbuilt player on the CRT monitor. Owing to the TVs age, however, the DVD reader was faulty and, in some cases, refused to read the disc at all. Whilst this added to the effect of the installation, it was extremely frustrating. We managed to fix this problem by blowing into the reader and moving some of the settled dust. This ordeal was extremely stressful, but we managed to successfully overcome all our problems and presented our video as we had hoped. The photograph below shows the installation during the half-hour exhibition.
Working as a group
Working as a group on this project was a lot more difficult than with the drawing project. Groups were smaller so there was more work for each individual. In addition, it was difficult for more than one person to be working on the final project at once, so one person had to be in charge of the main project whilst everyone else edited their own segments on a different computer. As a group, we decided that everyone would make their own segments and send them over to be edited in the main project. I was in control of the final project so received everyone's segments.
Another problem we faced was sharing the cameras. With there only being two cameras and four people, there would always be two people not filming. To overcome this, those who weren't using the borrowed cameras used their phones. A variety of these videos were cut into the final project and, in some cases, were better than the camera footage.
Overall, I feel that our group installation was extremely strong and that everyone participated a large amount to the project. The success of the video portrays this. It accurately depicts a dated, old TV screen as we had hoped.
You can watch the Group Project at the top of this article or on Vimeo.
Along with our group project, we had to make our own individual edit. My edit, shown below, incorporates more sound clips and cuts than the group project.
The video opens with the click of a TV being turned on, followed by the 'Windows 98' start up sound. The pitch of the start up sound has been distorted to show how the TV is broken. As the first footage appears on screen, the viewer sees how displaced the image is. This image destruction is consistent throughout the whole video to show that the TV is damaged beyond repair; it has been left to rust, forgotten by its owner - a key idea of the group video. The video cuts to a variety of clips including: a TV programme about the reinvention of the home computer; 'The Fresh Prince of Bel Air'; a Rubik's cube advert; 'Friends'; Pacman; a home video from 1985; a David Attenborough documentary from the late-1980s; the CNN broadcast of 9/11 and my own clips/time-lapses. This huge scope of footage not only shows that the TV is dated, but that it once had a purpose. The TV was once used for personal enjoyment, for informing the owner about current affairs, for sharing memories. Intertwined within this are my own clips of the LICA building and the area outside it. These fit in to the theme because they show that, whilst the TV is fixed on old content, it is attempting to adapt to new, modern aspects but is failing. It is jumping between time. What's more, these clips act to show that the TV is in a peaceful place. Whilst it is disregarded and forgotten, it is peaceful in its new environment. The footage of the ducks emphasises this - the TV is now in a tranquil place, just as the LICA building is.
Along with this repose, the LICA building can be considered a haven for creativity on campus. Friendships, laughter and hard work all culminate in this one area. Quick cuts to Pac Man, for example, show that great ideas can/have spawned here.
The reference to 9/11 at 1 minute, 13 seconds shows that, even though the TV broadcasts horrific events which shock the viewer, no-one pays attention to the screen because they wish to disregard old technology; the have forgotten about it. Nothing will cause people to turn and consider what the TV is actually showing. In another sense, the reference to 9/11 shows how broken the TV actually is - it continues to broadcast content from 13 years ago, as well as content from 30 years ago.
In most cases in this video, audio is overlaid and is out of sync with what it shows. For example, at 1 minute, 03 seconds, we hear an extract from a Friends episode. Shortly after, we see a shot from later on in this episode which ruins what the dialogue is attempting to set out. This further emphasises the TVs uselessness and its defective state.
I feel that my own individual edit of the project emphasises the idea of time more, but does not deal with this notion of space as adequately as the group video.
You can watch my own edit below or on Vimeo.