After doing my last blog post one of the other artists here Addoley Dzegede showed me a video that she has been working on. It has some resonance with ‘In the Home’ by Ian Breakwell which I wrote about previously.
Addoley’s video, entitled ‘Failure to Communicate,’ uses some Finnish self-help/relationship books she picked up at the second hand shop. She made an animation using a series of still photographs showing her hands cutting out phrases from the self help books and then pasting them together into what becomes a kind of script for the video. The soundtrack is the google-translate computer voice intoning the phrases in English. It makes an incoherent but not entirely nonsensical set of statements about love, sex and marriage.
Addoley did not understand the Finnish sentences that she chose, her criteria for picking a sentence was simply that it only spanned a single line on the page layout (which was in 3 columns so it had to be a fairly short line of text, which limits things in Finnish). I liked the combination of chance/arbitrary rules and intention that the video involved. The stop-start nature of both the images and the text fits well with how intimate relationships and communication can feel. The weird authoritative, un-human voice telling you about the meaning of relationships conveys the dynamic of this kind of self-help book and of reading something generic to try and help you with a personal situation. The cut and pasting of the text made me think about how our lives and relationships and how we perceive them are a composite of ideas and advice that we have taken from others.
The way Addoley made her video has also given me a few ideas for things to try with the video I am trying to make using the ‘International Language Service’ book I found at the same shop. I have made a ‘script’ using chosen phrases from my book and have selected images from the book that relate to this. I took still images of each of the relevant pages and have been attempting to use motion software to move around the page and zoom in on relevant parts. However the result seems quite dead and uninspiring. It looses the original interest that I had in the book and doesn’t convey the book as an object combining wonderful but somewhat bizarre illustrations with some useful but also some bizarre and outdated phrases. Maybe I need to go for a slightly more lo-fi solution of a series of stills and also showing the entire book and including page turning.
Whilst I am on the theme of stealing ideas, I might also pillage from another art its here, Emilie McDermott. For our event at Heiska Emilie did a performance piece involving her unwinding a reel of fishing wire. She sat between two windows, framed by two of the buildings at Heiska, wearing a life jacket and unwound for hours! It was a really interesting work and I can’t quite believe her stamina on such a hot day. It also had a very beautiful title, in Finnish, which I cannot properly remember but the translation means something like ‘the place where the birds go.’ This apparently means a kind of heaven or a kind of utopia. During her time here (she is staying another month) Emilie will be making work that explores ideas of utopia and migration, perhaps of being in a place and being out of place too. I might be slightly misrepresenting this, but certainly the performance made me think of things like being adrift, of futile actions, of searching for a life-line. Because the performance was viewed through/the view was interrupted by windows it also made me think about being separate form someone or somewhere and viewing it at a remove. I know Emilie is also researching migrant stories so couldn’t help reading the image of an individual engrossed in their own activity, present but separate, in relation to this.
But, anyway, on to the part of the performance that I might steal/ take inspiration from! The performance also had a soundtrack taken from a CD of Finnish bird calls (another second hand store find I think). For a while I have been trying to come up with an idea for a soundtrack for a video I made of two pairs of hands (male and female) pairing socks, putting them from a jumbled pile into two separate piles of male and female socks. You can see the video here, although it is a draft version with bits going out of focus (I think I need to hire a camera and lens with a short enough focal length to film it again). I had been thinking of an audio monologue about attraction, and looking into psychological and biological ideas about attraction. But as I mentioned in a previous post I am trying to get away form always deferring to a spoken soundtrack. Emilie’s performance made me think about using animal mating calls. So I will give it a try and see if it works. Watch this space. Both projects could still either succeed or fail!