Saturday, 30 July 2016

Haptic visuality

Keywords: Haptic Visuality / Digital / Deterioration / Optical / Dada / Uncanny

When previously considering the haptic qualities of my work It has been in relation to such as the surface of the paper screen, the perceived heat and smell evoked by videoed fire, and the tactile understanding of natural textures such as bark, leave or dirt. In Laura U. Marks essay 'The skin of Film' she builds on Bergson, Deleuze and Guattari to propose a concept of 'haptic visuality', in which the qualities of digital and traditional film are considered as a means to evoke sensory response. The graininess of the film, pixelation, changes in focus, under or over exposure, densely textured images; indeed she describes the haptic image as 'less complete'. The haptic image occupies our senses, inviting association with past experience. This sensory reading draws upon the phenomenological idea of “embodied spectatorship” which Marks's derives predominately from Vivian Sobchack’s 'The Address of the Eye'

'When our eyes move across a richly textured surface, occasionally pausing but not really focusing, making us wonder what we are actually seeing, they are functioning like organs of touch. Video, with its low contrast ratio, capacity for electronic and digital manipulation, and susceptibility to decay, is an ideal haptic medium, its graininess a lure for the roving gaze Marks describes. Film, however, may also invite a haptic look by speeding up or slowing down imagery, enlarging grain, or deliberately enhancing already deteriorating nitrate.' 
Melinda Barlow -Review of: Touch Sensuous Theory and Multisensory Media', Canadian Journal of Film Studies - 2003

Footage in 'Process and Perception' as well as 'Chronos' show clear signs of deterioration. This is foremost caused by the process of making the work. A drawing is digitally photographed as it is made, this is converted in Photoshop to a stop frame animation and rendered. This in turn is projected onto a paper screen and recorded, again being turned into another digital film which is projected back onto another paper screen to be viewed. All these steps act to break the image down in the same way  a picture repeatedly passed through a photocopier loses definition.

During filming in order that the projectors can sit clear of any burning screens two out of the three have to be back projected, this has the effect of 'softening' or slightly blurring each image. As the screens burn the video camera struggles to maintain an even exposure, sometimes quickly alternating from under to over exposed.

When filming I tried to arrange each screen so that the maximum amount of the image could be used, however in every take there was a degree of zooming in to avoid any signs of picture edges which would betray the illusion of the work. This zooming in created further pixilation. I also didn't want to refocus the camera during filming as this would make the viewer aware the artists participation too early and 'pull' them out of the work. Therefore I had to compromise and the camera was focussed on the middle screen. This meant the first and third screen would always be slightly out of focus.

All these factors combine to breakdown the image, in each of my 4 attempts to film this sequence you discern greater or lesser amounts of picture deterioration at different stages. This is is caused by factors such as lighting, equipment used (projectors/ cameras) or how close the screens are in relation to each other, which affected focus.

The deterioration of the charcoal animation acts to 'soften' the image, especially in the first version where it appears more like a kind of blotchky ink drawing. The second screen of the forest I sought to keep as sharp as possible so it might function more 'optically', enabling the viewer to more easily believe the illusionistic depth of the filmed forest. Overall I am happy with the level of deterioration of the final cut, it navigates a path between haptic sensory surface and optical space. As the work progresses the spectator is pulled between the two modes of viewing as different surfaces and optical spaces are revealed.

Relationships between screen and image 

During the filming of 'Process and Perception' to avoid projectors 'hitting' more than one screen they were angled up over the top of the one behind. Behind my studio is a large oak tree, as a screen burnt away the action of the looped video continued to play on the leaves of the tree. Due to the darkened and fragmented surface presented by the leaves these images could be described as ghostly or ephemeral.  Action and landscape could not clearly be 'read', however moments such as my silhouette moving across the screen, or the burning transitions proved particularly effective. The jeopardy of projecting fire onto a tree created a destablising effect, despite understanding that it was a projection there was a feeling that at any moment the fire may really take hold.

Projecting onto objects/screens which have a dialogue with the image can be seen in work such as EXPORT's Tapp und Tastkino, Malcolm Le Grice's Horror film 1, Peter Weibel's Action lecture and Nekes's Operation (1968). In his essay 'Expanded cinema: The live record' Duncan white describes Nekes's Operation (1968)

'the supposedly 'neutral space' of the usually 'invisible' screen into a less stable, living surface that is already marked. Footage of what appears to be quite invasive abdominal surgery is projected onto the filmmaker's bare torso creating an uncanny sense of displacement'

I see the projections of fire into the tree functioning in a similar way to Nekes's projection of an operation onto a subjects bare chest. In both cases we are fully aware of the illusion but our perception fails to seperate the two events, trying to impose a false reading of reality onto us.  The objects wholeness feels threatened and there persists a nagging sense something is wrong.

In 'Paper landscapes' by Guy Sherwin the screen is a dynamic element and site of action. On the mesh surface an image is slowly revealed before being destroyed. In the process of its revealing its creation is evident and a 'slipage' between the projected and the actual occurs as the movements of Sherwin the performer become blurred with Sherwin's projected past actions. This transitional work goes to extend the role of the screen and has informed both my work 'Process and perception' as well as 'Corpse'.

'In Paper Landscapes the screen is a threshold, a fulcrum, a kinetic object, the locus of at least two different kinds of juxtaposed images (whose juxtapositions generate further complexities), a transparent frame and volatile membrane, Activated by Sherwin's actions upon it.' 
Nicky Hamlyn - Expanded Cinema (Mutable Screens: The Expanded Films of Guy Sherwin, Lis Rhodes, Steve Farrer and Nicky Hamlyn) - p214 - 2011

In earlier modules I have more fully explored projecting in the environment out of a gallery space, due to our private view being on the 1st of september I decided early on against pursuing this line of investigation for my final module. Although the location around the Waterfront in Ipswich is rich for site specific work at this time of year it will not be dark enough for effective projections, even by 8pm when the private view officially ends. This is something I am keen to pick up on post MA.

No comments:

Post a Comment