Saturday, November 19, 2005

Scripting with a landscape

Glamorgan, May 22, 2005
Landscapes assume differing significances and interactions in keeping with sensibilities. They may evoke legend, sanctity, history, political intrigue, environmental insight, aesthetic appeal… and occasionally even a transcendental bond for those with mystical leanings. Landscapes also translate into varying forms of expression. From the mimetic and realistic to the esoteric and abstract - smattered with myriad physical formation, and layered with an intricate web of meanings and associations, it lends itself to film posing an uneasy concern before documentary representation, which feels rather innocuous in view of the landscape’s enormous and consuming spread.
Navigating through this conceptual landscape, I, as a filmmaker, was repeatedly confronted with the dilemma of the territory’s numerous and contrary pulls. On the one hand, its colossal and overpowering spread, supplemented by its near primal resonances, mesmeric earthly hues and serpentinean rustic trails, each unfurling an alternative human habitat. On the other hand, the noises of a familiar ‘civilization’, with its temples of a malignant ‘global’ creed, rigidly linear highways, smitten with an unending habit to restrain and hog. Its natural appeal is in the simultaneity of its past and present, struggle and surrender, music and silence.
How does one reconcile the conflicting sounds so arising in a film document? In fact, before that question I ask myself: does a documenting text need to assimilate these sounds, most of which make for no more than noise robbing the landscape of its majestic quietude? Much discussion in contemporary visual anthropology and documentary filmmaking is pregnant, seeking for expression and poetry, without compromising the factual or the found. During the stated field study, the digital video equipment that was utilized met familiar ends, i.e. recording, drafting the interactions and findings of the field study group. But moments were also occasioned when the digital camera and I performed, responding to the sites and materials encountered.
In this performance the camera spilled from serving as a means of seeing, to a medium for positions of viewing inaccessible to the lay, human eye. A medium for hearing the commonplace and for picking the distant sounds that often remain inaudible. To an extent, the performance echoed the same sentiment as Soviet filmmaker Dziga Vertov’s kino eye1 , back in the 1920s. But it was distinct, as it comprised curvaceous movements for nearness and unity with the subject/s of the image.
Camera movement arose, in a sense, corporeally. The camera was hand-held throughout filming. Its movements extended from my body that was mobilised in a kind of dionysian choreographic intercourse with locations and materials. This choreography was rather intimate.

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