on gifs [ storifying the latent content of film/television narrative media ]

Gifs do so many things, I’m not even going to list all of those things! Right now I’m thinking about gifs as amplifiers of particular moments from narrative media. In these pieces, they strip moments from narrative, expanding the gesture used to tell a story while erasing the original context.

a moment from Tarkovsky’s “Ivan’s Childhood”

This eternal moment, stripped from narrative, reminds me of tween frames in the animation process. As an artist who has learned how to make in many kinds of media, I often think of the making process while looking at an art object (or other thing). Tweening is the frame-by-frame drawing that carries the image from moment a to moment b. Its where animation really happens. Skilled animators’ tweens inform how the story is told.

But-and-also – gifs operate with a more cinematic set of visual references, thanks to copy/remix culture. They often inhabit the vocabulary of filler moments.  The embellishments in a televised or film-presented narrative used to allow time to pass, allow the viewer to update their story, create rhythm or pace for the narrative. These moments, over time, become the vocabulary of unconscious narrative of a film/television-presented story.

unconscious narrative the consistant (or inconsistant, depending on the skill of the filmmaker) backdrop woven of actors’ gestures, filler shots, setting, shot framing, color, mood, tone. The assemblage of choices related to non-verbal or not-plot content that provides a consistant ground for the ‘plot’ / cause-and-effect narrative / story, which is spoken or explicit. The language of film that operates outside of verbal story, the elements that make film/television an art form discrete from other storytelling media.

The gif can particularize moments from this unconscious language. The elements which we recognize as part of the assembly of a particular story.

Ryan Seslow has been developing discrete elements in gif form for quite some time. His characters and repeated making-gestures arrive on the screen-canvas of his website & other internet feeds. Recently he assembled several into a sequence.

 

Telling Stories : a gif by Ryan Seslow

Ryan steps into the space of a story. Its liminal – it is not yet a story – it is a projection field for a story of my invention. It invites me to create relationships between jump-cut moments. We automatically work to create relationships, as storifying machines, as viewers. Like we discover the Virgin Mary’s face in a waterstain or a fried tortilla.

Looking, looking back. The screen looking back at us – the portraited pretty lady winks (usually she’s the object in the gallery) its the gaze of the inhabited object – and then the gaze of others looking back –

run run run : rashid johnson’s fugitive body

Happenstance and a work meeting downtown got me near enough the Museum of Contemporary Art to stop in today. Glad I did, as Rashid Johnson’s show Message to our Folks gave me plenty to consider. Here’s one axis of thought about the work.

The installation-driven work gave me elements of a marred home interior. Flooring, a gallery of wall photos, “oriental” rugs, furniture installation. Fire-branded wood flooring; rugs and furniture defaced in clean, intent gestures. Spray paint has as much intentionality on one rug as the crosshairs machine sewn into a carpet in a separate room.

My personal sense of home is the residence I make in my own body. I find Johnson’s defaced house imagery incredibly compelling.The argument of any cultural hatred (misogyny, racism, homophobia, xenophobia) is, truly, the negative cultural projections written on the body of its targets.

 

 

rashid johnson : single work, installation view

 

Smashed mirrors provide a broken self-image. Who gets seven years bad luck for making this work? No, the bad luck is having poor mirrors, messages that do not reflect the truth of who you are or what your potential might be in this world.  Mirrors reflect the body, physicality, the [perceived] object in which a person lives. A culture providing a broken self-image – and then you live with that . . .

 

 

run run run

Run run run. Don’t let them catch you out late, don’t let them catch you walking by yourself, carry yourself shoulders back, wear jeans, the tighter the better, they can’t rip them off easy. Run run run. Rape culture trains women to live in fear of being caught by strangers. How do you carry your keys as you approach the locked door of your apartment? How do you vary your walk home, to not make yourself a target? How do you make sure you don’t make eye contact, but know who’s staring at you on the train?

Run run run. Remembering walking through Bloomfield in Pittsburgh with a friend, stopping to dig in my purse for something and he said “Not here, you’re making yourself a target” and I hissed at him “I am not, I know where everyone is standing on this street”. The crosshairs machine-stitched into the carpeting – its written in the lining of the room, in the wallpaper of your mind, in the carpeting of the psyche. Of course I think of Trayvon Martin, but I also think of Johnny Gammage, who died “driving while black”. And I think of all the targets that hate culture puts on anyone’s back, for any visible, physical reason at all.

Run run run. Hm, frying pan or fire? What humans do not size up, categorize, sort, by appearance, by status, by the metadata attached to the person? Where is the predator who has created the broken mirrors upon which to cut one’s self image?

Run run run.  How has your house been defaced by cultural programming?

For a sense of the whole show, check out artnet’s full photo essay over here. (link takes you to another RUN piece inside the show). Rashid Johnson’s Message To Our Folks is at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, through August 5 2012.

I feel like ‘little miss obvious’ writing about this, the work speaks so clearly to me. Would love thoughts from others about it.

the bling poem

So far, two of my 30/30 poems are video clips. Animations. It is a puzzle, keeping the text as the focus, playing with the tension of moving text and moving image.

When I make performance works of poetry reading combined with backing film and audio sketches, they work in a much more complex and fluid way than these videos. The bling poem is fixed, for one thing – its like an in-print, book publication. Performances shift and change, they take the audience elsewhere. Since they cannot be replicated, there’s an electricity present . . . mm.

April 12 : rationalization

April 11 : honeytongue


Bling poems because the words are given the bling of movement, color, illustration, imaginary context. The words are dressed.

Most of the poems I’m publishing at my tumblr I’m posting as photos. tumblr has the worst text editing markup management system of all time, at least for me. One has almost no control over how the text looks. That’s dissatisfying.

There is nothing more fruitless than having a work process argue back with me. At times, discoveries are made during the workarounds.

Poetry begins as a series of images; poetry is the most synaesthetic of forms. When the words lock together into the right combination of sound and meaning and the images invoked parade past in an imagined slide show . . .