“Reduced Viewing, Enhanced Listening”

Saturday 4.30 Live Video Performance

“Reduced Viewing, Enhanced Listening”

Keith Marley and Geoffrey Cox

Prologue

This presentation aims to put into practice the concepts that we introduced in Documentary Now 2010. (I have included the proposal for last year’s presentation at the end of this proposal so that you can be reminded of the nature of our research.)

As such our presentation will be a “live performance” using the technologies that we discussed at Documentary Now 2010. It could be argued that a presentation at an academic conference is a form of performance, however our presentation becomes an audio-visual reflexive performance in itself.  The inspiration for choosing to present our work in this way came from a comment that Ian Christie of Birkbeck College made about our presentation last year – it went along the lines of ‘maybe you will come back and do a documentary performance next year!’

Abstract

“Reduced Viewing, Enhanced Listening”

At Documentary Now 2010, Cox and myself introduced the idea of using technologies that are normally associated with “club culture” (VJ technologies) to create new forms of documentary. This year, instead of standing before the audience and delivering our paper, we will record ourselves giving the paper beforehand and include the words and images alongside other pre-recorded sounds and images and “perform” this live. The result being a self contained reflexive audio-visual text that aims to explain the concept of reflexivity in documentary practice through reflexive means! Thus images and sounds will be “played” in a way that is similar to improvised musical performance. We intend to adopt an aesthetic of “deconstructed montage”, a creative strategy that was adopted by the Futurist and Constructivist artists of the early 20th Century.

The content of our presentation will explore how the creative treatment of sound can be used to signify a sense of place; therefore in homage to Dziga Vertov, who has influenced much of our work thus far, we will incorporate into our “live presentation” an audio-visual City Symphony of Toxteth in Liverpool. This approach will allow us to apply the principles of Futurism and Constructivism within a contemporary audio-visual context. Constructivism’s basic principles are associated with “deconstructed montage” in the sense that texts are made up of many different components, which are then arranged within a “non sequential structure that reflects the essence of an urban environment and the dynamism of a technological age.” The technique of deconstructed montage will apply to the way we treat both image and sound and will explore some of the principles of Luigi Rossolo’s concept of The Art of Noises. These principles were later developed by the composer Pierre Schaeffer with his ideas of musique concrete and “reduced listening”, whereby a sound is listened to in terms of its sonic properties, rather than its referentiality.

Further inspiration will be taken from the work of Futurist photographer, Aleksandr Rodchenko, who argued that the adoption of certain unconventional techniques in photography, such as the use of extreme low angle shots of objects or high contrast lighting, would alert the audience to the potentiality of the medium of photography by “defamiliarising” photographic convention. The viewer would then be able to engage in a more intellectual way with the text by provoking unconventional perceptions of the world around them. Viktor Shklovsky, a Futurist poet, expanded on this further by using his poetry to “make strange” the everyday: “Shklovsky explains that the poetic structure should be difficult and strange in order to stimulate the reader to discover subtle and often unlikely meanings that are obscured by the convention of everyday speech.”  By adopting this approach to both documentary representation and academic presentation, we aim to “make strange” the documentary text, as well as “making strange” the process of giving an academic paper, in the hope that the audience will perceive subtle and unlikely meanings from our performance!

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