Reflections on Third Word Filmmakers meeting, Bazin and Gray

The reading on the Third World Filmmakers was interesting to me, as I never really considered the power cinema (and other art forms) have on the colonization of a nation and its culture. Growing up in the US, I’ve always taken for granted the films that were shown to me as standard. While some films might be more political or have more propaganda undertones, I never recognized the influence such media can have on what society considers to be normal and just, good, or evil. It seems obvious now that a colonizing force would be naive to ignore the culture of the nation they are imperializing, and I now appreciate the gravity of the influence art can, and will have on the trajectory of societies all around the world, and further recognize the importance of cultures having their own art that can be disseminated both internally, to keep their culture alive, and externally, to communicate to others aspects of their culture to educate, inform, and maybe even influence.

I also enjoyed reading The Ontology of the Photographic Image, as it also clarified the importance of photography in shifting western fine art attitudes away from photorealism, to what has become increasingly abstract and esthetic, as opposed to representational. As a fan of modern and contemporary paintings, I am grateful for the camera’s role in not only shifting the trend in art, but also its ability to make viewers feel differently about the works they view. As highlighted in the article, photos feel inherently more real, as it (ostensibly) removes the man from the scene in front of him, and only what is objectively there is captured. However, as photo-manipulation becomes increasingly accessible, questions arise as to whether the role of photography is shifting, from a representation of truth, to just another medium of art that can be manipulated at will to reflect the desires of the artist.

Questions:

  • Did The Battle of Algiers appear to reflect the wishes of the filmmakers at the meeting? (Note that the movie was shot before the meeting)
  • How did the film portray the colonizers? The colonized? We’re the portrayals fair, and how did they influence the way you saw each side?
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ICA Reflection

The field trip to the ICA was a very enjoyable experience – it has been a while since I’ve had the time to enjoy contemporary museum exhibits at my own pace. I liked quite a few of the exhibits, with my favorites being Grosse Fatigue by Camille Henrot, View of Harbor by John Rafman, Safe Conduct by Ed Atkins, Nudes lox 22 by Thomas Ruff, and Still, Five Hooded Men with Seated Man by Seth Price.

Continuing the theme of the reading “In Defense of the Poor Image,” I dug a little into the last two pieces.

 

Nudes lox 22  – Thomas Ruff

This photo was part of Ruff’s Nudes series, which consisted of images taken from pornographic scenes, but blown up to obscure the details of the scene due to the low quality of the initial images. This style embraces the “poor” quality of scenes by making them a main feature of his work. Though the details are blurred, the contents of the scene are quite obvious to viewers, who subconsciously resolve the scene in their heads. In my opinion, the works would send a much different message if the details were able to be rendered clearly, relying less on the ability of the viewer to piece together the image based on past knowledge.

Parallels can also be drawn to his cassini series, where he took a similar approach to photographs of Saturn, enlarging images from the Cassini spaceflight, and abstracting them to make it less immediately obvious what is being presented to the viewer.

 

Five Hooded Men with Seated Man – Seth Price

Image result for Five Hooded Men with Seated Man

This work jumped out at me because of the three-dimensional nature of it. Price takes a flat scene of a poorly-shot image of an execution, and through screen-printing it on clear film, gives it added depth, making it jump out of the wall, towards the viewer. It is only upon further inspection that the viewer discovers that the scene is that of an execution – the abstraction of the image distracts the otherwise shocking subject. I liked how these abstractions are compared to the general desensitization of the public, as it resonated well with me. It made me think about how some of the first movies made viewers puke due to the perceived realism, whereas I can easily find videos of executions, rapes, tortures, and other horrific subjects, and view them without a physical response beyond shock, awe, and disgust.

Looking into some of Price’s other works, I was immediately drawn into his use of repetition and texture, in a way that is evocative of Japanese patterned textiles. Such themes are also present in his fashion line collaboration. Though less reminiscent of Japan, his work does evoke a certain sense of conformity and sterility that might also be found in Japanese work culture.

Comments on Hito Steyerl’s “In Defense of the Poor Image”

This reading really got me thinking about how much I disregarded “poor” images. I felt like in today’s day and age, when high quality cameras are so ubiquitous, “poor” images indicate a certain amateurism to them, that makes me question their legitimacy. I’m so used to my media being taken in situations where the photographer has access to the equipment and lighting need to take technically perfect photos, that it’s jarring to see images from a low resolution camera in situations of poor lighting.

 

However, it is exactly those images that are fascinating for the very reason of their low quality. Whether the image is low quality because of a poor camera, poor operator, poor conditions, poor transmission, or poor compression, or any combination of those, there’s a certain story that goes along with the image. Like a tag, the quality of an image gives some indication of the context around the circumstances in which the image is produced and transmitted.

 

Questions:

  • How do you feel when you see images of poor quality? Do you trust them more, less, or the same as high quality images?
  • Can good photography be of poor quality?
  • What messages do you think image quality conveys in today’s society?

Reflection on Hito Steyerl’s In Defense of the Poor Image

In China, piracy is very rampant due to the incomplete network supervision. Although the government has been hoping to control by regulatory, poor images are still out of control due to the needs of netizens. I was imagining that with the development of technology and information resources, the future network society will be highly refined and the resolution of video resources will be infinitely high. People can easily enjoy the same space experience and audiovisual enjoyment as the cinema, by AR or VR technology (In fact, the AR/VR technology at present has been very close to it)

This kind of flourishing age of internet not only fulfills the original ambitions of militant and (some) essayistic and experimental cinema – to create an alternative economy of images, but also satisfies people’s fetish of high resolution. At same time, it will also push the image art to a new peak – the communist network art age (I don’t know what it is, just saying)

Reflection on William Gibson and Andre Bazin’s Posts on Chris Marker

I found it difficult to truly envision what William Gibson and Andre Bazin were describing when they spoke of Chris Marker’s work. I wonder if I’ll decipher some of the meaning of their words when we watch La Jetee.

I looked up the writers of the posts to understand a little more about their perspectives on the pieces. William Gibson is a writer, well-known for his science fiction writing in the subgenre cyberpunk. I’m not sure how much writing he had done by the time he had seen La Jetee, but even he was in awe of the film. Do you think it was so impactful and defining because of that time period? He didn’t describe what exactly made him feel the way he did, so I’m interested in seeing how the film will impact me. Of course this will be very different than the HD, CGI movies we see today, but I wonder if it will be as thought-provoking since we live in a more high-tech society with a greater range of possibilities… or maybe they’re just different possibilities.

I read the Andre Bazin post after the Gibson one, so that helped give some insight into how Marker structures some of his films. Although he didn’t talk about La Jetee in particular, since he was no longer alive at the time, this was helpful context into understanding why Gibson may have felt the way he did. Marker’s films seem very thought provoking, especially when thinking about point of view and perspective. His style seems unique. Was his filmmaking style adopted more widely after his films came out? Why or why not? Or rather, why do you think it would or wouldn’t be more widely adopted as film style?

Reflection on Allan Sekula’s “On the Invention of Photographic Meaning

I think Allan Serula’s paper discusses similar ideas as to what I considered when reading “Performing Civic Identity”. The esthetic and metaphorical component of photography, as well as the real and transparent component of photography have to be considered. Are there ever situations where one side should be more heavily weighed than the other?

I wonder if photographers tend to struggle with the portrayal of their images. It’s difficult to expect a viewer or reader to know or look up the context of the image or what the author’s intent was. This reminds me a lot of going to museums, especially those with a lot of artifacts. The descriptions tend to be very limited and describe the object and not a story. This is a stark difference to if you were to go on a tour, and could understand the value behind different objects and why they were created, which makes for a much more engaging experience. Even when the photographer does leave a space for their commentary and descriptions, people may not even read it. Furthermore, how do photographers or artists navigate cultural influences and biases, especially when trying to create a truthful image?

Reflection on Hariman and Lucaites’ “Performing Civic Identity: The Iconic Photograph of the Flag Raising on Iwo Jima”

I thought this chapter was intriguing and educational for me, in that I’ve never had to analyze an art piece in depth before, if at all. The author connected details in the photos to ideologies that I most likely would not have noticed. For example, when the author described the anonymity of the soldiers and how this helps citizens empathize with the photo, portraying egalitarianism. I was also shocked at the number of ways the Iwa Jima photograph has been altered and the number of contexts it has fit into. Although, it isn’t surprising that with a changing society, that such a famous and renowned image could also change with the current political and cultural states.

The chapter made me think about what’s important in a photograph. How much does context matter? How much can it alter one’s opinions? Would the Iwo Jima photograph be viewed differently if it were confirmed that it had been staged? If I were to guess, I don’t think it would be as famous of a photo. On the one hand, people value context. People don’t just care about outcomes, they also care about the change and the journey to get somewhere. On the other hand, sometimes it’s just about the feelings invoked, especially with something like a photograph where you may not necessarily be given the context. If the emotions invoked are real, and perhaps even nostalgic, is that all that matters? For example, in the book, “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien, he writes stories that aren’t always factual, but says the feelings they raise are real, and may not be achieved with a completely real retelling of his past.

Reflection on Walter Benjamin’s “A Short History of Photography”

It was interesting learning about the history of photography. I thought it was an interesting concept of how photography is an intersection between technology and art, and that this was part of the reason for initial dismissal of cameras. I have always viewed photography as both an artistic and informative form of media, so I’ve never stepped back to think how different it is than other more traditional forms of art, such as painting or drawing.

It’s interesting to see the progression of capturing a moment in time. One of the earliest methods was to draw, then to paint, then to photograph. How do you think capturing moments will continue to evolve? Even now we see technology that allows 360˚ photos, panoramas, and “live” photos. How do you think editing software and tools has affected photography, both artistically and as a reporting/documentation tool?

            Furthermore I was intrigued by the different creative approaches photographers had to take when taking photos didn’t take fractions of a second. Even with film camera I feel like there in some sense has to be more intent and purpose when taking a photo. Nowadays we can take images so quickly you don’t necessarily have to think about composition before taking a photo. You could simply snap away or “burst” until you were satisfied. At the same time, phone cameras ensure that you almost never miss a moment you want to capture and apps such as Instagram have allowed people to share their work quickly and easily.

Reflection on La Jetee and Sans Soleil

La Jetee was one of the most powerful films I’ve ever watched. Even though its runtime was less than half an hour, it was enough to keep me engaged the entire time, leaving me with a haunting feeling at the end. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the way the film was shot, as I think the photo-montage made the film feel a little more real, despite the fact that it is less lifelike than video. I think this is partially due to the nature of photography in today’s society – photographs are generally assumed to be truth, in contrast to films, which are generally assumed to be fiction.

Sans soleil was less engaging, primarily because it was much more disjointed in nature, and was probably too intellectually demanding for how tired I was at the time. I do remember it being shot well, and I’d love to rewatch it at a time when I’m more alert and better equipped to process it.