The Gesture of Overlapping, "Screendance and Mediated Relationships" with Fenia Kotsopoulou
Updated: Apr 23, 2020
In reflecting on the creation of a film for this assignment, I look towards the approaches I took in getting there, perhaps as a way to begin to define a methodology in creating artistic material which focuses on the performing body within different mediums. This assignment fell during a time in which I could allow myself more time to simply listen, and I curated spaces for myself to do that.
Because my time is very much determined by people and schedules around me and I rarely have the chance to follow my own sense of it and then develop it, I tend to seize images or ideas whenever they come and hold on tightly until I have time to explore them. Until now, this way has been efficient and enough of an impulse to continue to work. However, to delve deeper into the ideas themselves is often very difficult, because they are preserved in my mind for when, in case I am empty, I need to produce. The efficient preservation of ideas for later use keeps me from failing in the moment of necessity (when I am required to deliver) and gives me a place to start from. However, it does not let me fall deeper into the idea itself because I am holding tightly onto it and because its conception and history are often forgotten when I need to produce an outcome. At what point does the image need to be let go of to go deeper into it? At what point does the idea need to be let go of, to be able to go deeper into its genesis? How does one delve or dig deeply into an image to begin searching for its roots or whatever else may be in there as it synthesizes with the soil around it?
I had begun to collect images to be explored with film during the module "Screendance and Mediated Relationships" while we were in Arnhem as well as afterwards at home. At home I became more and more aware of moving between and around my family members and how these movements instigated friction and emotions which pulled and pushed me into opposing directions. Because of the "stay at home" regulations due to COVID19, my extended family began reaching out to each other from the USA, to check in and tell about their current situation. I realized once again the far-reaching effect my extended family has on me as well as how they and my ancestors before them are in me. Surrounded by trees in the countryside, I wanted to connect these invisible relations between family members to the image of the family tree.
Family tree - an over- and under-reaching metaphor for something that connects us to past, present and future relations; the pulls of genetic memory or of genes themselves, the invisible pulling and pushing of obligation, emotion, expectation that exists between a body and its immediate and extended family. How to externalize the internal struggle of a woman having multiple roles? How to not loose the individual body as it is covered up by these roles? Some images: building a hut out of branches, or carrying them horizontally, letting them hit whatever they hit as i walk.
Eventually I realized that the images I had were purely in my imagination and the actual realization of them brought technical difficulties in filming and physical challenges in "acting" them out with my body. They were children of my mind which kept them anchored in an imaginative and visual realm. In looking for ways to expose an internal struggle visually, I needed to explore other ways of generating film material which focused on the approach towards the visual image instead of on the image itself.
After speaking with Fenia in our first tutorial, I decided to choose an outdoor space and be in it, without bringing the camera or thinking about camera perspectives, filming techniques or what to perform for the camera. I also brought a blindfold. Taking my bike up into the agricultural fields near where I live, I parked it on the side of a dirt road and lay down half in the grass at the side and half in the road. I had my body, the landscape around me and a flux of thoughts and emotions relating to what I was doing there, who I was actually away from my family, fear of being discovered, worry if I was away again from my kids. If one were to have come across me in that moment, they would have seen a woman lying the grass with a blindfold on a beautiful sunny day; my experience of that moment was in complete contrast to such simplicity or singularity of image. But as time passed and I continued to lie there, I could calm my thoughts. I started moving intuitively, my body taking the initiative. I returned a few days later, without the blindfold but with the camera, giving myself time to move, dreamlike, the camera as part of my body, the images following each other without premeditated thought. (This exploration can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9mn6k7C7KMM&t=104s)
I decided this multi-sensory listening, this recovering of intuition could be an approach in making the film for the Screendance assignment. So I went into my yard, staying still and listened, gently refusing to let what I saw influence me but instead what I heard or felt, focusing on the porosity of my skin. I let time be determined by my movements, not the other way around and discovered the surface of a tree and its impact on my skin. Repetition over time and continuous friction led to a breaking through of my skin from the tree's skin; two surfaces on top of and affecting each other.
Can I achieve depth by juxtaposing images, by a layer or overlapping of them? If the editing is not so much within the single shots but outside of them - using editing techniques to attempt multiplicity and plurality by synthesizing many images together - was happens? The intriguing aspects for me are letting the images maintain authenticity and even coincidence in what they contain and to see how this layering is not only a movement vertically (literally as the images are laid on top of each other) but also inward to touch remote places of sub-consciousness. If the haptic, durational visual images overlap each other, is then the resulting image not only seen but felt by the spectator?
I also used the gesture of overlapping with the soundtrack. It was taken from my camera as I filmed 10 minutes of the tree trunk, as my kids and neighbors kids ran around, playing, as a car drove off, bees hummed, birds sang and my partner practiced the saxophone. This auditory actual reality I wanted to add to the dreamlike quality of the visual, layered images to see how the sound affects the experience of the spectator and how it affects what is seen. I am not quite satisfied with the density of the sound and do not intend to confuse or overstimulate the spectator. Also, what exactly are the elements that can be overlapped? If in my film I consider purely the compositional elements as that which can be overlapped, then I have darkness, stillness, sound and visual image, which can be (and were) layered in different combinations; sound without image, image without sound, sound and image, darkness without sound, darkened image with sound, quieter sound with image, and so on. In addition to those, there is also time and space, projection surface and live body that could be considered elements to be layered, as well as others that I haven't yet considered.
There is a fine balance needed in determining how and when the images overlap and the duration of them determines if the layered images invite or exclude. I see this as a potential problem in overlapping images and then overlapping them with sound or projection onto other human or non-human bodies. How can I create a film and/or sound using the gesture of overlapping, and which still gives space and time for the spectator to enter? Perhaps to continue this and in following a strategy from the Body of Research Module with Joao da Silva, I would need to do what I don't want to do; to make art that purposefully shuts out and overstimulates the spectator.
In reflection, I am realizing that the effect of overlapping corresponds to my current emotional and physical state; in having many roles and responsibilities, in living in multiple parallel realities (as a mother and as an artist to name two), I exist within layers. At the same time, I am looking for sovereignty in my artistic work. Perhaps overlapping multiple visual images reveals that which in the singular image is not visible. Perhaps overlapping exposes details in or aspects of the images that were otherwise overseen or deemed unimportant. Perhaps overlapping can subvert the dominance of vision because the multiple ways of looking at internal and external states and surfaces constantly alters the image.
Relating to other modules, the gesture of overlapping has indeed had a constant relevance. In the performance for Bodies in Dissent Module with VestAndPage, I suspended my knowledge of dance, and I also overlapped singular elements that I worked with. The bricks, the dress, the coat, the blindfold, the lamp, the memory and the pictures of my children were used in different moments and combinations with my performing body; they overlapped me and each other visually and physically in a durational setting. I was not always determining what and how the spectator saw; in overlapping elements, images arose of which I was part and not externally directing. My immersion in the overlapping images offered the spectator a way in. Similarly in this assignment, my explorations with overlapping filmed visual images and sound offer a way in which not to direct the spectator and possibly to immerse them.
In the Frames of Reference Module with Asu Aksu, my physical body was not part of a layering process, however in devising maps based on interests or strategies for creating I have, I used the mediums of paper, word and drawn image over and next to each other to create a mapped object which allowed me to understand an aspect of myself differently, to enter my interests and strategies in another way.
Projecting images on my body or on other surfaces is a technique I began to research in Daz Disley's Module, Technology of Delivery. This is another form of overlapping; the filmed image transforms depending on the surface it is projected onto. When this projected film is again filmed and then re-projected, details and colors that were originally there dissipate and a perfectly edited image becomes irrelevant and impossible.
To conclude, I would argue that the viewer goes more deeply into the image when there is not only one thing to focus on, and is confronted with his/her desire to understand what to look at. In my continuing research I would be interested in exploring what can happen when the focus is not directed but given a collage of textures, sensations, surfaces, stories; if that relieves the desire to comprehend or to know something, allowing the spectator to dwell in the unknown; if that invites a tangible, haptic, deeply immersive experience to occur; if vision's dominance can be released.