Festival research.

Now before I get started with this post, I have to say that I did not go to any festivals showcasing any media that will directly relate to this course, due to a number of reasons (mainly due to the fact there was none near me that I could get time off work for) I did aim to make it to the BBC Music Video Festival in norwich but unfortunantly could not make the dates which had all of the main talks that I would want to see.

However at the start of the summer I went off to voluanteer at 2 music festivals, these were ‘Sonisphere Festival’ a rock festival based at the legendary Knebworth House and 2,000 Trees Festival at Upcote Farm in Withington.

Both festivals are fairly new in their inceptions with Sonisphere being in it’s third year and 2,000 trees celebrating it’s 5th Anniversairy They have massively different markets and capacities though, with Sonisphere holding up to 65,000 people compared to 2,000 trees capacity of about 4,500. Both were creating their own video content for a number of different outlets. Sonisphere had live streaming in conjunction with BT for Slipknot’s healinging performance if I remember correctly, as well as that they had a Television deal with Sky Arts to show some of the highlights and also allowing music publications such as The NME to conduct thier own interviews with some of the acts involved. 2,000 trees however had a small team of voulanteers filming some of the action to help promote the festival for later years, most of the videos produced by this team have been put up on the festivals Youtube and Facebook pages.

Slipknot at Sonisphere

 

Both festivals offered alternative activities outside of the music but It was much more noticeable around 2,000 trees festival, There were a good number of kids activites aswell as green events, there were artisis outside one of the tents creating new designs and gathering a fair bit of interest although i honestly can’t recall any of their names.

As for the music itself, both festivals could put themselves under the ‘alternative’ umbrellea. but i think the previously mentioned capacities show how markateable each of the variations are, 2,000 trees prides itself on it’s small capacity however, they could probably increase the capicity of the event but many (myself included) believe they would be losing the atmosphere that you can only get at a festival of that size, 2,000 trees sold months in advance of the event this year, I beleive that sonisphere sold out a few days before the event. Sonisphere hosts more mainstream rock and metal (headliners were Metallica, Biffy Clyro and Slipknot) whereas 2,000 hosts underground rock, post rock and just in general obscure rock (headliners were Dan Le Sac Vs. Scroobius Pip and Frigethend Rabbit)

2,000 Trees

Both events were certinanly about spectacle but Sonisphere was based around a particular memory this year. that was the memory of Slipknot’s former bassist Paul Gray who passed away in 2009. Slipknot’s show was billed as a tribiute to the man (and I don’t think i’ve ever seen as many grown men cry as I seen at the end of that performance) there was also a 2 minute silence at 2pm across the whole of the festival site, Unfortunatly I was not in the main arena due to working in the campsites at the time, but I heard that it was a very strange and powerful site to see so many people in such a previously loud and busy site to suddenly become silent, it wasn’t the same effect in the campsite unfortunalty. 2,000 trees wanted to put the power back into the hands of the consumer at their festival, I have to say it was a nicely laid out site and their wasn’t a worker/artist/punter divide like i’ve seen at previous festivals before, because of the small capactiy you would see the same faces day after day and they were almost always more welcoming that the faces at bigger festivals.

Candid Arts Photography Exhibition 5/9/11

On the day I went to the tate modern to see ‘a living man decleared dead…’ exhibition me and my friend that I was with decided to pop in and see this exhibition in islington as we were having a general walkaround London, I knew nothing of the building or the exhibition before heading inside and caught it by chance. among the projects being shown at the exhibition was Alma Haser’s ‘Ten Seconds Project’

Alma’s project is a homage to the childhood game of hide and seek, a game she regulary played with her brother Oskar but they also played a slight variation where they would pretend to look for each other despite knowing from the beginning  where the other would be ‘hiding’.

I think this was the first project I seen at the exhibition it was certianly to the first one that sticks out. Alma gives herself ten seconds to hide before her camera goes off on self timer all of the photos show Alma never fully concelead in these locations, but they also never give away her full identity. each photo has an accompanying video (although not seen at the exhibition itself) showing Alma finding her hiding spot before the camera’s self-timer goes off.

I found the photo’s at the exhibition visually to be quite stunning and quite like the story behind them, I think this could link quite well to the summer word ‘memory’ as the project seems to be a tribute to childhood. She encourages people that enjoy this project to get involved and take their own photos’ her aim is to make the project go viral further details can be found on project website http://www.tensecondsproject.co.uk/

Also at the exhibiton was Oliver Watson’s Photographic Print on series.

These series of photo’s remind the viewer that photography is just a manipulation of reality by playing with the laws of perception this was another series of images that I found visually appealing just walking past, but the images did make me consider the power of photography and how perception in this media can be easily manipulated. The photo’s all give the impression of an invisible photographer as they are all shots pointed directly at a mirror which casts no reflection of the photographer.

The photos brought forward ideas and considerations about power of photography and video and how the manipulation of imagery can have a massive influence on the viewer of each piece. in these photos it hides something away from the viewer (the photographer) and this is a nice visual representation and example of what the whole of the medium can do.

Also in the exhibition is Rebecca Hallett and her project ‘a childhood left behind

Rebecca’s project stems from childhood memories and how people sometimes recall their childhood with sharp, clear images coming to mind and yet others are hazy and warped by a person’s own imagination, making it difficult to determine whether it is actually a memory or an image that a person’s mind has created. The photo’s are captured using two different mediums of camera she used large format for the pictures that are meant to portray clear and strong images from her mind when thinking about her childhood and pinhole for the images which are a bit cloudy. The aim of her project is to portray clearly what she sees when she closes her eyes and thinks of her childhood.’

I found the project to be interesting and has inspired a few ideas for future projects based upon how memories can become distorted to the point where one can’t always be sure if it’s a memory or a narrative created by one’s self.

There were other photographers pieces that caught my eye that day including Hannah O’Hara’s ‘Her, she anyone but me’ which portrayed ideas about human psycoholgy and nature and Rocio Perez Hernandez that experimented using wide angled lenses in the iconic london underground. This exhibition opened my eyes to some new ways at looking at certian themes which hopefully will help me to comeup with more interesting work myself.

http://www.candidarts.net/events/profile/71

http://www.brinkshow.com/oliver_watson.html

Skate Or Die (France, 2008)

Skate or die is a 2008 produced french film directed by Miguel Courtois, It stars Mickey Mahut and Idriss Diop as the film’s protaganist skaters ‘Jerome’ and ‘Benjamin’. It also stars Elsa Patakay (Fast and Furious 5, Snakes On A Plane) as their love intrest ‘Dany’ and Philippe Bas (L’empire des loups) as the film’s antagonist, a corrupt police officer worried chasing after the youths because of infomation they hold on him.

I’ve got to admit I picked up this film having never heard of the film before or even anyone involved, this is one of those examples of a film that I have brought on DVD simply because I liked the cover art (and the fact it reminded me of the retro video game ‘skate or die’) I made sure to avoid online reviews and spoilers so I could make a truly independant verdict of the film without any pre-determing factors clouding my judgement. So with that all that said I wasn’t too impressed by this film

The film starts off with a simple enough establishing of it’s main characters, we see that Jerome and Benjamin are talented skaters from a series of trick sequences, we also meet ‘Dany’ for the first time who the skaters both share an attraction with, The skaters decide to go up to the newly built (but currently closed) multi-storey car park where they see a drug deal go bad as one of the sides lead by ‘Lucas’ kills a dealer and takes his money. The boys whilist frightened for their own safety film the entire thing, but they are spotted and so begins a frantic chase.

This chase is pretty much what happens for the remaining 70 minutes of the film and I found the plot holding it together to be fairly poor, the twist is that the drug dealer is actually a member of the police force and so has the power to get all of paris’ police looking for the skaters, there’s a lot of instances in the film where I lost my suspension of disbelief because I genuienly couldn’t believe some of the police could be as stupid as they were made out to be. Also, considering the boys’ method of transportation is their skateboards I thought it was a major mistake of the film that they didn’t use it to their advantage more by going places that cars simply could not get too. they did have a decent enough sequence where the boys skated from one roof to another to escape their purseres near the end of the film, but in all honesty I’d given up by this point and was only watching for the occasional good shots and a song from the honestly great soundtrack.

In conclusion I felt that this film could have been a lot better than it was, I wasn’t expecting much from this action film but all I can say I got from it was a few new bands to search from the soundtrack. shame really.

Not many stills available online so here's a still from the video game of the same name

P.S: SPOILER FOLLOWS 

I had to laugh at the ending sequence where the two boys uploaded a video onto their previously unestablished website and within SECONDS of the film being uploaded the video had seen over 10’s of 000’s views, lets see if this post here can do any better eh?

Taryn Simon – A living man declared dead and other chapters. I – XVIII

Taryn Simon in front of one of her chapters at the Tate Modern

A living man declared dead is a collection of eighteen chapters of recording bloodlines via photography that is currently on show at the Tate Modern London. Each chapter also shows the external forces of goverement, territory, history and power effecting the internal heritage of those photographed. The chapters are constructed into three parts. The first part being a portrait panel which orders specific bloodlines. The 2nd panel is the text panel which provides a list of relevant infomation and to the right is a panel with what Taryn calls ‘footnotes’ [1] which includes images which represents fragments of the overall story, sometimes these are location shots or personal effects, or a leading arc into another story.

An example of the three part structure seen in this exhibition

Each of the photos on the left hand panel are taken against a neutral cream background, this is done to eliminate any background environment and context  from the pictures, The portraits are very specifically ordered and the identities of each of those photographed (when possible) is revealed within the text panel, (example below)

Subjects included in this work include; a body double of Saddam Hussein’s son U’day, Feuding Families in Brazil, an Orphanage in Ukraine, The Gallagher family of scotland which was effected by the drug ‘Thalidomide’ and even rabbits being experimented on by the Australian government.

I went to visit the exhibition at the tate on Monday, September 5th. I found that the placement of the photos on the left and the  neutral background attached to each of those photographs worked very well to keep a shock/surprise value when you realized the backgrounds of the subject’s involved. For example there was a chapter with just 3 pictures involved showing a mother and her two sons individually. I was shocked to learn that the mother was in fact terrorist Leila Khaled who was the first woman to hijack the a plane. I found it especially interesting because of her photo’s neutral style, I remember saying to my friend who I went the gallery with that it was like a photo of an aunty and with no prior knowledge of the person (which I didn’t have) There’s no way you could guess what this woman has been capable of in this past. Another interesting trick that is played with the photos is shown when you get to a chapter about The Dodini family of Lebanon and in the timeline you see several photos of Robardo Dodini, seemingly breaking the pattern set within the previous chapters. However in the text panel it is revealed that it is believed by himself and his family that he is the reincarnation of his grandfather, hence his repeated use in the left panel as he is both his father’s son and his father’s father.

Example of portraits featured in left panel

I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been to put this project together, I’m aware that the piece was four years in the making, but i’m quite interested in finding out how much of the project was kept secret to the subjects involved. for example did the feuding familes showcased in Taryn’s brazilian chapter know about the other family taking part? Years of prior research was undertaken and translators and ‘fixers’ needed to be hired to orginise each of the shoots. If a new member of the family bloodline was suddenly discovered then a new shoot had to take place. [2]

I thought overall this exhibition was fantastic and made me think long and hard about the three words that were given as inspiration for our summer work (Power, Memory and Spectacle) I felt that this piece Incorporated all three well, and has certinanly planted a few seeds which may help inspire ideas of my own I liked how on the surface this exhibition looked pretty simple but in reality must have been a nightmare to put together but also brings a unique way to look at eighteen different stories which most visitors to the exhibition will not be aware of.

Refrences

[1]  http://channel.tate.org.uk/media/974388916001

[2] http://www.tarynsimon.com/docs/Revenant_GeoffreyBatchen.pdf

Video games, Narratives and Mechanics

Whilst on the my holidays I’ve been able to (briefly mind) catch up on my old hobby/waste of time (delete as desired) that is video games. I’ve tried a good few when I’ve had the chance, I continued on some of my Fighting games and First Person Shooters that I had started a while back, My family recently gained a Nintendo Wii so I have also been trying my hand at Peripheral based games such as Wii Sports and Wii Fit and as well as that I have been paying particular attention to the modding community and social medium games which I will discuss later on.

I have been thinking about what makes videogames unique and how they work as a medium and what differences they have from other storytelling mediums such as Film and books.

As an introduction to the idea of narration in video games, I’d like you to consider the question; If football has a narrative. who creates that narrative?

An Arsenal/Spurs Derby and it’s many different stories surrounding that game for example have little to do with the group of people that created the Sheffield Rules of the game. I think this is a good way to consider certian videogames, while the rules of a real sport or game such as football are a lot easier to break than the strict coding that goes into videogame ‘worlds’ they both allow for stories to be created within that world, I’m sure a number of people reading this will be able to recall a time they have talked about a great game of fifa, halo, etc… they had one time, this is just one way that a narrative has been created by the player that was not created by the orginal creators. Games such as The Sims and Fable intentionally have blank slates as characters so the player can fill in their own gaps in creating the characters,  however this can limit creativity aswell in cases such as fable where the game also tries to tell it’s own plot within the game.

Who creates the narrative behind a football videogame such as fifa?

One thing I would like to see improve in videogame storytelling is more games telling stories using just their mechanics. Some of the old classic arcade games had stronger narratives than what initially meets the eye. For example consider Missile Command, The plot is simple you play a crosshair that must defend 6 cities and 3 bases from an endless army of Missiles. However an important point to note is that this games was developed during the cold war and the threat of Nuclear war, putting yourself behind the character defending the cities in the game presents some intresting moral choices. How can I defend all of these cities? once it becomes impossible to save every city, which do I save? While the game was designed the six cities were meant to represent Programmer Dave Theurer’s 6 nearest cities CaliforniaEurekaSan FranciscoSan Luis ObispoSanta BarbaraLos Angeles, and San Diego. He also stated that while programming the game he would wake up in the middle of the night having had nightmares about these cities being destroyed in a nuclear blast. Also the very fact that you can not ‘beat’ missile command is a deliberate methaphor to nuclear war, in that there are no winners in it.

Missile Command

More modern games such as Metal gear solid have aimed to take an approach in narratrive and story similar to film, this can be annoying for some gamers where they will have sometimes up to two hours in a game where they simply watching a cutscene rather than playing, however in some scenes MGS can show again how the combination of this style of narrative and the use of game mechanics can create unique experiences. Anybody that has struggled through the Psycho mantis level of the first game, or found out every way to kill ‘The End’ in MGS3 knows exactly what I am talking about here.

Pyscho mantis, The character could read the ‘left’ side of a characters ‘mind’ creating an interesting interactive challenge for the gamer.

Games character and world designs also add alot to the story without having to add anything, so much so that when Game developers decide to rework a portion of their characteristics it can destroy the entire illusion for long-term players as seen in the case of Metroid Other M which divided the metroid fan base, where a mute female character was given more obvious personality and a fully structured narratives. a quick search on google will show divided opinions on what they did right and wrong with the character. but many felt that the changes contradicted with the little they knew from the games prior.

In terms of improvements and how I can use VG influences in my own work, I believe that Videogames still have a long way to go and for everyone of the examples where I feel games have used their mechanics and USP well, there are hundreds of poor examples. I also believe that Games and gamerification is useful in film especially when it comes to marketing making the audience feel more involved in the process, for example Mind Crime, which was used as a game/preview for the movie Inception.

Ad for Mind Crime/Inception

But as a closing thought here is a quote from Games Desginer James Portnow. “…We as developers ship products that are by neccesity incomplete. A painting on the wall is a finished work, a movie on a reel is whole and complete, a novel on the shelf is what it will always be, but a game without a player is nothing. In any given medium people may interpret a given work differently but they won’t fundamently experience it differently.” If this is true does this make a gamer just as much a part of the artistic process as the original developers? or are they simply being guided all along and just filling in the gaps? either way. I feel video games are an interesting medium to look at that is finding new and interesting ways to tell new and exciting interactive stories.