Thursday, August 30, 2012

Those Who Prefer Erasure



I live in St. Mary's parish, near King's Island in Limerick. At a major intersection nearby there's a site that has been disused for some time. This summer a few pieces of art appeared on the hoarding, around the time of the street festival on the Island. I don't know if they were directly related, since I was out of town at the time. I recorded the art in situ on 25 July 2012. Exactly one month later I went back and shot what remained. I took care to enhance the contrast in the paints and capture the bold colours in all their vitality.
Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Towards Solutions For The Graffiti "Problem"

facepaste montage
I am a poet, composer, photographer, and sound artist (among other things). I spend my time thinking about problems of knowledge, being, and action in the world. I investigate these through research and then create artefacts based on these ideas. In all this, it is a requirement that I am aware of my own context in society -- hence politics. But I am uninterested in party politics or simplistic answers to complex problems.

In all this, I am similar to many street artists today. Though I am not a visual artist myself, I have great empathy for those who choose a creative path. Furthermore, I believe that the only robust societal solutions arise from a process of communication, compromise, and empathy.

Thus, when I write about "solving" a problem, my purpose is not to dictate, but instead to suggest how the process might start. In this particular case, the dialogue is at such a rudimentary stage that any advance in thinking is beneficial. So it really is very easy to provide some starting points.
Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Few Comments On The Graffiti Scourge

old bug

The dialogue surrounding graffiti in Limerick has reached a new low. In at least five major stories in just over a week, the Limerick Leader has hyped the "problem" of graffiti in the city. This paper has called this activity a "scourge", "blight", and "epidemic", a "shocking" and "disgusting" act. Apparently the writers are not well versed in journalism, since their language is far from impartial. They write of two people arrested for graffiti as though they were already accused of their crime, a mistake that would have them kicked off a paper that had any ethics at all. But the low standard of Limerick newspapers -- in terms of spelling, grammar, basic intelligibility, and ethics -- is plain to see and not really even that interesting. So let me move on.

The interests of the land-owners and commercial elite is obvious in this matter. Many times in the articles I surveyed, the properties were said to be "destroyed" by graffiti. This despite the rather obvious fact that paint does not cause structural damage and so cannot possibly be regarded as "destroying" a building, or any other physical structure for that matter. Perhaps instead what it destroys is a certain balance of power that sees (not just) the young as alien and a threat to society at large.
Friday, August 24, 2012

Rewinding Le Mépris

still from Le Mépris (Godard, 1963)
It's the first scene. The all-seeing camera eye focuses on... me. As viewer, I am made the subject of the lens of the Cyclops. I am placed at the epicentre of film itself.

Will I be the tragic hero of this version of the Odyssey? Only if I can forget that I am, at all moments, the object of the gaze. If I can forget that as I watch film, film watches me. If I can forget film itself, a gesture that Jean-Luc Godard is always willing to begin, but is ultimately unwilling to complete. Which is why he keeps coming back for more. And so do we, as viewers, even knowing what Godard is likely to give us...

End of film. Silenzio. Fin.

Then: rewind.
Monday, August 20, 2012

Best Directors According To Sight and Sound

There are lots of ways in which one can look to the Sight and Sound film list for inspiration, and many ways to mine it for statistical gems. I decided to tally up the films by director, in order to see which were the most popular. Bear in mind that this means "most popular" to the 800-some critics the BFI polled. This may or may not be a representative cross-section of film-goers.

Some directors don't stand a chance by this measure. Jean Vigo barely lived through his second feature, but everything he shot is vital. Dziga Vertov made mostly documentaries and shorts, so his films are rarely seen and likely wouldn't fit the criteria for this list. Ditto Chris Marker. Víctor Erice has only one feature available for English-speakers, but Secrets of the Beehive is essential viewing!

So, no, quantity does not equate to quality.

Nonetheless, the results are quite surprising. Here is the tally of those directors who got on the list more than once, working up to the unchallenged victor (by this metric, anyway). Along the way I'll throw in some of my personal opinions, since that's what makes it fun.
Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sight And Sound Films Revisited

It's taken me a while, but here is the rest of the film list, from the 53rd film down to the last one at number 253. You will notice an awful lot of ties, since none of these films got too many votes in the big scheme of things. Those who were wondering where Star Wars or North by Northwest had got to can now rest easy. But I find this list opens up more questions than it answers.

For example, I took it for granted that this was a list of fictional films. So why is Marker's Sans Soleil here? It's a documentary, even though it's a pretty genre-busting documentary. If that's included then I don't see how Koyaaniskatsi (Godfrey Reggio, 1982) can be far behind. Or Soy Cuba [aka I Am Cuba] (Mikhail Kalatozov, 1964) for that matter. (All three are in my own top 200, by the way.)
Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Sight and Sound Top Film List (easy to read version)

Every decade Sight and Sound publish their list of "the Greatest Films of All Time", after polling both critics and directors. This is the most comprehensive survey of its kind, and so pulls a lot of weight. Even before it was announced the magazine was full of analysis, so expect even more now. Also expect every knee-jerk critic on the web to cry "but why no Star Wars!"

Unfortunately their own site forces you to reload every handful of entries, which makes the process of browsing rather painful. So here, for your edification, are the Top 50 from the Critics list.
Friday, August 17, 2012

Reaktor Multitimbral Sampler Released

= strata = screen shot

= strata = is a sample layering instrument can be used as a multitimbral sampler, a generator of ambient soundscapes, or a synthesis engine in its own right. Included is a sample map and three presets to get you started. It is built in Native Instruments Reaktor and requires the full version of NI Reaktor to run.

However the instrument itself is completely free and licensed under Creative Commons. Registered users can download it from the Reaktor Library. Read on for details.
Saturday, August 04, 2012

Recalling Chris Marker

Bastt with shadowChris Marker is in the pantheon of the artists who have had a profound impact on my life. I do not remember when I first saw La jetée (1962), but it must have been in a film class in the early eighties. Though my degree was Theoretical Physics I often sat in on films with or without the permission of the lecturer. When I realised after four years I was one credit short of my papers, I took a film course to wrap things up. By this point I was buying photo roman when I found them at local used bookshops, this being the easiest way to "see" certain films I had no access to.

It took a long while before I managed to view A Grin Without a Cat (1977), Sans Soleil (1983), and Level 5 (1996). To these I should add important works by Alain Resnais: Nuit et brouillard (1955), on which Marker worked, and L'Année dernière à Marienbad (1961), one of the supreme achievements of film.