Tuesday, June 15, 2010
"Writer/Director James Marsh's first feature, WISCONSIN DEATH TRIP, is an intimate, shocking and sometimes hilarious account of the disasters that befell one small town in Wisconsin during the final decade of the 19th century. The film is inspired by Michael Lesy’s book of the same name which was first published in 1973. Lesy discovered a striking archive of black and white photographs in the town of Black River Falls dating from the 1890’s and married a selection of these images to extracts from the town’s newspaper from the same decade. The effect was surprising and disturbing. The town of Black River Falls seems gripped by some peculiar malaise and the weekly news is dominated by bizarre tales of madness, eccentricity and violence amongst the local population. Suicide and murder are commonplace. People in the town are haunted by ghosts, possessed by devils and terrorized by teenage outlaws and arsonists."
Excerpt from: http://www.wisconsindeathtrip.com/
"Poet and hero of the American counter-culture, Jonas Mekas, born in Lithuania in 1922, invented the diary form of filmmaking. Walden, his first completed diary film, an epic portrait of the New York avant-garde art scene of the 60s, is also a groundbreaking work of personal cinema."
"Since 1950 I have been keeping a film diary. I have been walking around with my Bolex and reacting to the immediate reality: situations, friends, New York, seasons of the year. On some days I shoot ten frames, on others ten seconds, still on others ten minutes. Or I shoot nothing.... Walden contains material from the years 1964-1968 strung together in chronological order." — Jonas Mekas
Excerpt from: http://smironne.free.fr/NICO/FILMS/wal.html
Sunday, June 13, 2010
Film 203/380: Diaries, Memories & Metaphor
June 14, 2010 – July 24, 2010
Monday & Wednesday 9-12:45 Mitchell Room B75
Instructor: Kellie Bronikowski
Office Hours: By appointment only
Film Department Office: Mitchell B70 phone: 414-229-6015
“We create metaphors to compensate for what we have lost." - Sherman Alexie
Course Objective: The purpose of this class is to turn the camera on yourself, taking that as literally or non-literally as you wish. This class is about not only growing as a filmmaker, but as an individual, exploring how you can create work with everything you already have, your life experiences. I’m also encouraging you to push yourselves to shoot in ways you haven’t shot before: experiment, explore, and examine your art and yourself. Each day will start off with one or two ‘memory prompts’ initiated by a different student each class and myself.
Journal- Minimum of 12 entries dealing with recollections of memories. Sketches, film ideas, poetry, dreams..ect..are also encouraged (in addition to the 12 writings)! Fleshing out your thoughts to the fullest extreme is what I’m looking for here; get very detailed, for example: do you remember the smells? The colors, the space, the sounds, feelings…anything and everything is of importance.
Non-Moving Art Piece- Find an art piece that you consider falls into the category of ‘diaries, memories and metaphor’ from the collection at MAM. Then type up a short response as to why you think this work falls into the ‘diaries, memories and metaphor’ theme/what are the specific themes of your chosen piece? This could include a brief paragraph on the artist’s background/bio that may have had play into the specific piece of work you chose. Paper must be double spaced and a minimum of one full page. Please include a still image of the art piece with your paper.
Final Project- Create a film, video, installation, soundscape or performance piece of your choice dealing with the theme of Diaries, Memories & Metaphor. Content, execution of idea and time put into making the piece will all be factored into the final project grade.
June 14 (M) – Introduction to course. Class intros. Discuses end of course screening.
Screening: N is for Nurse(2.5), One Last Time(4.5), Sisters(4), Held in Tranquility(6.5), Optic Nerve/Barbara Hammer(18), The Memo Book/Matthias Muller(28), Anya: In and Out of Focus/ Marian Marzynski93)
June 16 (W) – Everyone bring in two or three ideas they’re considering for the final project.
Screening: Daily Weather Reports/David Lynch(excerpts), , (Nostalgia)/Hollis Framptom(excerpt), Walden-Reel 5/Jonas Mekas(excerpt), 37th and Lux/Leighton Pierce(4), Water Seeking its Level/Leighton Pierce(5.5)
June 21 (M) – In class reading: Luis Bunuel Biography, Wisconsin Death Trip
Screening: Wisconsin Death Trip(excerpts), Cherry Picking Apple Blossom Time/David Greenberger(excerpts), Window Water Baby Moving/Stan Brakhage(12), The Alphabet/David Lynch(4)
*Everyone who has old footage, new writing, photos that they’re planning on using in their pieces for that class bring it in to show.
June 23 (W)– In class reading: Franz Kafka Diary and Thoreau’s Journals
Screening: The Passing/Bill Viola(60), An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge
*Bring it raw footage/audio. whatever you have ready
June 28 (M) - In class reading: Jack Kerouac ‘Visions of Gerard’ Excerpts
* Bring in more raw footage and/or edits
June 30 (W) - Critics: Everyone brings in work in Progress
July 5 (M) - * No Class, Observed Holiday. Campus is CLOSED*
July 7 (W) - Individual Appointments
July 12 (M) - Critics: Everyone brings in Rough Edits
July 14 (W) - Meet at Art Museum Non-Moving Art Piece Paper Due Present to class.
July 19 (M) – TBD
July 21 (W) - Final Projects Due/ Journals Due In class screening of projects and Potluck. Wrap up outside class screening details.
Class Screening: ______ @ ______________.
Grading Breakdown: Journal (15%) Multimedia Example (15%) Final Project (50%) Participation (20%)
*Required supplies: External hard drive, mini dv tapes and/or 16mm film, mini disk tapes, Riverwest Film & Video (824 E. Center St., 414-265-8433), etc.
Course book(s)/ Recommended texts/Readings: In class readings will be handed out in class and/or available on D2L.
*Equipment Eligibility/Access/Checkout: Different equipment will be available depending on if you’re pre or post portfolio. Summer hours from the Equipment Room will be _____________ .
*Facility Access & Work Permits: Students using department facilities must have an updated Work Permit, which will be distributed in class. The Film Department facilities are normally open from 8AM – 4:30PM, Monday – Friday. Some of the studios have card-swipe access. For some studios/rooms without swipe-card access, keys may be signed out in the Equipment Room or B-70 office. When the Film Office is closed, access to rooms is available from department staff or UWM Police, following posted guidelines. After hours, access to Mitchell Hall is available for all students enrolled in the “hand reader” lock system, via the northwest entrance (below the loading dock). Students register at the PSOA Box Office on the 1st floor of the Zelazo Center.
Late Assignments: No late assignment will be accepted.
à Additional Course and Departmental Policies:
Special Needs and Questions:
If you will need accommodations in order to meet any of the requirements of this course, please contact me as soon as possible.
Feel free to visit me at my office during office hours to discuss assignments or any questions or requests you have
Use of Copyrighted Material: Use of copyrighted material is strictly prohibited unless the images, sounds, texts, etc. are being significantly altered and it is clear in the opinion of the instructor that the original material is being studied, analyzed and commented upon by the student. Grades for work failing to satisfy this requirement for copyrighted materials will be significantly lowered. The instructor reserves the right to determine what constitutes fair use of copyrighted material. A helpful resource concerning copyright and fair use is available at <http://www.utsystem.edu/ogc/intellectualproperty/cprtindx.htm>. The campus Learning Technology Center, located in the east wing of the Library, can also provide consultation and resources concerning these issues.
H1NI Influenza: In the event of disruption of normal classroom activities due to an H1N1 swine flu outbreak, the format for this course may be modified to enable completion of the course. In that event, you will be provided an addendum to this syllabus that will supersede this version.
Thursday is "a short, quietly lyrical video about the small pleasure of domesticity. This video was shot in 100 foot segments each Thursday, a day when the filmmaker was in the house minding the baby, although the baby does not appear in the video."
37th & Lux is "a brief impression triggers an emotion echoing with memories of the past and anticipations of the future. This quiet communication, a composition of image, sound, and text, reflects that feeling and invites its continuation. This “video letter,” originally intended for an audience of one, resonates with associations that many can embrace.
Wood is "looking outward, this is a segment from a series revolving around the relationship between my son (10 yrs old) and daughter (4 yrs old). Their relationship is too complicated and too dynamic to understand. That I know. This piece doesn't try to explain anything other than the fact of an overlapping acoustic environment and proximate activities.
Water Seeking its Level "Dad and daughter at the water race of an abandoned monastery. The scene pivots on her words:“Look dad,” she says. He IS looking while he waits for the resolution of the moment-- water through her fingers."
Evaporation is "Dissipation, dissolution, changing states. It is easy to apply these concepts to something like water; much more difficult when considering emotion and family relationships."
Excerpts from: http://www.leightonpierce.com/
" 'Optic Nerve' (1985) is a "powerful personal reflection on family and ageing". Hammer uses the process of optical printing and re-scanned images to influence the viewer's visual and intellectual trips. This is Barbara Hammer's interpretation of her visit with her grandmother in the nursing home. She conveys to the viewer an institutionalized environment. With extreme color, light, motion and sound she reflects her grandmother's loss of touch with reality. With the use of imaging overlays and dissolves, she lets you see what is happening in her grandmother's mind."
Excerpt from: http://people.wcsu.edu/mccarneyh/fva/h/OpticNerve.html
"In (nostalgia),1971, Frampton is clearly working with the experience of cinematic temporality. The major structural strategy is a disjunction between sound and image. We see a series of still photographs, most of them taken by Frampton, slowly burning one at a time on a hotplate. On the soundtrack, we hear Frampton's comments and reminiscences about the photographs. As we watch each photograph burn, we hear the reminiscence pertaining to the following photograph. The sound and image are on two different time schedules. At any moment, we are listening to a commentary about a photograph that we shall be seeing in the future and looking at a photograph that we have just heard about. We are pulled between anticipation and memory. The nature of the commentary reinforces the complexity; it arouses our sense of anticipation by referring to the future; it also reminisces about the past, about the time and conditions under which the photographs were made. The double time sense results in a complex, rich experience." - Bill Simon
Here, the artist achieves "that unjustifiable certainty of a perceivable world which is common to us all", as Merleau-Ponty described it. "It is the heart of truth within us. When a child perceives before thinking, when it begins to put its dreams into things and its thoughts into others, forming with them a common block of life where each person's perspectives cannot yet be distinguished". Bill Viola shows in parallel the living human body, being born and dying, and the spiritual body floating in the materiality of the world; desert landscapes scattered with bones and gutted vehicles; traces of civilization and urban landscapes shown in negative, disturbed only by meteors of light, in fact car headlights. He presents himself as the link between the past and future, between the real world and the metaphysical universe."
Excerpt from: http://www.newmedia-art.org/cgi-bin/show-oeu.asp?ID=I0150532&lg=GBR
A simple narrative structure relating a symbolically rendered expression of childhood and aging. (4 minutes). The idea for "The Alphabet" (1968) came from Lynch's wife, Peggy Reavey, , a painter whose niece, according to Lynch in Chris Rodley's Lynch on Lynch book, "was having a bad dream one night and was saying the alphabet in her sleep in a tormented way. So that's sort of what started 'The Alphabet' going."
Stan Brakhage films the birth of his first child, Myrrena. (1962)
"The subject of motherhood and loss appears in one of Ono's early works: A Grapefruit in the World of Park (1961). A study of the surreal script of the piece reveals a dialogue which intertwines snippets of everyday conversation between a mother and her young child, a daughter named Betsy, having a picnic in the park (perhaps Central Park) eating clams, grapefruit and lollypops, with an almost delirious dialogue about the surroundings, and a dead child. The conversation between the mother and child is about normal parental caretaking things: "Why don't you put on your sweater/I'm not hot Mommy can I have something to drink/They're all gone honey/Now put on your jacket it's getting chilly...". At one point of them recites the Pease Porridge Hot nursery rhyme.
The symbolism of the grapefruit, which forms the title and subject of the piece, and appears repeatedly throughout it, is ambiguous. The fruit could represent a child, a womb, or motherhood. In a biographical poem published in 1966 listing important events in Ono's life: late adolescence: gave birth to a grapefruit... The script of Grapefruit in the World of Park was accompanied by atonal music, wild laughter and unclear words; a kind of aural expression of female "madness". Ono's focus on the voice and the pushing of its limits during the sixties in these pieces set her apart from the use of the musical instrument (usually the piano, cello or violin), by many Fluxus artists. Where her work touches on the musical instrument, it is obliquely, in her pieces involving water, for example, a material used in many Fluxus sound performances. Cage, Brecht, Palk, Shiomi, Tomas Schmit and others all introduced water as a means to create sound, and Ono included the sound of a toilet flushing in her concert Grapefruit in a World of Park (1961).
Excerpt from: http://www.a-i-u.net/grapefruit_park.html
"Cherry Picking Apple Blossom Time is the culmination of Greenberger’s three-month artist residency in Milwaukee for UWM’s Center on Age & Community. His artistic focus has always been on aging, however this project has a specific spotlight on memory loss. Greenberger observed that the people he met had a wide range of conversational skills, from smoothly functioning (such as the closing track, “Satisfied”) to profoundly disjointed (“Used to Say,” “No Rooms Here,” “Plans”). His solution was to fill the CD with so many pieces, each with its own distinct character, that the experience might in itself mimic the unsettled ground of short-term memory loss. The listener can’t hold all the songs in their head, compelling them instead to stay in the moment of the audio experience. "
‘My Last Breath’
Luis Bunuel - Biography Excerpts
(Ch. 1 Memory) During the last ten years of her life, my mother gradually lost her memory. When I went to see her in Saragossa, where she lived with my brothers, I watched the way she read magazines, turning the pages carefully, one by one, from the first to the last. When she finished, I’d take the magazine from her, then give it back, only to see her leaf through it again, slowly, page by page.
She was in perfect physical health and remarkably agile for her age, but in the end she no longer recognized her children. She didn’t know who we were, or who she was. I’d walk into her room, kiss her, sit with her awhile. Sometimes, I’d leave, then turn around and walk back in again. She greeted me with the same smile and invited me to sit down—as if she were seeing me for the first time. She didn’t remember my name.
…As time goes by, we don’t give a second thought to all the memories we so unconsciously accumulate, until suddenly, one day, we can’t think of the name of a good friend or relative. It’s simply gone; we’ve forgotten…I search and search, but it’s futile, and I can only wait for the final amnesia, the one that can erase an entire life, as it did my mothers’.
So far I’ve managed to keep this final darkness at bay. From my distant past, I can still conjure up countless names and faces; and when I forget one, I remain calm. I know it’s sure to surface suddenly, via one of those accidents of the unconscious. On the other hand, I’m overwhelmed by anxiety when I can’t remember a recent event, or the name of someone I’ve meet during the last few months. Or the name of a familiar object. I feel as if my whole personality has suddenly disintegrated; I become obsessed; I can’t think about anything else; and yet all my efforts and my rage get my nowhere. Am I going to disappear all together? The obligation to find a metaphor to describe “table” is a monstrous feeling, but I console myself with the fact that there is something even worse—to be alive and yet not recognize yourself, not know anymore who you are.
You have to begin to lose your memory, if only in bits and pieces, to realize that memory is what makes our lives. Life without memory is no life at all…our memory is our coherence, our reason, our feeling, even our action. Without it, we are nothing. Memory can be omnipotent and indispensable, but it’s also terribly fragile. The menace is everywhere, not only from its traditional enemy, forgetfulness, but from false memories…our imagination, and our dreams, are forever invading our memories; we end up transforming our lies into truths. Of course, fantasy and reality are equally personal, and equally felt, so their confusion is a matter of only relative importance…I am the sum of my errors and doubts as well as my certainties…the portrait I’ve drawn is wholly mine—with my affirmations, my hesitations, my repetitions and lapses, my truths and my lies. Such is my memory.
(Ch. 9 Dreams and Reveries) If someone were to tell me I had twenty years left, and asked me how I’d like to spend them, I’d reply: “Give me two hours a day of activity, and I’ll take the other twenty-two in dreams, provided I can remember them”.
During sleep, the mind protects itself from the outside world; one is much less sensitive to noise, smell and light. One the other hand, the mind is bombarded by a veritable barrage of dreams that seem to burst upon it like waves. Billions of images surge up each night, then dissolve almost immediately, enveloping the earth in a blanket of lost dreams. Absolutely everything has been imagined during one night or another by one mind or another, and then forgotten. I have a list of about fifteen recurring dreams that have pursued me all my life like faithful traveling companions.
Sometimes, too, I dream that I’m back home in Calanda, and I know there’s a ghost in the house (undoubtedly prompted by my memory of my father’s spectral appearance the night of his death). I walk bravely into the room without a light and challenge the spirit to show himself. Sometime I swear at him. Suddenly there’s a noise behind me, a door slams, and I wake up terrified. I also dream often of my father, sitting at the dinner table with a serious expression on his face, eating very slowly and very little, scarcely speaking. I know he’s dead, and I murmur to my mother or sisters: “Whatever happens, we mustn’t tell him!”
I find it impossible to explain a life without talking about the part that’s underground—the imaginative, the unreal.
(Ch. 10 Surrealism (1929-1933)) I treasure the access to the depths of the self, which I so yearned for, that call to the irrational, to the impulses that spring from the dark inside the soul. It was the surrealists who first launched this appeal with a sustained force and courage, with insolence and playfulness and an obstinate dedication to fight everything repressive in the conventional wisdom.
As a footnote to surrealism, let me add that I remained a close friend to Charles de Noailles until the end. Whenever I went to Paris, we had lunch or dinner together. On my last visit, he invited me to the home where he’d first welcomed me fifty years before. This time, however, everything had changed. Marie-Laure was dead, the walls and the shelves stripped of their treasures. Like me Charles had become deaf. The two of us ate along and spoke very little.
(Ch. 21 Swan Song) I was born at the dawn of the century, and my lifetime often seems to me like an instant. Events in my childhood sometimes seem so recent that I have to make an effort to remember that they happened fifty or sixty years ago. And yet at other times life seems to me very long. The child, or the young man, who did this or that doesn’t seem to have anything to do with me anymore. Until I turned seventy-five, I found old age rather agreeable. It was a tremendous relief to be rid at last of nagging desires; I no longer wanted anything—no more houses by the sea or fancy cars or works of art. I no longer showed myself in bathing suits in public swimming pools, and I traveled less and less. But my life remained active and well balanced; I made my last movie at seventy-seven.
I am an old man, and that’s all there is to it. I’m only happy at home following my daily routine: wake up, have a cup of coffee, exercise for half an hour, wash, have a second cup of coffee, eat something, walk around the block, wait until noon. My eyes are weak, and I need a magnifying glass and a special light in order to read. My deafness keeps me from listening to music, so I wait, I think, I remember, filled with a desperate impatience and constantly looking at my watch.
Noon’s the sacred moment of the aperitif, which I drink very slowly in my study. After lunch, I doze in my chair until mid-afternoon, and then, from three to five, I read a bit and look at my watch, waiting for six o’clock and my pre-dinner aperitif. Sometimes, I cheat, but only by fifteen minutes or so. Sometimes, too, friends come by to chat. Dinners at seven, with my wife, and then I go to bed.
It’s been four years now since I’ve been to the movies, because of my eyesight, my hearing, and my horror of traffic and crowds. I never watch television. Sometimes an entire week goes by without a visitor, and I feel abandoned.
…For a long time now, I’ve written the names of friends who’ve died in a special book I call The Book of the Dead. I leaf through it from time to time, one name beside the other, in alphabetical order. There are red crosses next to the surrealists, whose most fatal year was 1977-78 when Man Ray, Calder, Max Ernst and Prevert all died within a few months of one another.
Some of my friends are upset about this book—dreading, no doubt, the day they will be in it. I try to tell them if helps me remember certain people who’d otherwise cease to exist.
The thought of death has been familiar to me for a long time. From the time that skeletons were carried through the streets of Calanda during Holy Week procession, death had been an integral part of my life. I’ve never wished to forget or deny it, but there’s not much to say about it when you’re an atheist. When all is said and done, there’s nothing, nothing but decay and the sweetish smell of eternity. (Perhaps I’ll be cremated so I can skip all that) Yet I can’t help wonder how death will come, when it does.
..Sometimes I think, the quicker, the better—like the death of my friend Max Aub, who died all of a sudden during a card game. But most of the time I prefer a slower death, one that’s expected, that will let me revisit my life for a last goodbye. Whenever I leave a place now, a place where I’ve lived and worked, which has become a part of me—I stop for a moment to say adieu. I say aloud. “I’ve had so many happy moments here, and without you my life would’ve been so different. Now I’m going away and I’ll never see you again, but you’ll go on without me.” I say goodbye to everything—to the mountains, the streams, the trees, even the frogs. And, of course, irony would have it that I often return to a place I’ve already bid goodbye, but it doesn’t matter. When I leave, I just say goodbye once again.
I’d like to die knowing that this time I’m not going to come back. When people ask me why I don’t travel more, I tell them: Because I’m afraid of death. Of course, they all hasten to assure me that there’s no more chance of my dying abroad then at home, so I explain that it’s not a fear of death in general. Dying itself doesn’t matter to me, but not while I’m on the road. I don’t want to die in a hotel room with my bags open and papers lying all over the place.
On the other hand, an even more horrible death is one that’s kept at bay by the miracles of modern medicine, a death that never ends. In the name of Hippocrates, doctors have invented the most exquisite form of torture ever known to man: survival. If they would only let us die when the moments comes, and help us to go more easily! Respect for human life becomes absurd when it leads to unlimited suffering, not only for the one who’s dying but for those he leaves behind
As I drift towards my last sigh I often imagine a final joke. I convoke around my deathbed my friends who are confirmed atheists, as am I. Then a priest, whom I have summoned, arrives; and to the horror of my friends I make a confession, ask for absolution for my sins, and receive unction. After which I turn over on my side and expire.
But will I have the strength to joke at that moment?
Only one regret. I hate to leave while there’s so much going on. It’s like quitting in the middle of a serial. I doubt there was so much curiosity about the world after death in the past, since in those days the world didn’t change quite so rapidly or so much. Frankly, despite my horror of the press, I’d live to rise from the grave every ten years or so and go buy a few newspapers. Ghostly pale, sliding silently along the walls, my papers under my arm, I’d return to the cemetery and read all about the disasters in the world before falling back to sleep, safe and secure in my tomb.