Tag Archives: memory

the rapture is finally here!

I’ve been working on my final film (rapture) for Nonfiction over the past few weeks, and here it is, in all its “final” cut of glory (this is to say, I will be continuing to tweak and perhaps totally re-do over the coming week, and a more final version will make its way to Vimeo as well).  With that in mind, please watch, read my discussion of the work below, and please please please give me feedback!!!  Why bother being alive in the 21st century if we don’t take advantage of our ability to crowdsource-workshop our work?

rapture. a film by anna swanson.

A modified version of my project proposal, for the provision of context:

In keeping with the fairly personal, autobiographical work I have already done for the course, my final project will be a piece that delves into my personal archives. While I was abroad in the spring, I shot a decent amount of video on my Nikon D5000, which I had on my person at pretty much all times between March 15th and June 3rd. Because all of my archival footage was shot on a Nikon D5000, it isn’t the highest quality that it could be, but it has a great value in its digital-indexical referencing of lived (and remember) experience for me. This specific aesthetic is in the tradition of the autobiographical avant-garde’s “simplification of the recording apparatus”(13), which I think allows for a greater premising of the indexicality of the footage as holding as its referent the lived experience of the filmmaker. Many of the filmmakers Lane references “shot by themselves in available light and recorded sound at some time other than the moment of shooting”(13) – the former which I did, over the course of the spring, and the latter which I intend to do this fall as I edit the picture. I want to work in this “artisanal form of autobiographical expression”(13).

The piece, rapture, is about a great number of things. On one level, it is about a specific incident of personal injury that I incurred while walking along the former Berlin Wall, but it also seeks to more broadly address the sort of transformative experience of being in Europe this pass spring, and to that end, to address the very manner in which I remember/glorify/conceptualize that part of my (recent) past. It is psychology as well as abstract expressionism. It is about the subjective and constructed nature of history and memory, the way that always having a camera changes the world, the very real psychological strangeness of going from normal existence to suddenly being in shock with blooms of fatty tissue exploding from one’s palms. It is both a visceral experience and my own mediation and historicizing of that experience.

For those of us who regularly document our lives on film or video, the footage that we take is in some ways a visual manifestations of the thoughts we think when we are alone among the crowd of the world, and these thoughts compound to make up the history of our selves, our memories. So, because of my interest in film as an analog for and an exploration of memory, I employed the formal constraint of only using footage that was shot while abroad, restricting myself to a bank of personal archival footage that I am equating, conceptually, with malleable pieces of memory. The re-composition of these is itself an experiment in the construction of the past, through the literal process of editing this past into something of varying degrees representational and abstract.

The voice over is likewise restricted (as a further analog for drawing on memory) to selections from automatic writings I have done while in Europe and over the summer, rather like prose-poems; a means of furthering the psychological mimicry and individually subjective form of the constructed memory, drawing on my supposedly-subconscious mind’s outpourings, the products of experiments in extreme sleep deprivation.

The selections from the writings are each voiced by different people in my life, each narrator corresponding to a specific piece of writing, which I then intermixed in a way that again approximates the reconstruction of memory, but also invokes the way in which we as people are constructed by those that we love, and are moreover never the same person at any given point in time.

In terms of the editing style, I attempted to mirror the free-association of these patterns of thought, with occasional clear connections, and occasional moments of seemingly totally random mental jumps – varying degrees of jarring and fluid.

Three areas of inquiry that were central to the process:

What is the nature of memory? How do we construct it? How is it shaped by the records we take (personal photographs and videos, for example)?

How self-specific and revealing can I be without totaling confusing or alienating an audience, or on the other extreme, making them uncomfortable?

How can I add voice-over without over-determining the images or robbing them of their power to speak, and without speaking to them either too literally or too abstractly?

observation the second

The second in a series of writings on the observational sessions I am conducting for CAMS 270: Nonfiction.

I wanted to observe light last night.

Walking towards the Weitz, I saw the isolated domes of the stained glass windows of the church across the street, lit from within.  It was a sweet little surprise, to see these geometric patches of bright color seeming to hang in space, in the supposed-darkness.  I went to stand before one of them, in order to contemplate color, but as soon as a came to pause before it in the middle of the street, the light from within was extinguished.  The colors quickly changed into darker grey interpretations of themselves, and the all that was left was the skeleton of iron between the panes, and a retinal afterburn of something.

I was surprised that though I had been looking at these colors moments before, I could suddenly remember nothing of where any given ‘color’ had been in the whole brilliantly lit array — had this triangle bit been orange?  Was there even much blue in the whole pattern?  I wondered then, had I been looking at the colors themselves, or the window as a whole?  I thought I had been taking in the window, drinking it in with my vision as I approached, but perhaps I had not been fully.  If we ‘see’ a thing, and then it changes unexpectedly before our eyes, how do we continue to see it?  We think it is the same thing, in some external sense, a window that I could run forward and tap on, or stoop to take a rock and shatter that glass, but it is not the same in my eyes.  Nor in my brain, for that matter, as I struggled to reconcile my just-forming perception of the colored window with the ensuing darkness.

I turned away soon after; I wonder why.  We are drawn like moths to light, and are startled and saddened when it leaves us.  But I could still see the window; awake, we are never quite without light, even when we close our eyes, and when we dream our minds create an inner light of memory to play across our eyelids.  So there was something there to see, still — and perhaps to find beauty or form in these darker places is just as important, if not as easy, just so or more so rewarding.  Perhaps I should return tonight, and find the light in stained glass gone dark.