Now we are figuring out our new project. There were some questions to help us to put our ideas into words and the brief document to help us explain to people around us what we want to deliver. At the beginning I wanted to include my Commune project after all. Even though it wasn't the most positive experience, I made up with most of my group mates and I know they won't hold a grudge even if the project will be negative. But when it came down to putting my ideas into words- I struggled. I knew I wanted this work to be about feeling of discomfort and a bit of danger, however when I talked to Tim he said when I will figure out what I want to deliver to the audience, I won't have a problem with creating a brief. I didn't want to deliver anything. That is my mistake, I just wanted to let out my frustration and show it to the audience.
Therefore, I decided to scrap that idea and go along with the one I actually have a lot of things to say. In England there is a quite popular topic about how media is a bias resource. It doesn't tell the whole truth and sometimes it's just not right at all. I remember how one day I received notification on facebook of the article that taught us how to make sure that the news we hear are actually reliable: do more research, check with multiple resources, speak with your friends and ask what they heard. In Russia, however, people just blindly follow whatever news media feeds them. I heard the most ridiculous stuff over the years and it left me in shock how people can actually think this is the truth.
Because of Russian's shallow approach my family is now personally suffering because of it. My father's bankruptcy is the result of his foolishness, he didn't deliberately go into dept, he just didn't plan his business right. However, Russian media portrays him as a thief, who knew what he was doing. There are even some people who anonymously present themselves as me and my mum to tell lies about my father, the saddest and the most ridiculous thing is that people buy it. I want to make a documentary to tell the story from my and mother's side.
Beginning of the day was presenting your current ideas to your peers and get notes from them. At the moment my idea is very undeveloped. My concept is interesting, however I didn't do enough practice and experimentation, it worried me that my ideas will be too vague. Surprisingly enough, it wasn't a problem, people could easily picture where I am going with my ideas, some of them were excited to see more of my works.
The main point of our discussion was the question: should I approach the message of Russian media with seriousness or humour? If I will make it serious, it probably be a documentary of how my family was personally affected by media's fake news and spreading the story around about my mother and me, this entire thing will appeal more to Russian people and is capable to make them listen. If I represent the problem through humour, I will make fun of Russian gullibility , which will appeal more to the public where I am at right now, international people who look at my home country from outsider's perspective, that would also mean that Russian people might be offended by it. The truth be told, I gave up on my country ages ago, I do not believe that they will change and start being responsible for their own lives, I would get more fun out of it if I will do a parody of their pattern of foolishness.
The new class task was to work with a meter square space we were given and make an outcome out of that. It came to my head that this is a perfect opportunity to make the news report idea I had to come to life. The lighting source is a window next to my wall, I got lucky enough to get this spot. In this video I wanted to keep it less "in your face, it's about Russia", unlike my Native Habits video, as this was another topic I discussed with my classmates. They told me that it would add more irony if it was more subtle (mask with a Russian flag and national anthem was a bit much). By following their advise I chose BBC background as this is international news source. I will try to bring in the hints that this is a Russian news source throughout the video.
My actor situation:
Throughout today I've been trying to reach my friend who mentioned to me that he is free a lot this week. He was only able to pick up the call in the evening and told me that he won't be available earlier than 15:00. I've got to plan the next day accordingly and prepare everything my friend might need, so he will be as comfortable as possible in front of the camera. After all he is not a professional actor. Hopefully it will go well!
The video is officially edited and finished and I was today presenting it to my peers. This was the first work I was scared to present as I wasn't confident in it at all. I was scared that people won't find it funny, because there is a fine line between comedy and cringe. I was finding the video cringy, but as I was explained later by the tutors, that's because I was in it. People around me did actually find it funny, satire and relatable, which they explained it with "we all have close-minded family members (like a grandma or grandpa) who make up excuses for their ignorant behaviour". Trying to act like those stories are true is like going inside those people's minds and still not being able to get it.
Found footage made the whole thing more professional that I thought in the beginning would be bad. As I grew up in Russia, I feel like doesn't matter how ridiculous and obviously not true the story actually is, if it is presented with enough seriousness, there will be couple or more people who would think it's true. But I've been told that the impact is better when the video comes off more professional: the joke becomes funnier with better quality.
Start up on a new project
Going back to the beginning right away, I feel very stuck. I really enjoyed the comedical side of my work, however I don't think that repeating the same point would do any more good. The point has been made about people's narrow minds and unless I will find a different message to spread onto the audience using comedy, it will be forced trying to proceed with it.
There is a lot ground to cover in Russian culture and now that the "media" is out of the way, I have to think of a new point to focus on. I went back to the original title, Prison Cell, for inspiration. It might be good to focus more on my family's history for this one, so I can do more psychological analysis on "why do Russians think like this?" and the truth is- that's because of their difficult lifestyle. Almost each one of my family members has some sort of deep issues or tragic memories. Their stories are both sad and inspiring and I love sharing them with the others.
Black butler 20.03.2018
I calculated the laser cutting I needed to do today and after getting the finished card paper I started gluing them together. The slides came out better than expected, they were interesting and I know that they would attract attention because of personal photograph on tracing paper in the middle make you want to understand what's going on.
I am now thinking about the final work I am going to display if I were chosen to show it in Lethaby Gallery. The most popular work that I had presented was "Growing Up" for my 40 Hours project. These were series of conversations with my relatives and the result I showed to the class was a small edit of the topic I discussed with my dad and aunt, which is about their childhood. When I presented it to the class, people loved it, especially they loved my dad, he is a really good story teller.
The problem is I had a malfunction on my laptop and half of that video got corrupted, therefore the footage of the second half of the video had to be cut, unfortunately. If I want to present this work, I have to re-edit all the videos: my dad (2h footage), my aunt (2h footage) and my uncle (also 2h footage). I want to make this video longer as I have more time to edit it this time, but we'll see how it goes.
The video is starting to get shape. I already have three parts:
Part 1. My Brother, Igor
We are discussing my brother Igor, introducing what kind of person he is to the audience. We talk about my argument with him, showing that I am very frustrated with him. Then we move on to Igor's gambling problem. He usually spends all the salary he gets on casino and poker. He comes in the room and is introduced as a third character in the video, as he then will stay with me and my uncle throughout the next part of the video.
Part 2. Our Memories
My uncle is talking about his childhood memories whilst living with us. He is telling the overall atmosphere he grew up in (his friends, him slacking off on homework), talks about me and Igor. He even includes one of his most memorable moments where him and his brother had a lot of laughs.
Part 3. Bankruptcy
The difficult topic to introduce and heavy to digest. My father went bankrupt about a year ago and he is really not doing well. In this part we discuss how did he ended up in this situation, horrible Russian police system and laws and how is he doing now.
Today we did some experimentation. We had to come out with an outcome in a day. Getting an idea really took me a long time, the whole day exactly. I did some sketches for inspiration and looked at some artists Tim and Michele recommended me. The work I enjoyed the most was Rodchenko's, his clean and clear designs inspired me to do the same. We had a small photographer's studio, with a white screen, that would look good as a background! I just needed to find some props next. I remembered about an old and broken TV downstairs and made a story around it- a person is reading a book or a news paper with a ridiculous title that should preach Russia and then turns on the TV. A viewer won't see the screen but there will be heard a national anthem.
The plan didn't work out as I was caught moving a TV and told that I was not allowed to bring it inside, however in a classroom nearby I found a dusty stereo and used that in a context of turning it on to listen a national anthem with a hand to a heart, what Russians always do. This worked even better than a TV as I didn't have to imitate screen light. I feel like covering a person's face in videos is my thing now. I think it just makes a person more comfortable around the camera and the focus on listening for the instructions. I got a white mask from the shop and dyed it in a Russian flag to indicate that the person in the video is Russian.
During the tutorial my idea of making a documentary is still there, however it will be impossible to do in a week. The video, Native Habits, from 25th had a success, I finished editing and uploaded it today. I started thinking: before touching on to such personal topics as my family, I should first lightly introduce the Russian media problem. May be my next idea would be a parody of Russian TV news. I will make a video reporting all the most ridiculous stuff I heard from my Russian friends and family with completely serious face. May be an interview as well.
I had a lot of work to do before the shoot this afternoon, I did some sketchbook works and some primary research. I looked at screen lay outs of news reports for some perspective and what can I do to improve the quality of the video. I also started working on the script for the shooting. The video is supposed to be a news report in which all the stories are from what my family and friends told me and though was completely true back in Russia. The video is ridiculing and provoking all of the conservative people that don't think twice before believing the sources.
When Matt arrived
My friend has arrived and I didn't start writing down the script, however I had stories prepared, we just had to put them into words. Matt has a really posh voice and his sense of humour is very much sarcastic, therefore making him help me with a script was great, even though it wasn't planned. He is from Australia, therefore he approached my project from an outsider's perspective and was very open how he sees my home country.
Today I had a session with Pauline and I was able to open up to her about my project and realised that I didn't fully explain the complexity of the topic and why I believe that this can easily take an entire Unit 7 to cover.
More about my project
The "Prison Cell" is a phrase taken out of the Russian saying I used back in my first ever project back when I was in Diagnostic pathway, "Don't count out a prison cell, begging bowl may come as well". Russians are very big on Fatalism, they don't believe that controlling their future is something they are capable of. It's easy to assume that problem in the country comes from the government, however I don't believe it's entirely true, it's more because of people. Russians chose Putin and keep choosing him over and over again because they don't won't to face the responsibility for their own lives. That's why the country has such an awful law system: people are not bothered to speak up (of course there are examples of individuals who are fighting for justice and they are treated unfairly, however without society's support it's like fighting air), it is entirely in their control to bring more justice, it might be a long process, but it is possible. In Russia such thing as "social justice" does not exist, which is a shame.
My work is purposefully provocative as a way to let out my frustration at Russians' lack of action. Complaining is not enough and it becomes repetitive and annoying over time. Even if someone assassinates Putin tomorrow, Russians will just find a replacement, someone as close to the original as possible. They let Putin take control, do all the decisions, they are lying to themselves that he is making good decisions, such state of denial reflects well in Russian media and my video "Totally Real News". On Russian television there is more news about Trump and Brexit than about problems in their own country, because it is all about perspective...
"Our lives might be bad, but as long as we think that other countries have it worse, it doesn't matter!"
Today I spoke to Tim about my starting point for my project about family, specifically my mum, as I have already started looking at her old pictures when she was my age and younger. New project is all about creating an object, something you can present in the gallery. Therefore, I decided to use this opportunity to do something other than film, this challenges me because my mind set now is pretty much set on films, shooting and how do I visually express my ideas through the camera. Even when I was thinking about possible objects as a reference those were also Photography and Moving Image related, i.e. camera, film camera and film tape. There were also newspaper and books. I'm starting to think of doing something like a script for a screen play. This would also relate to filming but it would also be another way of story telling as it will be written.
I'm starting to think that the script idea would not be possible as the deadline for our project is apparently this Thursday. We do need to create an Object but we can't spend too much time with it. Therefore I needed to rethink my strategy and came back to my objects of reference.
My first idea
It is a bit cliché but I wanted to use a film tape and glue little pictures of my mum on that. This would represent the life she had, this was inspired by an anime Black Butler. There, servants of death, shinigami, come to collect humans' souls after their death. The souls are documented as memories and stories of their life are recorded on the film tapes, therefore I couldn't help but make such a connections: film tapes and memories.
My mother had a near-death experience as she had cancer when I was 4, she was battling it for 2 years and when she became completely clean of it, she drastically changed. When a person has such illness, it suddenly becomes clear how precious your life really is. Therefore, she started developing herself a lot after that. She went to the university and started a job, when my parents divorced she took me and my brother and moved to London- a country completely new to her. I have a lot of respect for my mum and wanted to show it through this project.
My second idea
After speaking to Michelle I realised that film tapes are not easy to get a hold of unless I have time to look for them and pay for them. During my discussion with her I kept calling film tapes "film slides" so that's when I thought "why don't I just do that? Why don't I do film slides instead of film tapes?". I would have to start them from scratch though. When I went to technician, he gave me a plan on how to do it: print photographs of my mother on a tracing paper, and use card paper as a base around it. It would very much look like a projection slide.
I printed the photos on a tracing paper today. Tomorrow's plans will be to go get card paper and laser cut it.
My idea for this project is not completely refined yet. With these slides I wanted to represent my mother's life after her cancer, to show how happy she is and how I am glad to be a part of it. That's why a lot of pictures include me in them. However, the only thing that I created at the moment is "the base". I just did the slides, they don't tell any story yet, how I was told in the tutorial, at the moment they are looking at the pictures at the unknown woman. To tell the story, I was thinking about doing some writings on them, just like my mother has in the back of her old photographs, if I think of the writing for each film slide I have, it can turn out very poetic. To gather research of it I need to do a small interview with my mum, may be ask her about her battle with cancer and how her life changed after that.
The editing is really tough, just like it was last time. I have to listen to the entire conversation I had (sometime rewind some of it), cut some bits and pieces and put them aside, basically breakdown the entire conversations in topics, and put them together so it would be a continuous story. It is so tough because it's hard to just sit and listen to the conversations I already had with my relatives for 4 hours straight and be able to focus on all the details, because as I found out details are the ones that make a great story.
I now started editing the conversation I had with my uncle, whose footage I didn't even have time to include last time. I didn't have time to breakdown our conversation either. I remember how my brother came in the middle of the conversation because he wanted to chat. Some bits and pieces for dad's conversation I remember, his stories are always very entertaining, so I added some footage with him here and there without having to break it down.
I am still working on it, I don't think I can write a lot in the reflection about what I am doing as it is a repetitive process, it's really just cutting down the video and adding subtitles.