A Journal Before Nap
It took us 15 days in March 2018 to finish the shooting of my film project, A Journal Before Nap. It starts from a white notebook where I jot down my thoughts, since 31st October 2015 12:50pm Finland. It gradually turns from my notes of thoughts, to the first literature version in Winter 2017, to the script versions, and to a film, filming process and related documentations. It starts with my thoughts and emotions, triggering the birth of the foundation of the film, and returns with the process triggering me back as a loop. Gradually I gave up trying to mark a line between art making and my personal emotions when looking back at the process. It is just me being there.
Throughout the 15 days of filming, minimum and flexible rules are applied, especially for cinematography, with the intention to free the actors, crew members and myself up to “live/be there” in the condition. This experimentation of the non-binary possibilities of “living” in the filming process, such as definition of crew member roles, cinematographic perspectives and sensations, is also revisited through this mixed-media video installation consisting of reorganized footages and texts.
This installation version of A Journal Before Nap, is not about the story of it. It is about the process itself. It is about us being there, attempting possibilities to be there.
A Journal Before Nap
In this thesis, the continuous process of redefining and reflecting the possibilities of what can “living” in the process of film production be is investigated. Instead of a single-channel narrative film being the focus and only outcome, I decided to focus on the process itself for this thesis. To open-up the Black Box of filming process and see more possibilities through it. Throughout the 15 days of filming in a month, minimum and flexible rules are applied to the filming, especially for cinematography, with the intention to free the actors, crew members and myself up to “live” in the condition. This process is of trying to “live” in the film is reflected and revisited through a mixed-media installation consisting of reorganized footages and texts. Through a more spontaneous way of filming, reorganizing the footages with repetition and improvisation, and re-describing textual materials during the process like log sheets and my own diary, I realized the non-binary possibilities of “living” in the process, such as definition of crew member roles, cinematographic perspectives and sensations and that the process itself is worth being valued as to investigate more possibilities in film making.
Since the autumn of 2015, I have been jotting and writing down emotions and observations to some small details in daily life, and gradually developed two characters and sometimes using their role to record different perspectives of mine in seeing my daily life. To me, this practice of writing had accompanied me to go through a rather difficult period of time. I developed it into literature version for a more comprehensive delivery. These all come along towards a film project called the Journal before Nap (午睡前的遊記).
I have always enjoyed being conscious of the process of doing an artwork no matter they are film, photography or other medium. It is not only about what to present from an artwork but also what the artwork and the process of it brings to me. I particularly treasure this feeling of “living” through an artwork because of the experience of creation of the artwork brings to me. Sophie Calle has inspired me in how her journey, thoughts and daily life themselves becomes the artwork. Since the Journal before Nap is a work that is supposed to be so close to my personal experience and thoughts, I have always wanted to feel “living” in the condition and revisit certain condition of mine throughout the filming process. The filming of the Journal before Nap takes 15 days in total within a month from March to April, of around 150 hours of filming. To achieve the feeling of “living” I tried to design minimum rules like Dogma 95 with my crew members, these rules are mainly to free ourselves from industrial way of filming and really interact with the environment and condition. So that we can “live” in it together. This is my desire and of course dilemmas are always inevitable to exist during the process. It is a continuous process of redefining what means by “living” through an artwork to me, and what else can the film, and the filming project be to me.
The whole project of the Journal before Nap consists of three parts. First part as the literature version, the second part as the filming of it and how I reflect and perceive “living” in the process, the third part is the single channel version of the film. Here in this graduation thesis, the main focus would be on the second part and that the non-binary possibilities of “living” in the process would be discussed through two stages: 1) the filming process and 2) the reflection and reorganization of the experience through installation.
Performativity and the Study of Process
In these few months, I have spent most of the time on the shooting, experiencing, reviewing the clips without going through log sheets and trying not to skip any of them than working on processing the images. I have struggled whether I should just skip them (in fact I still haven’t gone through all of more-than-2TB footages till now). To me it is more about my attitude in viewing the footages and the process. The actor of my film told me his feeling about hiking and walking. He felt satisfied with hiking because with each step it shows a great progress, while for walking the destination still looks so far away even after a long time. I do not know if this is to justify my laziness, but I chose the walk for this time. And till now the destination is still very far away. Yet, to me this is not just about the final work itself but the way I and we as a crew perform and walk through it, and in it a lot of possibilities could be seen.
Judith Butler’s concept of performativity has inspired me in looking through the process. She puts forward that “gender proves to be performance – that is, constituting the identity it is purported to be. In this sense, gender is always a doing, though not a doing by a subject who might said to pre-exist the deed” (Butler, 1990: 25). Citing Nietzsche’s idea from On the
Genealogy of Morals that “there is no ‘being’ behind doing, acting, becoming; ‘the doer’ is
merely a fiction imposed on the doing—the doing itself is everything” (Nietzsche , 1887: 29), she added that “there is no gender identity behind the expressions of gender; that identity is performatively constituted by the very ‘expressions’ that are said to be its results” (Butler, 1990: 25).
Performativity is not only a concept used for gender study, it is a way of thinking that could be applied in different aspects like seeing roles and differentiating functions. The non-binary concept that performativity puts forward and that continuous process of redefining what can something be instead of being stuck into a certain definition guides me to better understand my process and ease certain confusion of mine. It is about how we “do” or “perform” instead of the following the presumed function or role.
Furthermore, it is through getting rid of more presumed boundaries that leads to the feeling of “living” in the filming process. It is through opening-up the boundaries that we are able to explore and react to the conditions in the process more freely and humanely instead of following certain mindset without being conscious. And that how the film is being made itself is already and the possibilities are already worth studying. This will be further illustrated with regards of the roles, camera works, emotions during the process and the way of studying the process through the installation.
The Filming Process
Dogma 95 has inspiration to me on setting up certain rules for filming in my own way, particularly in interacting more with the actual condition. Yet, when certain rules becomes a regular practice without evolution, I doubt the flexibility of really interacting with the condition to “live” in it. As Lars Von Trier had mentioned that “being contrary is his only principal” and later critics has also commented that Dogma 95 has turned into a gimmick (Geuens, 2009:191). I have to set up my own minimum rules in order to open-up more flexible interaction with the condition while avoiding to turn it into fixed practice that diminishes consciousness.
Roles, Cinematography and Way of Seeing
The most obvious non-binary role division would be cinematographer. To allow more possibilities for way of seeing and interacting with the environment instead of just filming what we desire to film. I have plenty discussion with the main cinematographer before the shooting about the cinematography style, on how the camera could react to the condition in a more spontaneous way. I at first planned to have two visons represented by the cameras, one DV holder taking the videos from the perspective and psychology of the character, while another more high definition camera as a more distant and third-person perspective. This allows more flexibility and diversity of reacting to the environment. Yet, later by the end, I realized that somehow the perspective are interchanging, and sometimes it could be affected by the camera holders’ personal mood and personality. This is more distinct in a night when I as the DV holder felt distant and isolated while another cinematographer was very into the condition. I turned out becoming the distant perspective. However, a question aroused is that who is actually representing the third-person perspective? I was in my emotion, feeling distant and shooting in a more distant way while this could be a personal perspective instead of third-person perspective. Another camera on the other hand filmed something moody, while that could be a typical manipulation of certain environment, is that kind of moody cinematography indicating a third person manipulation or immersion of the environment? It gets more blurry for the boundary and division of cinematography by the end.
Also, sometimes we as cinematographers give out cameras/DVs to other crew members or even actors. This happens when we have to repeat the scene again and again (the repetition will be discussed later) while we started to get stuck with what to shoot. A lot of people has involved in the cinematography, the role of cinematographer is not as rigid. It opens up more possibility of seeing from different perspective. By the end to me, the film is not only constructed from two perspectives but more like a living experience together and a collection of journal in viewing. And that the role of different camera are getting more equal. The high definition camera to me at first was the main camera, but later on I feel the equal importance of other cameras as the viewing perspectives are equal and not confined to the preset roles. We attempt to react to the condition spontaneously, and sometimes I would prefer to let others hold the DV since I feel my sensory getting numb or blind with the environment, sometimes because I am tired and sometimes because I am too familiar with the environment that I started not being able to notice it.
To allow more freedom and solve the paradox of designing a shot that doesn’t look like being designed, we gradually eliminate more preset elements, from eliminating a script with visual elements and moods into an element list with some shot size and basic list of what to shoot, till by the end even the element list is abandoned. However, sometimes I would still require a certain angle or shot from the cinematographer and feel like I’m still not loosen down things enough. Yet, I think even if I require, that is also representing a kind of perspective while for filming a story of my own, I still have to balance between my own starting point and the spontaneous approach. I am trying to open-up some possibilities but not freeing it all up in this project. But a good thing is that for many shooting days I could try different approach and role. For some days I would intervene less and even let actors decide the perspectives and even to direct. For example, in the last day, I let another actor who does not need to act to help make decisions with what should another actor do in his knowledge to the character and let him shoot.
On the other hand, plenty paradox appears regarding the cinematography. For example, at first I tend to avoid the cinematography to look too designed or following too much of the traditional cinematography rules like ratio, but if this is the most intuitive composition of the cinematographer, should I intervene this or accept this as also an approach and perspective to see the condition? And also there are times when we play with the medium such as using a shooting vertically with the camera like a smartphone and filming through a monitor linked to another camera, these are fun approaches but at first I do not feel right with it, feeling that we are reacting to the medium instead of the environment. Yet, could this also be a reaction to the mood of the environment? Or is this a reaction to the filming and mechanism itself instead of the environment? While in contradiction I was hoping we “live” in the condition but as crew members is it a need to lower the existence of these machines and the film medium itself?
Another moment when I’m really touched is a scene where I let crew members direct and I became the “actor” and almost didn’t intervene the cinematography and allow them to freely explore the condition. And the other actor also leads the condition with her active exploration to the condition. I feel the possibility to “live” in the environment in another perspective and glad to see other possibility of perception from the crew members.
Repetition and Improvisation
Repetition and improvisation are two key elements in how I let the conditions happen. We repeat the general actions over and over until something evolves. It is a kind of general repetition that relies on improvisation of crew members and actors. Since, each of the components varies along and react to each other. Through repetition, we get to be more familiar with the environment and had better understanding of the action and condition itself. Sometimes it is executed better with communication and reflection, in between repetition when we communicate about what is observed and the feeling, we understand the condition better and react more spontaneously instead of being rigid to follow the general guides. Yet, this may not work sometimes without the lack of starting point to perceive the condition or when actors get to conscious of the improvisation or the mentality behind instead of immersing themselves and reacting to the environment. Yet with most of the cases, improvisation do work and unexpected chemistry comes out.
It is mentioned in Deleuze Dictionery that Deleuze theorises “the productive cycle using Nietzsche’s concept of ‘eternal return’. If each moment represents a unique confluence of forces, and if the nature of the cosmos is to move continually through states without heading towards any particular outcome, then becoming might be conceived as the eternal, productive return of difference.”(26) It is that when spontaneous is allowed in a general repetition, that is including certain kind of subversion, a kind of upgrade may be produced and we are always waiting for this moment during the repetition. One example would be when we let the actress keep repeating the scene in her home and she gradually freely explores the home with the accumulated emotions and bring in new life to the filming. And in between, she also improvised in a limited space in different ways to get familiar with the condition and really immerse in it.
Materialistic and Subjective Existence
Despite the filming process, the original intention of making an installation about the traces of attempting to “live” (physically and subjectively) during the process also comes from the idea that an image stands by its own even it is originally produced with a story. Some elements could be extracted and be viewed independently from the story.
As mentioned by Laura Mulvey that“finding the ‘film behind the film’ is the main aim of textual analysis. There is a temptation, similar to the temptation to isolate the stilled frame from its setting in continuity, to detach a privileged sequence from its narrative armature”(Mulvey 2006:145), viewers do have the tendency to look or interpret for more meaning from cinema. What I want to look at through the installation is the existence or being itself rather than the overall story or meaning. Arthur Babcock’s idea “in cinema objects and gestures can of course have meaning, the meaning never quite manages to dominate the spectator’s attention to the complete exclusion of the material reality of the thing. Indeed, the meaning is somehow something extra, even out of place” (Arthur Babcock, 1997:13) echoes with Deleuze’s idea that “with the cinema, it is the world which becomes its own image, and not an image which becomes the world” (Deleuze, 1995:57) and that “in-itself of the image is matter: not something hidden behind the image, but on the contrary the absolute identity if the image and movement. (Deleuze, 1995:59)”
These ideas lead to my temptation to see the existence of components existing and being in the film process and film as they are, the materialistic and physical existence of them. This is not about the “role” but what they are “doing” as mentioned in performativity. This is not about the meaning of the actions of the characters or the story but the condition and physical being of a human, which is not about whether the environment is created by art-direction or whether the person is an actor. They are just they are being there existing. And gradually this also expand to subjective being of crew members involved, including myself. This leads to how I reorganize the footages and textual materials.
Currently I came up with four types of footages while sometimes the boundary differentiating them could be blur and some elements intercrosses. The four types of reorganized footages of blur boundary between the artwork itself and the condition or so called reality it is situated in, they mainly concern 1) physical condition of human, 2) the sensation of human, 3) physical environment, 4) the boundary of drama and the reaction to the condition.
Link for all reorganized footages: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=UURsdXPXPkGTxIFZ9vPcC1lw
physical condition of human:
In the process, all the members are physically existing there, “actors” and “cinematographers” would especially caught attention of their existence due to their physical presence in front of camera and the presence of the camera perspective. The first attempt is to see the materialistic and physical existence of the people. Especially through repetition of certain actions, we would see the physically worn out of people in the camera. Taking the first scene as an example, where actors kept repeat running that night, they are not only worn out as the characters or actors but also as a person.
And at first I didn’t think much about the worn out of cinematographers and camera assistants, with a hand-held camera following the character, the cinematographers are also performing the worn out of physical condition.
sensation of human:
The video channel includes video about the sensation involved in the film production. For example, the eyes and the repetition of it. When characters are looking at something, how can we differentiate whether they are “acting” to look at something or they are in fact as a person looking?
The video channel includes video includes video of the physical condition where the characters are situated in. When characters are situation in an environment/ physical condition, would it be considered a fictional environment or that they are physically being there as they are.
The blurred boundary of drama and the reaction to the condition:
The video channel includes video about the reaction to the condition involved in the film. When characters are improvising without any exact plans, are they acting or really reacting as a person to the condition they in which is physically there? And also, when we created a real event, such as band show for one scene and allow people to freely join, it is through creating an authentic event that allows to actors to react to such condition. And the difference between the drama and reality (created reality) becomes rather ambiguous.
The subjects as themselves being there
The 5ht video channel would be played with a lot of the footages taken during the film production. They include shots of the “scenery”, “making of”, “false rolls”, and characters “acting”. They could be treated as part of the drama or all the elements in the film production are existing as they are, needless to be classified as “behind the scene” or other types of takes. They are existing as they are.
At the beginning what I have in mind was the physically and subjectively “living” actors presented in front of the camera. And that later figuring out that for the picture to feel “alive” we as a crew, including cinematographers, costumes or art-directions, live-sound, also have to attempt to “live” in it. Yet, one of the most unexpected blur boundary comes from my emotion and reaction to the environment. For the whole filming period, I have tried so hard to separate my personal emotions from the film itself. During the filming my ideal was to immerse myself into the condition and feel and live in it. Yet the emotion is always more than what I want since personal emotions, or a practical mindset would always be there. I had to think of the execution. On the other hand, yet it seems that though it’s not my ideal, it is undeniable that I’m being there at the environment, and all the personal or present emotions and the execution mindset also add on together as the reaction to the environment. Allowing the improvised emotion also allows some new possibilities to emerge. For a period of time I think that the negative personal emotions of mine is disrupting me from reviewing the filming process after the filming because the footages are a kind of reminders of the negative emotions, until I gradually accept the non-binary or personal emotions at the present and the emotion for the art creation. And that it seems to be a paradox in art creation when you attempt to feel and live in the art work while denying feelings at the present. Through the process I want to revisit and review a certain emotion but it is always in between and a mixture present practical and past and that they are not to be separated from the process I would like to record.
These existence or traces of “living” that are less obvious to be seen in the camera and video would be presented through textual materials in the installation.
Therefore, these textual materials would include materials like log sheets, scripts, my notes and diaries etc. And would be presented together with descriptions of them and the videos. The descriptions are inspired by the New Novel in which Alain Robbe-Grillet put forward to emphasis more on how the subjects simple are there (Arthur Babcock :13) and the essential bareness of objects. The description of the materials would be objective facts that could not be seen or easily organized through simply seeing the materials. Such as the total duration of the filming, the camera holders and the condition of the crew members. Also, for written materials they would be described with the elements such as the one who writes the log sheet, time of writing diaries, place, and also the physical condition of the writing itself such as the number of words, tidiness…It is to shift people from interpreting the meaning but seeing it as itself, as the writing’s existence.
The project would be continuously developed as it is just the beginning stage now. The footages would continuously be reviewed and see in what ways they could be organized. Furthermore, I hope in a later installation version each scene could have a longer versions and stand by their own because I feel like a scene is already complete and shows a trajectory by itself. And audio is put aside in the installation version currently due to the limitation of the space while it is also a way to perceive the condition. I hope in the future versions I could work more on it. On the other hand, I wish to do more research on the conceptual and academic side on the filming process and its relationship with the screening version. And that more research could also be done on the relationship between video installation and single-channel screening.
This theoretical text has a main focus on the filming process itself to show the continuous process of redefining different possibilities in what “living” in the art process can be. This is a continuous process of reflecting to open-up consciousness to the environment instead of trying to film something realistic but blocking reality and the condition itself. Yet, this is still a long process to be studied and reflected. Performativity has been an important concept in reviewing the experience itself since the non-binary system of thinking suggests how we perceive the convention roles and execution method and find new possibilities in film making. I do not want to separate the present life from art making since art itself to me is meant to be connected to life. I do not know how would I go on with this filming method yet and in fact I do not hope I would keep repeating this method since I do not want a certain repetition to turn into a convention and gradually lose the consciousness in reflecting it. Yet, I think it is a good start in finding possibilities in filming process to see how we could view filming and interact with the condition. Moreover, for the process and materials accumulated during the process there is still a long way to see how this could be continuously developed in different presentation ways.
 “Living” through an artwork to me means the ability to exist, open-up sensations, reflectiveness to the condition we are being in.
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2. Rushton, Richard (2011), The reality of film: theories of filmic reality. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
3. Jean-Pierre Geuens (2009), Quarterly Review of Film and Video: Volume 18,2001, Issue 2, pp191-202. United Kingdom : The Harwood Academia Publishers.
4. Deleuze, Gilles (1995), Cinema 1: The Movement-Image. Minneapolis :The University of Minnesota Press.
5. Butler, Judith (1990), Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York: Routledge. London
6. Nietzsche, Friedrich (1887), On the Genealogy of Morals. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.
7. Salih, Sarah (2002), Judith Butler, Chapter 2 and 3. New York: Routledge. London
8. Arthur E. Babcock (1997) , The New Novel in France: Theory and Practice of the Nouveau Roman. New York: Twayne Publishers.
9. Deleuze, Gilles (1994). Difference and Repetition. Trans. by Paul Patton. London : Athlone Press.
10. “Repetition”. The Deleuze Dictionary. Ed. by Adrian Parr. New York: Columbia University Press 2005, pp. 223-225.