The many new forms of (digital) screens for moving images sprouting in our urban space indicate the need to reconsider established methods and standards of imaging. “Micro-narratives” is a neologism created for such a purpose: (1) to reflect upon the unspoken (historical) assumptions of existing norms and conventions in order to (2) facilitate free experimentation with new possibilities in making moving images by seeking new sources of inspiration.
In the form of a 13-week concept-driven laboratory in videography, an overall sentiment of the course is partly to critique a moving image practice that is dominated by Hollywood traditions, as well as to open up the idea of ‘narrative’ as a conceptual tool to incite innovations. Narrative-making, therefore, becomes the main subject of the laboratory work in this course: we play with the idea of narrative and the activities of making narratives (narrativity) in order to discover new aspects of image-making and ask forgotten questions about the moving image. This also means we refuse to accept “experimental film/video” as just a genre with a history of styles. Instead, through the 13-week activities, we ask the question of what it means to experiment, and we provide ethical arguments to why experimentation is essential.
The discovery-driven inspiration that make up this laboratory draws from the following sources:
1. Early Cinema (1895 to 1905-7): this is the moment when the moving image was still in a flux, therefore most exciting with many experimented possibilities, and before business interest gradually reduced cinema to the service of story-telling premised upon the norms of 19th-century realist novel. The idea of “micro-narratives” asks us not to hastily equate cinema with plot-based story-telling, but, instead, to go directly to the low-level components of the moving image: composition and configuration of space within the frame, motion, duration, movement, montage, performance, contrast, sight and sound relations and so on – to rediscover the potency of images that move.
2. Intermediality at the core of experimentation: “intermedia” is a key concept in contemporary art since the post-WWII era, but also a characteristic pregnant in many Early Cinema experiments. Suspending the notion of a “pure medium,” ‘intermedia’ celebrates the in-between territories created when the features and concepts of more than one medium are inter-playing in dialog. Many videographic exercises in this course openly invite the using knowledge from painting, literature, music, scoring and notation. The use of the term ‘micro narrative’ is itself a method of open sexperimentation.
3. Philosophy: the idea of time and space, especially Gilles Deleuze’s “time-image” / “sound-image” and “moving image” drawing upon the French New Novel and Henri Bergson’s philosophy of time and so on, converged into a materialist cinema, arguing that cinema is not just a carrier of style and film method, but a new form of consciousness: it enables us to see, perceive and experience the world differently. How does this affect how a moving-image maker think of the meaning of his/her works to the viewers?
4. Theory of film and photography: Walter Benjamin’s discussion of the optical unconscious in the photographic image and Andre Bazin’s thesis on the moving image’s indexical transparency refresh the videographer’s attention to the descriptive power of the moving image.
5. Innovative narrative experiments that deconstruct ‘narrativity’: e.g. the works of Raul Ruiz, Jean Luc Godard, Peter Greenaway, Alain Resnais, Vera Chytilova, Chantel Akerman etc. with many others normally considered experimental filmmakers reflecting upon and revising existing norms, conventions and forms of moving image creation.
We want to challenge, in particular, the popular assumptions and conventions of narrative in mainstream moving image practice, typically:
- bound by (causal) linearity;
- entrenched belief in realisms;
- assuming passive viewing contexts and a language of continuity and narrative absorption, whether in scene constructions or editing style; and
- equating perception/reception with story comprehension with an over-emphasis on progression and plot-development;