Category Archives: Media Practices: Concepts

Korsakow is my new religion.

Here is my video self portrait.  It is my last project for the Media Practices: Concepts class I’ve been taking this semester.  I used a software called Korsakow, with which I am pretty in love.  Every Christmas I make a music video of my nieces for my sister and brother-in-law, but I think I will be making a Korsakow this year instead.  Perhaps I’ll add to it every year.  By the time they’re 18 they’ll have a video database of their childhood!

Anyway…

Here I am.

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And the whole crowd digs it.

Our group ventured into the Brooklyn Brewery to create this short documentary.  A land of cats, hep tourguides, and frothy beverages.

I want to be a crane driver.

    

     I watched City of Cranes four times.  The aspect of the short documentary that stood out the most to me was the suspension of time.  It feels as though the earth stands still for the sole purpose of portraying the universe of the crane drivers.  Although many drivers were interviewed, it was as if they were all one voice and character.  There are no other voices except for the interviewees in this film.  There are no external voice overs and the filmmakers’ physical presence is not seen or heard.  This serves to allow the viewer into a secret world with no interruptions.

     I started to view the drivers as an elite group, but not in a negative way. I revered them for their patience and ascetic qualities.  Their knowingness and reflections on humanity were very engaging, but sweetly simple.  The isolation and contemplation revealed was almost religious in nature.  City of Cranes evokes more of a feeling than it tells a narrative.  The piece is not character driven at all in the sense that there is no single recognizable person around whom the film is centered.  We do not ever see the crane drivers explicitly, nor do we know which of them is actually speaking.  The viewer may see a face partially obscured by shadow or glare, the back of a head, or a climbing body, but will never be able to identify anyone by name.  The collective voice of the crane drivers coupled with the images of the cranes contributes to a bubble-like atmosphere.  The viewer gets a sense of what it is like to be contently secluded in a glass box in the sky. 

     The images shown within the context of the chapter titles and interviews personify the cranes as human – or at the very least living, feeling creatures. The editing is very steadily paced and eloquent when showcasing the cranes as objects of ballet and art.  More close-up shots of the cranes and their individual parts start to be presented which turn the images into truthful objects but also beautiful in the same way some abstract paintings might be thought to be.  There is a balance very similar to dance happening at the moment a crane driver is discussing how multiple cranes working together is similar to a ballet.  Colors are vibrant and the large machines somehow come across as delicate as young ballerinas.  The viewer begins to look at the humans as part of the machine in a symbiotic relationship.  This is not to the detriment of the drivers; they are proud of their work and feel personally attached to their cranes.  As a culture we do not normally think of construction workers as “deep,” and this work tears down that stereotype. 

     The music at the beginning and end of the documentary matches the content: it is a mechanical yet melodic humming with light piano.  It’s ethereal and fitting to the reflective sentiments described.  The filmmaker could have chosen harsher sounds or music since cranes do appear on loud construction sites, but instead she shows us a different part of existence.  The shots of the cranes are framed like photographs and the music is accompanied by the natural sound of “the city above.”  Quick cuts reveal many different landscapes with cranes and the unifying visual pieces are birds and airplanes that coast through the frames.  This adds cohesiveness to the images.  The natural sound of the machinery adds an authenticity and extra layer of “truth” to what could be a mundane story about a seemingly simple blue collar occupation.

Experiments in Lumiere

I often take long walks in Manhattan by myself.  Usually, I am killing time before an appointment or plans with a friend.  Either way, I bring myself into Manhattan not knowing what I will do or where I will go.  Sometimes I hit a familiar building, such as the Bobst Library or a Chipotle.  Other times I just…walk.  This is great exercise, but not just physically. It’s an exercise in paying attention, noticing, observing, absorbing.  I’m by myself a lot, so I often feel like some unnoticeable intruder who is secretly mentally recording the comings and goings and conversations of thousands of people while weaving through the grid.   I think it’s the only true way to get a feel for an atmosphere, when you’re not distracted by being late or commuting with a set destination in mind.  It has, however, made me really indecisive and picky about where I choose to spend my time.  “I’ll just walk a little further and see if there’s anything better.”

This is the mindset with which I completed Assignment #8, where we had to record a minute-long video similar to the Lumiere Brothers. 1 minute, static shot, a three-act scene unfolding naturally.  As you guessed, I couldn’t limit myself to including just one.  The first one, though, is what I will submit as my assignment.  The other two are just for fun.

Connie Converse According to Gene Deitch

I am working on a documentary about Connie Converse.  Eventually, I hope to make it my thesis in the MA program here at The New School.  The documentary will not only ask the question “Who is Connie Converse?” but also, “Where did she go?” To those who knew her, Connie Converse was a daughter, a sister, a sister-in-law, a friend, a scholar, a poet, an artist, a political activist, a composer, and a musician. She was indeed all of those things, but as one can tell from her personal writings, Connie was much more. She was a human in a lifelong battle with herself. Each year brought more disappointment and loneliness as she struggled to connect herself to this world while seeking commercial success for her work. Faced with major surgery, an impending trip to be spent sober with her mother, and a crippling sense of failure, Connie Converse drove off in her Volkswagen bug leaving only notes of goodbye. The year was 1974 and she was 50 years old. Connie was never heard from again, and all we have left is a filing cabinet of papers and her haunting, beautiful Musicks.  She deserves the recognition and attention paid to her work that she always yearned for…and I will get it for her!

Below you will first find a 1 minute clip from an hour and fifteen minute long interview with Gene Deitch.  Gene Deitch is the only person who ever recorded Connie.  He lives in Prague so I interviewed him via Skype with use of a shotgun microphone.  The second clip is of a 3-minute “radio show”-like piece, complete with music and SFX.  I think the SFX are cheezy, but what can you do.  It was a part of the assignment!  And at least you get to hear some excerpts from Connie’s songs.  Enjoy!

Assignment #6

1 minute with Gene Deitch

Assignment #7

A short radio piece about Connie Converse

 

What’s that Sound?

Scrape – light thunk of skateboards on hard granite and cement surfaces. Background ambience of the fountain spraying up and around in all directions, landing in its own shallow pool of water.  Constant small conversations passing. Police car woooop, ambulance in the distance. Thank You Thank You Thank You back with a wrinkle crackle revealing chafing of a chinese take-out box.  Sporadic, unenthusiastic political chanting that more resembles a joint murmur of the Our Father in high school mass held in a gymnasium. Tourists’ laughter emanating from shuffling Ugg boots.  Shuffle scuffle other feet. A man in his 60s be-bops to himself. High heels clinking under duress, trying to sound sexy and comfortable – not succeeding. Uneven. Is that a plane?  That was a motorcycle over there. 1 new relationship kiss. Keys jingling in suede jacket of man. Another play. 1 more new relationship kiss, barely audible. Slightly unnatural.  Hand sweeps over back of cotton shirt and shoulder.  Three rapid-fire coughs ahead. Uuuuuhhhhgooooggghhh of a truck. Probably has meat in it. And yes, that’s another plane.

Field Recordings

These sound clips were recorded in McCarren Park in Brooklyn, NY.  I have a few more sounds, but I am aware that sharing work in class is not the time for letting my Obsessive Completist flag hang high.  Please click the image or the link below.

http://soundcloud.com/akannes

Signs of Life

Thoughts on “Signs of Life” by Peter Sekaer

            Peter Sekaer was an objective viewer, yet at the same time you can tell that he was sincerely engaged with the scenes he captured and concerned with the contents of the frame beyond just an aesthetic level.  Right away I was struck by Sekaer’s sense of humor and playfulness.  One of the first images your eyes are drawn to is a phallic hand-painted ice cream sign from Bowling Green, Virginia in 1935.  The next photo is from Canton, Michigan in 1936 and contains a cluttered wall of hanging items that vaguely resemble vaginas.  Sekaer had a knack for finding naturally absurd subjects and juxtapositions.  A photo of Times Square from 1935 focuses on a statue of a war hero covered by a sheet with many glitzy advertisements and billboards filling the background.  He could encapsulate entire personalities and conversations in just one frame.   When I looked at these photos, I smirked.  Other photos in the collection, however, were not so light-hearted.

            The series of photographs depicting slum life are not only powerful in terms of social class and race awareness; they are also excellent showcases of good formal technique. Peter Sekaer is an expert framer of photographs.  The rule of thirds is present in almost every single image whether it’s a high angle view of landscape, long shot of a building, or a medium shot of a group of people.  Signs often overshadow or loom above people, which alludes to the subjugated way of life experienced by those in the slums.  Words as art objects is a main concept in this collection.  This is especially the case in a photo from New York in 1934-36: the people are so tiny in comparison to the large painted words, WAREHOUSE, on the building behind them and the dots on the building form an intimidating grid.  The photographer achieves a sense of depth in some of the photos by using the street as a diagonal line in the middle of the frame.  The view created is one looking down into the building-lined street to the vanishing point.

          Even if Sekaer is photographing a seemingly mundane subject such as the front of a building, he frames the edges, lines, windows, etc. in such a way as to bring personality and movement.  As a viewer you are not just looking at a café sign, you are looking at a small vignette of that area’s culture.  Everything is in deep focus so you can absorb the patterns of the paint and wood grain.  The images are all very honest and usually gritty.  There are no abstract extreme close-ups in the entire collection.  The only photos that are not completely in focus are the few portraits of individuals, in which the backgrounds are left blurry so you are not distracted from the main subject.

          Three photographs in the collection stood out from the rest.  The first is of a woman in Corpus Christi standing in front of a large black hole that is actually a doorframe.  The second image is of a farmer’s upper body reaching out of the pitch-black window hole to turn on a light switch located outside on the barn.  The third image is of a man on a vehicle.  His face is shaded, and all you can see clearly of him are his muscles. You can, however, read very clearly the sign on the car: “Frederick Snare Corporation.”  His identity is lost as he becomes a representative of all laborers everywhere.  The use of contrast between pitch black and lighter tones in all three photos causes the viewer to sympathize with the subjects and be proud of them as hard workers who are probably “pulling themselves up from their bootstraps.”  If the entire frame were in low-key lighting, these images would be more somber.  Instead, the viewer does feel various emotions on behalf of the subjects, but also respects their dignity.

Bowling Green, Virginia ca. 1935

I definitely recommend checking this out.  It’s at the International Center for Photography.  Bank of America customers get in for free on weekends!

Line Dancing for Breast Cancer

Below you’ll find my documentary photo essay.  It was the second annual Line Dance for the Susan G. Komen foundation for breast cancer. What a hoot!  It’s great to see a group of regular people get together for a cause, even if the turn-out wasn’t as large as they hoped.  They wanted the line dancing to stretch down the street and over the bridge to Albany.  Unfortunately this did not happen.  Despite this, everyone remained in good spirits and all walks of life came out to support the cause.   After, the Fort Crailo Yankee Doodle band played followed by a performance from a local Patsy Cline impersonator.

The essay was created sans audio, but I added, “I Like It, I Love It,” by Tim McGraw, which was played during the main line-dancing event.  Please feel free to experience this piece both with and without audio.

This second documentary photo essay was my first attempt.  It’s “fun” but, in my opinion, not as formally acceptable with regards to image quality or framing.  In case you were wondering, songs composed by the critically acclaimed hip-hop/dance-pop artist Pitbull make up a majority of the set lists in upstate New York Zumba classes.  [I had taken an audio recording of the actual event and will repost once I have access to a computer running Windows.]  This was “Zumbathon” as part of a larger benefit event to help the farmers who were affected by the recent tropical storm Irene.  Again, the turn-out was not as desired, but we danced for three hours in the name of charity anyway!

Photoshop Phun

Connie Converse reads leisurely atop a parking structure as someone drives off in her VW bug that she sold to them for next to nothing. The Egg gets artistically vandalized as a giant toddler who travels by killer whale becomes the Albany’s biggest villain.