JORDAN BASEMAN 4 films Joy on Toast Inside Man An Event in the Village The Documentary Imperative
Jordan Baseman was one of the five Alchemy fellows at The Manchester Museum from November 2006 to March 2008. The fellowships offered artists access to the Museum’s collection, expertise and spaces, placing particular emphasis on the articulation of research and the creation of new work. The Alchemy project brings artists into the Museum to reflect upon the ideas and disciplines supported by the Museum; revealing the Museum as an active site of knowledge creation and transfer, rather than simply a repository of weird and wonderful things. Jordan Baseman is well known for his films portraying people on the fringes of society, and those driven by strong personal beliefs and motivations. Often spending several days with his subjects, Baseman edits hours of recording into a few minutes and, as he describes it, allows his subjects to say only what he wants them to say. In this, Baseman’s work can be seen as an investigation of portraiture; creating a brief glimpse of his subjects through Baseman’s eyes. Early in his fellowship Baseman was drawn to the herbarium – the Museum’s storerooms for it’s more than four million specimens of plant material. Like most of the collection, the bulk of the botany collection dates from the late 19th century and much of today’s activity is the cataloguing and sorting of these already existing collections. Baseman found himself looking for a connection
to the present day in these historic specimens, searching for collections from locations with a particular modern resonance, such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran. During this research, Baseman came across Wildflowers of Saudi Arabia by Sheila Collenette. Described as an intrepid botanical explorer, Collenette collected for Kew Gardens and the British Museum in Borneo and in Saudi Arabia. Collenette herself is a living link to collection. Joy on Toast is the film made from his interviews with Collenette. Now in her eighties, Sheila Collenette recalls the initial spark that started her exploring and retells the highs and lows of a life devoted to recording and collecting plants. In November 2007 Joy on Toast was screened in the herbarium. Visitors were taken in small groups past row upon row of stacked boxes containing the millions of botanical specimens and shown into a small, redundant room where the film was screened. Afterwards the participants were invited into the herbarium’s staff room to discuss the film together. It has been this combination of film and its placement within the Museum and Baseman’s willingness to engage staff and public in discussions about his work, his methods and his responses to the Museum that has brought a very different perspective to the collection. Simply showing and talking about Baseman’s clearly authored and subjective works in a natural history and ethnographic museum has, and will continue to, affect an institution whose usual recourse is to anonymity and objectivity.
This small publication contains transcripts of the four films made by Jordan Baseman during the fellowship: Joy on Toast; Inside Man, made with convicted fraudster Geoffrey Trendall; An Event in the Village, filmmaker Frank Rigbyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s recollection of the 1972 Bickershaw Festival and The Documentary Imperative, made with Dr Rupert Cox, a lecturer in Visual Anthropology at The University of Manchester; are presented alongside photographs of Museum storerooms taken by Baseman.
Joy on Toast A Story of Botanical Collection in North Borneo and Saudi Arabia รท Narrated by Sheila Collenette
joy on toast
I was going in to collect haversack extensions, I rode a motor bike, to go to Italy, to Florence and so on, to look at the museums and study the art there, just as an amateur, you know, just to see what they had. But on the way there a chap on a pushbike cut out in front of me, I braked, skidded, went head into a police car, went over the back, broke the base of my skull, my neck and my back. Fortunately they wouldn’t let me get up, otherwise I’d be paralysed for life; as it was, I was partially paralysed for a year and was put in one of these braces where you’re screwed in, and it did the trick because I was only, what, 21. Because of my interest in flowers I was reading an account by a woman called Heather Morrison, in the British Geographical Journal, where she climbed mount Kinabalu. I was lying in my bed, it was agonising to even think of walking down to our rose garden, I had such fierce headaches you know from the lumber puncture and all the things they do to you and I was reading her account of climbing the mountain and I said to Mama, ‘I’d love to go and do that.’ And there I was lying in bed in a neck brace, and she said, ‘Well why don’t you blow your savings and go?’ So I did. And I bought a little book, Teach Yourself Malay, and I taught myself, going out there, rudimentary Malay. And I went to see the local district officer in Jesselton and set about getting porters and carrying my baggage and started walking and trekked through Borneo for several years, met my husband to be on one of the treks. But I decided to collect plants because I had
joy on toast
a letter from Sir George Taylor – he was just George Taylor then – Keeper of Botany at the British Museum, and he’d heard there was a footloose, fancy-free young woman who was going out to Borneo and who was interested in natural history and plants and he asked me to come and collect for the British Museum, and oooh! I was chuffed! He said, ‘You must understand, I don’t want living plants,’ because I had visions of Ewardian cases with orchids in them and so on; he said, ‘we need Herbarium specimens.’ I said, ‘Herbarium, what’s a herbarium?’ He said, ‘Come on, I’ll show you.’ And he took me into the herbarium at the British Museum. I don’t know what its like now, but in the old days they had these wonderful camphorwood-like cupboards and draws, with a strong smell of paradichlorobenzene, which is what they use to protect the plants from insect destruction, and he pulled out two papers – it was a peony like plant from Uttar Pradesh, or one of these localities in India – showed me one and it was nicely laid out, the flower the petals and it had some leaves, but the label it just said Uttar Pradesh, it gave no altitude, no locality, no description of the plant, colour or anything of this sort, but it did have a number and the man’s name. And the other piece he showed me was of the same plant that had been collected complete with lower leaves and roots and it gave a very detailed description. And he said, ‘This is what I want, it doesn’t matter, you don’t need to know an orchid from a buttercup. If you see a flower you don’t recognise, sit down, describe it in a notebook, put
joy on toast
a little label on it, you know, that’s what we want.’ And that was my introduction on how to become a botanist. I just love flowers. I don’t go into the chemical side of it and their uses to mankind, and this sort of thing – to me they’re a source of beauty. Even the tiny ones, and I’m fascinated by their distribution. I’ve always been interested in wildlife, mainly in birds. My mother was very good with birds. She bred several birds that had never been bred in captivity before. My twin sister and I were sent out to collect spiders in jars to feed the nestlings. The trouble was my mother really was beautiful, and she had two, big, ugly daughters and she wanted boys. Never in the whole of her life did she ever say she loved us. I was brought up by nurses and governesses, and my twin sister too, a very, very strict thing, but at least the governesses were chosen for their love of wildlife, so I could find birds nests and I can identify all the British birds, the common ones, by song. Hardly anyone knows the difference between a Thrush and a Blackbird when they’re singing, its amazing, and yet they’re British. When I had lunch with the Queen I said, ‘Well what do I wear?’ And the chap said, ‘What do you normally wear to go out to lunch?’ Well, I didn’t go out to lunch. I lived in gumboots and corduroys and worked on the farm, cut the hedges by hand with shears and so on. So it was a great business going up to London and finding a little suit that was elegant, got second-hand shoes, because I’ve got wide
joy on toast
feet, from Lobs and they cost £25, which in those days was a fortune. I’m talking 1953. In my misspent youth I used to be a dab hand with a .22 rifle. I could shoot flying foxes out of the air with it and things like that, went on a jungle trip in Borneo and shot a crocodile. I had a mad boyfriend before I met my husband and we used to do 100 miles an hour on a Vincent HRD, which he’d had altered so it was a Black Shadow, and the police were well aware of what we were up to and they’d chase us. They were on little old Triumphs flogging along at 80 miles an hour, and we’d go into a roundabout at 70 and come out at a 100, that sort of thing, and then when he got home he’d switch the number plates, so we never did get caught. That was absolute joy on toast. My parents lived in Sissinghurst Court and Vita SackvilleWest, who was very well-known both for her writing and for her gardens, she lived at Sissinghurst Castle. She came to see my Mama. She used terrify us when we were children, because she was a great big, tall thin woman, with a long amber cigarette holder, with a big black sombrero and new market boots. She’d come and see Mama, and Mama kept, among other things, a big sort of outdoor cage with Budgerigars in it, who were always breeding. Vita said, ‘I don’t know how you get them to breed, come and help me’. So Mama went to look at them. Of course, the budgerigar is the easiest bird to sex – unlike African Grey Parrots, where
joy on toast
you have to have a wing feather and DNA tests and so on – of course the hen has a brownish sear over the beak and the cock has blue one. So Mama took one look at them and said, ‘They are all hens, I can let you have a cock.’ Mama was a bit of a business woman – she was know as Heimmerstein; we’d no Jewish connection, but she was definitely a bit careful – and Vita said, ‘I will carry on breeding without the cock.’ Which was a very wonderful response! I think she finally did get a cock, but not from Mama. Nature especially fills me with joy. Absolutely. Some of my most vivid memories are waking up in camp up in the mountains in Arabia and you’ve got heavy carpeted dew on the ground – it’s so beautiful – and, of course, all the rather weird bird songs that you get out there, very different to ours. Absolutely beautiful. When you were camping at night you’d hear the sand creaking. My driver, be it a pilot off duty or my driver, he used to sleep in the car, but I used to sleep outside and I’d always pull the sheet over my head so you couldn’t see my long hair. Bit nerve-racking – twice taken to prison at machine gun point. Cheap people who don’t understand what you’re doing. They think you’re spies. Coming back from a night out photographing Porcupine, there was a little Bedouin in a pick-up truck in front of us and on the side of the road were two particularly nicelooking pie dogs, semi-wild dogs. He swerved to hit them and severely damaged both and left them kicking at the side
joy on toast
of the road. A little further on there were four donkeys on a track, which was below the road. One of them came up onto the road and he deliberately hit it and broke his leg. And another dreadful, dreadful occasion I was staying in a little field camp, a USGS one, up in the mountains near the Aseer near Al Baha, and I went out, and I could hear a lot of buzzing and I followed the buzzing up a little side wadi and there was a little donkey. She was standing there with her legs bound together, she couldn’t lie down, and she was being eaten alive. It was absolutely appalling. All her legs were maggots, and there was just skin and bone, and she couldn’t lie down to die. Oh dear … When I got back to camp I asked the cook to take a knife to cut her bounds, so she could lie down, but he wouldn’t do it, he said it belonged to the chap up there and he couldn’t do it, it was against their principle. But for somebody to do that deliberately, he had no use for the donkey so he bound it and left it to die. I’m driven to look for plants mainly as a source of pleasure. I can see it all again.
Ins powerful weap
The more you know, Narrated
ide Man The most on in this world The first actual criminal act I committed was stealing the money for the Christmas party. I felt so bad about it, all these kids had been bringing in sixpences and shillings to save up and I nicked it all. Spent it on sweets and fucking coca cola. And two friends, who were only too glad to help me. It was a horrible thing to do. And that is one act, the only act in fact, that I am deeply ashamed of. And I canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t, but I would like to be able to put it right. But that act followed me for years.
the more powerful you are. by Geoffrey Trendall
I have to be the centre of attention. I need to be noticed. I don’t know whether they feel it, or see it, or hear it, but there’s something about me that people see. This sounds very conceited: this was in the late seventies. I knew a woman. She worked at University College hospital and she was a bit older than me. And she told me this and she said “I’ve met sexually attractive men in my life”, she said “I’ve never met anybody like you”. She said, “you radiate sex”. She said “and when you walk in that pub”, she said “women feel it”. I’m sixty nearly. I still find women of twenty-five, twenty-seven, thirty, still attracted to me. And I find it a little bit unnerving. Yesterday, I went up to Kessington, where I previously lived from ’86 to ’90. I saw a friend that I last saw in Thailand in July, and another friend I hadn’t seen in sixteen or seventeen years. And other people I hadn’t seen in sixteen or seventeen years. And yesterday afternoon from twelve o’clock until half past six I was with people that knew me.
Wondered where I’d been, what I’d been doing. The attention was on me, which is something that I like. You know people were asking, people who didn’t know me, were saying “who the fuck’s he?” I like to be seen as a success. Rather than the failure that everybody believed that I would be. Even myself. If there’s a major fraud in this country, my name will come up. I know this. It’s the same as a major break-in , a burglary. This is not an armed robbery; this is a burglary. There’s a difference. The British police know that there’s a hand full of fucking people in this country who are capable, because you need intelligence, you need intelligence and you need information, and you need an information source. All these robberies will always have an inside man. Without an inside man these crimes are not fucking possible. You have to have an inside man. I’m not a violent person and I don’t have a violent nature. But ignorance and arrogance will make me
extremely volatile. An action causes a reaction, and if you act then you have to deal with the reaction that follows, despite what it is. If it is incarceration or whatever, regret doesn’t fucking help. You have to deal with it. You know regretting is not going to make it any better. And you have to look forward. You know, you’re sitting in a jail, there’s no good regretting it that you’re there, doesn’t help anybody. You’ve got to look forward, to get out, do something else. I think basically people are good, but there’s always an underlying motive for anybody’s actions. Greed is a prime motivator. People by nature want more than they have and they want more because they’re greedy. A criminal in the eyes of the public is a person who is a wrong doer; quite often in people’s minds, an evil person. I’ve committed many, many criminal acts and I’ve done them for many, many reasons but the motivation has always been money. I like expensive things. I like good food, I like good
clothes, I like nice hotels. And in order to have these I’ve found it nearly impossible to get this by leading what society would call ‘a totally legal life’. I will commit criminal acts if, and when, necessary. But I will emphasise a point here: never with any physical damage to anybody. If the need arose, which in fact is quite likely to very shortly in the future, I will be put in the position where I am going to have to give up a very flamboyant lifestyle, and live a mundane fucking life. And I won’t do that.
An Event in the Village Narrated by Frank Rigby
It was an event that couldn’t be missed as far as I was concerned. I mean I wasn’t really interested in pop music at all. I just decided to go for a long weekend and we filmed some of it. I mean I had a wife and family of course at that stage. I probably went there on the Thursday evening before it started on the Friday and probably went home Monday. Probably had a long weekend. I don’t think people knew what to expect. Nothing like this ever happened in the village before. I mean, I was so excited about it. I think it amazed everyone in the village. It was just some guy who, I don’t know, who lived in the middle of the village, who, I don’t know, I don’t know, I just don’t know how he started it all. I mean I left the village at 19, I forget now, 1958. I’m a very nostalgic person actually. You know, I can’t go back to those days but… I enjoyed my time in those days I think. I went to Bickershaw regular ’cause my mother lived in the village still. Of course I regularly visited my mother at that time, I mean it was just across the road from where the festival happened really. Not too far away.
But I bought this camera actually.This cine camera. I liked to, rather than film bits and pieces, I always like to make a feature of things. I just enjoyed filming it, it was just a bit of a record. It transformed the village completely. I mean, it’s only a small village, never had anything like this at all. So I couldn’t miss it. Some of the pop festivals didn’t have a very good name I don’t think, at that particular time. I’d never been to anything like this before so I had to go and see it. My son was only about, he was only 11 at the time, but he was sort of getting interested in music as well, so... It wasn’t the music I was interested in at all. I was in the Labour Club the day before it started ’cause we went up on the, must’ve gone up on the Thursday, and the police were in, we were listening about all the Mods and the Rockers, whatever they were called at that time, coming up from Bristol and what not. And they were expecting trouble. They didn’t get a lot of trouble. From some of the motorcyclists there was a bit of trouble. The ‘Hell’s Angels’ were a real rough group at the time, the motorcycle people, and I know the police were tracking
them coming over the country, and they were the only problem that they had with the festival, really. I think it were just a bit of rioting and things like that. But I wasn’t involved, it’s only what I’ve read since. Everything was, very good and a lot of people in the village thought it was great actually. I would say I didn’t go between midnight and 6am or anything like that. The Grateful Dead were the top band and I didn’t know them at that time, you know. I think they were recognised for drugs and, trouble making and things like that. But they were supposed to be giving them free reign on the last day or something? I think they call them flower people and what not – hippies! They were a fascination for us actually, I mean, you always used to think they were, trouble-makers but, there was very little trouble at the, the festival. That’s as far as I can remember. They lost a lot of money actually by people, sort of getting in free. You could leave the event. I went back home for lunch and, something like that. I don’t know whether it was recorded on film or not very much, you know, and I can’t remember seeing
anyone else taking any footage. I loved the village as a child. I still do, although it’s changed quite a bit these days. I mean, I don’t go back because I have no family there now. It really was something. I think they threw open the gates on the last day. For something like this to happen in Bickershaw, it was great. I never realised that these bands were so big at the time, you know, so well known. It was the event I went for more than the pop music. I was never into pop music at all. I mean, it transformed the village so, so much. That was part of the fascination I think for myself you know, I mean, even before the event, I’d wandered around the village and taken photographs of various areas and, because, I mean, towards the end of the coal mining era the village was absolutely surrounded by coal mines and my bedroom window – I looked onto a pit heap. And we thought everybody was quite friendly, you know. I mean it was such a change in that village, really, for that weekend, that it was just an occasion that I couldn’t miss.
The Documentary Imperative Narrated by Rupert Cox
Because the debates have been so focused on the Documentary Imperative in the whole history of making films in anthropology and parts of anthropology – whether that be through what anthropologists do themselves, or through what TV companies do, in bringing anthropologists in – its got dead-ended because of the debates about the reality out there, that we hope, or suppose, that the camera’s going to capture – capture is always the term that is always used in some way. And then with this material that you’ve got, you’re going to have a body of information that you can go back, and look at again and again, that’s going to reveal new things to you. It’s going to be a record of something that may be disappearing and it’s just going to be a document. It’s going to be there. But the debate about that, and what it is that you have, and how it is that you got it, has become, as I say, deadended because the people who were the subjects of the enterprise have, you know, quite reasonably, and we now say obviously, asked questions about what it’s meant to be filmed in that way and what happens to the material, once it’s been filmed and what assumptions are made about the people on the basis of that, that film.
Which is all about positioning. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s all about the politics and the ethics of the people involved and the people who go there with all of their presumptions as, and this is a fairly cynical view, representatives of institutions, and certain systems of knowledge, and impose themselves upon others. Thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s meant that the whole question, now that those people who were the subjects have access to that material, and make films for themselves and about themselves as well, has been made very suspect. Particularly when that original material had had this status as a form of knowledge, as a document. And as I say, the whole question about the positioning of the people involved, and the relationships of the makers of the films, and the subjects of the films has meant that once you start recognising that those people who are the subjects have rights, have histories that arenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t acknowledged in the way that these films have been made and used, then eventually you end up giving the cameras to them and asking them to make the films for, and about, themselves. So the anthropologist becomes a kind of facilitator and you end up encouraging indigenous film making. Or you end up looking at what it is that they make anyway and otherwise as films for and about themselves, or what videos they watch, or what films they consume. So the whole thing becomes a subject of study, so you either enable them to do it for themselves or you treat it as something that you look at as a subject. So this is all still talking in intellectual terms. What that leaves aside is the question of what you might then
be able to do yourself as an anthropologist, or even just merely as a film maker, in going to the kinds of places anthropologists have gone to, and are interested in, and using a camera to film the kinds of subjects that anthropologists are interested in. And I think where, if you like, the artistic aspect of film making makes anthropology possible again, is by thinking, not of just the positioning of the people who are involved, but actually of what the film is doing as a medium. What the image is in itself. What does the image do? And that really is a philosophical question rather than a political or an ethical question. And I think itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s in thinking through from a different perspective about how images operate in and of themselves, the quality of images. So that, for example, when we go to watch a film, any film, why is it that we come away with certain images stuck in our minds? What is it about the composition of those images that leaves that impact? How do images work? Maybe that has something to do with the cinematic effect, in the environment within which you watch these images, of course. But itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s also something to do with the composition of the images in themselves. And thinking about that and what makes images work in that way, is what I now, more personally, feel enthusiastic and invigorated about. What is it thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s going on, that leaves an impression on people, that they take away. Such that then you might think through how you would use images yourself as a way to represent that perception and understanding of people to images, of the power of images.
That’s all a question about images, of course, and there’s other questions about sound as well. The other thing that I’m interested in personally is in the relationship of sound, not just voice but also environmental sound, in the creation of documentary, and traditionally this is very clearly based on sound illustrating the image; it’s subordinate to the image. And being led by voice, by, if you like, stereotypically the interview. There is a different tradition, which is adjacent and, if you like, unrealised, really, in the academy that comes from the continental school, if you like, the continental school of film making, from people like Buñuel, Alain Resnais, Chris Marker and these are all people who, in different ways, are interested in the conjunction of images, one with another, but images and sounds in order to provoke different understandings than the ones that you would normally expect, which are illustrative. So that the narration of sound following the image in a standard documentary is fairly instrumental, and their work is the kind of work which makes you aware of the craft of what you’re actually seeing, as you see it. So it is a reflective element and potentially that’s what makes anthropologists uncomfortable, because then the exposition of the craft becomes more important than what’s actually being said, becomes some kind of exercise in irony or in artistic expression, and people get quite concerned and worried about that. If you’re thinking outside of text and the visual medium, working with sound even, aurally, the ability to experiment also means
the ability to fail, and to present a project that has failure built in, as a significant possibility, is something that is generally an anathema to funding bodies and to your department, and your place of work. Universities don’t like to have a project that has an outcome that might require significant time and effort, that might not actually work. And therefore its very difficult to find the space to begin to have the opportunity to do the kind of work that is experimental, that’s not merely within the documentary tradition. I say merely, because you always have to have an eye for those ethical and political concerns, because not to do so would be irresponsible. But at the same time there is so much more, in terms of the possibilities of the medium, that can be realised by thinking about this adjacent tradition and all of the possibilities that flow from that. It is experimental. It may fail and people may not get it, you know. Perhaps either as a kind of analysis, and they may not get it as a piece of art, and for those reasons, amongst others, I’d be very nervous about describing myself as either as an artist or as a documentarian, or even as an anthropologist. How is it anthropologists get to do such interesting things? But when they write about it you have no real sense of that. There is an obvious answer which is that, you know, they don’t want to be merely travel writers or journalists and that they feel they have a responsibility, that they take seriously, to the people that they are with. And so there are all these competing tensions and I think that for that reason anthropologists often don’t come
across much like people the public would expect them to be, or as the image that kind of excited me when I got started. I got started with all of the kind of romanticism with a much earlier and, now much darker, kind of anthropology because it was tied up with all these colonial circumstances; white men going and doing exciting things in far off places. Things go on, whether or not you’ve got a camera at hand. Things go on that are never necessarily repeated, and you feel, or hope, that they will be. But they very rarely are. And if they are, of course, it’s not in the same way. So either you hope that you’ve got your notebook and you get it down, so that you can remember, recall more vividly, more accurately, what it is that happened. And a camera would be an extension of that, and I think becomes an extension of that often in that in the way that people have been trained to think about using media in anthropology. A tape recorder could be a surrogate for the camera, and as a device that reproduces the moment as it unfolds, it acts as a record, as an aide de memoir at the very least. But of course, you’re either lucky or very, very skilled to be able to have that moment unfold, and not only to record it, but to actually make it something more than that, to make it something that’s moving, something that has that sense of excitement, or can encourage multiple interpretations every time you come back to it, amongst different people who may not be anthropologists, who may not know what this is. So that Documentary Imperative is there because if you don’t get
it what would you otherwise ever have? Could you, in recalling it, do so accurately? And accuracy is part of what it is that you’re trying to be there for. The phrase that defines the method, and is famously ambiguous, is ‘participant observation’. But how do you participate and observe at the same time? Observation in a Western tradition is really thought of as part of a set of skills that are generally quite separate from participation; you’re standing back. You have distance, you have perspective. You maintain that, in order to have that ability to document things, without the subjective feelings of being caught up in what’s going on. Participation, on the other hand, is again a common experience in fieldwork, its easy to feel about what it is that you are doing, and where it is that you are, and who it is that you’re with, but in a very different way. So the dilemma and the challenge is to both be within and without simultaneously, to be betwixt and between, and holding a camera in your hands makes that obviously difficult. People have therefore talked about the participatory camera. The camera that enables, the camera that is also used in a way that’s within what’s going on, rather than standing back and looking from afar. The dilemma that has persisted in anthropology, in the sense of documentary, is that – what gives the image its documentary value is that it is just in the raw, that it is something that has unfolded before the camera without your intervention. But when it’s presented it needs to be surrounded and supported,
and sometimes even I’d say smothered, by text, by people telling you what it is you are seeing, and how it is that it should be understood. That is mostly perceived as a dilemma and as an indication of what’s not possible, rather than as a challenge, or as a provocation for different ways of working. For the most part, the practice and the concern has been to acknowledge that if the people that you’re making your piece of work about can see themselves within it, and recognise themselves within it, and at the same time you’re creating something that is understood as knowledge within the anthropological academy, then that’s a success. If you can reveal the general from the particular, make a film about something quite, perhaps, unassuming but reveal these larger, wider truths, these more general structures of society in these particular circumstances that you’re interested in, then that’s a benchmark for the success of anthropology. For an anthropologist to think about filmmaking and the use of any media, in terms of its operation as an intellectual way of thinking through certain kinds of issues or topics, tends to be in terms of the positioning of all the people involved, rather than actually what’s going on as you look, listen, press your buttons, move around, make the work, and then of course go back and edit it all as well. Editing is essentially the intellectual process, particularly in the way that anthropologists have tended to work or been able to
work with other media other than writing. So they’ve had this Documentary Imperative, if you like, the sense of urgency to get stuff down, have it recorded as it happens and/or to leave things alone as they happen, not to to interfere, to let the camera roll. So, unfortunately, its sometimes often the case, they create an enormous amount of footage which they bring back, tends to be medium shot, tends to be fairly uncut. Lots and lots, and lots of stuff. So the intellectual process then is really what happens in the editing studio, partly as a consequence of the way that they’re working, initially. And that intellectual process, though, has tended to be a fairly mechanical one, in the way it’s been analysed. In other words, it’s not really thought through as an intellectual process. Anthropological audiences don’t tend to require a lot of entertainment in the sense of what they expect from film, although of course they hope for much more than they often see. The requirement is not as high as it obviously would be for any other audience. But entertainment is really another way also, of asking about this sense of the image being able to give you an interpretation that’s more than that which might even be meant by the creator. An interpretation that might change over time, change with each time you look at the image. That ability of the image to stay with you, and to provoke a continuous process of thought, is not something that we are very comfortable with necessarily within anthropology because you want it to mean what you want to say.
Jordan Baseman would like to thank: The Alchemy Project, The Manchester Museum, The University of Manchester, Mike Ashworth, Bryony Bond, Stephen Booth, Suzanne Grieve, Jeff Horsley, Lindsey Loughtman, Bob O’Connor, Ron MacGregor, John Miller, Leander Wolstenholme and all of the Botany volunteers; Bickershaw Festival, Jeremy Beadle, Grateful Dead, Country Joe and the Fish, Captain Beefheart; Louise Clark; Sheila Collenette; Steve Connor; Rupert Cox; Daniel; Vincent Fanzo; Clare Griffiths, Matt’s Gallery London, Robin Klassnik; North West Film Archive, Jo Abley, Mark Bodner, Emma Cocroft, Brendan Day, Nick Gladden, Marion Hewitt, Carol Hubbard, Anna Lupton, Geoff Senior, Charlie Windmill, David Barrett, Lucy Head; Amanda Ravetz; Danielle Ridard; Frank Rigby; Geoffrey Trendall; Diego Velazquez Special Thanks to Carolyn Thompson
Published by Alchemy, The Manchester Museum, The University of Manchester www.alchemy.manchester.museum Alchemy is supported by Arts Council England. Photographs by Jordan Baseman. The texts are transcripts of films made by Jordan Baseman during his Alchemy fellowship 2006 to 2008. © the artist and the authors isbn: 978-0-9558744-0-6 Design: aw @ www.axisgraphicdesign.co.uk Print: Andrew Kilburn Print Services