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Oliver Town



I DREAMED that one had died in a strange place Near no accustomed hand, And they had nailed the boards above her face, The peasants of that land, Wondering to lay her in that solitude, And raised above her mound A cross they had made out of two bits of wood, And planted cypress round; And left her to the indifferent stars above Until I carved these words: She was more beautiful than thy first love, But now lies under boards.

-W.B.YEATS 1893



Embracing a variety of media – principally photography, but also drawing, animation, performance and sculpture – the work of Robin Rhode uses simple, ephemeral devices (soap, charcoal, paint and chalk) to comment on urban youth culture, colonialism and socio-economic issues in a simple, witty and subtly effective way. His work often uses the street as his canvas or his backdrop, alluding to hip-hop and the role of the graffiti artist, and he often operates within the gritty aesthetic associated with that culture. Rhode’s work, however transient it may seem, involves creating a kind of narrative that contains

several stages of erasure and redrawing with the trace of his actions remaining visible throughout. There is also a pervasive mood of failure, while his persistent gestures toward ludicrous and apparently unachievable goals are as poignant as they are humorous. Rhode draws a skipping rope and cajoles a room of people to engage in a game of Double-Dutch with him, or he plays an upside-down game of snooker that only he can win – the challenger is absent and the game defies logic and gravity. For another work, Rhode fashioned a bike out of soap, rendering the object comically futile. While his work calls to mind early silent

film, stop-start animation and flip books, Rhode’s alter ego – a recurring feature – evokes a character from nineteenth and early twentieth-century American minstrel shows and the exploits of Buster Keaton. Rhode’s practice straddles both the recent past, when one only needed a ball or a yo-yo in your pocket for amusement, and the constant, overwhelming stimuli of the present day. Rhode was born in Cape Town in 1976 and raised in Johannesburg, graduating from the South African School of Film, Television and Dramatic Arts, Johannesburg in 2000. He has been included in

several notable group exhibitions such as How Latitudes Become Forms, Walker Art Centre, MN (2003), New Photography, MoMA, NY (2005), The Experience of Art, Italian Pavilion, 51st Venice Biennale, Venice, IT (2005) and Prospect.1 New Orleans, The New Orleans Biennial, LA (2008). Rhode has also been invited to participate in the 2012 Sydney Biennale. The Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany staged Robin’s first major museum solo show Walk Off in 2007, followed by a his first UK institutional solo show, Who Saw Who at the Hayward Gallery in 2008. The artist currently lives and works in Berlin, Germany.

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Wall Art.

The first development piece we created was a short 20 second video based around the first line of our chosen poem. We decided to focus upon the work of our artist Robin Rhodes and so the idea was to make the text within the video broken and full of imperfections to build up more of an atmosphere within the piece. Another important factor that influenced the style and development of this piece was the shared characteristics between our artist and poet such as the unfamiliar situations in which both their work is set and the mystery that this evokes. To

do this we decided to create what is essentially a stop motion piece, by photographing close up’s of walls across Bristol which prevented the audience from being able to associate with a specific place, so that every word we chalked on the wall would be unfamiliar to them. Another factor that we decided to explore within this piece was the idea of fragmenting and breaking up the poem, in order to prevent it from being a perfect free flowing piece. We felt this would work well because this is again reflective of the style and methods used by Rhodes,

which again just strengthened the idea of our piece being a response to his own work. This piece was a very successful way of conveying both the narrative of the poem and the style of our artist, however I think that if we were to continue this style for the entirety of the video it would quickly become boring and the attention of the viewers lost. I also think that further down the line it would be a great constrain on the development our our piece, as we would become stuck and confined by this style of working.

Stills taken from the first development piece highlighting the unfamiliar situations created.


Ink & Water

The second video we have created was relatively basic in style, it was a simple piece documenting the words being written and removed, but this was very important and the piece in my eyes was successful. This piece is another exploration piece testing out different ways in which we can create the text within our video, it was heavily focused upon hand written factors and the ways in which we could some how remove what we had written and re-write over the top of it. The aim was to build up layers and layers of text in homage to the work of Rhodes whilst also representing the layers within the poem in terms of the

emotions and the back story behind it. The initial tests we did exploring the ways in which we could mix the ink with the water were relatively successful, because having tried to replicate the methods used in the Water&Ink video we decided that it was alright if we were going to change the paper we were writing on, but if we wanted to layer up each sentence of the poem in the same place it would become illegible after the second line. Because of this we decided to completely wash the page with water, what this did was remove most of the ink, leaving behind

just a pale trace of the previous sentence which meant that building up the poem would be much easier and look a lot better in terms of legibility and effectiveness. We decided to go with this technique and set up a simple rig which allowed us to record the action from a birds eye view so as to get the hand in shot as well as the writing. The final cut was successful, as the piece demonstrated how we could use live action to create the motion whilst still having a weird surreal environment to base it in. This piece started the fixation with the abstract qualities that working with water produced.

I dreamed that one had died in a strange place; Near no accustommed hand...

Screenshots from secondary development.


This third test is very much image based, because we feel that the imagery within our motion piece has fallen behind the text and so we decided to focus upon it to try and film some more engaging footage. We decided from the last test that we would like to focus upon water and the surreal dream world that could be built up around it. Ultimately we would like to film some action in a swimming pool where we would be able to get two central characters involved

to help develop the story and narrative, however just as a test of whether water gives us the kind of visual we are looking for we decided to create a short piece by filming the fountains in central Bristol. We didn’t set out with any specific narrative or visual that we had in mind we literally wanted to go straight in and collect a series of footage that we could then edit down in to a single piece. The only constriction we tried to set was we wanted the camera facing upwards so that all that was

visible throughout the video was the water and the sky. This testing process was very successful and useful to us as it gave us a direction of where we would like to take the direction because the effects that we had been able to create simply by recording some footage in a fountain gave us the confidence that if we were able to push the idea and introduce some characters in to the video we could really push ourselves.

This screenshot is an example of how we used premiere to manipulate and mirror the video we produced in order to create a surreal motion piece as the water appears to open and close around the text, presenting to use certain qualities that we simply could not reproduce in Imovie.


These are all screenshots taken from the original footage we collected at the swimming pool. It was clear to us just from these that the pool was the perfect location to get both the beautiful visuals and eery atmosphere we wanted to create in our final production.

This was the first time we were able to get in to a swimming pool and do some recording to put towards our final motion piece. Our idea was to simply get in and record some basic action shots focusing on a male character masked and dressed in the pool. What we wanted from these shots was to build up a collection that we could use to put together a rough cut and final piece. We were given an hour in the pool to do all the recording we needed, so we had a pretty basic idea of the kind of scenes we were looking to record but we were fully aware of the fact that we couldn’t control exactly what footage we got working with such a dynamic media.

This test was a very important and a key stage of the motion piece development. Our idea up to this point had been very much dependent upon the success or failure of this test as it was the pivot point in dictating which route we followed in our final production.

The Swimming Pool.

One factor that we were still unsure of at this stage was how to incorporate the text in to the moving image work, because it was trying to work out whether to use hand written text that could then be worked in to the video or whether to simply go with a more subtle digitally edited font that could be easily placed on top of the video.

Exploring typography and video manipulation.


I DREAMED that one had died in a strange place Near no accustomed hand, And they had nailed the boards above her face, The peasants of that land, Wondering to lay her in that solitude, And raised above her mound A cross they had made out of two bits of wood, And planted cypress round; And left her to the indifferent stars above Until I carved these words: She was more beautiful than thy first love, But now lies under boards.

-W.B.YEATS 1893

Production stills from final filming.

A Dream of Death.

The final production was a long and complicated procedure as every detail had to be considered and worked on until we had achieved what we believed to be perfection. The process started with our final filming session which involved filming the scenes containing the female character as well as some longer more considered footage for the male. In total we filmed over 30 different clips in the hope of capturing the perfect shots for our piece. The main bulk of the final production however was using the footage we had to create 90

seconds worth of continuous footage which both told the story and complimented the text that it was representative of. From what we had learnt during the development stage of this project we decided to go with the idea of using a combination of split and single screen videos to highlight and emphasise the important stages in the piece. In the end after careful consideration we decided that the most effective method of presenting the words within the film would to use subtle digitally created overlay, as this allowed us to create a subtle and gentle

feels to the words. We felt that this reflected the way in which you would read Yeats poem and the feeling of loss and emptiness that it evokes whilst it is being read. Within the film we have also tried to time the lines of the poem to appear as you would read them which helped build the connection between the poem and the motion piece. Taking influence from the work of Rhodes we tried to keep the actual video footage relatively raw and fractured like the animations that he has produced in the past. We also wanted the surreal unfamiliar location of the

water to reflect the ideas behind Rhodes work, in particular his idea about the mystery behind the location adding unintentional depth to a piece of work. In terms of the sound within the piece we decided to use a combination of the fractured erratic sounds produced by the pool with a subtle orchestral song playing in the background. In my opinion the piece has been very successful and represents W.B.Yeats poem perfectly whilst reflecting the style and ideals behind the work of our artist Robin Rhodes.

Opening scene.

On this page are a series of stills taken from our final motion piece, documenting the development of the story and highlighting how we have individually edited the text to fit them with the motion connected with them.

00:16 Screenshot.

“A strange place.”

00:30 Screenshot.

“Thy first love.”

Throughout the final production process there was a lengthy investigation in to the best way of creating the words that we were to incorporate in to the motion piece. Alot of this process was focused upon whether or not we could use a hand written font to make the whole experience more personal and to reflect the delicate relationship between Yeat’s and the woman within the poem.

Closing scene.


A publication,documenting the creation of our 90 second words in motion piece. by Oli Town & Joss Murphy - - j...

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