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1.1 Design Literacy Charlie Behrens

Visual Research Summary

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DESIGN LITERACY

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Brief One —Input Manipulations of Circular Form Adventures in Datamoshing Data Bleeding via The Circle Cultural & Contextual Meanings Sacred Geometry & Celtic Spirals Folkloric Britain in Film From The Wicker Man to the Oss

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The Last of England Decoding the Non-Linear Narrative

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Brief Two — Output Experimentation towards Outcome

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Final Outcome Question The Answer is Yes

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References Everything Read, Clicked & Watched

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BRIEF ONE — INPUT 1.1 — THE FORM WITHOUT CONCEPT At the beginning of the project, a series of tests were carried out using various methods to explore the potential of the circle, purely in terms of its form.

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TEST 1.1 — What effect will dropping ink covered, magnetic ballbearings from differing heights have on sheets of newsprint?

A

30cm

60cm

90cm

Analysis:

Potential for Development:

The higher the ball is dropped from, the more likely it is to clump together with the other magnetic balls, resulting in more concentrated areas of ink on the paper.

/Other types of ball could be employed /Different paperstocks could be tested /Different ink viscosities could be used /Angles that balls can be dropped from could be tested.

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TEST 2.1 — What happens when a simple .jpeg image of a black circle is corrupted at code level, in a number of different ways using the Decim8 app?

Decim8 is an iPhone camera app which hacks images at code level. It It was created by developer Kris Collins who felt a need to reject the ubiquitous “retro” aesthetic which dominates so many camera apps. While most users of the software use it generate photographic experiments, images not taken by the camera can be imported via Dropbox. The app contains numerous presets which hack the images very differently.

Via a series of presets within the app, a simple image of a black circle on a white background can be hacked in multiple ways depending on the preset. Everytime each preset is applied, the circle is hacked differently. It is impossible to achieve the same hack twice. Hack presets can be combined infinitely to create new forms. I wanted to investigate how far awat from the circular form the app could push the image.

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THE “MOTOR” PRESET

• Makes hundreds of horizontal shifts to the form of varying width • Multiple pixel-thin lines are generated, which mimic a sense of motion.

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THE “SIGSTOP” PRESET

• Makes two to six horizontal shifts to the form • Adds colour to the form and background • Creates positive/negative inversions within the horizontal shifts

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THE “59.94” PRESET

• Separates linear sections of the form • Often, but not always, these sections are overlapped • The image generated is always symmetrical • Any secton which is pushed off the edges of the image reappears inside the image.

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THE “VORTRON REDUX” PRESET

• Often radical distortions to the form • Sometimes elements of the circle remain • Sections of the circle are shifted inwards or outwards • In rare cases, positive and negative shifts are apparant • All edge distortions, though varying in size, are at 45, 90 or 180 degree angles.

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THE “L255” PRESET

• Radical distortions which often utterly destroy the form • At times a fractal-like quality is achieved. • A strong emphasis on diagonals

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THE “BRAINF3EDER” PRESET

• In some instances the form becomes a bulbous mass • In some instances the edge of the circle seems to be multiplied in a fan-like pattern • In some instances an island of negative space with both straight and curved edges appears within the distorted form.

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Test 2.2 — What happens when these hacks are combined?

+

=

+

=

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“SIGSTOP” + “MOTOR”

• The positive/negative colourbanding of Sigstop is combined with the jagged, “speedlines” of Motor

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+

+

=

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A Analysis: Although the effects can be interesting, the .jpeg hacks have been designed by the developer of the app so it’s hard to know where the changes are occurring within its’ code, other than by the name of the effect plugin. It would be more interesting to investigate digital manipulation in a more malleable way.

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TEST 3.1 — What happens when a hand-made filter with circular holes is placed inside a film camera? How will the circles frame the content of the image?

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This was a very simple experiment to test how these circles would frame objects, signage and people if the camera was used various places such as the Ridley Road Market in Dalston, Sainsbury’s Dalston and Hampstead Heath.

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An anomaly in the camera’s winding mechanism caused two circles in this exposure to overlap. This led to an idea for the next roll of film.

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TEST 3.2 — What happens when the film is run through the camera twice?

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Analysis: Although these tests teach us about how the camera in question (Lomo LC-A) handles light and that there can be compelling chance in the way that the circle acts as a framing device, this experiment has left little interest in further development.

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Adventures in Datamoshing “Datamoshing is the practice of using intentionally corrupted digital video as a form of art.”

A

When video is digitally compressed into formats such as mp4, avi or mov, certain compromises are made in order to keep file sizes down. The areas of the screen where there is no change in motion, such as an interior background, are not repeaed for every frame of the clip. So only the talking character (for example) will change every frame. Every 25 or so frames within a fixed camera angle, a “keyframe” is generated, which totally refreshes every element on screen. A keyframe is also generated whenever a scene or camera angle changes.

A

Glitches, or “artifacts” occur when these keyframes get lost in the conversion after uploading to the internet or when a browser or media player is running slowly and fails to refresh the keyframes. This is when we see the movement from the next scene distorting the last frame of the previous scene.

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Test 4.1: What happens when filmed footage of bouncy balls bouncing from different heights against a white background is datamoshed with a still image?

A

A

Initially we see the bouncing balls leave trails of the white background behind them as they bounce — then the grey, everchanging background noise causes the image to shimmer — in a manner akin to a moving watercolour painting.

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Test 4.2: What happens when the image of the bouncy balls in inverted, minimising contrast?

A The totality of the contrast renders the black background irrelevent to the resulting image — all we are left with is a visual record of where the balls have bounced.

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3 Balls — 60cm

A

A

A 3 Balls — 30cm

3 Balls — 90cm

The results against a black background when three balls are dropped from differing heights. When the balls become slower moving, the trails left behind become smoother and less pixellated.

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Test 4.3: What happens when a simple motion graphic of a series of concentric expanding circles is rendered at different opacities to test the resistance of a test card image in a datamosh?

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A This is an example of when the datamosh is carried out with a circle opacity of 50%. The results of the other tests are on the following pages.

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5 secs

15 secs

25 secs

35 secs

45 secs 10%

20%

30%

40%

50%

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5 secs

15 secs

25 secs

35 secs

45 secs 60%

70%

80%

90%

100%

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BRIEF ONE — INPUT CULTURAL/CONTEXTUAL MEANINGS Feedback from the formal element of the brief coerced me to start from scratch and explore the cultural and contextual meaning of the shape whilst forgetting about the datamosh. Key Questions: What does a circle mean? How can these meanings translate into art? How have these meanings been applied in film?

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THE MONAD

“The greek term for the rules represented by the circle is Monad — from the root menein, “to be stable” and monas, “oneness.” Ancient mathematical philosophers referred to the monad as:

THE SEED THE ESSENCE THE BUILDER THE FOUNDATION UNITY

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THE PENTAD ACCORDING TO PYTHAGOREANS

Pythagoreans considered the pentagram to be a symbol of perfection and labelled the five points or angles with the letters UGIEIA, combining EI into one letter. The letters labelling the angles are the first letters of the Greek words for the elements.

U G I EI A

WHUDOR (WATER) GAIA (EARTH) IDEA (FORM/IDEA) or HIERON (DIVINE/HOLY THING) HEILE (SUN’S WARMTH/HEAT) AER (AIR)

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Giovanni di Paolo shows a cosmos that is divided into several circles or heavens: the sun, moon and planets, the fixed stars, the primum mobile that regulated the motion of all the spheres beneath it, and the Empyrean heaven, the home of God and the angels.

References: Medieval geometers saw the compass as a non-literal symbol for the eye of God. It’s legs represented the shafts of light and grace beaming down to earth from heaven.

The Secret Code by Priya Hemenway Sacred Geometry by Miranda Lundy 47


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CELTIC SPIRALS

The triple spiral or triskele is an ancient symbol found on a number of Irish Megalithic and Neolithic sites, most notably inside the Newgrange passage tomb (c. 3200 B.C.), on the entrance stone, and on some of the curbstones surrounding the mound. What the symbol meant to the pagans who built Newgrange and other monuments is unknown, but it is believed by many to be an ancient symbol of pre-Celtic and Celtic beliefs. Mythological triads consist of three entities interrelated in some way (life, death, rebirth, for example) and are

usually associated with one another or appear together. In Irish mythology, Brigit or Brighid (“exalted one”), along with her two sisters (also called Brighid), is considered a classic Celtic Triple Goddess. As one of the most popular goddesses worshipped by the Celtic peoples, including the druids, many of her stories and symbology survive in the persona of Saint Brigid. In the living traditions, whether seen as goddess or saint, she is largely associated with the home and hearth and is a favorite of both Pagans and Christians. 48


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IDEA: FOLKLORIC BRITAIN IN FILM TYPOLOGY EXAMINING FOLK, RELIGION & PAGANISM FILM

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THE WICKER MAN (FEATURE) UK 1972 Directed by: Robin Hardy Written by: Anthony Shaffer Protography: Harry Waxman Production company: British Lion Pictures

This cult film tells the story of a naïve police officer, Howie, who travels from the Scottish mainland to the Isle of Avalon (literally “Island of Apples”) to search of a missing schoolgirl. His devout Catholicism is at odds with the Islanders practising paganism. By the end of the film, he “eventually learns that he has been a fool, and must suffer the fool’s fate: he will be sacrificed, in his role as king (representative of the law), fool (which he clearly is) and virgin (he is reserving sexual activity until he is married... That sacrifice is burning to death, inside the Wicker Man”

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The origins of The Wicker Man itself can be traced back to Caeser’s accounts of the Druids during The Gallic Wars. He describes a ritual in which large wicker effegies, divided into compartments, were filled with grains, animals, and sometimes humans (usually prisoners). It was then burned along with it’s contents as an offering to the sun Gods... The burning of a human effigy is intended to create a spirit messenger — to forge a link between the celbrant and forces that are usually beyond its control. As part of the Mayday festival, it was presumed that a bigger sacrifice such as a human would further appease the gods — potentially leading to a healthy harvest come the autumn. The sacrifices were burned because the energy of fire was connected with the sun — the bringer of light — often the image with whom God was identified. For some it was the fire of inner change and transformation — the quest for knowledge and power.. For the inhabitants of Summerisle, it was a Beltane rite of purification — a cleansing.

Above: The Wicker Collosus of the Druids — a 19th century copy of an engraving that appeared in 1676.

[Reference: The Wicker Man: The Return of the Pagan World by Philip Coppens]

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OSS OSS WEE OSS UK 1953 Directed by: Alan Lomax Photography: George Pickow Production company: Folk Films

Shot on 16mm in super-saturated colour, this sixteen minute time-capsule captures the Mayday festival as it was (and is) celebrated in Padstow, Cornwall. “Oss Oss Wee Oss” is a celebratory cry — rather like “hip-hip-hooray” which is chanted by the young and old of Padstow during the festival at the fertility-giving “Oss”. The “Oss” in question is a large hobbyhorse which cavorts around Padstow, dancing to accordion music and covering women with it’s black outfit to make them fertile — described by Lomax as a “sexy, savage springtime rite”. The origins of the festival are unknown but the parallels between the pagan Mayday traditions depicted in The WIcker Man — as a springtime fertility celebration — are apparant. It has also been suggested that the Oss could be connected to Epona — an ancient Celtic horse deity — as well as West African influences thanks to the Cornish sailors’ exposure to those cultures. 52


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THE FLORA FADDY FURRY DANCE DAY UK 1989 Directed by: Richard Philpott Photography: Richard Philpott Production company: Zooid Films

Also in Cornwall and also a pagan Mayday festival, the Furry Dance (or Faddy Dance) is the biggest and most ancient ritual dance performed in Britain today. Taking place in Helston, the dance consists of a long procession through the streets. The festival was appropriated to mark the apparition of the archangel St Micheal, (dragon slayer and patron saint of Cornwall) who allegedly defeated Satan after a furious battle for the posession of the town. “Using only music and image, the film follows the structure of Helstons Flora day, emphasising the dance/music repetitions as a way of stimulating collective unconscious emotions. It also evokes much deeper echoes within the labyrinthine form, which appears in neolithic henge monuments and processional structures (such as Newgrange, Avebury, Stonehenge and Carnac in France), and the continued use of the labyrinth in processes of initiation (for instance the devotional practices at Chartres cathedral). These attest to the potency of communication with the spirit world, the structural forms of which can be traced back to Paleolithic cave paintings.” 53


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THE LAST OF ENGLAND DECODING THE NON-LINEAR NARRATIVE

While the previous films mentioned focus on traditions which survive during the continual wheel of British progress, Derek Jarman’s Last of England laments the death of society in a bleakly futuristic vision of post-Thatcherite Britain.

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THE LAST OF ENGLAND UK 1988 Directed by: Derek Jarman Photography: Derek Jarman, Richard Heslop, Christopher Hughes, Cerith Wyn Evans Production company: Anglo International, Channel Four Films, ZDF Productions

The Last of England does not have a traditional narrative structure. The film combines footage shot on Super 8 by Jarman and three of his contemporaries with home-movie footage shot by his father, an RAF bomber, during the second world war. With no script, Jarman frames a series of visions of a future Britain destoyed by Thatcherite policies with sound design consisting of Nigel Terry’s narration of Jarman’s poetry, political soundbites and almost continuous music. The result is, while perhaps slightly over-long incredibly compelling given the bleak subject matter.

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FORD MADOX BROWN

The Last of England is a mid-19th century painting which was realised during the height of the colonial era. It depicts a couple wistfully lookiing at the English shore, represented by the white cliffs of Dover in the top right of the painting. “The couple in Jarman’s film are perhaps his own vision of this despondent pair and the film itself is what we might imagine a modern-day couple “seeing” as they leave the country — a series of images as visionary, nightmarish and fragmented as we might expect from anyone with memories of the 20th century.” —Extract from Derek Jarman: Dreams of England by Michael O’ Pray p156

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CONCEPT & POLITICS “Jarman was born in 1942 and therefore grew up during a period that saw the introduction of the welfare state by the Labour party in 1945 and its subsequent dismantling by the Conservative party since 1979. British political historian Perry Anderson suggests that by 1978 (the year in which Jarman’s Jubilee was released) both parties had failed to create an acceptable cultural milieu in which British tradition could survive, let alone flourish. Anderson argues that the British political system has emerged from two legacies which combine to form a peculiar kind of ideological “fog”: “the two great chemical elements of this blanketing English fog are “traditionalism” and “empiricism”: in it, visibility — of any social or historical reality — is always zero. Anderson explains that while traditionalism

“sanctions the present by deriving it from the past, empiricism binds the future by fastening it to the present. A comprehensive conservatism is the result, covering society with a pall of simultaneous philistinsim (towards ideas) and mystagogy (towards institutions), for which Britain has justly won an international reputation”. In the face of this comprehensive conservatism from both Left and Right, Jarman’s position as a middle-class dissident allowed him a space from which to see through the fog.” —Extract from By Angels Driven: The Films of Derek Jarman by Chris Lippard

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AESTHETIC usual PQ considerations of clarity and color. As expected from Super-8, the footage is decidedly soft, and the transfer to U-Matic results in an additional loss of sharpness, giving the image a surreal quality, several times removed from reality.” — Extract from the blu-ray.com review of the US released Kino Lorber HD Blu Ray transfer By the early 1980s it was possible to transfer super 8 footage to highband, edit in video, and re-transfer the lot back to 35mm film, the guage of the feature. You could achieve effects on video which would have cost a fortune on film, and all the time the technology “The Last of England was never meant to look conventionally “good.” Shot on Super-8, transferred was improving; it was impossible to tell if the image on your TV was generated in Super 8. Blown up to U-Matic for editing, and then printed on 35mm, to 35mm, the quality is something quite new, like the film’s twice-duped post-production process stained glass, the film glows with wonderful colours. has left it simultaneously smeary and grainy, with occasional home video quirks like ghosting and color The video gives you a pallette like a painter, and I find the result beautiful. Most 35mm looks pretty hard bleed. The texture of the picture is unlike anything and brassy in comparison. else I’ve ever seen and defies critique based on the — Derek Jarman, Kicking the Pricks

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LOOSE NARRATIVE

“I distrust the written word in cinema. Decisions are made on scripts... Directors, scriptwriters; everyone knows it’s a convenience, a ploy. They know the film will bear no relation to the word. If it follows the letter it will resemble one of those painting-by-numbers kits for children. The creators will bring no information. This constricting method dominates the TV. In that world the conventional is always affirmed, nothing is out of place. Of course, life is different....” —Derek Jarman, Kicking the Pricks 59


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WHY SHOOT ON SUPER 8?

“The Super 8 camera is free. 35mm is chained by The cinema is finished, it’s a dodo, kissed to death money to the institutions. It could have been shot by economics — the last rare examples get too much on 35mm but economics have gutted mind from the attention... Endangered species are always elevated, format. My friends, the bluebells are flowering in the put in glass cages. The cinema has graduated to the woods of Kent — now do you wait for someone to tell museum, the archive, the collegiate theatre, and now you you can film them? They will have died before it’s the turn of video. Video ROOLS. you get an answer. A 35mm crew will trample them to death. I can dance through them, throw my little I love the moments that are out of focus. I’ve fallen in camera in the air, turn somersaults. Fuck the crane love with the dust & scratches.” and the track. —Derek Jarman, Kicking the Pricks 60


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HOME MOVIES “…there is a good deal of fragmentation, brutality, and loss of identity but the yearning for a lost time and place is definitely, if ambiguously, registered in the home movie sequences. These scenes contrast strikingly with the industrial wasteland which is used to characterise contemporary England but the contrast is not as formally (and therefore conceptually) neat as one might expect because Jarman abandons the cinematic convention whereby the present is always in full colour and the past shown in black and white or monochrome… The clear distinctions between past and present break down because both types of scene appear in a variety of tints and textures…” “...there is a sense in which we all remain in a permenent state of exile, disturbed by images of a past to which we cannot return and would not be happy in even if we could. Jarman wrote eloquently of the “longing for paradise” in all home movies, but here is a paradise which is well and truly lost and which may never have existed in the first place.” —British Film Makers: Derek Jarman by Rowland Wymans pp114 & pp120 61


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THE BRIDE

“The absense of any clearly defined relationships in the films makes it easy [for the bride] to become a traditional allegorical figure, that of “Weeping England”. This personification comes frequently in English Renaissance litereature. She is the mourning woman who mourns in some way for England or the English nation. Sometimes the woman herself is England, mourning: sometimes she mourns Engand as an other: sometimes she is the soul of England’s body. Tilda Swinton is both weeping for what has been lost and is herself an image of what has been lost...” —British Film Makers: Derek Jarman

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DVD vs BLU-RAY RELEASE The only copies available to me are DVD copies and blu-ray copies. I cannot appreciate it in it’s original cinematic form.

A

Interestingly, the DVD crops a large section of the image out — and also runs four mintues shorter than the blu-ray. This is because the DVD has been conformed to the UK broadcast frame rate of 25FPS. The blu-ray retains the cinema-standard frame rate of 23.98FPS and as a result plays slightly slower. Our technologies are merging. Blu-ray was developed because televisions are getting larger — the public is attempting to replicate the aesthetic of the cinema within their homes. The video above shows this time difference and the image cropping — as well as the different colour treatments in the two releases.

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COLOUR PALLETTE

By taking screenshots periodically throughout the film (277 in total) we can see that Jarman graded the work almost entirely in the colours of the British flag. Blue sequences seem to have been chosen for scenes of decay and dereliction while red for sequences of destruction or abuse. The few full colour sequences appear to have been selected to convey nostalgia — the home movie reels shot by Jarman’s father are preserved in their saturated Kodacolour glory.

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BRIEF TWO — OUTPUT EXPERIMENTATION TOWARDS OUTCOME

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PRINT TESTS

I created a simple booklet of stills from The Last of England to make further sense of the films narrative — I felt that by putting it through further process to Jarman’s super-8/video/35mm postproduction technique, a new way of seeing the material may become evident.

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At this point my printer began to run out of ink, creating these streaks accross the printed page — this inspired the next experiment. 72


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THE LAST OF ENGLAND AS PRINTED FILM

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Four animated sequences comprised entirely from printing every single frame of the sequence before re-animating, to add a further texture and aesthetic to Jarman’s 3-phase post-production process. I was interested in what happened to the images when printer ink began to run out — but there was no room for further worthwhile development.

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MOVEMENT THROUGH FRAME LEAKS

A The last of England employs considerable use of motion — from lengthy tracking shots to fragmented, jerky camera movements. Jarman framed his work so that we are rarely viewing things from a fixed angle. By removing keyframes from the film, we get a bleed of image (or a “datamosh”), which, if projected would obscure the visual narrative but define the use of motion. In this example, it doesn’t always work — so sequences from the film with optimum motion would need to be selected so that the work would be effective. The pixellation which occurs would also need to be smoothed for aesthetic purposes. 75


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THE “DISCO” SEQUENCE

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“Some sequences are edited with such speed that the flow of images becomes virtually subliminal, inducing an anxiety that if one looks away for a moment or blinks, one will have missed something crucial” — According to Jarman this four and a half minute sequence has 1,600 cuts.” — British Film Makers: Derek Jarman by Rowland Wymans p119

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SCRUTINISING THE “DISCO”

A To make sense of of the disco sequence, I slowed it down to 20% to see what is happening more clearly. The shots became so jerky that I decided to use Twixtor to attempt to inject some fluidity of motion into those radically slowed down sequences. Due to the shakiness of Jarman’s camera and the lack of clarity in his aesthetic, the motion is at times warped and unnatural — but something even stranger occurs at the edit point.

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Series of Tests using Twixtor

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This idea was unsuccessful as it lacks a coherant body of theory behind it, and is more based on the “seductiveness of the effect” rather than unique conceptual weight. Above are a series of tests using Twixtor in which sharpness, and motion compensation were tested on parts of the film — as well as previous tests — to see how they would push the space within the edit point. 78


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“THE SPACE WITHIN THE EDIT POINT”

The Last of England is full of juxtapositions — almost every edit point represents a merging of ideas — a comment on Britain. The issues affecting Thatcher’s Britain in the late 1980s were very similar to ones we are facing now. The decimation of community and society, for the benifit of a small elite at the expense of the wider public; the Bedroom Tax or the Poll Tax

versus the pomp and splendour of the weddings of Andrew and Fergie then and Will and Kate today. These images could work as series of screen prints (although it could be a moving image piece) of certain edit points in The Last of England — ones which have a visual strength whilst conveying a decipherable meaning — both within Jarman’s film and contemporary Britain. 79


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FINAL OUTCOME QUESTION: CAN A SINGLE SEQUENCE OF DEREK JARMAN’S THE LAST OF ENGLAND BE APPROPRIATED AS AN INTERACTIVE WEB EXPERIENCE?

Yes.

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THE SELECTED SEQUENCE

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I have chosen this particular sequence partly for it’s rhythm and juxtapositions of motion, but also because it best reflects the overall tone of the film. It is a short sequence, running at two minutes and thirty-eight seconds, but it comprises of twelve different “scenes” which are intercut. According to The Last of England’s production designer Christopher Hobbs, Jarman has said that “a film is constructed in sequences, and you need 32 sequences to make a film — but these sequences are largely interchangeable.” Indeed, parts of these scenes also appear in other parts of the film as well as within this sequence.

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BREAKING IT DOWN Here is a formal separation of the twelve “scenes” and the temporal space they occupy in the sequence. I have used the blu-ray edition. The barking dog, for example, occupies only 65 frames, yet creates considerable impact in the sequence. Spencer Leigh Walks/Sits 31.7 sec / 743 frames / 19.6% of sequence

Ruined Buildings 6.5 sec / 156 frames / 4.1% of sequence

Tracking Shot: Office Buildings 7 sec / 169 frames / 4.5% of sequence

Dead & Bloodied Spencer Leigh 2 sec / 49 frames / 1.3% of sequence

Barking Alsatian 2.5 sec / 65 frames / 1.7% of sequence

Morris Dancers 2.8 sec / 66 frames / 1.7% of sequence

Tracking Shot: Satellite Dishes 2.5 sec / 65 frames / 1.7% of sequence

Sunlight Through Fence 2.9 sec / 70 frames / 1.8% of sequence

Running Soldiers 0.4 sec / 9 frames / 0.2% of sequence

Tracking Shot: Liverpool Housing 64 sec / 1,533 frames / 40.4% of sequence

Fire Soldiers 6.3 sec / 150 frames / 3.9% of sequence

The Heretic 28.7 sec / 689 frames / 18.2% of sequence 85


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McLUHAN’S THEORY OF HOT AND COOL MEDIA

HOT MEDIA

COOL MEDIA

• Includes cinema, radio, photographs and newspapers.

• Includes television, the telephone and comic-strip cartoons.

• Extends one single sense in “high-definition.” High definition is the state of being “well-filled with with data.”

• Is of “low-definition,” because it contains “a meagre amount of information” with much to be filled in by the viewer/listener.

• Low in audience participation.

• Is naturally high in participation — a telephone call is a two way piece of participatory communication. A televised news story will never give the full story so the audience has to “fillin-the-blanks” so to speak.

86


DESIGN LITERACY — OUTPUT

McLUHAN’S HOT/COOL MEDIA THEORY IN MOVING IMAGE

CINEMA • The [commercial] cinema is considered a “Hot Medium” because it “extends one single sense in high definition” and has the power to easily manipulate an audience: “jump here,” “cry here” or “laugh there.” Mcluhan doesn’t mention this but one can assume that he refers to traditional narrative cinema, when it is of a good standard — a bad film doesn’t have this persuasive power.

TELEVISION • The TV image (of McLuhan’s era) is an inherently “cool” medium because it is “visually low in data.” Aesthetically images were fuzzy and low in contrast. • The nature of the content it delivered — such as live news broadcasts — meant that there was room for audiences to interpret meaning, instead of being the passive receptors of a high-definition cinematic form.

• As the theory was developed in the 1960s, McLuhan is • “According to McLuhan... the viewing of (projected) movies quick to state that he is referring to cinema after the “talkie” [is] intrinsically less involving as processes than watching revolution (post-silent cinema) as “hot,” whereas before it was television — the audio-visual equivalent of a lightbulb, with “cool”: “With silent film we automatically provide sound for light shooting through its screen rather than bouncing off its ourselves by way of “closure” or completion. And when it is screen as in a movie projection. The result is that , in television filled in for us, there is very much less participation in the work viewing, “illuminations project themselves at the viewer.” — the of the image.” television becomes the projector and the viewer becomes the movie screen. No wonder TV is involving. ­— (Levinson, 1999, pp 96)

87


DESIGN LITERACY — OUTPUT

THE LAST OF ENGLAND THROUGH McLUHAN’S LENS

The Last of England is a cinematic anomaly. The film was shot on Super-8, the lowest of low-definition film formats. It was then converted to PAL broadcast standard videotape, which, like Super-8 is a low definition, inherently “cool” medium. Then came the transfer up to 35mm for cinema, which brings two levels of grain (the super 8 and the 35mm) as well as the fuzz and softness that comes with PAL. Add to this the extremities of the colourgrading in the film — “night blues, mauves and a burning orange reminiscent of London as painted by Turner” (O ‘Pray, 1996, PP 156) — and we are looking at a work which is aesthetically, very much, cool media, despite being created for a “hot” environment. That I viewed it on a laptop, one would might

assume, extends this — a”light-through” rather than “light-on” medium. Jarman said of the film: “There’s no narrative, though there is a love story: it’s silent. There are no words in a movie camera. Someone put them there in the ‘20s. The “cinema” was straightjacketed, it took a nosedive.” (Jarman 1987, PP166) McLuhan would suggest that Jarman had similar feelings to Pudovkin and Eisenstein, who “denounced the sound film but considered that if sound were used symbolically and contrapuntally, rather than realistically, there would result less harm to the visual image.” (McLuhan 1964, p287) 88


DESIGN LITERACY — OUTPUT

A By extending the single sequence into twelve independent “scenes,” any number of which can be viewed both simultaneously as a series of “tiles” or full-screened independently as standalone, looped clips, we are extending the audience’s

ability to manipulate and “complete” the information within the sequence — thereby adding a level of interactivity whilst further bringing down the temperature of a piece of work which, in McLuhanesque terms, is already a work of “cool” media. 89


DESIGN LITERACY

REFERENCES — BOOKS

Lebourg, C. (2004) Visual Grammar (Princeton Architectural Press)

Lippard, C. (1996) By Angels Driven: The Films of Derek Jarman (Flicks Books)

Noble, I & Bestley, R. (2011) Visual Research 2nd Ed. (AVA Academia)

Jarman, D. (1993) Chroma (Vintage Classics)

Hemingway, P. (2008) The Secret Code (Evergreen)

O’Pray, M. (1996) Derek Jarman: Dreams of England (BFI Publishing)

Herbert, K (1994) Looking for the Lost Gods of England (Anglo-Saxon Books)

McLuhan, M. (1964) Understanding Media (MIT Press)

Lundy, M. (1998) Sacred Geometry (Wooden Books)

McLuhan, &, Fiore, Q. (1967) The Medium is the Massage (Penguin)

Ellis Davidson, (1988) H.R. Myths & Symbols in Pagan Europe (Syracuse University Press)

Levinson, P. (1999) Digital McLuhan: A Guide to the Information Millenium (Routledge)

Wymer, R. (2005) British Film Makers: Derek Jarman (Manchester University Press)

Berger, J. (1972) Ways of Seeing (Penguin)

Jarman, D. (1987) Kicking the Pricks (Vintage) 90


DESIGN LITERACY

REFERENCES — FILM & WEB

Morvern Callar directed by Lynne Ramsay (2001)

The Valley directed by Barbet Shroeder (1972)

The Wicker Man directed by Robin Hardy (1973)

The Witchfinder General directed by Michael Reeves (1968)

Requiem for a Village directed by David Gladwell (1975)

Here’s a Health to the Barley Mow (BFI DVD — Collection)

Macbeth directed by Roman Polanski (1971)

The Lacey Rituals: Films by Bruce Lacey (BFI DVD­— Collection)

The Devils directed by Ken Russell (1971)

The Glitch Codec Tutorial

Blue directed by Derek Jarman (1993)

How to Datamosh

Glitterbug directed by Derek Jarman (1993)

How to Datamosh with Free Video Tools, “Datamosh” is the Wrong Word, David O’Reilly is Also Wrong

The Garden directed by Derek Jarman (1990) Derek directed by Isaac Julien (2008) The Last of England directed by Derek Jarman (DVD 1987)

The Wicker Man: The Return of the Pagan World PAL Video Blu-Ray.com — The Last of England

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Visual Research Summary (MA Graphic Design Unit 1)  
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