Sightlines Journal, issue 2, 2017
Name: Diane Charleson
Film: Remixed Memories
Length: 9 minutes
Over the last decade, my research has been led by practice, film and video installation production (Barrett & Bolt: 2014). This medium has been used to explore ways of revisioning memories to elicit personal remembering and storytelling in the viewer. Much of this research has concentrated on the role of found home movies with particular emphasis on the medium of Super 8 film. Such images, my research indicates have lost much of the personal and emotive qualities that they once had and by rescreening and reusing them I aim to regain their emotional value.
Informing this work are several conceptual and technical research questions:
• How does a filmmaker revision memories that will elicit memory and storytelling in the viewer?
• What role does the reworking of found Super 8 home movies play in this revisioning?
• What role does the creation and experience of aura play in helping to promote memory recall?
• What role does the remixing and reworking of found Super 8 footage play in offering an auratic experience for the viewer?
This research aims to create a medium that will provide viewers with an auratic experience that engenders memory recall and sharing.( Charleson ,D :2016) The aura created, I argue, results from a combination of factors. It emanates mainly from the nature of the very personal and authentic subject matter of the home movies, rich with nostalgia. The impact is made more potent when imbued with the physical attributes present in the medium itself, super8 film.
I have been using found Super 8 family home movies in a variety of ways as part of my research. In this latest work, Remixed memories, I am exploring the concept of remixing found footage from experimental Super 8 artists, Jasper Rigole, Derek Jarman, Peter Forgacs and anonymous home movies shot in the 1970s, to create a new work that offers a greater aura through this remixing. ( Wilson ,S : 2009) Here I layer selected sequences together, creating evocative images imbued with nostalgia and reverie. The layering creates compelling, auratic images that promote contemplation and elicit memory( Berry, M & Keep, D : 2015).
Images are accompanied by a soundtrack, also created from found footage, heightening this auratic experience.
This work, Remixed Memories, is the fourth in a series of research projects. The first piece was a five screen video installation, “Rose’s Stories: Revisioning Memories” based on my Grandmother’s stories which was the major work of my PhD by project. My second work “ Dancing with Mrs. Dale”, formed part of an exhibition I curated,“ Digital Remembering”. It incorporated found super 8 home movies in an immersive installation. These works have culminated in a range of journal articles and conference presentations. My third work was “Still Framing Memories”, which created still frames from found Super 8 home movies. This work was the basis of the article, “Modern Icons: Aura and memory in Super 8 Still Frames.” My research is informed by a variety of sources. One of the main sources is the work of Walter Benjamin (Benjamin,W :1939) and contemporary scholars researching the nature of ‘Aura” and the concept of the “Everyday”. Further it is contextualized by scholarly visual sociology research related to memory recall, photographs and film and their relationship with memory (Kuhn, A: 2007), also by psychological theory investigating the role of autobiographical memory and nostalgia ( Conway, M &Jobson, L: 2012). Its also draws on scholarly research into the role of Super 8 film and the significance of family home movies ( Zimmermann,P : 2008) as well as being situated in the scholarly work surrounding Rigole ( Cammaer, G:2012), Forgacs ( Forgacs,P:2008) and Jarman and other Super 8 filmmakers as well as the nature of the remix and its impact on memories and also draws on the work of the Slow Media movement and Bill Viola.
Background: Remixed Memories
The idea for this film actually emerged while preparing a visual presentation based on my latest journal article ( Charleson, D: 2016) intended for sharing with a research group. While compiling a visual essay for this purpose, I needed to collate examples of found Super 8 footage from Rigole , Jarman and Forgacs as well as anonymous Super 8 home movies to illustrate the talk. It was the process of this collation of the footage that inspired me to work on a remix. So in fact this work, Remixed Memories, has been an intrinsic result of the wider research sharing process. It forms a significant part of my ongoing enquiry into practice based research.
Barrett, B. & Bolt (2007), Practice as research: Approaches to creative enquiry. London: I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd
Benjamin, W. (1939) “On some Motifs in Baudelaire,” Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung 111: 1–2
Berry, M & Keep D. (2015), “Auratic Presence through Slow Media, “ Altitude 13
Cammaer, G (2012)“Jasper Rigole’s Quixotic Art Experiments with Home Movies and Archival Practices: The International Institute for the Conservation, Archiving, and Distribution of Other People’s Memories (IICADOM),” The Moving Image 12: 42–69.
Charleson, D. (2016), “Modern Icons: Aura and memory in Super 8 Still Frames”, Visual Resources, Vol 32, Issue1-2
Conway, M & Jobson,L. (2012) “On the Nature of Autobiographical Memory,” in Understanding Autobiographical Memory, Theories and Approach, ed. D. Berntsen and D. Rubin (Cambridge: Cambridge Press), 54–70.
Forgacs, P. (2002) “Bourgeois Dictionaries/Meanwhile Somewhere: 1940–1943,” in Remembrance and the Moving Image, ed. Ross Gibson (Melbourne: Australian Centre for the Moving Image,).
Jacobs, J. (2016), Visualising the visceral: using film to research the ineffable. Area, 48: 480–487. doi:10.1111/area.12198
Kuhn, A. (2007) “Photography and Cultural Memory: a Methodological Exploration,” Visual Studies 26 3.
Leavy, P. (2015) Method meets Art: Arts-based research practice. Guilford Press,
Wilson, S (2009), ‘Remixing memory in Digital Media’ in Joanne Garde-Hansen, Andrew Hoskins, Anna Reading (ed.) Digital Memories, Palgrave McMillan UK, London, England, pp. 184-197.
Zimmermann,P.(2008) “The Home Movie Movement: Excavations, Artefacts, Minings,” in Mining the Home Movie: Excavations in Histories and Memories, ed. Karen Ishizuka and Patricia R. Zimmermann (Berkeley: University of California Press), 16–17.
Peer Review 1 (Max Schleser)
The research’s potential is substantiated when viewing Remixed Memories without reading the research statement. The video displays multilayered moving-images. The video’s edges suggest that these moving-images are super 8 film. Other elements seem like a projection that was recorded with DV/HDV. In the nine-minute video we are presented with an image of an orbit like structure that is superimposed onto the video sequences of traffic that moves backward and forward. The vivid editing is reminiscent of Jonas Mekas diary films, while the music is more trance like. Overall the video work’s remix structure could indicate some links to Mark America’s remixology or Anders Weberg’s surreal impressions. Half way through the video the music changes abruptly and we are seeing personal archive material, or what seems like this in black and white footage. At about three minutes into the video a voice over reads out a letter. The video thus combines personal memory, a story of migration and abstract superimpositions.
I would be interested to hear more about the process, especially the composition of the screen edges, video overlays and layer opacity. The positive and negative spaces caught my attention and some discussion to memory would be most interesting in this context. As the title Remixed Memories indicates, one is presented with a subjective experience. The remix displaces us in time and space and breaks out of any narrative pattern with the exception of the voice over. If the filmmaker would have chosen to introduce herself in some way, the ‘nature of the very personal and authentic subject matter of the home movies’ could be have been further supported. The voice over mirrors the ‘rich nostalgia’.
The research statement contributes to this reading and interpretation of the work which indicates that the concept and research is sound. Artistic references to Super 8 filmmakers as much as the choice of scholars (Kuhn, Zimmermann, Berry) are very relevant. The link to ‘Slow Media’ makes Super 8 filmmaking very timely again. On another level this work could be seen as a precursor to contemporary mobile/smartphone filmmaking and/or social media, which resonates intimate aesthetic qualities. The discussion on slow media could be explored further as much as the ‘auratic’ experience the work creates. As the research statement points at filmmaker’s work in installation, the question regarding the presentation of this work emerges: is this a single screen video or also considered in an installation context? Furthermore, the research statement indicates the work is part of a series of research projects and relates to the article “Modern Icons: Aura and memory in Super 8 Still Frames” in Visual Resources. It would be great to provide links to the article and the work series as Remixed Memories poses questions of relevance for Filmmaking in the Academy.
Peer Review 2 (Gillian Leahy)
This film does allow the viewer to elicit memories which is the stated research intention. Whether it encourages viewers to tell their own stories of memories would require further research. Both the Super 8 images and the sound aid this and, in particular, the use of an old nostalgic tune that starts about half way through and is apparently taken from an old gramophone record.
The overlaying of images itself is interesting and creates interesting effects. The film starts more minimally and texturally, but later moves to more recognizable images of people and children. The letter which is read on the soundtrack leads the viewer to the suggestion that these memories may be from someone who has left their home country forever and is sad about the loss of the family connections. The photos of childhood add to this impression.
The film might better live up to its potential if there was less use early on of the more abstract images (and voice sounds which are indecipherable) and the filmmaker moved earlier to the letter being read out and the images which are more clearly of people. Shown in a cinema context this film as it is currently may lose viewers interest early but given that it is probably intended for gallery exhibition as an installation this current structure could work well.
In terms of the film’s standing as research, the film and its accompanying research statement, posit a clear problem which is explored i.e. finding film techniques to elicit remembering. The film is innovative in style, but not more so than other films that mix-up old super 8 although it should be acknowledged that this is a fairly rare form. The film is well contextualized in artistic theoretical fields. And there is some evidence of new knowledge, perhaps more so if it is considered in the light of the author’s other works in this field and her commentaries on them.