As I’ve mentioned on Vimeo, I’ve decided to embark on a bit of an experiment, to try out for myself the various videographic criticism exercises that my colleagues Jason Mittell and Chris Keathley have put together for their workshop on videographic criticism. It’s somewhat ironic that I’ve been out of the country for conferences the two years that they’ve head the workshops–first I was at Console-ing Passions in Dublin and then at the Fan Studies Network in Huddersfield (both wonderful experiences and trips!) If I’d been around, I most certainly would have stopped by to meet everyone, and would’ve be eager to have some conversations with folks about the potential relationships between the growing form of videographic criticism and other forms of vernacular video remix, most especially of course that form/practice close to my heart, fan vidding.
I’ve been thinking about this relationship between videographic criticism and vidding for a long time. I’ve been vidding since 2007, so going on 10 years now. My vidding was always a bit…odd…in relation to the norms and codes of vidding, because my tastes leaned toward the experimental and were influenced by experimental films, found footage films, poetic, self reflexive, and performative documentaries, etc. [Actually, when I was a wee 20 year old in my first film production class, I played back old family movies on my VCR, filmed them on 16mm., and then remixed them to Kate Bush, intermixed with translated women’s Yiddish poetry. I’m not kidding 😀 And that was long before I even knew there was such a thing as vidding, let alone videographic criticism. When I found vidding, it was in some ways a coming home, a form I had always been looking for.]
My vidding has always been influenced by earlier traditions of cinematic remix, so to speak, but at the same time, since I found vidding in 2006 or so, I’ve been in love with the form and potential of vidding, the transformative art of it, the emotional impact, the expansive yet cutting critical analysis, the merging of critique and emotion. As I’ve watched the form of videographic criticism flower over the last few years, with the birth of the journal [in]Transition, the workshop, and even a class at Middlebury that Chris and Jason offer on The Videographic Essay, I cannot help but be intrigued by the relationship between the two forms, and wonder at their similarities and differences. I’ve shared my more experimental vids on Vimeo and called them “videographic criticism,” but I think this is the case only in so far as we are being expansively generous and generative with the definitions of the form(s). While there’s always a value to being definitionally generous, I want to get a little more nitty gritty about the nuances of, overlaps between, and differences between videographic criticism and vidding.
Rather than just proclaim definitions and distinctions between the two, I hope to learn by doing. So I’m setting out to do the various exercises of the videographic criticism workshop seeking precisely to think and work through the relationship between the two forms. I’m hoping that this will happen organically because I’m a vidder doing these exercises, and certain instincts kick in that I either need to fight or give into, on both. This is indeed what happened with my first attempt at the first assignment, the Videographic PechaKucha.
I’ve decided to work with Twin Peaks: The Return for this experiment. The third season of Twin Peaks is a challenging and rich source. Each episode has a full musical performance at its conclusion, which means it comes with build in vidding audio material (since 1 defining element of vidding arguably is its union of images to a separate song). But is using Twin Peaks‘ built in musical numbers as vidding soundtrack cheating on my part? Maybe, as I discovered, but if so, it’s instructive cheating.
The Videographic PechaKucha, asks you to combine 1 continuous minute of audio with ten six-second clips of visual material, both from your chosen media object. Of course, my instinct was to take one minute of musical performance as my audio. I found as a vidder that I had other instincts as well. Most especially I bristled against the six second shot restriction (from a vidding perspective, this is sooo long!! Most of my vidding edits are usually 1-2 seconds long. It seems to me that the six second length forces you to stay suspended between the source and the form; you must make choices and intervene, but also deal with the source to some degree as it is–which makes sense, since a major thrust of videographic criticism is to examine and analyze the source, not use it as raw material for something else. The one-minute audio and six-second limit for video forces this issue.
By using the music for my first try at the PechaKucha, I sort of sidestepped that potentially uncomfortable staying-with-the-source-text. I loved making my first PechaKucha, but I came out feeling like I had made a vid, not necessarily a synthesis between the two forms. So I decided to have another go, this time resisting the pull to use music as my soundtrack. This, for reasons I’m still thinking through, was much more satisfying. While I like my first effort, I kind of love how the second one turned out. It feels much more resonant. It asks more questions.
I have many more thoughts on this process, even so early on, but I’ll leave it there for now.
[BTW, I’m not the first to work my way through these exercises with the relationship to vidding and videographic criticism in mind. Lori Morimoto did so with Hannibal as her text. You can watch her various exercises here and her videographic essay HANNIBAL: a fanvid) (and my response too :D) here.]