Screen Used – Work in Progress – Film Screening
Jane Topping, Programme Leader BA (Hons) Fine Art, University of Cumbria, U.K.
Keywords: Fine Art, Performance, Appropriation, The Screen, The Body
I am at the 12th month point of my research towards the part-time, practice-based PhD She Creeps In: The Female Subjective Voice & the Penetrable Screen.
Fuelled and confused by the post-net environment’s effect on ways of looking, my films use appropriation & narrative to warp established meanings of pop cultural texts and phenomenon. I often place myself directly into a chosen text, embodying the participatory spectator – the contemporary viewer who, used to multiple screens, narratives and realities, has no problem existing within the text itself.
In previous work Peter (2014), the female subjective voice was ‘retrofitted’ onto a documentary framework, undermining the authority of the original text (Blade Runner, 1982, dir. Ridley Scott). The unreliable narrative utilised personal history and film theory, biography and autobiography. The visual construction of Peter supported this unreliability via the use of repetition & doubling. Added to this was a narrative which foregrounded hypnotism and false-memory – the effect on the viewer was destabilizing.
Screen [Screen Used is a term applied to props that have been used and, crucially, seen on screen in TV programmes or films and so have a relatively high secondary market value to collectors of ‘film memorabilia’. The prop used in Screen Used is owned by the artist and is a section of a ‘monster’ from Season Seven of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Episode 11, Showtime. The use of this prop is two fold in Screen Used. Firstly it exists as an ‘unboxed’ object (see discussion on Unboxing) and secondly as a piece of ‘flesh’, manipulated by the artist on screen, as an exaggerated version of an ASMR video (see discussion of ASMR videos).] Used (work in progress, 2016), seeks to develop notions of ‘the voice’ in the broadest of terms [i.e. as an expression of an opinion or idea, not necessarily expressed vocally.], to include the active body (both artist’s and viewer’s), and its relationship to the screen [Screen Used is intended to convince the viewer that the screen as a barrier to expression and feeling. The screen here is likened to other (pre-net) communication avenues, which too could fail, such as tapping at a window to get someone’s attention, writing a letter (the paper here is the screen), the video and vocal expression itself. The screen in Screen Used changes its use and value throughout the video, however at all times it is being used as a tool of expression, of communication, between the person ‘behind the screen’ (the artist, the YouTube filmmaker, the person or people failing to communicate e.g. via a letter). ].
[One way in which the video manages to convince the viewer that the screen is a barrier to physical (and specifically sensual or erotic) communication is the cleanliness of the film. While the body is constantly refered to through out the video (e.g. by the visual and audio of a full hot water bottle), and salacious touching is made plain, there is little actual flesh seen in the video. The real body depicted is in the form of hands, and these are mostly ‘protected’ by latex gloves. There is no bodily fluid in the video, though audio does seem to reference wetness. This operates to open a gap between the visual and the aural, and this gap is actually a barrier, the physical screen.]
What starts as a cinematic history of the failure of the screen as mode of communication [This section has now been removed from Screen Used. Without it there are now three main elements to the piece 1. The artist’s handling of the screen used prop. 2. the examples of ASMR videos and 3. The numbered examples of ‘failed communication’, the ‘dirty screen’ images with audio. These screens have been made dirty by touch, a physical marking (drawing) made by the viewer, as a result of the frustration of the screen as a barrier (or is it the success of the screen as an embodying force that encourages the touch of the viewer?). (This does not take into account ‘touch screen’ technology, as yet). Without the context of the videophone communication (and the failure of these between men at work and couples in transit or in a bar) the notion of communication through the screen is set up both at the start of the video and developmentally. DESCRIBE THIS], develops to combine appropriated film of the YouTube phenomenon ASMR (pseudo-scientifically named Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response videos, aiming to give the viewer a bodily ‘tingling’ sensation) [In the context of Screen Used, it does not matter if the ASMR videos are ‘successful’ in this respect. If an audience member experiences a bodily sensation, then the ASMR video has worked in its aim, if not, it has not. Both outcomes are qualified by the ‘fake’ ASMR section of Screen Used in which the prop, now out of its box, is handled by the artist to an audio track which is clearly not connected to the object. The audio is not synched to the movement of the object, it is too staged to appear authentic and the audio continues when the object is placed on the table and handling has ceased. This part of the video is clearly a critique of ASMR videos, not necessarily dependant on the success or failure of the ASMR videos in the piece itself. It is a critique of their existence (what is it about screen communication which results in these being made and watched?). The end of Screen Used enforces this as there is a shift in POV, and a previously unseen ‘viewer’ touches the screen (the place where Screen Used has been visible until now) in an apparently sensual way (i.e. with fingertips, slowly, in stroking movements)- this ‘must be’ the action of a viewer made to reach out due to the failure of the piece itself as a place of physical, bodily communication.] and the artist’s own interaction with a ‘fleshy prop’ [This part of the video references a second YouTube phenomenon, that of Unboxing.]. The aim is to coerce or perhaps propel the viewer through the screen, conflating the viewer’s body and the film itself, through the combination of aural manipulation and visual imagery [Wrong! Actually, the aim is to show that this is completely impossible.]. Screen Used seeks to activate the screen membrane as both penetrable and bodily, making it sensual. [ Wrong again! Screen Used seeks to show that the activation of the screen membrane as both penetrable and bodily (e.g. to make it sensual) is an impossible task, though one which is consistently attempted by YouTube video makers in various structured phenomenon which have developed via making on the net. Screen Used is interested in Unboxing as an example of the desire to share experience (the opening of a box and the revelation that occurs happens to filmmaker and viewer simultaniously (though of course not necessarily live) and in ASMR as an example of the sexualisation of communication through the screen, in a way that is permissible via the shared public space of YouTube.]
[The monster in question is Beljoxa’s Eye – an oracle-like creature that existed in another (not Earthly) dimension. It consisted of a floating mass of eyes of various sizes and had the ability, not see into the future but to see ‘the truth of the present and the past’. This scene in Buffy Season 7 is notoriously confusing and apparently unnecessary, making it stand out conspicuoisly within the episode to the seasoned viewer. It is the relative uselessness of this monster-prop within the context of the story that gave it an affordable market value for the artist. The other is that the prop itself was cut up into numerous small parts by the seller, each cut being sold seperately. This both destroys the prop yet meant that each owner of each cut could say that they owned a section of a screen-used prop, whither or not they could identify their specific collection of painted latex eyes on screen.]
One way in which the video manages to convince the viewer that the screen is a barrier to physical (and specifically sensual or erotic) communication is the cleanliness of the film. While the body is constantly refered to through out the video (e.g. by the visual and audio of a full hot water bottle), and salacious touching is made plain, there is little actual flesh seen in the video. The real body depicted is in the form of hands, and these are mostly ‘protected’ by latex gloves. There is no bodily fluid in the video, though audio does seem to reference wetness. This operates to open a gap between the visual and the aural, and this gap is actually a barrier, the physical screen.
[And by doing so, offering a critique of the screen as essentially a barrier rather than a conduit to authentic expression. ]