reflecting on smoking gun.

Finishing Smoking Gun left me in a tranquil yet galvanized state – it’s good to finally culminate the project but it excites me to think about my future ventures. 

Smoking Gun withstanded many different adjustments. It was mobilized by firstly coming together through the medium of a twenty-paged script written with narrative lenses. In commencement, we wanted to create an overlapping storyline of people in abusive relationships, with all the stories connecting – such as having a story’s end scene as the beginning of another story. However, changes were made after agreeing upon experimenting differently with still films and bringing in the idea of a multi-screen installation. We decided to make one introductory storyline as the only anchoring element for all the stories. The introductory scene is of four friends who meet up to have a drink in a bar and talk about their lives, we can see upon first glance that they all look like the average male in society. Be that as it may, two are actually victims to domestic abuse within their relationship and the other two are perpetrators. Rhett is harassed about his financial status by his girlfriend and Hussein is psychologically controlled by his wife, whilst Raphael is a sexual predator to his wife (and secretary) and Mike is an alcoholic who retorts to beating up his wife once he’s gone dry. Their stories appear in their corresponding screens once their lives are mentioned in the initial bar scene. 

Collaborating with Matthew and closely observing a friend who suffered an abusive relationship, allowed me to be able to write the narrative with a closer stance on reality. She was a close friend who was not able to wear what she wanted, do what she wanted or see who she wanted. I noticed that she even had physical scars after she began standing up to him. She’s now in the complicated process of filing a lawsuit. Additional research on domestic abuse motivated me to share with others the deeper side of domestic abuse that truly needs recognition, that I also only just opened my eyes to. 

After the script was written, Matthew was given the role to pre-plan the shooting in terms of angles and techniques. In conjunction, I made a poster that was hung around campus – it indicated that we were recruiting actors. The traffic for actors coming in was tedious but fortunately, we received a rush when a group of theatre majors found interest in the project. Then we organised locations and times, with both of us investing in the shoot by bringing our two cameras to film. Having two cameras was hugely satisfying as we were able to get more angles and a faster shooting time. Working with a high number of strangers was a learning affair as we teamed up with different kinds of people who performed differently (both experienced actors and regular people) – some actors were quicker at remembering lines and some actors were having difficulting projecting certain emotions. Our biggest subtraction from the shoots was our slack selves not considering audio more pre-production, as most of the film’s weaknesses was the audio. We considered reshooting Hussein’s scene due to this, however everyone had busy schedules and we felt that it may be possible that they would not necessarily give us better results in terms of performance. 

I then set into motion the procedures toward creating the film, by collecting raw footage and engineering a coherent narrative through assembling clips together. This was an onerous adventure so I was very pleased with the satisfactory results. The film was then left for Matthew to fix the audio and time it by using black screens, before I finally added subtitles.

The installation was then placed in a corridor because it was “transitional” and displayed with cardboard boxes to facilitate disorder and turmoil. In complementation to the clutter of screens, I added physical objects deducted from inside the screens for viewers to feel closer related to the storylines. Whilst I am ultimately satisfied with the films as it exceeded initial hopes, I continue to be in a conflicted state about whether or not I take delight in the presentation as I find that unless screens are turned on, the whole installation does tend to look a little bit unorderly and possibly sloppy. I also slightly detest the location of the installation as it subtracted from my antecedent of wanting it in a darker and more isolated space where we could play the sound in full volume without disturbing other artists and passerbys. Considering that the story is about domestic abuse, – where the sound is very aggressive from both the physical hits and the verbal attacks, – we felt like we needed to restrict the projection of sound as the level we wanted meant that the sounds were reaching the other side of the building. 

☆ smoking gun.

Artist statement:

The definition of SMOKING GUN constructs the very foundation of this cinema as we observe the incriminating evidence of perpetrators carrying out acts of domestic abuse. The project aims to reveal layers of verbal and physical misconduct inside a relationship, challenging the audience’s understanding of domestic abuse, as it rummages to more profound areas: financial abuse, physical abuse, psychological abuse and sexual abuse. 

We brought our devotion to multi-screen installations into SMOKING GUN. But we’ve also mixed old and new cinematic elements to produce further disarray from what is already deduced from the arguments, with the intention to truly inculcate hostility and discomfort within the viewer (as is evident in an abusive relationship). Despite the manipulation of chaotic screen timing, we hand the audience a tool to focus on one story through walking closer to a specific screen and focusing on the subtitles to render themselves deaf to the noise of the other screens. The addition of palpable objects from the stories on the screen, expedited further intimacy to the film. 

The strengths that I brought into SMOKING GUN included the marriage of my practices in scriptwriting, filming and editing alongside an eye for aestheticism in presentation and performance. The project pushed my boundaries of what I originally do with my video projects and strengthens my bond with my camera.

SG; multi-screen installation artists

Isaac Julian’s Ten Thousand Waves is my sore influence for Smoking Gun as I fancy the idea of boasting multiple screens to break down the normal ways we watch moving images and grant the viewer access to the different perspectives and stories. Shirin Neshat is a secondary influence as I choose to accommodate her technique of beginning an alliance between the viewer and their position in the installation.

There is something unique about multi screen installations that make many viewers respond to videos more enthusiastically – whether the reason be in in its presentation or whether because of it’s innovative approach to films. Ultimately, the experience of the viewer is the most essential key element and the audience is needed for the pieces to exist. 

As a modern era of viewers, we as a society are actually used to overload of information through multiple screens, evident in all of our technology – our laptops, phones and televisions screens. Some of us even multitask on the internet, as seen in a high number of browser tabs. In installations, the viewer is however surrounded by one specific work, through all the perspectives, and enters a realm of that work. This leaves them wholefully captivated.

Glimpses of the USA (1959)

The above photograph is the Eames’ Glimpses of the USA (1959), and one of the first multi-screen installations seen by a high number of people. The exhibition portrayed the experience of typical work-life and weekend in the United states, via still and moving images from artists. The information was mostly suggestive but had a clear message; ‘We are the same as you (USSR), but on a material level, we have more.’

Additionally, Nam June Paik (1960s) was one of the first artists whom contributed to a long line of artists working with multiple screens. He had projects of robotic limbs with screens as heads, a wall made out of tv screens and has done work with combining nature/plants and television: TV Garden (1974).

TV Garden (1974)

Shirin Neshat was an Iranian artist that studied art in the United States in 1979, at a time when a revolution broke Iran’s regime and overthrew its political landscape. During this study endeavour, Neshat learnt that film and video allows an artist to tell a story rather than merely suggesting one (which is what happens in photography). She also found a distaste in the fact that it had no build up and was final while film undergoes different interpretations.

In her early works, Rapture (1999) and Passage (2001), she had used people as sculptural images devoid of character and then later decided that multiple screens gave her the opportunity to narrate her story better. ‘The medium of video and film had the potential to be highly poetic according to Neshat, and she felt she could incorporate elements of photography, painting and sculpture in them. She was also able to experiment with music, sound, choreography and performance.’ [Terra, 2015 p. 17] She further indicated a huge interest in the relationship between the viewer and the piece, the kind that is only truly applicable through multi screen installations. 

Isaac Julien also started working with multiple screens around a similar time. He began with exploring black identity, racism and sexuality in: Who Killed Colin Roach? (1983), Territories (1984) and The Passion of Remembrance (1986). His first two-screen projection, Trussed (1996), explored sex and death, and pain and pleasure. His website indicates that  ‘dualistic feelings of erotic pleasure and loss in Trussed are enhanced by its projection on 2 screens showing identical, but flipped, images that are set in a corner at right angles.’ Trussed is a story of affection between a black man and a white man (interracial) gay couple

Trussed (1996)

Julien began to work with more screen starting 1999 – Three, The Conservator’s Dream (1999) and Long Road to Mazatlán (1999). The Conservator’s dream is a three-screen piece with the two outer images the same but flipped, and shows a choreography that depicts desire – Julien stated that he wanted to explore gender and sexual difficulties in this hetereosexual and interractial relationship.

Long Road to Mazatlán (1999)

Fantôme Créole (2005) was when Julien introduced a fourth screen, and the work is a conjunction of two works:  True North and Fantôme Afrique. True North is a film of the polar circle’s icy landscape (Northern Sweden’s snowy and white landscape) and is a narrative on Robert E. Peary, who was the first ever to reach the North Pole. In contrast, Fantôme Afrique is of urban and rural Burkina Faso, Africa. The project introduces the distinctive architecture of the different places with similar stoic characters in many scenes who do not have a background context or storyline to allow the audience to conjure up their own narrative. 

After this, Julien continued to expand in his multiple screen use as he reached nine screens in Ten thousand waves (2010). This installation had viewers walk the whole room to witness everything and view themselves as a part of the installation. They’re given an option on what to see, and in what order. They filter out some screens and choose their path of experience, this allowed them to link the screens in their own minds. Julien teases the audience to be self reflective.

Ten thousand waves (2010)

In a single screen work, the linear progression makes a set narrative. Multi screen works questions this traditional notion of experiencing time in film and viewing film.

TERRA (2015)

The choice of nine screen stemmed from Julien and Stephanie Rosenthal’s wish to make the audience move. Julien commented that he was ‘trying to break down the normal ways that we watch moving images’. The installation consists of seven screens in a circle and two in the middle that are on the front and back – allowing it so that viewers could not see everything from any certain place in the room, meaning they had to roam. They get immersed inside his work. The storyline and all its immense layers retell of an incident in England where twenty-three illegal Chinese immigrants drowned. He used footages of: Chinese history, raw police material, shots on calligraphy, a recreation of a Chinese fable and a re-enactment of ‘The Goddess’, stormy water footage and chaotic sound.

References

Terra, N. (2015) Multiscreen video art: The advantage of the multiscreen over single screen presentations Masterthesis Modern and Contemporary Art. Utrecht University.

SG; script

After finally deciding the plot of ‘Smoking Gun’, I was able to put together a script for the film.

In summary, the story consists of four friends who meet up at a bar and have a general conversation and things start to get tense when the friends point out each-other’s relationship predicaments. Although they are all friends, we then find out that two are victims to domestic abuse while the other two play a role as perpetrators of domestic abuse.

Rhett is in his early twenties and is having trouble finding a job, his girlfriend’s constant attack on his financial situation is not helping him at all. Rhett’s friend, Hussein is also victim to a similar abuse by his girlfriend, who psychologically controls him and stops him from doing what he wants. Hussein’s partner controls what he wears, what he does and whom he sees.

Then we have Raphael, who seems to have a high status and may be quite rich, who is viewed to be as sexually predatory. He demands sexual pleasure from his wife, and reminds her that women only exist to please men. Worse than this, he is also cheating on his wife with his secretary. We also have Mike, who is an alcoholic and is the person who brought everyone to drink at the bar, after his wife tells him to stop drinking and he beats her up out of anger.

what is smoking gun?

Smoking gun as an art piece around the theme of domestic abuse, confirmed.

But what exactly are we going to do, how are we going to approach the concept? Is it going to be a full context video, with storylines? Or just a clip of post domestic abuse? Silent and eerie at the same time?

We have both worked with multiple screen installations and have a variety of special qualities that we can both bring into the collaboration. So it will definitely be a product that is a multi-screen, and presents a coherent storyline about domestic abuse.

Matt and I mucked around with thrashing his place and decided to see if we could create something out of it. We got the influence from Night Owl.

Just experimenting.

JIAJYE YU YAN:

Thailand filmmaker, debuted as an actor in a Pepsi commercial but decided he was better behind the camera.

  • Has an unconventional narrative 
  • Immersive and hypnotic scenes

Night Owls. (2018)

  • Moody and sensual, short and simple video of people who stay awake at night. 
  • Only slight movement and static people.

MEES PEIJNENBURG:

Director based in Amsterdam.

  • Graduated from Netherlands Film academy (2013)
  • Creative and distinct visual style 

Heartbreak Thunder. (2019)

  • Emotional video that shows the vulnerability of a couple without showing directly who they are
  • Dehumans through text and telephone static
  • Long silence to show the emptiness felt after the end of a relationship.
  • “This film captures the vulnerable, daring, brave and electric thrill of all relationships.” – Mees.

We have experimented with various ideas of installation – to use a projector and screens, or have more screens? Below is a sketch of one of our ideas of presentation.

We will also be using a modern device, a raspberry pie, a small screen with a small computer:

After a little research was done and the place was a little bit cleaned, we decided to try another approach for the film.

We acted out as a perpetrator and a victim of physical abuse, however, it reached only as far as possibly… verbal abuse.

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/18Hal0CnZdMvmI0q-z9J9HKCwRZq_fQGdEbvD-yW5Glg/edit?usp=sharing

References

International Center of Photography. (2019). Weegee. [online] Available at: https://www.icp.org/browse/archive/constituents/weegee?all/all/all/all/0 [Accessed 21 Aug. 2019].

Jiajieyu.com. (2019). ABOUT – Jiajie Yu. [online] Available at: https://jiajieyu.com/ABOUT [Accessed 20 Aug. 2019].

Nowness.com. (2019). LoveSick: Heartbreak Thunder. [online] Available at: https://www.nowness.com/series/lovesick/heartbreak-thunder-mees-peijnenburg [Accessed 21 Aug. 2019].

Peijnenburg, M. (2019). Available at: https://vimeo.com/352468575 [Accessed 21 Aug. 2019].

Yu, J. (2018). NIGHT OWLS. Available at: https://vimeo.com/255395626 [Accessed 20 Aug. 2019].

☆ the one with the rebound date.

For CAU, my group of 5 and I had collaborated to create our own episode of the famous TV show, Friends. We all invested differently with each other’s special strengths (writing, acting, filming, editing). As my group noticed my ability to write a script, use a camera and film, and edit the final aftermath, they labelled me their leader.

I planned our script so that we were paired up to work on an act each, and create a coherent episode with 2 different stories coexisting. As the Act 2 was the biggest act, for it was the one with the 2 different stories in the same act, we summoned up an extra hand to help write the script.

For how the script’s pairing, we used a name generator and I placed to do the last Act. Rémi and I both looked up jokes to spice up our Act, but still I do admit that it could have been better. One of the jokes that I found was “When is beef not quite beef?” “When it’s two vegans arguing.” which was ridiculously corny, and actually not a global joke so the Koreans didn’t quite understand the humour in our final creation.

The script:

After countless tiring nights of staring at the screen in the dark, trying not to wake up my roommate, I finished the editing of the video to my best ability (which was hard since we filmed so last minute and deadline was soon).

I was very fascinated about the fact that the cast all had various accents and the video is a union of different cultures.

☆ ultima verba.

(watch videos correctly by waiting 5 seconds before playing the next clip, to time them up!)

ULTIMA VERBA is ‘last words’ in Latin tongue and this multi-screen installation, – unlike Manifesto’s writings and musings of various different artists, – is based off their suicide letters. With this film, I sought to manipulate something private to be public and heard as it presents on large scale screens and is spoken out loud. Multi-screening ULTIMA VERBA with different framing despite constant eye contact allowed for a smooth transition. The film also atmospheres the darkness of humanity,  exploring the inevitable and questions death within a range of very different people.

Julian Rosefeldt’s Manifesto was the sore influence of this creation; the deadness, darkness and eeriness of Manifesto painted the tense characters in ULTIMA VERBA. I built rapport with different people to adopt personas, create stories, evoke emotions and showcase unnaturality and materialism. Each individual acted in response to the way their minds read and how they felt when with presented the quote, and they speak as if they were saying the last words to someone they trust most.