Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Heroin; The Velvet Underground.

I'm Gona Try... When asked to create a map based around the song 'Heroin' by The Velvet Underground, I pondered many things. I felt that a technical, mechanical or mathematical map would not be appropriate, and wondered whether a map which expressed emotion could be possible. Not a series of emotions presented in a formulaic way, but a map which actually expresses and evokes emotion. For this it was essential to look beyond the song, it wasn't enough to listen to the song itself (although this was important) but also to research the culture behind the song, the history, connotations, era, links, connections, feelings, lifestyles, movements, artists etc. Below is a map of what I felt were the most important connections; I began looking at Aspen magazine, a 3D multimedia magazine in a box. I found that issue 3 was designed and edited by Warhol and David Dalton. There appeared peices of art from the cultural gamut ( Litchenstein, Jasper Johns, DeKooning etc) aswell as quotes, ranting, ravings and various contributions from The Velvet Underground themselves....this became a priceless resource during the project and helped me gain a deeper understanding of the band. Credit where credits due, this website has managed to salvage the components from each issue and amazingly preserved them on this website. During the project I was amidst a moving image workshop, therefore a natural progression within my research was to look a Andy Warhol films... (torture a cliche), but I felt his presence and influence on the Velvet Underground could not be ignored. I found myself not looking at Warhol in the conventional 'mainstream' pop artist he is so often perceived as, but as an individual of his time, who had much influence on many people, and above all was authentic, which I admired. Some of the films I looked at; Beauty Number 2 Andy Warhol Eats Hamburger. Through Aspen, I also began looking at Dada cinema, in particular Hans Richter, as he had appeared within a later edition of the magazine, when a film reel of 'Rhythm 21' was included within the box... To summarise, I knew I somehow wanted to use the idea of 'bad cinema'; distortion, purposely out of focus, maybe black and white film, but ultimately experiment with processes to see if any suitable outcome came through, initially I wasn't concerned with fitting the work to the song, that would come later. A Two fork road. Like I said 'process' was my first point of call, so I began simply with a sketchbook page, which displayed the song lyrics and proceeded something like this; Process-photocopy-enlarge-repeat-photocopy-enlarge-repeat until page is all black or all white- photograph-contact sheet- shred- tape together shreds- put through reel to reel tape player- photograph-print-photocopy-enlarge-repeat- wet in bath- dry- make collages.....create animation; (video displayed at foot of page) Second Road; after various tutorials, I decided the idea of processes alone, was not ambitious enough, so as well as carrying on with that I decided to take a completely new approach to the idea of mapping. I decided that after listening to the song, that the words I , I'm, I'll are mentioned at moments of particular intensity, I decided to highlight these words in each verse. I then counted the words between each I, I'm, I'll etc, and noted this down. I have always loved the idea of found images, and for this project I thought it would be interesting to perhaps experiement with 'found' video/film. This brought me to a charity shop back home, which was rich with a vast video collection, at a budget price... and lucky for me it was 3 for 2. I decided that the number of words between each I, I'll or I'm, should correlate to the positioning of the videos on the shelf. (i.e) 'I...3 words later ...I'll' would mean 'First video...three videos later pick another video) This would give me some structure, but also a completely unexpected outcome, as I could never predict which videos would be where. Here is the original shelf format, red dots represent videos I chose. Below is also the final videos with numbers which represent words between I, I'll or I'm. Once I had all the videos, I counted the seconds between each I, I'm or I'll and this determined the length of each clip. The results were interesting as once second there would be Postman Pat and the next a war film. The whole video was the length of the song, plus a few more seconds, due to the interval between each verse, in total around 8 mins.
So I had at my disposal two very different sets of film. The next logical step seemed to be to try and combine the video map , with my 'processes' animation and see which outcome prevailed. When I watched both the animation and the 'Video Map,' I found there were certain sections and small details of each which I felt were more effective than others. I wanted to combine the small successful sections, happy accidents, unexpected outcomes etc, to make something more deliberate. So, having the starting point and aesthetic of the animation, and the 'Video Map' I began an editing process.
Neither the stop motion or the 'Video Map' contained the song, this was a deliberate decision, but at this stage of the project I felt that the presence of the song was now neccessary to tie the whole thing together. I chose to focus on the first verse alone, as this was long enough to fairly represent the aesthetic of both outcomes, but not so long that my audience were falling asleep.
Final Cut
To refer back to the start of this post, and my question 'Can a map be emotional?' I feel that somewhere along this journey, sometimes unintentionally but often through deliberate choices I have managed to create a 'map' (of sorts) which expresses emotion. When listening to the song 'Heroin' I felt that it portrayed the drug and it's effects, as a dependance, but also with fondness, almost like a love affair. I never wanted to express the negative connotations of the drug, but rather to try and express the meaning of the song, and try to express it in a positive way, not to endorse it (far from it), but to represent the mind set of the band and people around the band and the culture of the time. The piece shows some some beautifully sensitive scenes (courtesy of Disney) juxstaposed with scenes of conflict, battle, journeys, confusion and sometimes just absurdity; portraying a kind of love/hate relationship on wheels, which reacts to the song.
By no means do I claim to have set out to portray these ideas from the offset, but ultimately that is what I think of now when I retrospectively reflect on the project.
Although I have encountered difficulties, and traumatic problems throughout this project, I am glad that I chose moving image, as it has opened up a few more doors for me, and has allowed me to step out of my comfort zone and take risks.(final video at foot of page)
Footage used throughout the whole project (Some elements may not have made the final cut)
Disclaimer: Clips, which have been taken from Videos are not my own work, I do not claim credit for them and a list of videos I have used is displayed below.

(In order of appearance)

The Story Keepers A.D 64: Sink or Swim/ Roar In The Night. ©1996

The greatest Story Ever Told. ©1965

Nursery Rhyme Time; 60 Favourite Children's Nursery Rhymes. ©1995

Noddy and the Naughty Tail. ©1992

We're Back; A Dinosaur's Story. ©1993

Thomas The Tank Engine & Friends. ©1991

Ice Age © 2002.

Postman Pat 2 ©1986

Showdown in Little Tokyo ©1991

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels © 1988

The Green Berets © 1968

Babylon 5 Volume 31 ©1996

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers; Classic Ranger edition © BVS International

Inspector Morse; Episode 2; The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn © 2003

Cyborg and Blood Sport starring Jean Claude Van Damme © 1987

Tarzan © Disney and Burroughs.

Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone © unknown

Shrek © 2001

Edward Scissorhands © 1990.


(Andy Warhol Eats Hamburger)

Beauty No. 2- Andy Warhol

Hans Richter- Rhythm 21

Andy Warhol Documentary.

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