Monday, 21 April 2008

Collaboration with Caroline

Caroline and I have been in conversation. We started mulling over her observation that as a researcher interviewing health professionals and mums, language could be a barrier rather than exchange. Somehow we got on to dress codes and gifting!
Then I thought about the films of Valerie Mrejen. She is a French Artist and Writer who makes video films of every day conversations, encounters and narratives which memorably illuminate the fraughtness of 'communication' that we are so skilled at glossing over.
Steven Rogers interviews Valerie Mrejen:
Filmmaker, photographer, plastician and author, Valerie Mrejen is an authentic jack-of-all-trades. Whether directing short films, penning novels or shooting documentaries, she consistently paints from the same palette, mixing memories, childhood and anecdotes with language, incommunicability and non-relationships.
The artist says this about her work: “I wouldn’t know whether I subscribe my work to a particular tradition, but I am interested in doing work about banality. I think it’s an ambiguous term which has taken on a negative connotation. It can be interpreted as something to do with squalor or something boring, but I find that, in what people call the everyday or banality, there are hundreds of details which make everything and nothing. It’s precisely these minute details which reveal everything that can be behind them.”
Caroline's had a look at some of the films and finds them really interesting. I am pleased to find some one who is a fellow fan of the work.
We've been analysing the films. Valerie Mrejen uses actors to portray episodes based on autobiographical experiences. The delivery is quite deadpan - banal, althought the content is often quite harrowing. We ponder two things. First that the deadpan delivery of excrutiating or uncomfortable material can have a bigger impact on the viewer than an intense delivery. Second that using actors gives the artist flexibility in exactly how she wants them to perform.
We looked at the way the films are shot - very simple, static camera, often just head and shoulders. We talked about the importance of sound quality and lighting on simple set ups.
We've discovered that the French Institute in Edinburgh has a dvd of 'Pork and Milk' a fairly recent documentary by the artist which hopefully we will get to see together.
Caroline is considering the possibility of using video as a way of disseminating some of her findings. We are considering doing a joint presentation to CRFR on our conversations and explorations so far.

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