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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Shiftwork 1999-2009

Shiftwork 1999 - 2009: A Retrospective Manifesto
The Art of the Possible


‘The old editing technology was prohibitively expensive for everyone except professionals and the most dedicated amateur filmmakers. Now the lid’s off...there are lots of other kinds of filmmaking possibilities opening up in the wide spectrum between home movies and feature films’.
Walter Murch

‘I am also convinced that the chances of completing any project are inversely proportionate to the number of people upon whose cooperation it is dependent...the more one is dependent on circumstances exterior to one’s own adaptability, the more discouraging the entire effort. One is not likely to take the time to arrange the angle and framing very precisely when either the clouds are mounting rapidly from the horizon, or the ‘extras’ are becoming thoroughly tired, bored, hungry and disillusioned about the ‘glamour of film-making’. Under such pressure one hurries through, hoping that somehow it will turn out better than it does. It never does’.
Maya Deren

Shiftwork - an artist-led research partnership, experimenting with boundary-crossing aspects of visual arts and new media practice, digital technology and dance.

In November 1999, new media artist Jake Messenger and dance artist Chirstinn Whyte set out to explore the potential for creative interaction with home computer. The name Shiftwork was chosen to reflect a pattern of unfunded experimentation fitted around core, paid commitments, and the development of a website began a long term focus on DIY culture.

Over the next two years, equipment was acquired, in the form of a single chip digital video camera, and three halogen lamps. Dancer friends and students were filmed in hit-and-run, guerilla-style sessions in living rooms and smuggled into studio spaces. Improvised movement produced useable footage within short time slots, with only framing options pre-planned, and work emerging organically through the edit. Identification of single images helped train an editing eye, with stills arranged as skeletal maps, fleshed out into self-contained pieces.

A three year PhD studentship provided access to space for filming at Middlesex University. Dance artists’ volunteered input fed into a forty-two piece cycle of work, filmed in short, movement-centred sessions. Exploring up to half-a-dozen ideas within each one bypassed the event-driven focus of traditional film-making in favour of an open-ended, process-led approach.

The resulting work has been shown across five continents, and, as dial-up has given way to broadband, a constantly-evolving version of the original website attracts a steady stream of global traffic. Unfunded exploration continues into the potential of hand held mobile phone and flip cameras, video blogging and found footage, as working practices adopted from necessity evolve into positive choice.

With thanks to all collaborators - www.shiftwork.org.uk

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