Between the ‘Party flick’ and the ‘Film-of-the-Soul: An Ethnography of Romanian Documentary
(image on screen: Reconstruction, Virgil Calotescu, 1960; from The Great Communist Bank Robbery, Alexandru Solomon, 2004)
I am working on an ethnography of documentary film-making in late communist and early post-communist Romania, with a focus on the film studio [ALEXANDRU SAHIA] which came to epitomize the documentary production of the country from the 1950s into the 1990s. My research comprises attending to the narrative and interpretive repertoire of the film-makers formerly attached to the studio, taken as a community-of-memory and defined by a common space of experience.
My approach is largely archaeological. I seek to describe the taxonomical consensus that grounded socialist documentary by starting from a body of documentary works produced in post-socialist Romania and connected in various ways to past texts and contexts. Although I incidentally discuss the form and content of some films, my focus is on social practice, i.e. on the ways in which a multitude of discrete practices attached to documentary film-making during the 1980s connected cinema with other dimensions of social life, ultimately turning documentary practice into a means of “getting-by” in socialist Romania.
On a wider level, I aim to nuance previous binary models of the official vs. the unofficial, the subversive vs. the compliant, and to translate between the fairly under-theorized domestic and regional traditions of documentary practice, and the more thoroughly examined Euro-American documentary traditions.
Critical Strategies for the Representation of Travel in Filmmaking Practice
The aim of this practice-based research is to present a set of creative and critical strategies for the representation of contemporary travel in filmmaking practice. Moreover, the film aims to explore ongoing negotiations of transnational and hybrid identities into a journey through Spain, France, London, USA and Mexico. The film will also look at the ways in which ‘global culture’ affects the articulation of contemporary representations of travel, while studying nostalgic regressions to tradition as means of coping with a dislocated postmodern era. The project is based on a critical analysis of the historical development of the travelogue genre as a discursive practice. The final product will incorporate a conceptual model for the analysis of the travel experience and the construction of the travelling subject on film.
Space, modernity and subjectivity in post-soviet Yerevan
As images of Soviet Modernity have become, over the past 20 years, another modality in consumer nostalgia and are treated as ‘exotic’ variations of the modern, the main aim of the research project, reacting precisely against this impulse to consume the ‘world as image’, is to explore urban representations and their influence on the construction of historical memory and space. Using a fixed geographical location, the city of Yerevan, taken as a case study, the research will examine the shifts in the understanding of geography, subjectivity and identity and the complex spatial relations that exist under the conditions of globalisation. Working with the form of the essay film, the research will be a visual and textual exploration of the question: how do you make sense of Yerevan when there is no single viewpoint? Thus, the main focus is the exploration of the urban imaginary, of how the mental map of the city differs from person to person, how space and place are represented and how space becomes a place where references criss-cross and images migrate.
Lusitano da Fonseca Moreira Santos, Maria
Relating to Childhood
My practice-based project aims to investigate ways of representing childhood through the development of an essay film. This essay film is drawn from an archive of clips done in collaboration with my son over a number of years. My project is auto-ethnographical, as I am working with my daily life as a way to address cultural descriptions, such as the different meanings of the concept of childhood. A key aspect of my research is to develop a methodology, inspired by shared filmmaking techniques, that aims to include the perspective of the child regarding his own representation. This methodology, I propose, will develop new approaches to the subject.
Patients as Authors
This study aims to extend current modes of health documentary by empowering breast cancer patients to be active makers of meaning. To date the arguments of filmmakers, broadcasters, or experts have tended to dominate the narrative in health documentaries and it is only through their interpretations and filtering that we gain insight into the experiences of patients. This process distorts the perspective of those directly affected by the disease, creating a discourse that has been described as “victim based”. It is this mode of filmmaking that has typified health films and has resulted in the patient’s voice being either lost in the scientific and medical meta-narrative, or contorted by positivist assumptions. The methodology of this PhD is grounded in the principles of shared visual anthropology exemplified by the work of Jean Rouch, but will also look to the experiences of other collective film projects which have successfully resurrected voices drowned out by the dominant culture.
Stasis, motion and colonial memory
My research aims to explore the tensions between still and moving images as a contribution to exploring new approaches to making the past felt in the present. The re-mediation of archive photographs within the moving-image aims to provoke an engagement with postcolonial memory that simultaneously generates a reflection on images, their construction and deployment. I hope to show how the merging of stillness and movement can put archive photographs to work in new and productive ways.
I am exploring the visual archive of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC, now BP) which stages and documents the British oil industry in Iran from 1908-1978. This archive offers a means of exploring British self-representation via their technologies, their colonisation of landscape, resources, people and culture, against a political-social backdrop that had, and continues to have, dramatic local and international consequences.
Imperative Depiction: Artistic responses in film to current affairs
My research investigates how semblances of truth are used in documentary film- making practices to disrupt the congruity of generalised perceptions of reality and dominant notions of truth in contrast to those constructed through news media practices. My investigation is based around my own and a growing number of film practices within a contemporary fine art, born out of documentary film making practices of the 20th Century, that form creative responses to events of a social or political nature.
I plan to produce a feature-length film based on images of the seven capital cities of the countries that belonged to former Yugoslavia, to discuss questions of identity, memory, history and place, moving from the disconnectedness of things to the depiction of the city as a spectral topography between past and present, the symbolic and the prosaic; additionally, the construction of a specific cinematic place that challenges the notion of geography and extends beyond representation. My approach should be seen as an alternative to the purely formalist and structuralist paradigms and to sociologist questions interested only in cultural determinations. The theoretical framework will be at once support and dialogue with philosophy, geography, art history, film studies and the work of other contemporary filmmakers, photographers and painters with the aim of drawing new perspectives to the question. I am specially centred in the arquitecture of vision, one that comprehends both the material and mental dimensions of spatiality and place. The fantasised and haptic city becomes a filmic “heterotopia” (Foulcault), “immersed in the region” (Deleuze/Guattari) and “collapsed in the imagination” (Bachelard), creating a lived abstraction that breaks the “opposition between conception and perception” (Lefebvre).
Using online interactive video in visual ethnographic research
In this research I will focus on the intersection between visual ethnography, digital media practice, network cultures, and explore the potential of online interactive video to present an alternative paradigm of an online ethnographic platform for epistemological exploration. The motivation of this research is to use three case studies to push the boundaries of visual ethnography, by representing the central methodological and practical parameters of using online interactive video in ethnographic research. All three case studies present a reflective engagement with theory and media practices in the field of visual ethnographic research, and seek to extend the debates in visual methods and interactive digital video media-making practices, to further the understanding of modes of non-text visual analysis, and revise and broaden the scope of visual ethnographic research.
Video Transitions: The Changing Nature of Participatory Video
I am researching into how different types of groups in the UK and the US involved in video production prior to the internet have appropriated the participatory affordances of it as a video medium. My focus is on three particular groups: the California Community Media Exchange, a partnership of community media centres; the video activist group Undercurrents, and it’s online project visionOntv; and a group of fan video makers on LiveJournal. I am researching into each of these groups ethnographically, and I plan to analyse my findings using the framework of science and technology studies. While my thesis is theory-led, in addition to a written thesis I am also developing a visual ethnography in the form of a website.