Thursday, 29 May 2014

Water, Bamboo, Water (video)

Water, Bamboo, Water from Systems Art on Vimeo.

Idea behind the video

I set out to to get the effect of water and trees from two videos taken in the same garden, where the reflection of bamboo is created by overprinting. I also set out to synchronise the images to suitable music.
This has not not been achieved here, partly because the interleaving of the videos has hidden the obvious synchronisation points. I need new (stock) footage which can better achieve these objectives.

Wider Issues

"Water, Bamboo, Water" is a small step on the path of a wider investigation.
I am always Searching for the Systematic, in all things, natural and artificial. This blog is devoted to Art in all its forms (although it has concentrated mainly on visual art heretofore)

Early posts were largely about geometry, so artists like Mondrian took my interest. I moved on from that to an interest in abstract photography, inspired somewhat by a biography of Munch, who dabbled in photography but who also took liberties with perspective and form, which I found very interesting.

I realised then that "all art is contemporary" in the sense that it needs to be looked at in the context of its time (or that is at least one good way of looking at it). We see the move from figurative to abstract that begins at the end of the nineteenth century as a reaction to photography. And then the move from impressionism to abstract expressionism as the painter realises the possibilities of exploiting their medium.

Visual Art of the late twentieth century combined all these ideas and blurred the lines between them.

Other Art forms were similarly affected by the possibilities of new materials and new technologies. An early departure for music seems to have begun with the adoption of the 12 tone scale in the 1910s(?).

Music is Systematic by its very nature. Especially composed music, where the systematic means of its regeneration (performance) are written down.

This observation awakened my interest in the relationship between Music and Visual Art. Many artists have evoked this interest in their work, not least Paul Klee, but it deserves repeated examination with each advent of new media and new technologies.

I have tried to understand the various ways in which Visual Art can be systematic too, and most entries on this blog attest to my meagre attempts to progress my understanding. Music is my more recent focus.

Klee, of course, tried to understand the invocation of music applied to visual art "on the page". That is, he confined himself to paintings and its derivatives.

It is interesting that his contemporary, Schoenberg, was discovering (inventing?) serialism in music at that time. The key idea behind serialism is that you lay down a sequence of tones which you repeat throughout the composition in various transformations: transposed, inverted, reversed, grouped as chords etc. This is not at all unlike the way Klee chose to apply marks to canvases to realise his own abstract works.

These two insights gave me an incentive to investigate how their respective ideas might be combined. The serialism of music suggests a sequencing of images rather than composing them solely on a page. But the superposition of tones used by Klee (an his contemporaries) is an aspect that I don't want to lose.

Video gives the added dimension of sequencing to visual art and as such is a good vehicle for serialism (although, as you will see in earlier post on this blog, I also like to use slideshows). The advantage of video is that Music and Video can be super-synchronised. They can be made to stay in-step where a slideshow with music might be a challenge.

By combining images that use both Klee's methods of superposition with serialism's sequencing, I thought, we might be able to present a systematic offering that has the merits of both. Images that have the lyricism of music, that appear to dance, with music that has the feeling of a work of abstract painting.

With "Water, Bamboo, Water" I have made an initial excursion into this territory. It combines video footage in a way that has the aspects of superposition that I am seeking. It is a vehicle for a serialist approach to musical composition, which is again something I am seeking. It does not, as yet, super-synchronise them as I had intended. For this I need better stock footage and I need a more synchronisable music track.

Moving On

There are obviously close associations between Serialism and Maths. There are also obviously close associations between Serialism and programming. Maths and programming seem to me to be obvious tools for contemporary artists to apply in their practices. Many do exactly that when they are Scripting Art in, for example, photo-manipulation software or music synthesisers.

It seems to me ironic, when Art attracts many of our brightest students, that more of them are not introduced to the possibilities of  maths and programming to their practice. At a time when the (UK) government are pushing hard to increase the teaching of programming in schools, where is the initiative that extends this push to combine this with the teaching of art. A whole new generation of gap-transcending artist-technologists might emerge to the benefit of us all.