The following post will describe my experience working with Apple's iMovie video editing application to communicate a media message through time based media. If you did not know, time-based media is a term which refers to art media which requires time to be appreciated and typically that means digital moving pictures or film but it could also mean kinetic sculpture. Experience with this movie making project has informed my practice as an artist and my theoretical understanding as an art therapist.
When I embarked on this creative journey, I was a little skeptical about the potential for film production or video editing technology to elicit the experience of flow for me. Still, i was curious enough to explore it because the painter and the art therapist in me is interested in the versatility and power of the image. What i discovered amazed me. In short time, i was able to gain some mastery of the iMovie editing controls and put together a series of moving images in just the way i desired. The result is a collage of images, sounds and ideas which attempt to examine and re-author a destructive social narrative. In this case, the destructive social narrative slated for restructuring is one which presents the sexualization of children as ideal. This same story depicts the hyper sexualization of women as desirable and socially relevant. The sexuality of women is draped over us like some kind of forbidden fruit which can be seen but never touched. It is a demi-god which both men and women alike aspire to possess. This narrative is oppressive on multiple levels given that it lowers the self esteem of young girls who see undue attention to idealized body types. The story we are told, perverts the motivations of young boys who come to see women exclusively as sexual objects. The porn industry plays an important role in the co-opting of boys' sexual identities and future gender relations but i chose not to include pornographic content in this movie because it is not essential to the message. The idea of sexual power is communicated well enough through the images of highly sexualized participants of a child beauty pageant reality t.v show which are contrasted against the images of adult women models in bikinis. The ubiquitous image of a model in sparse dress follows us just about anywhere there is media. This narrative of the flawless female form occupies a disproportionate amount of media volume and for this reason, it is deemed essential to counter-act it. In the parlance of our time: "this information is getting too much bandwidth". Given this dire situation, a certain amount of re-authoring does appear to be in order.
The sense of empowerment was definitely mine as i took mass media images out of the implicit and manufactured mainstream consent and repositioned them in my own timeline to communicate just how disturbing they can really be. Like most people, i have been exposed to mainstream media images which evoke a sense of outrage, horror, sadness or anger with little ability to actually "talk back" to those images. This sensation of powerlessness is a given any time i tune into a mainstream media broadcast. The current iMovie production ''The Happy Middle'' demonstrates that one need not suffer the oppression of mainstream messages in silence and that one is capable of dissent if one so desires. No longer must one be the passive recipient of the mass media library about body type, masculine or feminine gender roles, beauty or justice. With the power of video editing in hand, the average citizen becomes an informed consumer, a democratic participant in his own media consumption.
Like most consumers of mainstream media, i have often asked: "what is the hidden content of the message?" for a given program or newscast. Like most consumers, i have also asked: "How does the implied content contrast with the overt message?" and "Is the overall message positive for us collectively or does it serve a the agenda of a smaller group?" This thinking is a little paranoid perhaps or maybe it is just more realistic to look at mainstream media through that kind of discriminating filter. The position here is that if we are not asking questions about who benefits from putting a certain narrative in front of us, then we are not exercising our critical duty as informed consumers. Either way, these are the questions which i ask of image, print and text media.
It was empowering to discover that through iMovie and other video editing software, it is not only possible but easy to re-appropriate the negative messages of certain mainstream imagery and transform them into more adaptive and inclusive discussions. In so doing, i am no longer the passive recipient, nor the subject of the narrative but the narrative is re-authored and becomes the subject of its own focus. The present concept for a videographic social study through time based media had been brewing for a few years, alongside some other ideas. Once the application's tools were put in my hands, it was not long before my concept started to breathe.
A collage emerged from a collection of clips downloaded from youtube, some still pictures found through google and some personally recorded media. The editing actions consisted principally of slicing into shorter segments and re-ordering video segments, reversing the start and end points of clips, adding dissolves, transitions and titles, changing play speeds, adding effects and filters. Sound was treated in much the same video graphic way as video. A large number of sound bites were taken directly from the iMovie stock samples or found elsewhere online in mp3 format. The soundtrack is used to embed the viewer deeper within the meaning of the video.
Within the iMovie application timeline editing window, the soundtrack lies beneath the video timeline in a segmented format so that one can cut and paste or perform other edits directly to the segments or clips. A sound collage lays beneath the video timeline where both video and sound segments are represented visually. Naturally, each type of media requires different senses to be appreciated. The video requires the sense of vision and hand-eye coordination in order to modify it with the use of the computer. The audio requires listening attentively to the sound wave and making sure it all fits with the images. When processing audio in the timeline window, one is using both senses of sight and sound to ensure audio-video syncing. Thus, it is possible to visually handle the audio segments when changing their clip duration, cross-fading them with other audio clips or adding special sound effects. It was an interesting experience to work with sound in a visual manner because few people, outside of those who can read music, are able to experience this. It is of note that syntesthetes appear to be capable of cross sensory processing such that they may see tastes, hear colours or smell numbers. I can attest that something strange happened in my brain when i rewired it to process sounds in a visual manner but i will leave this for another post so that i have time to read the work of a specialist and figure out what exactly is happening! When working at full throttle, my eyes, ears and hands are honed in to what i am doing. My senses are playing this image editing game with those parts of my brain which direct attention and action to rendering the vision of my concept into reality.
Exploring the physical aspects of working with time based media further, I observed that my hands were also in a task oriented position. Unlike with painting, where my right hand is doing the work, video editing requires two hands working in unison on a keyboard designed for 1o fingers. Hand regions for both hemispheres are thus activated at the locations of the various digits being used to operate the keyboard. Hand and eye operate in a continuous loop of biofeedback. This is of interest to me because i commented in another post which you can read here about my hypothesis that painting with my right hand contributed to neural cross talk between hand motor regions in the primary motor cortex and adjacent speech areas including Brocas, leading to an increase in production and awareness of internal speech. In that post, i further speculated that the neurological activity involved in painting ultimately led to the expression of novel ideas in verbal, written form. It was also mentioned in that post that most of what i write about on this blog comes to me as i am in the process of making art. In fact, the receptivity to novel ideas (novel for me) is familiar enough to me that i frequently engage in art to better understand emotional or relational quandaries. Again, this is hypothetical because it has not been verified by a brain specialist, but my experience of 20 years painting tells me that painting for long periods of time is associated for me with increased attention to internal speech and consequent verbal, written output.
We say a picture is worth a thousand words. A painting is a special kind of picture and it may be worth more. After maybe 20 hours of cutting, searching and collating images, it became apparent that i could express much more than a thousand words in just a couple of minutes of video. If a picture is worth a thousand words and my video is showing pictures at a rate of 24-30 frames per second than that is a lot of words. Eventually, i arrived at a natural place of contentement with my production. In just 2 minutes and 25 seconds of video, i was able to express clusters of ideas which had taken me years to arrive at. Those ideas are expressed exactly as i imagined they should be expressed. The final product is one which i can attest to having had complete control over. I am not sure i can ever say that when i am painting. Video production is more concise, much more immediate and direct. One says exactly what one likes with sound and image together even though a word may not be spoken. As with painting, the message exists on an emotional plane and rings either true or false denpending on the viewer. Whether we are considering time based media or painting, an authentically expressed human experience does appear to have resonance with a broad section of art appreciators, cross culturally, through time and perhaps even universally.
Finally, there was a phenomenal observation pertaining to increased dream activity. Over the course of roughly 2 weeks editing this video entitled: "The Happy Middle" i noticed an marked increase in dream activity from several months of zero remembered dreams to several weeks of remembered dreams occurring roughly every other night. This phenomenon is interpreted as related to my image work with time based media. This observation leads me to suspect that exposure to video editing involves attention to and manipulation of images and that this process somehow activates a kind of creative visualization which is not unlike being in a dream state. In a dream state we are basically editing video towards the production of a unique vision. Those who have experience documenting dreams may find that they tend to happen in phases where there are frequent dreams during a particular phase and very few in another. It is therefore suspected that manipulation of images through video editing software may trigger dream activity.
In this post, i will not delve into the intention or the significance of the movie itself because this belongs to the viewer and might be reserved for a separate discussion. The present post is concerned exclusively with the subjective experience of working in time based media with the iMovie application.password: tomartist The Happy Middle from thomas shortliffe on Vimeo.