Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Blog Suggestion

The National Alliance for Media Arts + Culture recently has launched the artsENGAGE blog salon and social media experience. The blog salon is entitled ENGAGE: art + community in the digital age.
namac/ENGAGE blog is a place to share innovative arts + media projects that involve community engagement.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Video Research and Interdisciplinary Practice

            With this text, I have included a video segment that visually represents one of the methods of how I use video within my interdisciplinary practice to document social interactions. My aim for presenting this video is for it to be used as an example to explain the inquiry of how video research and this text on my ethnographic process for my “collection” project form a relationship of meaning with each other.
             Sarah Pink’s argument concerning video research and video representation poses the inquiry for future exploration of employing video to reach beyond current discussions of the production of ethnographic videos or the explanation of video content into verbal knowledge. Pink’s argument toward video research footage is that it can be limited in the ethnographic representation by means of selective creativity or systematic recording used within the research. She proposes a reflexive approach in the research process in the development and understanding of knowledge obtained with video clips. Her example is an exploration of the relationships between video research footage and other forms of fieldwork, as in writing or images. [1]
            Since my fieldwork is not currently using video in the preliminary stages of research, I have regarded and expanded Sarah Pink’s concept of “video as research.” I am visually presenting this video of myself as an artist employing the knowledge gained from my ethnographic process with this blog post concerning research about interdisciplinary methods. While this video depicts the act of how I document my subject matter with the medium of video, what is absent is the preliminary fieldwork that develops the restaging of the social interaction. In this video, I am performing the ethnographic roles of the participant interacting with the object (the can opener) and the role of the ethnographer. These dual roles both inquire about the method of research by means of written field notes, along with still photo images or drawings. This preliminary knowledge gained from these methods is in constant consideration. The ethnographic process enables me to investigate the characteristics of the social interaction and structure the visual aspect of the final video representation for the “collection” project.
            A little over a decade later, from Sarah Pink’s publication Doing Visual Ethnography, Christopher Wright’s text, In the Thick of it: Notes on Observation and Context presents artist, Cameron Jaime’s style of documenting popular culture. An art critic’s review of Cameron Jaime’s artwork and his documenting style is labeled as “amateur” status. This notion is where Wright begins his argument concerning the misconceptions of the opposition between the artist and visual anthropologist use of “participant-observer” methods in the visual form. [2]  Wright’s investigation of Jaime’s work focuses the question of why there should be a divide of contextual and immersive approaches with film and video between artists and visual anthropologists. Wright poses ideas to move beyond these oppositions, such as anthropologists considering immersive aspects in their video representation. He also states artists need to acknowledge broader aspects in their documentation practice that focus on issues of context.[3] 
            I am acknowledging both approaches, contextual and immersive, with my video clips of social interactions between people and objects. Wright’s immersive concept is in regards of the viewer having an experience with the image.[4] The act of restaging the subject matter of the observations against a blank white background allows there to be a focus on the detail engagement between the interaction of a person and object that might otherwise be unnoticed as part of a daily routine. The written text used in the preliminary stages of my ethnography process enables me to examine the social interaction alone. The writing only concentrates on the details of the action and senses used between person and object. The ethnography process offers a “slowed down” analysis that contributes to establishing viewpoints to be considered in the framing of the subject matter for the video clip. The idea of presenting the restaging with video representation without any additional environment is derived from my fine art training of documenting a completed artwork on a neutral background.  This persuades the viewer’s focus to only be on the artwork.
            The context of the video clips is representing themed segments from the “collection” project. The subject matter for the video segments range from specific types of activities, objects, or the human body. The title clips at the beginning of each of the collection videos introduce the title of the theme. A second title clip introducing the context of the theme is described with two or three sentences. This introduces and engages the viewers with the concept of the theme as well as the visual representation. The inclusion of a written form has expanded the visual presentation opportunities in my art practice.
            Acknowledging the stages within my art practice before the realization of the video representation for a collection theme demonstrates how video and other research materials are considered in the ethnographic process. This blog post is not intended to be a final assessment or placement of my contemporary art within the theory of the “ethnographic turn.”[5] My intent is to begin a dialog with this blog post and the video research footage to show one of the several “grey areas” in the process of interdisciplinary methods used by an artist.

[1] Sarah Pink, Visual Ethnography (London: SAGE Publications Inc, 2001) 140-141
[2] Christopher Wright, “In the Thick of It: Notes on Observation and Context,” in Between Art and Anthropology, eds. Arnd Schneider & Christopher Wright (Oxford: Berg, 2010) 67
[3] ibid, 71 - 73
[4] ibid, 71
[5] Hal Foster, The Return of the Real (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1996), 184- 185