Random Acts Secret Monsters Commission – Animate Projects/Channel 4 (2013)
We Are Not Amused – the second of our two films made for Animate Projects / Random Acts on Channel 4 TV will screen this Thursday 5th Septembernight at ten past midnight (UK) on Channel 4. It is listed as the program “Random Acts”. Co-written with artist Ergo Phizmiz. Update: the film is now archived on the Channel 4 Random Acts website.
We Are Not Amused on Random Acts, Channel 4 TV
Synopsis of film: Who knows where ideas come from? You or me? Or THEM? The Muses are angry and they want their ideas back! This is a story of thieving and reappropriation, staged on a mythological platform.
“Notations” is a film by Vicki Bennett for live performance by improvising musicians and artists. It has been created using collected and edited found footage from hundreds of different films, where the content conceptually or literally portrays different kinds of ‘gestures’, ‘instructions’ and content that can then be interpreted by musicians and artists with unique audio accompaniments. Notations contains edits of the movies and sounds from the source films, separated into ‘sketches’ or stories that segue into one another, and it exists with a list of instructions (score) on how artist(s) working with this choose to work with these particular elements.
Notations references the fact that it is very natural, even primordial for one to creatively respond to visual stimulus in an “improvised” (natural) way rather than all responses being directed, set in stone. Within human communication it is part of our hard circuitry that for instance we use hand gestures to articulate our speech, which is essentially graphically describing/enforcing audio or spoken discourse. Even when spoken language is not present, a whole series of hand and facial gestures are available to us to communicate expressions. By making a film that both contains human gestures (hands, facial, movement) as well as gestures made by natural and mechanical occurrences we are setting up the conditions for a dialogue between the graphical elements on the films and the improvisers, both with the film as well as with each other.
When performed, the film is provided with a “score” (ie a list of instructions to be translated into sound) which consists of some basic instructions and a synopsis listing characteristics of the 9 different sketches featured in the film. The sketches are as follows:
The film is made in 9 sketches with titles that roughly describe the content/concept/theme. The themes move and progress with many tangents, although there is continuity of concepts and the pace even and flowing. There is intermittent film sound throughout, and lots of silence. Hopefully the sound will be no more surprising than any other performer on the stage. The maximum audio volume should be set equal to each participant.
There will be no instructions to be found beyond what is in the film, no written score beyond this text. The film will be provided to the players at least 2 weeks before the performance date, and should be viewed several times well before performing. For each sketch different numbers and combinations of performers are recommended, either spontaneously or pre-determined. All players should meet to discuss this before performing, and rehearsals are at the discretion of the performers.
Ultimately, whatever the film content suggests is what all should react to. – Vicki Bennett, May 2013
1. A Nod to Previous Players. Majority of footage sourced from old avant-garde and comedy films featuring people playing cards and chess, also doing things at tables. Very little sound added to the film soundtrack. 2. From A-B. Transport, trains, cars, carriages and things that move fast. Some typewriting and conducting too. This one is fast and also noisy in places! 3. Spin. Lots of spinning, vertigo, circles and targets. Zooming into eyes. Camera shutters. Not too much incidental sound on the film apart from towards the end with a piano. 4. At Home. Mainly footage shot in domestic environments – pans through people’s rooms, people eating and chopping food, ringing doorbells, broken appliances and acts of domestic destruction. Reel to reel tape recorders and record players. Fairly quiet, some incidental sounds with a few louder bursts at the end when woman finds a monster in her fridge. 5. Several Directions at Once. Part 1 A conductor conducts traffic lights and traffic. Incidental sound from traffic, but not conductor’s music. Radio dial turns. Hands waving, pointing and conjuring. Quiet to start with then bursts of sound around the time of the radio dial being turned. Part 2 Lots of punching, slapping and violence with incidental sound, cut in with a little conducting and hand gestures, bending and stretching. Quite noisy. Ends with car crash and bowing conjuror. 6. Dark. Hand movements signifying quiet/listening. Record player and film leaders flicker black and white. People in the dark with candles, thunder and lightning, lights on and off. Disconnection of power, suspense and fear. Incidental sound of storm. People walking on wooden steps in the dark. Radio tuner and typewriters/printing machines. Quiet incidental sound apart from necessary bursts of weather/explosions. 7. Ups and Downs. Record players, panning through people’s living rooms. Leisure – card playing and knitting. More panning and record playing. Walking legs/feet through many films. Very quiet. Desert scene, people run down hill making a noise, there follow many scenes from westerns, woman stops train, buzzers pressed, men with bells, all incidental sounds for this section. More walking, people waiting behind doors, quiet, suspense, just footsteps and door handles. Door lock gets shot (very loud) and then follows a lot of scenes of people struggling in train/horse carriages, to the sound of a carriage then train stopping. Ends with car sinking into mud. 8. The Suspense is Killing Me. Predator/victims leaning over/backing away or trapped. Retaliation, shooting. Walking. Snooker and more predators. Opening of doors to different scary people, hiding. Child making horrible noise with a pencil on chalkboard. Doors and wall banging intercut with silence and suspense, listening at walls. More doors opening and suspense, hiding and running. Screaming and fear, silhouettes with bright lights. Power cuts, darkness intercut with conductor and man stuck in phone booth. More power cuts and screaming, general misery. Sleeping woman, man walks up the stairs away from her, looks around, she looks up. He walks away. 9. Nothing Happens. Man walks down wooden stairs to men playing cards at a table. Intercut with other people staring at the screen or each other, no one does anything, they are just looking. Walking around wooden flooring, woman slams door, sits in silence, kicks floor and three people faint. LP rolls across floor, car runs over accordion. Birds fly up and down, mixed with dancing swimmers. Man sits and writes at a table, silently turning blank pages from different movies. Lots of panning over paper and big tables, mainly silent, man screams at faceless man. Lots more staring at one another, suspense, waiting. Nothing happens. Door opens to man in fez, everyone screams. More staring and suspense. Still nothing happens. Gust of wind, Harpo plays flute through window and scares all the ladies. More predators with weapons, people run away, roll credits.
(The 30-minute version of the film excludes parts 7 & 9)
20 April 2013 (with the working title of Gesture Piece*)Tectonics Festival, Reykjavik, Iceland Performers: Skúli Sverrisson, Davíð Þór Jónsson, Kristín Þóra Haraldsdóttir, Hlynur Aðils. 8 June 2013 (with the working title of Gesture Piece*)Tectonics Festival, Tel Aviv Performers: Alex Drool, Assif Tsahar, Robbie Avenaim, Christoph Heemann, Eyvind Kang and Jessika Kenney. 10 June 2013 (with the working title of Gesture Piece*)Uganda, Jerusalem Performers: Eyvind Kang, Jessika Kenney, Robbie Avenaim, Christoph Heemann and special guests November 2013 Various locations in the UK, produced by Tusk and commissioned bySound and Music. https://peoplelikeus.org/2013/notations-tour/ : Bill Orcutt, Rhodri Davies, M.C. Schmidt (Matmos), Philip Jeck, Jaap Blonk, Steve Noble, Wobbly, Mark Sanders, Tomomi Adachi and Jennifer Walshe. September 2014 WFMU Monty Hall, NJ, performed by M.C.Schmidt and Jason Willett September 2014 High Zero, Baltimore, performed by Bob Wagner (drums),LaDonna Smith (violin), Jenny Gräf(electronics, guitar) October 2014 In Mute Festival, Athens Onassis Cultural Centre performed by the duo Acte Vide. May 2018 School of Music Studies Aristotle University of Thessaloniki May 2018 School of Music Studies, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki Greece – A.U.TH. Experimental & Improvised Music Ensembles September 2019 at Digital Alchemy/Indexical at Radius Gallery Santa Cruz, performed by Blectum from Blechdom
* Please note – Gesture Piece is now a separate project, an online film with 7 artist soundtracks. We needed to change the name as the project split into two parts.
HISTORY OF GESTURE AND CARD-BASED WORKS
There is a tradition in experimental music of musicians responding to graphic scores and non-conductor-led direction. John Cage wrote scores that both directed the performer on what elements/structures needed to be used/responded to, but at the same time introduced chance elements based around personal interpretation and the use of random prediction techniques like the iChing. In the past 25 years some contemporary artist-composers have used prompts as guidelines for musical interpretations, following John Cage’s tradition.
Examples of alternative methods of conducting:
John Oswald “Rien Ne Va Plus” uses a roulette and coloured cards to prompt an orchestra to play certain tunes. Christian Marclay’s “Shuffle” uses a pack of cards containing his own photographs of various depictions of musical scores which improvising musicians then respond to live. In Marclay’s “Zoom Zoom”, the performer interprets his projected images of everyday objects with graphics contained within them. John Zorn index card/file-card composition pieces include “Cobra” and “The Big Gundown”: combining composition and improvisation in which Zorn would write down a description of what he wanted on file-cards and arrange them to form the piece. Zorn compiled his various thoughts regarding his subject on index cards, and then arranged those into a working roadmap for his band of improvisers. He described the process in 2003: “I write in moments, in disparate sound blocks, so I find it convenient to store these events on filing cards so they can be sorted and ordered with minimum effort. Pacing is essential. If you move too fast, people tend to stop hearing the individual moments as complete in themselves and more as elements of a sort of cloud effect…”.
A film by Vicki Bennett  Soundtracks by : Andrew Sharpley [00:06] | Matmos [01:02] | Wobbly [05:08] | Gwilly Edmondez [07:48] | Dave Soldier [09:38] | Jason Willett [11:02] | Ergo Phizmiz [13:23]
The completed film stitches back together the seven chapters with their individual soundtracks, creating new connections between apparently unrelated film sequences. The result is a fascinating and witty reinterpretation of familiar film footage, with scenes arranged in surprising and often very funny combinations.
The title of “Gesture Piece” is partly self-explanatory – within human communication it is part of our hard circuitry that for instance we use hand gestures to articulate our speech, which is essentially graphically describing/enforcing audio or spoken discourse. Even when spoken language is not present, a whole series of hand and facial gestures are available to us to communicate expressions. By making a film that both contains human gestures (hands, facial, movement) as well as gestures made by natural and mechanical occurrences we are setting up the conditions for a dialogue between the graphical elements on the films and the improvisers, both with the film as well as with each other.
Gesture Piece has a sister project, Notations – a film created for live performance by selected improvising musicians and artists. When these two projects began, they shared the same umbrella name of Gesture Piece (the live performance was tested at Tectonics Festival in Reykjavik and Tel Aviv), but as the work developed it felt natural to separate them out into different names as they became two unique and separate entities.
Animate Projects is pleased to be producing an array of amazing animations for Channel 4’s Random Acts that will provide an insight into the world’s hidden or secret monsters.
The slate considers the pseudo-science of cryptozoology – the search for creatures whose existence remains unproven. Many of these creatures feature in myths, legends and folklore across the globe, and include thunderbirds, the Loch Ness Monster, phantom cats, Bigfoot, colobockle, and the Chupacabra.
Animate has commissioned and acquired works from artists based in Austria, Japan, South America, Spain and the UK that respond to the theme. The artists bring inventive character design, hair-raising stories and a mix of animation techniques, to delight one and all.The artists are: Vicki Bennett, Elizabeth Hobbs, Clemens Kogler, Mandy McIntosh, Jossie Malis, Motomichi Nakamura, Sean Vicary and Atsushi Wada.Animate’s Random Acts will be broadcast on Channel 4, randomacts.channel4.com and animateprojects.org from Autumn 2013.
We Are Not Amused: Who knows where ideas come from? You or me? Or THEM? The Muses are angry and they want their ideas back! This is a story of thieving and reappropriation, staged on a mythological platform.
The Golem, An Inanimate Matter: The Golem, a monstrous being of inanimate matter from Jewish folklore, is accidentally summoned from a book and wreaks havoc through a public library.
Still from We Are Not Amused (2013)
About Random Acts Random Acts is Channel 4’s short-form arts strand airing five nights a week and online at randomacts.channel4.com; over the course of a year it will showcase 260 specially commissioned three minute films chosen for their bold and original expressions of creativity. Visit http://randomacts.channel4.com/
Ergo Phizmiz as “Simple Stephen doodle drawing…”
About Animate Projects Animate Projects is the only arts charity in the UK dedicated to championing experiments in animation. Our ambition is to support artists to use animation in new ways to create innovative and thought-provoking projects. We nurture the creative talent of artists, and encourage them to apply their skills to respond to briefs in unexpected ways. We enable artists to push the boundaries of what is possible – whether embracing advances in digital technologies, or reinventing the possibilities with traditional craft skills. To ensure all our projects reach the widest audiences, we work in partnership with leading broadcasters and national cultural organisations including Tate, Art on the Underground, Barbican, Channel 4, BFI, and Crafts Council.
Gesture Piece* will be performed by an entirely new set of improvisers at another edition of Tectonics Festival, this time on 8 June 2013 in Tel Aviv at the venue Levontin 7. The performers this time around will be Alex Drool, Assif Tsahar, Robbie Avenaim, Christoph Heemann, Eyvind Kang and Jessika Kenney.
*Please note: The film for live improvisers Gesture Piece has now changed its name to Notations
Introducing the new People Like Us audiovisual performance:
“Consequences”, has two definitions; it is the result of some previous action, and a game (called Exquisite Corpse by the Surrealists) in which a larger picture/narrative is created by assembling subject matter “blindly” in relation to a small amount of information made visible before it as a continuation point. As a result, content surprisingly and sometimes magically changes over a short period of time or space, with every part still connected to that which goes before or after it.
This new audiovisual performance by People Like Us places similar but emerging subject matter side by side to construct the narrative, where a story emerges as a sum of the parts that came before it yet digresses on a tangent. All actions have consequences, and here we see them played out, to wondrous and catastrophic effect!
“The subject of authenticity, the “original” in relation to the “copy” (coming from the word “copia”, meaning multitude and abundance) interest me as an artist working in the field of collage and appropriation. “Original” has limited connection with “quality” or “engaging”, and (at least in the past 300 years) nothing created as an object or product can be traced 100% to an origin – everything is relative, literally – it has a mother and father. Much like speed, dimensions, size, the terms are reliant upon the conditions of the person experiencing it, where they are and when, there is NO absolute. This is reflected when very similar creative works and inventions occur at the same period by people who have no knowledge of each other’s works existence. In Consequences we reflect that no man is an island, but the island has lots of mirror mazes… in fact some mirrors can be walked through.” — Vicki Bennett
transmediale 2013 is happy to announce a preview of the participant highlights of the one festival week long Pluto day:
Alejandro Jodorowsky, Elizabeth Price, Ian Hacking, Lorraine Daston, Michael Brown, Kenneth Goldsmith, Olga Goriunova, Geert Lovink, Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Dennis Adams, John Smith, Sandy Stone, Diane Torr, People Like Us, Boris Hegenbart and Felix Kubin, Vanessa Ramos-Velasquez f/ A Guy Called Gerald, Carsten Nicolai, Demdike Stare and Gatekeeper, official transmediale Miscommunication Platform OCTO w Telekommunisten and raumlaborberlin, three exhibitions under The Miseducation of Anya Major feat. Sonia Sheridan, YoHa, Kim Asendorf, Cornelia Sollfrank.