Below are some excerpts from The Garden Shaman visual movement poem directed, conceived and performed by Eli Acheson-Elmassry. I was responsible for the filming and the Video Production of this piece. See Also: The Garden Shaman and The Garden Shaman – Reflection.
For The Garden Shaman project I was commissioned to film some performative elements and produce a video from the footage that was acquired. Below is my overall reflection of the project now that it has come to an end. Some video clips from the final work are located here.
This has been a good opportunity to film outside with another artist. Some of the film footage was good, yet some of it overexposed – I think in part due to the light on the day.
Getting to film a performing artist and then to edit the footage and produce a video from the raw footage enabled me to reflect on the level of skill I have achieved with Premiere Pro over the past four years.
I only have my own experiences of shooting footage outside to go on – and I am aware that further research in this area is required. On some of the video footage my breathing is audible. On some clips it works and then others it will be edited out.
The amount of raw footage that was shot in the first instance had to be condensed massively and this took a significant amount of organisation. Several review meetings also meant that the ability to roll back any content to a previous state had to be built into the video files.
These regular review meetings mean that the project could move forward and the content reviewed and agreed at different stages – the content was also critically evaluated at every stage.
This video piece has become by far the largest video project I have been involved in to date. It has given me the opportunity to deepen my relationship with Adobe Premiere Pro and improve my editing skills along the way which I see will stand me in good stead in the future.
Producing a video that was originally going to be 10 minutes maximum but then turned out to be over 20 minutes was a good exercise in creating content that maintains the attention of the audience.
The best part has been the ethereal expression through editing what is very simple footage showing mundane tasks in the garden.
The greatest challenge has been managing my time while completing this project. This work has been in addition to my day job and my masters work. Originally the scope of the project was that it would not take too much time. However, during between November 2018 and February 2019 this project took on average an additional working week per month. The impact of this was that something had to give and although I have kept up with the practical side of the Masters, making my own work whenever time allowed, my blogging has been put on hold and as I write this (April 2019) I have a significant number of unpublished posts ready to be added to my blog.
I have put a lot of effort into making this video piece as manageable as possible. Taking hundreds of source videos into 96 edited videos and finally at this point 9 individual videos leading to one final piece. This has proved time consuming however necessary for the successful completion of the project.
I am really enjoying working with Eli and find our meetings positive and constructive where she provides me with the things that she would like to see in the video. It has been a fine balance with this piece of work, treating it as my own so that I am fully committed and engaged in the process yet being detached enough to let someone else direct me in the process.
My working life as a Technical Writer has helped me remain detached in the fact that as a Technical Writer your work is continually critiqued and there is no space for personal feelings in that environment – it is just a collective effort to meet an end result – this I find is very apparent in this project too.
There have been some important lessons learned for me in preparing to embark on such a project. Most specifically around the area of clarifying the scope of work in its entirety at the beginning of the project.
This project was undertaken with limited agreement in writing where clearer terms should have been outlined and written up at the outset. What this has highlighted for me is that I need to prepare my own terms of service in readiness for future artistic projects.
Copyright and Attribution is an important part of this for all involved to know where they stand. The copyright workshop I attended during the Low Residency really gave me food for thought in this area and made me realise that for this project none of this had been considered or agreed formally.
Initially this project was only meant to be for a short period of time. However, as a project it seemed to grow and before long a considerable number of hours over a six-month period had been completed. This impacted my availability for other projects and has resulted in my own personal artistic endeavours, particularly when applying to exhibit having to be put on hold waiting for the project to finish.
I chose to charge a nominal hourly rate on the basis that I was going to be attributed in the work for my contribution to the project. This was agreed verbally and at least meant I was compensated for the time actually spent working on the project. However, given the number of hours that this project eventually took, Eli would have probably benefited from agreeing a set fee for the project up front.
Previously I have worked for a fixed fee and this definitely benefited the client more – I still put in 110% effort into the work but as it was a fixed fee, this equated to a particularly low hourly rate.
This has raised a lot of questions for me though about the project management side. In particular when agreeing a set fee, very clear outcomes have to be established to ensure a reasonable compensation for the effort involved.
Where I was not compensated was mileage and time travelling to the Eli’s home for review meetings and to shoot footage. It was my own decision not to charge for mileage and travel, however each review meeting meant two hours of travel time which over the six months soon added up.
I also did not charge for some of the video editing work where I placed an expectation on myself to finish parts of the work more quickly. Particularly as the video files became larger and took longer to compile and upload to send to Eli. It didn’t really feel fair that I was charging for the compilation/upload time although I did have to sit with it and wait for the compilations/uploads to complete
I now realise that I charged the nominal fee because I personally didn’t value my own skill and expertise. Recently I have experienced a shift in this thinking about this issue and now see more clearly the value in my skill and expertise and will charge appropriately for this in the future.
It’s definitely time I developed my own terms of service and I will consider all of the lessons learned during this project when I do so.
All that being said though, this has still been an extremely positive and rewarding experience with some valuable lessons to take into my future artistic life.
Would I do this differently – probably not – overall working with another artist in this manner has been a positive rewarding experience. I’ve really enjoyed working with another artist and look forward to similar experiences in the future. It’s been a fabulous project to have been a part of.
I am very proud of the outcome of this project and the end result definitely demonstrates the effort that has gone in to it. From filming and producing the video, providing creative input along the way and collaborating with the other artist Eli Acheson-Elmassry who imagined and coordinated the project, directed and performed in her original artwork as The Garden Shaman.
Update – April 2019: Having completed this project I have retrospectively considered the lessons I have learned as a result of this experience. These considerations are recorded in The Garden Shaman – Reflection. Some video clips from the final piece are located here.
During November 2018 the artist Eli Acheson-Elmassry contacted me with an invitation to produce a video piece for a new piece of work. The Garden Shaman provides a metaphor for the connection that the garden has with the cyclical nature of life and death. The natural processes that occur in the garden along with the assistance we provide to the garden to enable these life cycles to continue.
Attached to the cloak are latex moulds of commonly used garden tools and a painting of flowers that remind Eli of her childhood. A piece of work that invokes memory of life and death
My role is the project is to provide video production services, shooting and editing footage to produce an ultimate video piece with a duration of at least 10 minutes.
We began the project with an initial site visit. The filming was to take place in Eli’s back garden. During this visit, we discussed Eli’s ambition for the project and initial ideas for filming. I also shot some footage to give Eli an idea of how the cloak appeared when being filmed.
The weather was cloudy but sunny for this initial visit and it would later prove difficult to get the same weather conditions – however as it turned out with each day we recorded footage the weather was perfect for us to progress the project and the filming further.
During this initial visit, we noticed that the silky nature of the fabric produced interesting light and shadows in the sunlight – with the light behind us – yet appeared very flat in colour with the light ahead of us. The wind also improves the appearance of the cloak as well.
On the second site visit, the intention was to shoot as much footage as possible. Weather – a much duller day and very still – not so good but still recorded some useful footage. One issue that appeared in the resulting footage was that some of the images were over exposed. Having checked the camera, I did conclude that this was due to the light on the day – however it does require more investigation. Overall, though this issue affected only a small number of clips Going to use Premiere Pro to fix the over exposure for footage that is used.
This video and photography shoot then led to the first lot of video editing. Being aware that this is a collaboration with another artist, I decided to err on the side of caution and not heavily edit the clips at this point. I decided to create a collection of clips intended for use as a starting point for a review conversation. Initially because of these clips, it became apparent that another site visit to shoot footage was required.
Around a week later I shot some additional footage – this was the best day weather wise so far. Not too dark, not too bright and lots of wind.
At this stage we took the opportunity to review all the footage taken to date and for me to get a better understanding of Eli’s vision for the project. A successful discussion with a definite way forward and I now have a clear idea of what is required in terms of the video editing.
In January 2019 I then set about creating a collection of short video clips. I will then use these clips later to create the final video. Considering the fact that there is a considerable amount of footage available to use it has been important to be super organised with the footage to make it easier to access and use in the future.
Because of the amount of footage and the extent of editing required, I had be been particularly well organised. As part of this process I have created a collection of smaller video clips which I can use at a later date to create the final video piece.
The following points were key considerations to be taken during the video edit. For some video clips the speed was increased or decreased accordingly. For others reverse speed was used to create interest. Some content was zoomed and/or flipped either horizontally or vertically and mirror images were produced for some. Some of the sounds were amplified in the footage to create a sense of boldness, particularly with the digging sounds. Layers were also created in the audio by duplicating and moving sounds around to improve the audio experience of the video piece.
Finally, some experimentation with different video effects was used to demonstrate different ways of looking at the video material. Currently I’m not uploading any video clips as this project is ongoing – however below are some of the stills taken from the video clips that have video effects applied to them.
Having reviewed all the video clips, I’d produced March 2019 marked the stage where I’m putting the final video together. Having discussed with Eli at length her ideas for a sequence I have divided the content into 9 sections. This is to make the video content more versatile and more applicable to multi screens if required. For this stage though the draft video provided to Eli is one complete video with all the clips in the required sequence.
Initially the video was meant to be around 10 minutes but Eli was so pleased with the footage that the intention is to use as much of the footage as possible. The result 25 minutes and 40 seconds- the longest video I have produced to date. Two review meetings later and a final video was complete.
After two more review meetings and finalising the edits required by Eli, at the end of April, I finally got to a place where there is a final video which I am really proud of and is a good testament to the video production skills and expertise I have brought to the project.
Keen to respect the integrity of the project I am only showing images that have been placed onto Social Media by Eli. Below are some of these images from the final video produced.
This page documents our visit to the Liverpool Biennal on the 18th and 19th October 2018.
Walker Art Gallery
Our first stop of the trip was the Walker Art Gallery for the John Moores Painting Prize the UK’s longest running painting competition having started in 1957 and run for 60 years.
The winner Jacqui Hallum with her piece King and Queen of Wands, an ink painting on cotton fabric. The piece is inspired by a plethora of imagery taken from tarot cards, illustrations in Art Nouveau childrens books, medival woodcuts and leaded glass windows.
I was initially enthralled by the lightness and the fluidity of the piece and intrigued by the essence of childlike storytelling that left me wanting to know more. Always impressed by work on fabric it was refreshing to see that this competition is embracing painting in the broadest sense.
I was also very taken with the piece called One Hundred Harvests by Liz Elton. Again I was initially struck by the etherealness of the fabric and the tactile nature of the piece as it floated airily with the movement of air in the room. Made from water miscible oil on recycling bags stitched together with silk thread, it references our relationship with recycling and the way we discard our food resources so easily.
St Georges Hall
The piece Reenactment of Heaven by Inci Eviner is a piece that was commisioned for the Liverpool Biennale and considers the position of women in heaven, dismissing perceptions in societies where women bow to that greater masculine authority. A unique film that distorts one’s perception, based on a series of drawings and recording using a green screen the lower part uses many props and masks that make you question reality. Interesting use of two projectors and the impeccable cross over between the projections in the centre.
The work Keicheyuhea (2017) by the artist Aslan Gaisumov (who also has the piece People of No Consequence (2016) on display at the Victoria Gallery and Museum. This piece shows the artists grandmother returning to her homeland 73 years after the Soviet deportation of her people to Central Asia with her community the Chechen and the Ingush people. A very moving piece where the impact of what had happened in this lady’s early life very apparent. Watching her as she comes to terms with the enormity of her return as memories of her life here come flooding back.
The screening in the courtroom at St Georges Hall is a film called Two Meetings and a Funeral by Naeem Mohaiemen reflects on the political coalition of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC) and shows where conventient alliances were made during the struggle for UN Recognition by the Bangladshi and the Palestinian decolonisation and the Portuguese in South Africa.
Open Eye Gallery
The work Nigerian Monarchs by George Osodi depict regional rulers from Nigeria in their ceremonial regalia that now represent a long lost power. Referencing the colonial past of Europe and that some of these ruler’s ancestors were kings at the time of slavery. An attempt to redress inaccurate represntation by photographing these rulers in their stately and dignified manner. Personnally, I would have like to have seen photographs of their wider community with these images.
The Intermediates (2015-ongoing) by Haegue Yang is an overwhelmingly immersive environment that refers to both traditional arts and craft and modern production methods and questions the definition of paganism. Recordings of wildlife from the British Library, Suggestions of folk tradition, such as the maypole and a wallpaper that brings modern hsitory and pagan tradition together is most definitely an onslaught to the senses that brings about much afterthought in an attempt to make sense of the many representations.
I was keen to see the work Your face is / not enough (2016) by Kevin Beasley which gathers NATO issued gas masks, microphone stands and megaphones into an installation of unique tribal-esque masks made from pigmented foam and other materials. These items that reflect control of an overriding authority alongside individual or collective acts of protest, power and protection.
The Cheyenne-style headresses whose feathers are carved from the soles of Nike trainrs are a fascinating collection of sculptures. Made by the artist Brian Jungen, the pieces Warrier 1, 3 and 4 allude to pride and determination in the indigenous communities, and reflect the effects of colonisation and remnants of conflict.
I was especially moved by the piece, The marks left behind (2014) by Duane Linklater. In fact initially I felt so repulsed that I didn’t even want to go into the room with this installation. However, I put on my brave boots and in I went and although I didn’t stay long it was long enough to gain some insight into the fur trade in Canada. The skunk pelts very much suggest the life of the animal and their spirit that some believe remains even in death, a consideration on cultural loss, social anmesia and family identity in the context of current and historical lives of the indigenous people. A psychologically very powerful piece which had a huge impact on me. I didn’t photograph this piece.
Another Place by Antony Gormley is an installation of 100 cast iron sculptures – cast in his own image extending over a 3km stretch of beach, all looking out to sea towards the North Wales coast, in a seemingly silent moment of contemplation. This was the end of our first day and the perfect time to view the sculptures, just as the sun was setting.
Variations on a Ghost by Abbas Akhavan references the destruction of ancient sculptures depicting the Assyrain deity Lamassu (half man-half lion). This piece is constructed using a technique call dirt ramming where soil and water are compacted together to produce a sculptural element. This piece will deteriorate and change over time developing a hard grey stone-like crust suggesting the deterioration of the destroyed sculptures over time.
I particularly wanted to see the work by filmmaker Agnes Varda at Fact. A three changel video installation that portrays a poetic outlook on the temporality and the flow of human life. The three films are Documenteur (1981), Vagabond (1985) and The Gleaners (2000) and I was most drawn to the film Vagabond which instigated a strong emotional reaction in me. The films question the effect images have on our personal and collective memory. One’s own experiences in life will definitely have an impact on our perception of this video installation.
Liverpool Anglican Cathedral
The visit to Liverpool Anglican Cathedral was quick but interesting in particular with the Message of Love by Tracy Emin and a quick visit to the Whispering Arch. Definitely a must for another visit when I have more time.
Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral
Part of the large project, Time Moves Quickly, the commision by Ryan Gander of five bench link sculptures behind the Liverpool Metropolital Catherdral reconfigured a model of the modernist cathedral by Frederick Gibberd into simplistic building blocks. These were then reassembed by schoolchildren of Liverpool and reproduced large scale to create these five benches.
Victoria Gallery and Museum
Whilst at Victoria Gallery and Museum we visited two specific pieces:
- People of No Consequence (2016) by Aslan Gaisumov
- Tightrope (2015) by Taus Makhacheva
People of No Consequence is by the artist Aslan Gaisumov who also has the piece Keicheyuhea (2017) on display at St Georges Hall. This is a recording of the first meeting of a group of Chechen and Ingush survivors from the Soviet Deporation of 1944 to Central Asia. The film proceeds to document the survivors as they take their seats in preparation for this meeting.
The piece Tightrope shows the fifth generation tightrope walker Rasul Abakarov, transports 61 artworks across a tightrope from one hilltop to another in the mountainous region of Dagestan. He attempts almost impossible feats in his quest to move the artworks and one is not entirely sure that what you are seeing is actually real.
Great George Street
Banu Cennetoglu has installed The List at Great George Street, originally compiled by United for Intercultural Action and distributed by The Guardian on World Refugee Day on 20th June 2018. Tracing information that relates to the deaths of more than 34,000 refugees and migrants in Europe since 1993.
This piece of work has fascinated me, not only because of the sheer scale of the list, but because of the meticulous archiving and the story associated with the list and the subsequent removal and damage at the Great George Street in Liverpool.
Nov 2018: Update: Unfortunately I was unsuccessful on this occasion, however the panel did pass on this message to me which instilled some hope for the future.
The panel wishes to share the following feedback: Although this artist is early career, it was a strong application outlining a relevant and appropriate approach to the project. However, we received several strong applications which allowed us to explore pairing different artists together, and in the event the panel decided to award the commission to the collaboration they felt would offer the greatest potential.
October 2018: I decided to apply for the Syria Art Collaboration taking place between November 2018 and January 2018 at Pontio.
Proposal for SYRIA.ART + CARN: Wal Wen (White Wall) Commission
For this collaboration I foresee many online discussions using the online tool best for both artists that will enable the proposal for the work to be developed collectively and enable communication for both artists online with Pontio, while the artist in Wales will be able to visit Pontio in person when required. This process will begin with some initial communications that enable the artists to establish a way of working that is appropriate and suitable for both people, taking into consideration the time difference of 2 hours.
A collaborative project between two cultures that has the intention of building bridges between those cultures has the potential to examine the similarities in our every-day lives and the environments and the landscapes that we live in.
The need for a sense of belonging and identity is inherent in all of providing security in knowing who we are and where we came from. As we grow the landscape around us changes, our impression of such and our memories also become fuzzy and altered.
Significantly, massive change in an environment can be brought about through the influence of the governmental decisions of the time. In their wake landscapes are destroyed for the greater good and all that remains are clues that allude to the environment that once was. The way that we view and interpret the landscape and environment around us can provide us with a metaphor that represents our identity and the loss of associated memories through the passing of time and changes made in the name of progress. Our understanding of the history of the land that we inhabit also affects our interpretation of our environment.
In reflecting on the changes in the landscape as an analogy for those memories that might be lost forever, we can reflect on the beauty of what remains and the strength that keeps us in our human experience moving forward in life.
Similarities can also be drawn between collective memory and personal memory in relation to world affairs. Our perceptions of world affairs are likely to be similar but different given our cultural differences and the fact our exposure to media is different. Yet I imagine our perceptions to be not to dissimilar given that we are still two people living a human experience in the world today.
Footage can be gathered from both Syria and the UK and amalgamated to become a cohesive collaborative artistic effort that demonstrates the building of bridges between the two communities.
Digital Media is a constantly expanding industry sector that provides an effective method for visual communication and can be used to represent the shared experiences of communities across the world in the internet age that we live in.
Having successfully used Skype Messenger to communicate with people all over the world and pre-recorded video loaded to YouTube for people in countries where Skype video is not available, this provides the advantage of saved chats in Skype and video content to reflect upon collectively when required.
The following images were also supplied in support of my application:
Below is the supporting information I provided by email.
Currently, I am in the early stages of a Masters in Fine Art Digital at Camberwell College. I completed my Bangor University degree at Coleg Menai in July 2018 with a First Class*. Primarily focussing on photography, video and projection.
Since 2016 I have spent time producing digital artwork that hopefully provides an empathic reflection on diaspora, displacement of community and the reasons for this displacement and the effects on the community as a whole. During this time, I produced work relating to these issues in a variety of contexts; the evacuation of children from Liverpool to Caernarfon in World War 2, the effects of war on the Syrian population and the displacement of a community at Tryweryn in North Wales.
In my own practice, I am currently moving from the subject matter of displacement to reflect on issues of collective memory and personal memory where I am looking at changes in the landscape through building and progression and how these might reflect our inner experience of memory and how these may fade or alter over time, a displacement of an inner kind.
Unfortunately, I am only English speaking – having been taught Welsh to O level many years ago, lack of use has meant that I cannot say I speak Welsh fluently, only a few words. Born in Scotland and raised in Wales has given me the feeling of being Welsh without actually being Welsh. Although I cannot say I speak the Welsh language I am fully supportive of the continuation of Welsh speaking throughout the community.
I have attached a current CV and a proposal for the collaboration project along. Three images are attached and the following links are also provided as part of my supporting visual material.
The following websites all provide examples of my work.
I am aware that being in the early stage of my career you may require a supporting letter. In lieu of this, I can ask my degree tutor to provide a reference if required.