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.
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.
On the first day we were divided into random groups and given a brief to reflect upon.
Responding to local architecture and landscape. Explore the edgelands, the permanent and the meanwhile.
- React to Change
- Trace History
- Imagine the Future
- Build Fictions.
Our group spent some time discussing what interests us the most and what seemed to be most apparent was the overwhelming sense of information that we all perceived around the centre of Peckham. Whilst in the centre of Peckham we were aware of several shops that we closing down and one in particular, Iceland had removed all of the fridges which were in the street.
As a group we identified two threads of thinking, one was about all the fly posting and the stickers that are prevalent around Peckham and the impermanence as they are removed, covered, torn and layered one on top of each other.
There was also significant disruption in the centre as a result of roadworks and although all encompassing and changing the feel of the space these are also temporary.
In identifying materials that we could potentially use we collected one of the shelves from the fridges in the street (with permission). Friederike has also noticed a likeness between hair products in the shop in particular curlers and netting and the netting and barriers of the roadworks. I purchased some of these hair products prior to the second day so that on the second day we had some physical material to work with.
We began the second day with a Projection Mapping workshop from Marius Simkus where we learned to use the Raspbery Pi in particular. Below are my brief notes from the workshop.
- Projector: Full HD -1920 by 1080p – 16:9.
- On the Spot – map with Photoshop and After effects – Use PS (Full Screen) to create template- Mesh warp – Use After Effects – spherical – Calculate Ratio width and distance Save then import to After Effects or Premiere Pro
- Raspberry Pi – 2 dimensional
- Instagram Accounts: projmapcentral and Bravomediainc
- Vpt 8 – open source requies a laptop to project – Free but powerful
- Use with controllers and sensors
- Symphony from MAC Processing
- Web cam for basic interactive
- Remember Using splitter
- Multiple videos- watch lag
- Pocket VJ – uses same software but more functionality
- 3D shapes- prepare before or use madmapper – supports mesh warping
- Use amp for volume control
- Grid – like warping almost 3D – higher res better quality – pin in middle – multiple points
- Number of Projectors – VPT, Rasp Pi and Pocket VJ – 1 Projector – Mad Mapper – multiple projectors.
- Conductive ink trigger vpt and mm
- Mini mad (like RP custom setup by mad Mapper ) – Rent for one month – mm £30 or £200 – Mini mad £200 – Main advantage of mm – Mesh warp – Multiple projectors
- Pocket VJ (VJ Loop)
- Queue videos
- Link 2 pocket VJ
- Urban screen.com
The rest of the second day was spent compiling our ideas together in our groups so that we could present a pop up show at the end of the day. Below are some images from our group piece.
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.
Recently I met Kate Roberts, a student from Chester University who is completing an MA in Creative Processes and I agreed to be interviewed by her whilst driving my car, so as to produce some video material that can help her with her remit on Creative Flow.
I could envisage this being an ideal opportunity to reflect on my own creative practice with someone else who has a similar background in the Creative World.
On the 5th November 2016 we embarked upon our journey in the car, with a dash cam that I had set up recording our conversation on Creative Flow, snippets of this conversation are to be included in this blog, along with the final 2 minute video clip that I produced for Kate.
We began our discussion by talking briefly about Autoethnography and it’s relation to the Creative process and the Creative Flow that each creative individual experiences.
Autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyze personal experience in order to understand cultural experience. This approach challenges canonical ways of doing research and representing others and treats research as a political, socially-just and socially-conscious act. A researcher uses tenets of autobiography and ethnography to do and write Autoethnography. Thus, as a method, Autoethnography is both process and product.
I can see how we experience Autoethnography when we complete our blog entries and our research of supporting material to use with our artwork. The process of continual reflection using our blogs provides us with the method or process of Autoethnography by the simple act of writing our blogs and also the product of Autoethnography, the finished blog itself.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi pronounced (Cheek-Sent-Me-High) is a Hungarian Psychologist who recognised the concept of Flow, that state of concentration that exists when a creative individual is “in the zone”, experiencing a highly focused state of concentration.
Csikszentimihalyi suggests that people are at their happiest when they are in a state of flow, completely absorbed in the task in hand in a state of complete concentration, being so involved that nothing else seems to matter or exist.
However, at times we all find it difficult to get into the zone or become completely immersed in the task in hand. It appears that this can be because a balance needs to be achieved between the challenge that the task provides and the skill of the creative individual.
Csikszentmihalyi characterized nine component states of achieving flow including “challenge-skill balance,
Mental state in terms of challenge level and skill level, according to Csikszentmihalyi’s flow model.merging of action and awareness, clarity of goals, immediate and unambiguous feedback, concentration on the task at hand, paradox of control, transformation of time, loss of self-consciousness, and autotelic experience.”
To achieve a flow state, a balance must be struck between the challenge of the task and the skill of the performer. If the task is too easy or too difficult, flow cannot occur. Both skill level and challenge level must be matched and high; if skill and challenge are low and matched, then apathy results.
From personal experience I can say that I know only to well when I am experiencing Creative Flow and also when that flow seems difficult to achieve, and indeed sometimes I can feel indifference to the task in hand.
For me, that feeling of being in the state of flow is akin to the state of meditation.
Having a background in Yoga and Meditation, as a precursor to meditation, concentration can be developed when you concentrate on an object until you begin to find that place where only you and the object exist at that point in time, where the rest of the world ceases to exist and you become completely absorbed in the object of your attention.
Patanjali describes this in his Yoga Sutra’s 1.17 – 1.18
Stages: Building upon practice (abhyasa) and non-attachment (vairagya) (1.12-1.16), the meditator systematically moves inward, through four levels or stages of concentration on an object (1.17), and then progresses to the stage of objectless concentration (1.18).
All objects are in one of four stages: Virtually all types, styles, methods, or objects of meditation are included in one of these four stages, levels, or categories (1.17). The specific objects within those four stages are discussed in later sutras. (See also the articles, Five Stages of Meditation and Types Versus Stages of Meditation.)
- Savitarka/Gross: relates to concentration on any gross object while still accompanied with other activities of the mind, including meditation on sensory awareness, visualized objects, the gross level of breath, attitudes, syllables of mantra, or streams of conscious thought.
- Savichara/Subtle: relates to subtle objects, after the gross have been left behind; the subtleties of matter, energy, senses, and the mind are, themselves, the objects of meditation, inquiry, and non-attachment.
- Sananda/Bliss: emphasizes the still subtler state of bliss in meditation. In this state, the concentration is free from the gross and subtle impressions that were at the previous levels.
- Sasmita/I-ness: focuses on I-ness, which is even subtler, as it relates to the I that is behind, or witness to all of the other experiences.
Objectless concentration: The four stages (above) all have an object to which attention is directed (samprajnata). Beyond these four is objectless concentration (1.18), where all four categories of objects have been released from attention (asamprajnata).
Pathways to Creativity
The right set of circumstances or variables need to exist for creativity to take place. If any of the variables are not quite right, this can lead to anxiety and stress which can then block the flow of creativity.
Flow at its best is demonstrated when creativity is in action, when all of the variables are correct for the creative individual to experience the correct environment to experience creative flow.
I reflected upon the time when I taught Yoga to children and that I would create games that enabled the children to express themselves through physical movement, for example acting out the actions of their favourite animal to understand the concentration required for a Yoga pose and to connect Yoga poses to the actions of their chosen animal. However these games would have another impetus, that is to help the children to clear their bodies of the excess excitement and energy. As a class would progress the games would be more geared toward concentration, for example moving a set of singing bells without ringing them needing the child to concentrate both on their coordination and movement. Finally at the end of a Yoga class the children would be able to “concentrate” for a minute or two before returning back to their classrooms in a state of heightened mental focus ready for their studies.
This also reminds me of the article I read recently where a school had replaced traditional detention with meditation classes in a room specially made for meditation.
The meditation room was created as a partnership with the Holistic Life Foundation, a local nonprofit that runs other programs as well. For more than 10 years the foundation has been offering the after-school program Holistic Me, where kids from pre-K through the fifth grade practice mindfulness exercises and yoga.
“It’s amazing,” said Kirk Philips, the Holistic Me coordinator at Robert W. Coleman. “You wouldn’t think that little kids would meditate in silence. And they do.”
Considering the learning theory of Constructivism where the learner draws from past experiences to discover facts, relationships and new truths. We then discussed the philosophers, John Dewey and Kurt Lewin, who both believes in the four sequences to learning – do observe, think and plan.
John Dewey, a believer in what he called “the audacity of imagination,” was one of the first national figures in education policy. He rejected the notion that schools should focus on repetitive, rote memorisation.
Instead he proposed a method of “directed living” in which students would engage in real-world, practical workshops in which they would demonstrate their knowledge through creativity and collaboration. Students should be provided with opportunities to think from themselves and articulate their thoughts.
Kurt Lewin: groups, experiential learning and action research. Kurt Lewin was a seminal theorist who deepened our understanding of groups, experiential learning, and action research.
David Kolb developed an experiential learning theory that has a four stage learning cycle and four learning styles where knowledge is created through transformation of experience.
David Kolb published his learning styles model in 1984 from which he developed his learning style inventory.
Kolb’s experiential learning theory works on two levels: a four stage cycle of learning and four separate learning styles. Much of Kolb’s theory is concerned with the learner’s internal cognitive processes.
Kolb states that learning involves the acquisition of abstract concepts that can be applied flexibly in a range of situations. In Kolb’s theory, the impetus for the development of new concepts is provided by new experiences.
“Learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience” (Kolb, 1984, p. 38).
We briefly touched on Montessori Education as an alternative approach to mainstream schooling and the use of constructivist theory or discovery learning in this education system which enables each student to learn from their own experience rather than using a prescriptive method of education.
Montessori education is an educational approach developed by Italian physician and educator Maria Montessori based on her extensive research with “phrenasthenic” or “special needs” children and characterized by an emphasis on independence, freedom within limits, and respect for a child’s natural psychological, physical, and social development. Although a range of practices exists under the name “Montessori”, the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) and the American Montessori Society (AMS) cite these elements as essential:
- Mixed age classrooms, with classrooms for children ages 2½ or 3 to 6 years old are by far the most common
- Student choice of activity from within a prescribed range of options
- Uninterrupted blocks of work time, ideally three hours
- A constructivist or “discovery” model, where students learn concepts from working with materials, rather than by direct instruction
- Specialized educational materials developed by Montessori and her collaborators
- Freedom of movement within the classroom
- A trained Montessori teacher
Having discussed the constructivist approach to education, we then discussed discovery learning originally started by Jerome Bruner in the 1960’s.
Discovery learning is a technique of inquiry-based learning and is considered a constructivist based approach to education. It is supported by the work of learning theorists and psychologists Jean Piaget, Jerome Bruner, and Seymour Papert. Although this form of instruction has great popularity, there is some debate in the literature concerning its efficacy (Mayer, 2004).
Jerome Bruner is often credited with originating discovery learning in the 1960s, but his ideas are very similar to those of earlier writers (e.g. John Dewey). Bruner argues that “Practice in discovering for oneself teaches one to acquire information in a way that makes that information more readily viable in problem solving” (Bruner, 1961, p. 26). This philosophy later became the discovery learning movement of the 1960s. The mantra of this philosophical movement suggests that we should ‘learn by doing’
Dash Cam Footage
After reviewing the Dash Cam footage it became apparent that the sound quality of the dash cam was very poor indeed, and to date I have not managed to improve it. I was aware that I would probably need a directional microphone for this task.
I have researched this issue and it is quite a common issue and widely discussed on various forums on the internet. I have included one of the videos as an example of the sound quality that I am dealing with.
In that 30 minutes, we created over 20 clips of video, which Kate then reviewed for me to edit so that the key parts of the conversation were kept.
- Kate’s Selections for the Dash Cam: dash-cam-clip-selection
The actual editing of the footage proved to be a significant effort in time to edit and improve.
I decided to put this part of the work on hold until I have more time available to edit the video and I have also decided that until I get a directional microphone, I’m not going to record any dash cam footage with audio.
This experience has certainly made me reflect on my own creative practice and the ways in which I achieve the creative flow.
I also recognise that when I am in the state of creative flow, I experience less of the symptoms related to my health issues and I feel a deeper sense of peace, calm and satisfaction as a result.
Actively seeking to establish the correct environment and variables so as to experience creative flow more frequently will definitely become a more conscious part of my creative practice.
Below is the final video that I prepared on behalf of Kate, which proved to be a resounding success when she presented this on Friday 18th November 2016.