883 Slices
Medium 9781864620542

‘We Partake, as it Were, of His Life’: The Status of the Visual in Early Ethnographic Film

Fullerton, John John Libbey Publishing ePub

In her speech as outgoing president of the American Anthropological Association in 1960, pioneering visual anthropologist Margaret Mead urged her colleagues to make greater use of the technologies of the still camera, audio tape recorder and motion picture camera. According to some observers, the reaction among Mead’s professional audience was decidedly mixed. Her appeals were greeted with ‘restless stirrings and angry murmurs … as these notebook-oriented scholars expressed their irritation at this revolutionary suggestion.’1 In some respects, it is hardly surprising that Mead’s colleagues balked at the idea of using tape recorders and motion picture cameras in the field; beyond Mead’s and Gregory Bateson’s own pathbreaking forays into ethnographic film and the isolated projects undertaken in France under Jean Rouch and at the Institute für den Wissen-schaftlichen Film in Germany, there had been little intellectual or professional support for ethnographic filmmaking before 1960, and visual anthropology as a whole occupied a precarious position within the larger discipline.2 The prohibitive cost of film equipment and stock within the modest budgets of most fieldwork expeditions, together with the lack of training in 16mm filmmaking and editing, put off all but the most determined of would-be ethnographic filmmakers. But even if anthropologists had been able to resolve the challenges of financial expense and technical inexperience, they were still left with the question of what to do with film footage once they returned from the field. Would the footage function primarily as a visual supplement to written fieldnotes, or would it impinge in more direct ways upon anthropological theory by being used not only as an extension of the eye, to paraphrase David MacDougall, but as an extension of the mind, a way of furthering conceptual understanding of indigenous cultures?3 Should the unedited footage be made available to a small group of specialised researchers? Should the material be edited to produce a work of interest to commercial distributors for theatrical audiences, or should it be distributed non-theatrically for the exclusive use of anthropological teaching to non-specialists?

See All Chapters
Medium 9780253010407

3 The Space Is the Place

Kathy Sloane Indiana University Press ePub

If you came to San Francisco, there was
nowhere else to go. And the amazing
thing, the paradox of the whole thing,
is that the club and what went on in
that club [existed] next door to a police
station. This, of course, is big. This
should be on page 1: “The Keystone
Korner opposite the Keystone Kops.”

Dave Liebman

George Cables

God, the music was fantastic. I loved playing there because I could hear. The sound was great, the vibe was great, the music was live. Some rooms you play and you hear the note: pssssst. It sort of disappears or just comes to a thud, boomp, and that’s it. But in Keystone, it was live; the sound reverberated, and you could hear the piano.

David Williams

Next to the Village Vanguard in New York, Keystone Korner was one of my favorite or maybe the favorite room for sound, for the bass. I like to hear it a certain way. And some rooms just have no personality. I’ll spend all night fiddling with the amplifier. Some rooms make the bass sound out of tune. It would be in tune but the intonation would be off, and I’d be all night trying to tune the bass. So much of what we do is about the sound. It’s all about the sound.

See All Chapters
Medium 9780861966820

The Wind in the Willows (1995) and The Willows in Winter (1996)

Beardmore, Marie John Libbey Publishing ePub


TVC started working on The Wind in the Willows, an animated version of Kenneth Grahame’s classic tale while they were still working on the Beatrix Potter episodes. Ratty, Moley, and who can forget the irrepressible Toad, part of the famous riverbank set, John Coates had long wanted to do something with Kenneth Grahame’s classic tale The Wind in the Willows, originally illustrated by Ernst Shepard. He got his chance after the success of the first six Beatrix Potter films when distributor Peter Orton took him to lunch and asked him what else he wanted to do. John didn’t have to think twice: The Wind in the Willows had been in his sights for sometime. He started exploring the rights and discovered that story wise there was no problem, but he would have to go through the Shepard Estate if he wanted to use the original artwork. He tried that, but decided the publishers were a bit too “toffee nosed” about the whole thing and it would be better if TVC designed their own characters.

See All Chapters
Medium 9780861967155

Chapter 21 Ed Ruscha’s Moving Pictures

David E James John Libbey Publishing ePub

Matt Reynolds*

Ed Ruscha uses the language of film when he talks about making art in Los Angeles. He uses terms like “editing” and “montage” and often says that what he likes about the city “has to do with the movies” because in L.A. everything seems “so cinematic”.1 Ruscha’s oeuvre explores the close connections between the Hollywood movie industry and avant-garde art practices in Los Angeles during the 1960s and 1970s. Every Building on the Sunset Strip (1966) is an excellent example. Bound accordion-style and unfolding to a length of twenty-seven feet, the book is a continuous panorama of Sunset Boulevard between Laurel Canyon and Cory Street. The north side of the street appears at the top of the page and the south side is displayed upside down at the bottom.

Taken with a motorized Nikon camera mounted on a tripod in the back of a truck, Ruscha meticulously pasted the individual photographs together to approximate the illusion of a single uninterrupted image. The top and bottom strips resemble an unspooled movie reel, the width of the printed image being approximately 35mm, or commercial cinema’s standard gauge. Art historian Cecile Whiting foregrounds other cinematic properties of the book: “The layout of the photographs . . . mimics a filmstrip yet delineates no visual, spatial or narrative development”.2 These two features – the foregrounding of materiality and the conscious rejection of narrative – are, of course, among the defining features of experimental cinema.

See All Chapters
Medium 9780861967148

Part II Performing Beside the Screen: Narrators, Showmen, and Musicians

Kaveh Askari John Libbey Publishing ePub

Martin Loiperdinger

From the turn of the century up to the First World War, audiences of cinematograph shows did not only expect films on the screen and musical live accompaniment. They also were used to hearing the voice of a film narrator. Though an essential figure of live performance in early cinema, the film narrator was an ephemeral being, which did not leave many traces behind. Contrary to the silent film piano player, the profession of commenting on films live during screenings has not been reanimated in the cultural heritage business of film archives and silent film festivals, apart from very few remarkable exceptions.

The institution of the film narrator was deeply rooted in the tradition of the lantern lecturer whose spoken words usually accompanied the projection of slides already long before the cinematograph was introduced into the entertainment business. When it was introduced, cinematograph shows and lantern shows shared the screen, (Only recently, the notions ‘screen history’ and ‘screen culture’ have been established to analyse and understand the close connections between the art of projection and early cinema).1 Furthermore, lantern and cinematograph shows shared sound: live music, imitation of noises, and comments spoken by the lecturer or film narrator. Most lantern shows in the last decades of the nineteenth century were offered as ‘illustrated lectures’ with a lecturer or showman explaining the pictures2 – and most cinematograph shows up to the early 1910s saw the film narrator as mediator between audience and screen.

See All Chapters

See All Slices