Morocco – a moment of reflection

Deciding something to work on for the Morocco project was difficult, regarding what topic to focus on that particularly interested me while I was out in Morocco, and deciding what materials I wanted to explore using. For the time I had in Morocco, I decided to take first-hand observations with my DSLR of photographs, videos, and a few audio clips showing moments that stood out to me. After looking at my footage, I eventually decided that I wanted to look at the possibility in which the patterns that we saw in the Bahia Palace, Saadiens Tombs, Jardin Majorelle, and Badi Palace, could, in fact, have a link to the commotion and chaos of the streets within the Medina of Marrakech.

For the majority of my time out in Morocco, I decided to only take photographs since I thought I would have plenty more time to focus on creating better quality drawings. These photos would also assist me in helping decide what topic I wanted to focus on when I arrived back in the UK. Although looking back on my depth of work now, perhaps I should have made time to work on observational drawings when I was in Morocco. However, photography is a very passionate skill of mine that I always look to develop further. Drawing, however, is something I see as a skill that I perhaps not value so much, considering how little I am required to use it in graphic design. Something that was new to me when attempting to do observational sketches, was the expressive style that I had to work in because of being forced to work quickly. In graphic design, drawings are not required to be expressive and instead are required to be made simple and easy to establish a connection with every audience necessary.

Instead of focusing on completing a range of drawings to show my illustrative skills and how I made an emotional or personal link with my surroundings, I decided instead to focus on how I could use the material and observations on my camera to put to good use by creating a short film experimental documentary and to create an editorial or photo album out of the photos I had taken. By using video and audio clips from myself and Lauren, as well as some from the rest of the group, myself and Lauren compiled a range of clips together looking at how we could express the chaos that lives within the city of Marrakech, and also my idea of how patterns in palaces and riads expressed this commotion of the streets, souks, and the Jemaa el Fna square of the Medina in Marrakech. With all the video, audio and photos we had gathered, we managed to compile together approximately a three-minute video showing what both of us had experienced while in the city and to show others what it was like to wander around the wonderfully vibrant and exotic culture Marrakech still held for its visitors and tourists. The film took two working days to compose along with the troubles in gathering footage from each group member. By using the video and audio editing skills I had acquired in the Circle Line project, I could use my knowledge to a great benefit to figure out the pace, imagery, and layering of the video. I also looked back at the video we had created for the Circle Line project as inspiration as well as the videos I took inspiration from for that project. Below is a Vimeo link to the film we had compiled together for this project.

Alongside the film, I had my own work to complete. I edited 235 photos using Photoshop, adjusting the brightness, contrast, exposure, hue, saturation, vibrancy, sharpness, and colour balance. As much as it was a fairly painstaking process to go through editing all the photos, it was indeed worth the time and effort in the end. I printed all the photographs out and decided to make an album out of 128 photos I had picked out. Using photo corners I stuck them into a sketchbook in chronological order, from day one to day seven. This made the sketchbook three times the thickness that it had once been. I quite liked how the sketchbook was almost bursting at its’ seams, almost ripping the bind out. It showed how colourful, busy, adventure-filled, and chaotic our trip to Marrakech had been. What I find disappointing is how little a very vast majority of people can appreciate photos and how much time I put into editing my photos to look their very best. However, during our presentation I was extremely pleased with how engaged people were in looking through my photo album, instead of my sketchbook, perhaps because it was something very different to what the rest of the class had created as part of their individual work for the project.

I had also completed several sketches in an A6 sketchbook to explore how I could use colour in stronger ways. I had used watercolour paints and fine liner pens to create these drawings. On the second double page spread, I had copied my name in Arabic from what I had learned from the calligraphy workshop at Cafe Clock. Within the time I had to complete these sketches, an immediate regret of wishing I had done more observational sketches while I was in Marrakech, kept going through my mind. Perhaps I would learn from this, realizing how valuable these personal connections would have been had I done them in such a contrasting bursting cultural city to Cardiff. On the fifth double page I had completed, I wanted to make sure I captured the inspiring nature of many of the people I had met. Our tour guide on the second day in Marrakech, Mr. Amine, was one of those people, as he reached to the sun describing the many wonders and philosophies of the prime locations we saw in Marrakech.

My field trip to Marrakech was a truly mesmerizing and unforgettable experience. Perhaps in short time to come, I would be encouraged by the photos and sketches I had gathered to go back there again, to stay for longer, to experience more, and to look and think further than ever before. I would want to see this city in a new light and from a different perspective. This culture which we had experienced was vastly different to even many of the challenges I had ever experienced before. By completing this project, it has made me braver to experiment with even broader a range of ideas, materials, and ways of looking at topics and cultures when I wander further abroad, or even further from what I see on my doorstep in the surrounding area I shall be. Most importantly, these new skills I hope will greatly influence what I explore in my subject. The importance of group work has taught me something valuable again. Perhaps I wish that I could have worked with more enthusiastic students that w=could possibly encourage me to explore further, however, I don’t think I would have had as reflective a journal post as this. A lesson that drives me forward is that from the greatest mistakes, the most valuable lessons are learned.

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Morocco – One Week

Recently I made a weeks’ trip to Morocco for a field project. Below, is a detailed account and reflection of what happened on each day during my visit.

DAY 1

Leaving at 2am from Cardiff Metropolitan University, Llandaff Campus, was not something I had hoped for, considering how early in the morning it was. We arrived in Marrakech around 3pm, taking a bus to the hotel. I was immediately stunned at what looked like the chaos of the center of the Medina with the traffic. The Medina, meaning ‘town’ in Arabic, was the old walled quarter of Marrakech. The wall was made of red clay and had holes in, which were imprints from the scaffolding from when the wall was in construction. This ensured that the wall did not collapse when molded together during construction. This information was given to us by the tour guide as we were transported from the airport to Riad Bahia Salam; our accommodation for the week we were spending in Marrakech.

As we got further towards the hotel the traffic and fumes grew heavier. When we arrived at the hotel we were welcomed with traditional Berber tea, or as the Moroccan’s preferred to call it ‘Berber whiskey’. Alongside we were offered a sweet pastry-like bread. Soon after we went on a brief walk along the street and part of the souks by our lecturer, Chris.

Later in the evening, we walked to the Clock Cafe, about a mile away from the riad. For the first time, I tried a camel meat burger, which I have to say was truly delicious.

DAY 2

The first morning in Marrakech was glorious; although slightly chilly. We were served with a traditional Moroccan breakfast by the hotel with freshly squeezed orange juice. After breakfast, we were taken to the Mellah square, and then the Bahia palace which was a few hundred yards away. Much to our benefit, these places were just a short walk up the street from our hotel.

The Bahia palace entrance opened with a driveway framed by an array of trees and plants. Orange trees, blossoms, cacti, and succulents braved the consumption of the carbon fumes from the city. The palace grounds resembled a paradise, blocked out from the commotion of the city streets compared to the palace grounds. The palace opened with two walkways into a simple courtyard. White arches and a rotting green and white tile floor. A corridor then lead us to a gorgeous riad filled with orange and banana trees that towered over the surrounding roofs. The tour guide described how every surrounding room had no specific function, whether it be a dining room, sitting room, or bedroom. A true riad would feature elaborately decorated walls with intricate tiles and hand-carved wooden panels, as well as a source of water placed in the center. In most cases, the source of water would feature a water fountain made of marble to maintain the elaborate nature of decoration. The floors were made of marble tiles to relieve residents of the scorching hot weather they had to face, day-to-day for most of the year. Temperatures could reach 51’C in the middle of the summer in Marrakech. Because the floors were made of marble, many of the floors that were exposed had deteriorated due to weather conditions. Moving to the next court in the palace, white arches were prominent in the architecture. From there we were directed to the servants quarters which featured the largest court of the palace, and what was possibly the most used. Next to this court was a garden used by the owner of the palace, alongside his bedroom. The area where his bed would have laid would be used by him as well as his four wives. Trailing back to the entrance of the palace was a room that would have been used for parties or gatherings.

The decoration and design of patterns with tiles within the palace was incredible. I couldn’t have imagined the craftsmanship that would have gone into creating the patterns in the riads and courtyards. Ceramicists and carpenters carving and chipping away at stone and wood.

After completing a tour of the Bahia Palace within two hours, we then moved on to a tour of the main souks. We explored the souk where meat was sold, where leather was made, metal was welded, and clothing, accessories, decoration, and furniture were sold. We ended in the Jemaa el-Fnaa square. Within the square there laid the infamous snake charmers, performers, and various stall keepers. An unfortunate thing about the square was that we were asked to pay these performers if we took photos or videos. Luckily we could gather sound recordings on our phones of musicians playing Arabic tunes as possible contributions towards our group videos we were going to compile after we got back to the university.

DAY 3

On the second full day we were spending in Marrakech, we all took a 30 mins coach journey to the Yves Saint Laurent Museum, Le Jardin Majorelle, and the Berber Museum within Le Jardin Majorelle. First, we visited the YSL Museum. Within the museum, there was a temporary exhibition of work that had been produced in Morocco, containing paintings and sketches. A permanent exhibition featured Yves Saint Laurent’s work, including his sketches, photographs, samples, and replicas, remakes or genuine artifacts of his fashion pieces. These were utterly mesmerizing to see. The amount of work that had gone into his pieces and seeing them in the flesh was incredible. Yves Saint Laurent had changed the world of fashion forever with his eccentric ideas, yet flattering designs of clothing for people to wear.

Le Jardin Majorelle was a source of inspiration for Yves Saint Laurent and was a pivotal starting point for what changed his career. You could see how his designs had changed after he visited Morocco.

Along a pathway surrounded by magnificent cacti, was a gorgeous Majorelle blue building, and inside was the Berber museum. Within the Berber museum, various pieces of traditional Berber artwork were shown, along with traditional cultural artifacts, such as tools, decoration, clothing, masks, accessories, and so much more. These were wonderfully shown in cabinets, and in one room there were mirrors with a dark ceiling and small lights, which portrayed the stars. Unfortunately, all the information in the museum was given to us either in French or Arabic, however, I managed to find some information online from the Britannica Encyclopedia, giving me an idea of the history of the Berber people and where they came from.

To this day, 14 million Berbers from several communities scattered across Morocco, live in valleys. Many other communities live in Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Niger, Mali, and Mauretania. Exploring more in-depth into the Moroccan Berbers, I looked at another website; https://www.journeybeyondtravel.com/blog/morocco-travel-berbers.html. It explains how the Berbers in Morocco have in fact dated back to prehistoric times, 4000 years ago. Calling themselves Amazigh, they have developed their own language by the use of their tongue as well as script and kept using it for 2500 years. Unfortunately, I did not see any Berber writing in the museum at the Majorelle Gardens. The Berbers, named ‘Berber’ deriving from ‘barbarian’ by the Arabs, were tasked by the Arabs to conquer Spain. Islam was introduced to the Berbers in the 9th-10th century, however, the Berbers were primarily Christian or Jewish. Most Berbers today are traders turned to farmers, living in the mountains, although some small shops, cafes or small restaurants still remain to cater to local or foreign customers.

That afternoon we walked back to the Clock Cafe for an Arabic Calligraphy workshop, which was challenging, and later that evening we stayed to watch traditional Moroccan storytelling from two local students and a man who had been telling stories for over 60 years. What I found fascinating was how long this man had dedicated his life to telling stories and keeping a part of traditional Moroccan culture alive, rather than allow his soul to be poisoned by Western culture, which was what it seemed for the most of our stay in Marrakech. It was a place that seemed a lot like our own in how we were attached to our phone screens. Luckily the majority of Marrakech and its inhabitants still embraced the traditional sense of their undeveloped country and showed how proud they were of their heritage.

DAY 4

On the fourth day, we were given the chance to look around the local area by ourselves in smaller groups, instead of having a day planned out for the whole class. It would also give us a chance to rest to set ourselves up for a trek up through the Ourika valley to the waterfalls the next day. We had set out the day planning to interview two or three people. First, we went to the souks. We came across a man who had once moved to London to work on Oxford Street as a waiter in Pizza Hut and then we came across an intriguing shop owner, Abdel, along with his apprentice, Achraf. Abdel explained how his shop in Marrakech is a business he keeps alongside his most valuable business and a passion of his. Camelback tours of the Sahara desert for the very brave tourists throughout the year. After being given some brief information we then received an invite to drink Berber tea with them one afternoon and to discuss his passion of the Sahara with us, which we gladly accepted.

We also visited the Henna Art Cafe that day, founded by an American artist named Lori.K.Gordon. From South Dakota, she arrived in Marrakech five years ago, originally visiting for a three-week vacation. Now at the age of 60, she is running a charity named El Fenn Maroc, which translates to ‘The Arts Morocco’, as well as the Henna Art Cafe which she started with a local living in Marrakech with his knowledge of running a cafe and being fluent in four languages, including English and French. What I loved about her business was that 10-70% of all the profit earned from the henna tattoo commissions, the henna gift shop, and the refreshments sold in the cafe goes to her charity and the programmes running as part of the charity.

What truly surprised me was the wages every worker was paid in Marrakech. Overhearing someone being paid their wages was surprising. For a couple of hours work, someone would be paid 200 Dirham, equating to around £15.

DAY 5

It was a chilly start to what would be the most exhausting day in Marrakech, by far. We were trecking up to the Atlas Mountains into the Ourika Valley. It was an hour-and-a-half on the coach, with what seemed like 3 hours traveling on a very long and straight road, with endless empty fields on either side. We passed through countless Berber villages, each of them featuring a number of stalls or shops filled to the brim of pottery, plants, clothing, and of course, argan oil products which were likely never going to be sold being on the main road. Not many tourists would quite see such attraction in going to the Ourika valley, possibly because of the overhyped attraction of staying within the Medina of Marrakech for its’ secret wonders and hidden kingdoms; I could understand the stigma. However, the Ourika Valley was something quite vastly different regarding the attitudes of the local people in the village we started our walk from, the air was cleaner to breathe, and not to mention, the views were incredible. Along the way to the village where the falls had started, we came across the Women’s Co-operative where they had made products out of argan oil, whether it was almond butter, honey, moisturizer, perfume, or pure argan oil itself. Every 30 minutes the women grinding down the almonds to produce argan oil, sang a call of welcome to visitors.

Before making our journey to the Ourika waterfalls, we ate cauliflower and butternut squash soup on the dry bed of the river and listened to several locals play music to us on old banjos and drums. One musician had made an instrument of his own out of an old drum, elastic bands, and nylon. It was truly delightful.

Along the walk to the Ourika Valley Waterfalls, we came across several shops which sold a variety of rugs, ornaments, clothing, and jewelry. What was special about the ornaments being sold was that they were all hand-cut and carved at the stall where they were being sold which showed us how much effort had been put into crafting all the charming statuettes.

The terrain up to the waterfalls was extremely challenging to clamber over. We had to cross old wooden and poorly constructed bridge’s, and the most difficult was climbing what was not the most sturdy looking ladder up against a cliff edge where locals kindly helped to pull us up past the vertical rocks. It was essentially a wall that was only made for rock climbing and not desperately clambering up onto. At the very top of our trek, we got to a stall where they sold us Berber tea. It was miraculous and rather surprising to wonder how they managed to get seats, tables, wood, and run a bar up near the top of a mountain, considering how tough the climb up was. The question still stood out to us, how would someone get back down that dangerous terrain? Much to our luck, there was another way down; and thankfully a significantly less steep pathway. We were all thankful to bask in the sun on our way down, overlooking the colourful buildings of the village.

DAY 6 & 7

Our last two days were our most valuable. We needed to gather as much evidence of us proving that we had absorbed and embraced what was left of the Moroccan and Berber culture within Marrakech, conducting last-minute first-hand research.

On Sunday we had first decided to visit the Saadiens Tombs, which featured wondrous patterns that showed the wealth of the many people that had been buried there. The amount of colour there was surprising to see, perhaps because I had the idea of a western culture image of a graveyard in my mind. What I would have liked to have seen at this historic site was some information boards out and perhaps a restoration of some of the patterned tiles designs that had been made there.

Next, we walked to the Badi Palace ruins. The grandeur of this site was phenomenal. It was unfortunate how poorly it had been preserved over the past few hundred years, however, it was interesting to see how the owner had tried to restore it. What would have been pools of water had been transformed into patches of orange trees, and what was previously courtrooms, had been transformed into well-designed areas where old artifacts were kept, whether it was scraps of tiles or old pieces of decoration.

On the seventh day we walked back to the shopkeeper whom we had met on the second day in Marrakech; Abdel. We had sat down in his shop and drank Berber tea with him. He had given us postcards and photos that had been sent to him from tourists he had taken on tours in the Sahara desert. He had told us about what he loved about being in the Sahara. Abdel missed his camels which he has taken on every tour, as well as camping under the stars at night, singing and playing tunes and traditional Arab and Berber music. It was fascinating to see how many connections he had made with people from all over the world. Generously he gave us a business card for a point of contact, and in return two of our group members had given him a painting which they had made of a photo I had taken of them at the first meeting. We said farewell and good wishes to Abdel and his business, and the same with Lori from the Henna Art Cafe that day.

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A trip to Morocco

With an early beginning to the morning of the 23rd of January, we set off for a three-hour journey to Gatwick, London at 2:00am. It was a crisp and fresh start to a journey I could possibly never forget.

My first ideas and aims for an outcome of this field project would be to create a short film documentary, similar to the skills and creative input I had put into the Circle Line project. By using these skills I could create a film which would clearly show my experience of Marrakech, better than any sketchbook, drawing, painting, or design outcome could possibly offer to viewers. My experience in photography and video would assist me further in creating a documentary film. Although it wouldn’t be different to the skills I apprehended in term one, I wasn’t entirely sure what else I could create within such a short time frame, within the one week in Marrakech, but also in the small two week period, we would have after we return to the UK.

While I was in Marrakech we came across many extraordinary patterns within heritage sites. The Clock Cafe was a fantastic place to go to experience parts of traditional Moroccan culture that might be lost in time to come. We saw live storytelling from a man who had been telling stories in Arabic for 60 years, and heart thumping traditional Moroccan music played live, at the cafe. When trecking up into the Atlas mountains we sat by the Ourika river while we ate lunch in an undeveloped village. These experiences we had on the trip provided us with first-hand knowledge for us to document to assist us in the remainder of the project when we were to arrive back in the UK.

 

​The balance of beauty and monstrosity

With a swift start to level 5 regarding all three modules (subject, constellation, and field), studying Goddesses and Monsters, as part of the study group I decided to join for constellation, has introduced me to a new and deeper way of thinking about how I apply theory to my practice and what impact the work I design and create may have on people’s lifestyles. By gaining further knowledge to what I had learned from my constellation study groups last year, it has prepared me to think more carefully about what I want to concentrate on for my dissertation research proposal this year in preparation for my dissertation to write in my third and final year at CSAD.

Recently I completed a branding project titled ‘On Display’ as part of the subject module where I was required to create a brand identity for an exhibition I was to comprise. It was difficult to apply theory I had been given from Goddesses and Monsters to this project. I created the identity for an exhibition themed on Brutalist Architecture in London. Instead of creating a logo that could connotate glamour, I instead included connotations of construction and the monstrosity of brutalist architecture and ‘raw concrete’. I used these connotations in interesting ways in my project by transforming the image of brutalist architecture into something more delightful and pleasing to look at. By using the minimalist form of construction lines and by being influenced by Lego, I created a logo that was both beautiful, disguising the monstrous nature of brutalist architecture. This was shown through the design of the poster, wayfinding, signage, and most importantly the animated adaptation of the logo. This project was important in helping me understand how architecture could be perceived as beautiful or monstrous. It allowed me to transform something I wasn’t particularly fond of into something I really liked the design of by incorporating different styles into one identity that worked stunningly across all the visuals I had designed, and certainly the possibility for more. This combination of styles was supported perfectly by what I had learned last year in the constellation module as part of the ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ study group, regarding bricolage by mixing styles from different era’s together.

I now needed to take on my project for Field. The project I chose for the first term of Field was titled ‘Circle Line‘. We were required to create an experimental documentary that documented all the senses and features of nature and the surrounding landscape of Cardiff, which included a trip to Pontypridd on the train and a visit to Bethesda Chapel in Ton Pentre. Circle Line represented the journey of going to these places on the train. Instead of looking at the beauty of human beings we were looking at the beauty of the landscape and the possible pollution and monstrosity that humans have bestowed upon nature. When visiting Bethesda Chapel we were struck upon the mishmash and chaos of the objects that had been thrown to waste within the chapel. As much as it was interesting it triggered a multitude of uncomfortable thoughts concerning what lay beneath the historical items, whether it was old posters, prints, photographs, cards, broken instruments, tools, and so much more. Many of these old pieces of junk had been put back to use. a craftsman who found junk in the chapel had repurposed their use to create sculptures of animals. For example, an elephant had been made out of bicycle chains, dustbin covers for the ears and various other pieces of junk. It reminded me of what I had studied last year in Smells Like Teen Spirit, with finding new meanings and uses in objects. The benefit of producing an experimental documentary would allow me to look beyond making things so obvious to the human eye, which is what I was used to as part of my practice in most cases. The ability to create new ways of seeing things would allow me to expand my mind. By allowing abstract art and design to come together through photography, video, and sound I could see how beauty and monstrosity could mix or become neither.

For my critical essay, I have explored how photography and paintings have changed our perception of beauty and perfection over the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries and what we should deem as reliable and as true to human nature form. I decided to relate to photography because of how graphic design deals with such vast amounts of photography and film. As a hobby of mine, I feel it was suitable to discuss how my practice can change people’s lifestyles for better or for worse as technology is developing to manipulate images better than ever before or made possible. It is up to designers like myself to change the face of brands or even create new faces and new ways of seeing things.

Trailing back to Goddesses and Monsters, we learnt about where the idea of beauty and perfection has stemmed from. Primarily, the beauty of ‘ivory skin’ and traditional glamour has been derived from the tale of Pygmalion and his ivory woman. Along with further concepts and understanding of glamour, this has helped me write my critical essay. With the help of understanding how to analyse an image with concepts and theories from a range of academics, it has helped me prepare my thoughts for writing a critical and thoughtful dissertation proposal which I shall be starting to write next term. Being educated through the use of theory has taught me how to analyse and criticise my own work linking it to theories which have been made concerning glamour and the grotesque. These new theories will in future be applied to my work before analysing what I could have improved in my work. It will assist me in being critical of other people’s work. I hope I will also be able to give a new balance to beauty and monstrosity by combining the two to create a new deeper meaning in my work.

Circle Line – research and edit

The trip to Pontypridd and Ton Pentre was extremely valuable with the recordings we collected from Rhondda Valley. The journey was just as important as collecting the footage. Getting to experience the journey many would have had to take into the valley when coal was still being mined in Wales was like traveling back in time. The whole point in the documentary was recording this journey as we saw it with our own eyes.

Before starting to edit the footage we gathered, I looked back at experimental documentaries that had informed my ideas before we took recordings from the valley. One particular and extremely influential documentary film that had informed my own ideas for our groups’ video was Feeling My Way (1997) by Jonathan Hodgson. We all liked the animated feature of the video and how the sounds created were used to inform the five senses that we all experience during our day-to-day activities and walking about on the streets. What we see in the film are reminders informed by everyday objects, such as the clanging and bashing of percussion to represent the metal bins. Maps of where the cameraman is walking are hand drawn and inputted into the film, and my favourite is the numbers and words placed into shots to represent the thoughts that go through our mind every day, such as the 9am meeting placed on the slabs of concrete on the street.

I looked back at a particular video I researched for my previous project named ‘On Display’, where I looked at how brutalist architecture was portrayed in videos and social media. The music video for ‘Month of Sundays’ by Metronomy was filmed by artist, filmmaker, and researcher, Callum Cooper. I looked at his Vimeo account for other films that he had created, of which most of them were experimental. The films below, created by Cooper, were the ones that most influenced what I filmed and photographed for our trip.

Victoria, George, Edward and Thatcher

What I like about this video is the abstract sound of what I presume is train tracks in the background to represent the recurring style of housing and flats in areas of London. The purpose of this video was to show the contrast in the appearance of wealth between these different locations in London. The video was created using almost 4000 images of residencies in the city taken between 2009 and 2010. The influence this would have on our film was the compilation of sounds that were used. In the video, what inspired me was the use of the collection of images that were included to establish the contrast of wealth across the city of London. The film by Cooper won the London International Documentary Festival “my street” Award in 2011.
Lumbering Planes
Similarly to ‘Month of Sundays’ filmed by Cooper for the band Metronomy, this film features the technique of swinging the camera to and fro. This technique used reminds me of playing in the park on the swings, presenting the viewer and reminding them of the experiences they had as an average child. We could feature these experiences within our film. The ‘Month of Sundays’ film could influence our video for the demonstrative quality of the brutalist architecture in the film which has portrayed the lyrics. I analysed more of this in my post from my previous project.
Sink or Swim
This video particularly attracted me to the showing of nature and the countryside, similar to what we were exploring in the Rhondda Valley. I like how a watertight camera is used to take us through the portals of streams, rivers, ponds, and lakes to take us to different landscape locations.
Although all these films influenced what we wanted to film in the Rhondda Valley, we wanted to focus on typography and text in our film, and how the five senses can be presented to us through the means of sound and video.
And so, we got to editing.
For our third trip, I made a brief visit to Tredegar Park in Newport. There I found various documents and picture frames which had recorded moments in time. What I found most interesting were maps of the surrounding area of Newport that I found within the house on the walls. Because this was a last minute trip, we had already edited most of the film which we were extremely happy with. The recordings from Tredegar house were too high quality to edit, due to the fact that the download speed was too slow. The recordings also didn’t fit very fluidly with the film we had edited. However, I was glad I made the trip just in case we needed more footage, and most importantly to experience the qualities of a location that had so much history.
We added the sound we had been given by the composer that had collaborated with our group. Although it had the abstract qualities we wanted to fit with the film, we found that it didn’t quite fit the pace we wanted. Luckily one of our group members was experienced with sound design and composition, so edited the sound to fit more appropriately with the film, while still using the original material.

Circle Line – through the valleys

Today we made our trip up to Pontypridd and through the Rhondda Valley into Ton Pentre to visit Bethesda Chapel. Instead of grabbing our wellies we used our walking boots considering how less mud there was to our 1st trip down on the Taff Trail.

From Cathays train station we made our way to Pontypridd. The clicking of the train wheels on the railway tracks made for a great sound we could feature in the soundtrack for our documentary. Stopping at Pontypridd station we walked into the town centre heading towards Pontypridd museum stopping on one of the bridges along the way where the river meandered around to the left. Three rivers pass through Pontypridd; the rivers Cynon, Taff, and Rhondda. In the museum, we were presented with an array of interesting artifacts, including old metal dominoes, a wooden helmet and old train tickets. Also at the museum was a model railway of Pontypridd and a grand organ. It was at this point that we agreed with a student from RWCMD to make a team based on our ideas for the experimental documentary film. He also wanted to create abstract sounds to express the nature of different perspectives within the documentary that would show our journey to Pontypridd and Ton Pentre. We had limited time to spend at the museum, so we headed off back to Pontypridd Railway Station and took a train up to Ton Pentre.

With our cameras, camcorders and recording equipment, we journeyed through the gorgeous autumn coloured trees of the Rhondda valley. It was surprising to have found out from the museum that coal was transported to and from the docks on canals that were built before trains existed. The very first steam-powered railway journey took place near Merthyr Tydfil in 1804, along with what used to be the longest railway platform in the world being at Pontypridd Railway Station. We got off the train at Ton Pentre with a short walk to Bethesda Methodist Chapel, designed by Robert Scrivener and opened in 1887. Within the chapel was a clutter of junk and unwanted objects that were piled on top of each other around the entire ground floor of the chapel. One man had come to the chapel frequently in search of objects which he could repurpose to transform and combine with other objects to make sculptures of animals. In one sculpture he made, he used covers for dustbins to use as the ears of an elephant, along with other circular objects, including a bicycle chain. One other man we met, named Ben Teague who was also a composition student at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama had a wood workshop upstairs in the chapel that was originally used for Sunday school. The purpose of the wood workshop was to be able to repair the organ in the chapel in the building, so as to save money and time instead of having to pay for new parts and transport with the parts to and from Cardiff. Very many places in the Rhondda Valley are fairly difficult to get to via car, hence why they built canals and railways to transport coal.

After exploring around the chapel among the jumble of bits and bobs, we found several pieces of old and torn paper with text and images on. We took video clips and photographs of these pieces for an idea we could take forward with being able to focus on pieces of text for our experimental documentary. We also wanted to show videos of hands feeling and taking hold of objects to represent the tactile sense. We would use the sound of this feeling to express the texture of the objects. This would make for an extremely interesting and almost interactive feeling that viewers would get from the video, which would be essential in a viewing of the film, in particular, an exhibition space. The composer gathered sounds from instruments that we found, stories from people that we met, and various other sounds that we picked up along the way.

Making our way back to Pontypridd by train, we stopped for coffee and tea at a cafe owned and founded by Italians that had moved from London. Originally they had moved from Italy to Paris for a better quality of life and instead were greeted by a society that has despised the Italians. The reason for that was an Italian anarchist named Sante Geronimo Caserio had assassinated the President of France in 1894, Marie François Sadi Carnot (Headsman, 2008). Many Italians had no option but to move out of France, many migrating to London. Some families decided to move to Wales, and in particular the Rhondda Valley, to escape the fumes and pollution of London. The cafe we visited is owned by an Italian family, running for over 50 years.

We caught the train back to Cathays station in Cardiff, arriving at the busy streets and darkness of the evening setting upon us.

I was extremely pleased with the footage that we had all gathered that day. Half of the group had recorded sounds, and we all took a part in taking photos and videos on camera phones, camcorders, and my DSLR which recorded higher quality footage than the camcorder for us to use in the edit of the film. I had honed skills I never thought I’d have used before this project, which has opened me up to a range of different ways of seeing things, with different perspectives and exploring various mediums. We would use the sounds and videos we collected to create an abstract and experimental documentary film. As much as this project focused on using cameras, sound recorders, and computers, this was very much an introduction to how true legends in the film and documentary industry created their masterpieces, their films. Much to my pleasure, I had the opportunity to work with fine artists and illustrators, which forced me to think into different perspectives and types of abstraction.


Bibliography

Headsman (2008), 1894: Sante Geronimo Caserio, anarchist assassinViewed 23rd November 2017. <http://www.executedtoday.com/2008/08/16/1894-sante-geronimo-caserio-anarchist-assassin/&gt;

 

Circle Line – the beginning

With a swift start to the Explore module for year 2, I decided to pick the Circle Line project. The purpose of Circle Line is to explore the many ways in which different perspectives of a reality can be shown through an experimental documentary film. The topic we will focus on will ultimately be up to us, however, it will need to be based on the surrounding landscape and the local area of Cardiff, including the Rhondda Valley and the heart of Wales, Pontypridd. To create the documentary we will be working with composition students who study at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama (RWCMD). We will work with them to create a piece of music that would fit along with the themes we choose to explore in the film.

On the first day of the project, we were introduced to the brief. On the brief were a range of films and readings we were given to look at to get a sense of what experimental documentaries and films are, how they are produced, and the themes, tools, and materials used within them. I read an essay by Michael Renov named ‘Away from Copying: The Art of Documentary Practice’. The purpose this essay was written was to express the many styles of documentary and how documentary tradition has been changed. Within the essay, Renov explores the many possibilities as to which possible styles can be explored. He has referred to several iconic experimental documentary films, including Stan Brackage with Wander Ring (1955), Joris Ivens with Misery in the Boring (1933), Robert Flaherty with Nanook of the North (1922), Marlon Riggs with Tongues Untied (1989), and Jonathan Hodgson’s Feeling My Way (1997). He discussed their unconventional work with analysis, allowing him to argue whether their work may or may not be considered as documentary films, however untraditional they contrast to traditional documentary films.

On that same day, we gathered our wellies and went for a short walk down the Taff Trail beside our campus; Cardiff Metropolitan University, Llandaff Campus. We walked up towards Llandaff Rowing Club and turned back towards the Cathedral to trail back to the campus. As chilly, cloudy and miserable as the weather was luckily it did not rain. The ground was soggy, several places where the grass was submerged into the saturated muddy path. We made detours down towards the riverbed, trembling with fear of falling into the river. Pebbles grated against each other under our feet keeping us from slipping as we explored the bed searching for perspectives. We took photographs and small video clips to record our adventure. By recording as much as we could in the many different perspectives we would be able to place them together to create an abstract atmosphere within the film. Using these tools and techniques would enable us to get a sense of how to create these abstract viewpoints by using photographs and videos.

Here are a selection of photos I had taken on my phone from the walk:

After returning to campus we gathered together to discuss our walk. By using post-it notes we described the different things we saw and how elements combined. I highlighted the smell of the wet vegetation known as petrichor, the grating of pebbles beneath my feet, and the crisp morning air supported by the smell of fresh trickling water.

Next, we discussed our trip to Pontypridd and the Rhondda Valley on November 24th. We mapped out where we were traveling by train from Cathays station. Half of the group would be staying in Pontypridd to go to the Rocking Stone in Pontypridd Common, and the other half of us would be traveling to Ton Pentre to visit Bethesda Chapel to meet with organist and composer Ben Teague, who is a fourth-year student at RWCMD. As well as being a student he has also been in the process of managing to restore the organ in the chapel. According to who we were interested in working with in terms of compatible ideas for the experimental documentary, we organised ourselves into groups of five or six. Our group consisted of two fine art students, one illustrator, and two graphic designers (including myself).

Our group were brought together for our ideas and communicating with each other what we wanted to explore. I knew I wanted to explore the abstract nature and possibilities in photography and video, which suited well with what the rest of the team wanted to do. We discussed how we could explore psychedelic themes, abstraction and what various perspectives we could explore. I put together a brief mindmap of ideas together to illustrate what we wanted to include in our manifesto:

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