• Train Journey Thoughts

    Returning from work is a more desperate affair, fortunately I have pole position in terms of station order, the train’s route looped, therefore on reaching my platform, it is emptied of any human resource entering the city as other’s wish to depart. But there is the decision of where sit that must be seriously considered. The carriage is divided into seating groups of four in opposing pairs. The end of each carriage tends to attract the dregs of society, the freeloader, hoping the ticket inspectors will skip this particular train. When the thug’s of fare enforcement do encounter these pitiful individuals I never feel any satisfaction, it only reenforces the cruelty of the system we have built around us. If one sits in a middle section, ideally near a set of doors for swift exit, it is preferably to glance at the seat prior to sitting down, to make a calculated estimate of the filth content hidden in the knowing textile seat covering, designed to hide a multitude of grime. The worst circumstance, is the wet seat, only realised after a few seconds, the body already decidedly committed to endure the journey ahead. The conundrum being, do you leap up and change seat? Ideally yes, but the notion that you might have been sitting in human piss, now absorbed through two layers, your undergarments damp and your trousers visibly wet. If one had made the rational decision to move, without warning others, so as not to draw attention to your own wet patch, there is hope, that any moisture will evaporate over the course of the journey, knowing that once home all clothing from the waist down will be tossed into the washer.
    It’s easy to get caught up in these irritations, these inconveniences, the minor sufferings, the incurred corruptions, add to these the endless calendar points nobody ask for, Birthdays, Christmas, Easter, Mother’s days, Father’s Day, Earth Day, Memorials, Anniversaries - the later highlighting our dedicated refusal to learn from the past, which brings me to the crusty layer smattered upon our day by the merchants of bull-shit, our Media. Celebrity drama, the Hollywood sewer, the double-standards of Politicians, Leaders and the sex lives of all. Meanwhile the most depraved world of the rich and powerful lies unseen, unless one of its enablers fucks-ups, a childs torso washes up on the bank of the Thames, a body hanging from Blackfriars bridge, or the perfect situation from Media standpoint, a dead public figure is thrown posthumously under the bus, as a way to demonstrate justice to the public, that rampant pedophiles, rapists and dispatchers of innocence are openly mauled in the media, to show a civilised society disapproves of the heinous actions of the dead, that nobody knew, the inevitable royal connections, the philanthropy of the individual, now shattered by those victims brave enough to come forward, the media give them a pedestal, only later to destroy these vulnerable individuals once the public interest wains, adding a vein of distrust to their detailed stories, the public never sure of the original justification of the witch hunt.
    Peoples memories are short, much like the claim of goldfish forgetting the last lap of the bowl. The ignorance of history, of power, of the evidenced structural corruption of our system, a system that requires certain complicit nations to enslave the citizens in various levels of subjugation to meet the demands of elite families. And so, in all my receptive daily actions, I also find time to write, my true action. I have written a screenplay or rather it appears to be writing itself, its merely the case that I sit down with coffee, whiskey or water to hand and the words pour into my head and out through my fingers into the keyboard, such is the nature of mind in mind.

  • Writings

    Writings

    I am not a great writer, I make so many mistakes, I misspell, I miss words, I use too few commas. I am under read, yet in relative terms I have read many books, but not enough. But I would say of my written output, I am genuine, be it a script, a poem or a novella, I have written what I understand of this world, relative to my own experience and knowledge of it, which is all one can do.

    I often re-evaluate my written work against other discerning positions and perspectives and with relief I often find parallels between my thoughts and those whose writings I have sought out.

    In any case I am as fallible as any other writer, but perhaps more so, because my education was so lacking. I realise now that state education is designed as such. I have at times felt robbed of knowledge others possessed at a much earlier age, but I am grateful that I have the tenacity to continue my study, long after the inadequate education I was given.

    However I am grateful to my two English teachers, who introduced me to Shakespeare and Marlowe. My art teachers were less helpful, I owe everything to my Father, for my grasp of art prior to attending St.Martins. To Mary-Pat Leece my Lecturer I owe so much, she was so kind, thoughtful and above all a great teacher who challenged her students. Mary-Pat Leece introduced me to Maya Deren, for which I am forever grateful.

    Now I too am a Lecturer, I remain a practitioner, but I find that reading and writing is often my go to for exploring ideas that demand a step beyond the literal. Experimental filmmaking has its limits. Language has everything I need to explore the world.

    It is rare that I will read fiction, often most fiction lacks, but there is fiction and there is fiction. I enjoy Orwell, Salinger, Nabokov and when the moment takes me Cervantes. Huxley is a terrible writer of fiction, but his essays I have enjoyed. In modern times only Houellebecq hits the spot.

    To finish, I would plead with anyone to read books, but to be discerning, though one cannot be discerning until one recognises bilge from its opposite.

  • DeadCinema 66 (2016)

    DeadCinema 66 (2016)

    DeadCinema 66 was originally devised as a multi-screen installation, but was later incorporated into the film Vacuum (2017). In the text below I explain my motivations for the piece and its conceptual nature.

    DeadCinema 66 is the sum of an oeuvre of film and text-based work over three decades, interweaving aspects of experiments made over the course of the year with an encompassing conceptual approach: Cinema needs to die for it to live again, in that we have exhausted the tired formulas of the twentieth century commercial model. This installation proffers the option to reject all media as a way to reclaim ourselves in this Orwellian media fog that currently surrounds us.

    The work incorporates conceptual and technical advances that I have developed over the years. This piece incorporates many of my early influences including Deren, Hall and Marker alongside current themes within my work including media manipulation and a dissection of the commercial cinematographic process. This work also marks a point of my practice that has evolved, producing an installation, as opposed to a single screen work.

    The DeadCinema 66 installation walks a fine line of truth and narrative and explores the current themes of terror, performance / illusion and civil dissent within the politic of the cinematographic frame and its duplicitous shadow; Television. The production of DeadCinema 66 has employed all the methods of commercial film production and media image manipulation to produce a piece that engages the viewer with their existing visual conditioning, using audio visual motifs from Hollywood productions to grab audience attention. The work also explores the prospect of immediate and future threat, which are key themes employed aggressively in mainstream media and cinema, often blurring the lines between public relations and entertainment.

    The installation draws from a number of reference points from my research (see bibliography) to seduce the viewer into engaging with this cinematographic experience, everything from popular cinematic culture, playwrights, artists, revolutionaries, occult philosophy and politics. These reference points, while overt in their brief moments, may only be noticed in brief flutters of frames of moving image across the six cathode-ray-tube television sets that sit on the large domestic rug and sheepskin. Its complexity of detail is designed to persuaded the viewer to engage in a scrutiny of the work, echoing the participatory engagement of the viewer in Expanded Cinema work by artists such as Lis Rhodes, Malcolm Le Grice and Dan Graham.

    The piece employs a cryptic narrative approach channeled through a character offering a prophecy of the viewer's future. I refer to this character as Jack. When Jack speaks, he demands your attention, commanding you listen to his every word, before his broadcast is cut short and returned to its starting point. This circular future / past construct pays homage to Chris Marker's Le Jetée (1962).

    The entire work employs all the machinations of the cinema, including a multi-screen counter ticking to our future, giving us duration. We view a fictional commercial for an 'Audio Smut' business presented by a character called Razor Ed, Jack being played by the same actor, flagging up the Hollywood trend of actors playing a variety of roles. Simultaneously the piece offers a threatening live feed (perhaps the narrative catalyst found in every commercial screenplay) from a small monitor with an image of what appears to be an explosive device with a digital counter and visible FBF logo on the device that has semblance with symbols used by the Red Army Faction of Germany in the nineteen-seventies. Below this image, a ticker- tape news feed shows a slow crawling quote from Isabella Berretta, in 'Subway Ticker' font reminiscent of Jenny Holzer's work, telling the viewer they must reject all that they consume if it in any way resembles that which they excrete.
    The installation plays a fragment of the film DeadCinema 66; this opens with a montage, including troupes of Hollywood iconography before Isabella Berretta interrupts, stating to the camera 'I will not participate in a male system anymore' before being cut off by a State warning to the viewer.

    Other notable details of the work include the prologue to DeadCinema 66, mirroring that of James Whales' introduction to his 1931 film Frankenstein. This sequence uses the same actor who, on other monitors sits amongst piles of film cans and cassette tapes resembling an alternative version of Beckett's Krapp, hinting at Atom Egoyan's interpretation: Steenbeckett (2002). The DeadCinema 66 logo and supporting music track: Human Fly (1978) by The Cramps, pays a twisted homage to Tarantino's film Pulp Fiction (1994), while amongst the montage of mixed formats in the opening sequence we see images of an overturned directors chair with someone lying motionless on the floor clutching an old movie camera, juxtaposed with images of silver-screen lovers, and a muscular goon snorting coke to the frames of John F Kennedy's assassination, followed later with a figure raising his pistol to the sky, dressed like a Rat pack gangster but alluding to a similar pose made by Willem Dafoe in Oliver Stone's Platoon (1986). This sequence also echoes the work of cinematographer Robert Richardson's approach to Stone's JFK (1991) and Natural Born Killers (1994), moving between Super-8, 8mm, 16mm, VHS and High-Definition footage.

    The installation's duration steals 13 minutes, 33 seconds from the most dedicated viewer, while other monitor loops repeat at 3 minutes, 33 seconds. The complete version of the prohibited film DeadCinema 66 is hidden in its entirety across a number of VHS tapes of Hollywood movies that sit in piles around the monitors, a broken VHS player is provided.

  • The Art Deception

    The Art Deception

    The film Lens, Bleach, Camera (2016) is the result of a transgressive approach to digital video. The focus of this experiment was to capture / construct an image aesthetic through disruptive / destructive means through direct action against the hardware used in recording the image.

    Part One: the removal of the external lens element of a small Sony Mini-Dv camera. This process was recorded through time-lapse onto black & white digital stills. After the external lens element was removed a series of test footage was recoded with the now damaged Sony Mini-Dv camera.
    Part Two: the small Sony Mini-Dv camera (minus outer lens) mounted onto a horizontal arm attached to a lighting stand. The internal secondary lens of the camera facing the ceiling of the studio. A vertical mounted monitor screen was then placed in front of the small Sony Mini-Dv camera internal lens with a live video feed from a second Sony PD150 camera that would capture super-8 images of New York streets played back by a computer.
    A large plastic container was placed underneath the small Sony Mini-Dv camera and a Mini-Dv Tape was inserted into the camera. The PD150 camera and CRT monitor were powered from the mains, whilst the small Sony camera was powered from a battery for safety.
    Once the setup was ready a series of test runs were completed, before the final disruptive / destructive performance was actioned; the pouring of *bleach onto the internal lens and sensor of the small Sony camera as it recorded the live feed onto tape via the monitor linked to the Sony PD150 camera. Over the course of a minute the camera made a series of clicking sounds and the live recording image disintegrated into large pixelated squares before the camera shutdown.
    * The use of bleach was inspired by the work of Artist Luther Price who uses bleach to manipulate frames of Super-8 and 16mm.

    Part Three; I immediately unmounted the camera and placed it over a bath to wrench open the camera and retrieve the Mini-DV tape that was vulnerable to the bleach seeping through the camera body.
    Part Four: This involved a reconstruction of the Sony Mini-Dv camera being taken apart forcefully to retrieve the tape. This process was an elaborate construction that included lighting, composition and artificial sound to produce a convincing film of Part Three.
    The tape was damaged but retrievable and was imported by the Sony PD150 into the computer before Post Production could begin.

    The completed film is deceptive as a record of these processes. It must be stated that the original intention was to capture an immediate reaction to chemical disruption applied. However the completed results could not have been produced without extensive reconstruction filming and the image aesthetics produced are heavily manipulated to appear more severe. The deceptive nature of time-based media and the ease with which temporality in this medium can be manipulated relates back to my work responding to the machinations of news media and its related areas. All the processes above were executed as detailed, but outcomes are not necessarily those that are presented in the final film. Below are a series of photographs that reveal other processes that have not been documented here.

  • Experimental 35mm film: The Anarchists, Angels and Faust

    Experimental 35mm film: The Anarchists, Angels and Faust

    Traditionally motion-picture film is recorded onto film in a vertical strip with one image above the other and is projected this way. However a motion-picture camera system called Vista Vision recorded images across a horizontal plane, with the frames side by side. This system was famously used to capture the model effects in Star Wars 1977. This idea of moving picture frames being side by side inspired me to explore 35mm and 120mm using classic photography cameras. It should be noted that most 120mm cameras record images onto film using a vertical method of transporting the film. I found a Nettar bellows lens 120mm camera in a charity shop that transported film across on the horizontal plane and I used this for my first experiment.

    Using the 120mm format, I photographed digital video frames onto film using a High Definition monitor.
The Nettar 120mm camera has a minimum focal distance of 1.5m. This limitation restricted my composition of the monitor, giving me a field of view that included the monitors frame. I decided to work with this by exposing only for the light from the monitor, which in turn would remove much of the detail of the monitor and its surroundings. I chose 12 video frames from my personal archive to record onto 12 x Exposure 120mm film.

    Once the film was exposed, it was processed as an unbroken strip negative. The negative was then scanned at 600 dpi as a .tiff file and imported into Adobe Premiere Pro. This digital negative was then inverted, graded and animated to move slowly from right to left across the screen. The audio used in the film made from this technique are exacts from my feature film Girl Draws Gun.

  • Technological Fascism

    Technological Fascism

    ORIGINAL TEXT by Jake Astbury PUBLISHED ONLINE IN 2015

    For those spellbound by Apple’s retarded techno-gifts or the convenience of contact-less payment beware! This veneer of advancement that offers to make our lives so much easier, safer, crime free, shiny and metallic is regularly pushed through a media drip feed of Google driver-less cars, personal drones, city, town and village surveillance, proprietary networks, Apps and the internet of things. At every level of society we are coerced to accept a techno-centric future. Schools are told to embrace disposable gadgetry to educate young minds who will eventually be primed to embrace a system with few jobs, I call this Technological Fascism.

    It seems a harsh term for what appears to be the sci-fi inspired future we have hoped for. Over the last decade we have clicked to connect with each other, find places, track friends and family, watch our back yard and others and have every device in lives interconnected; fridges that order your food, televisions that watch you and water bottles that tell your phone when you should hydrate. Then there’s the push for a cashless society, where transactions will be free flowing, no longer tied to a physical branch of bank. This exciting unifying paradigm is ours to be enjoyed, so the daily editorials and techy pundits who exhaust their columns with Apple centric Google gushing lifestyle sludge say. But they never truly get to the bone of what it will mean to have our lives completely digitally connected; our homes online, our energy meters, our phones, watches, tablets, televisions, game consoles, health services, banking, wallets and ultimately our intimate details. Instead rather than giving us a moment to think things through, Netflix and Amazon offer to consume our minds with endless serials and Oculus Rift offering to serve us a virtual sex fantasy we never knew we wanted.

    The interconnected system of personal finances and social statuses, all funnelled through collective population data bases, has made data gathering possible from the moment a child is born; their education, school reports, thoughts, disciplinary action, physical development, social media interaction, uploads and embarrassing moments; all available for scrutiny by future employers, insurance company’s, banks, governing bodies, security firms et cetera et cetera; soon job applications will no longer measure you by a personal statement, but instead by all the data harvested on you. The exposure of your social-political views, behaviour patterns, sexual preferences, health records, vices, diets, spending, digital engagement will be evaluated. Everything you are, everything you do; trawled through by algorithms to decided whether you are acceptable and can be trusted with a real job that has not already been consumed by automation.

    This is the beginning of the Techno-Fascist system where anxiety will charge your every digital choice in the interconnected sphere; fear of lowering your social status, raising your insurance premiums, appearing politically extreme, as a pervert, an addict, an oddball, insolvent or a health risk; while others who are disconnected from the system for reasons of mental health, old age, homelessness, disability and unemployment will be marginalised as analogue waste.

    Technological Fascism will be thrive through private influence in government legislation. This system which is already partly in place will I predict become more authoritarian and socially restricting under the guise of national security and terrorist threat. The cashless society will monitor your spending and tell you when to spend. Website warnings for those off-track will be more common place and eventually full government control of the net for private interests will result. Everything external to this system will be marginalised or intolerable.
    Our obsession with gadgets and our ignorance of technology's deeper political uses will make that Apple watch will feel like it’s burning into your wrist.

  • 30 Years

    30 Years

    I made my first film Cut and Scratch back in 1992. It was a direct action film, produced from 16mm found footage of the Suez Canal provided by my wonderful artist and lecturer Jeremy Blank.
    This was the first time I had worked in film. Film fascinated me as a medium and I had attempted making my own 16mm film using an animated sequence of free stickers from a Coco Pops box, which I photocopied onto acetate and then proceeded to cut out every sprocket hole with a scalpel. The film was looped on a 16mm projector, my first adventure in celluloid.

    Today in 2022 I still work across many formats, but digital is less interesting as a format to be manipulated. With the digital medium I tend to work across pixelation and use 35mm Film camera lenses on my DSLR to capture the footage. The film The Worker (2022) was shot using a 1911 pocket bellows camera lens custom fitted to my DSLR.

    The results of the lens produced haloed highlights and softer rendering of the image. In another film of the series Office Worker (2022) I used a small Hypergonar Cinemascope lens to capture the images, producing a long narrow aspect ratio due to the use of a 2x Anamorphic Lens on a 16.9 sensor.

    Having produced over 130 + films in 30 years of varying lengths and styles, some narrative, some feature length, others extremely experimental, I can say that filmmaking within a cinematic vein is one of the hardest disciplines to pursue consistently, as it requires so many elements to produce the final outcome, which often will glean few viewers if it exists outside of a festival or gallery screening.

    In the end, the contemporay viewer does not perceive the effort, conceptual approach and thought processes contained within the image, but rather the instant moment of whether it is liked or disliked.
    With viewer attention contracting in the age of social media, filmmaking is certainly not a career pursuit for those wanting instant fame and gratification, such as those of the YouTube contingent, but that’s what makes filmmaking so special.