Ways of seeing.

What is Observation?

To Observe Is

to look

to digest the visual information

and think about it

It is also to notice change, wether it be immediate or throughout days or weeks…


Total Eclipse

by Annie Dillard

Staring at the sun has been linked with notions of insanity, mortality and depression. This however, illustrates the desire to overcome rational thinking and lose one’s self in a temporal paralysis of vision and mind.

Dillard describes her experience of a Total Eclipse many years ago when she went on a trip with her husband. The way she describes it is extremely in detail, from the sort of framed clown drawing she had in her hotel room to the way she felt as the eclipse happened. The way she describes the fear of the eclipse reminded me of how someone might feel about death and the unpredictability and inevitability of it.

Overall Total Eclipse is not so much about the eclipse itself but more so about life and the way people might go through it. What they remember and why are certain things are in their immediate memory whilst others are in their deep subconscious. It is as if she has a revelation about life, a realisation that the things that were of large value to her a few years back, may be of no importance to her now or in the near future, but also accepts that these moments of past, present and future of her life are nothing compared to the world existing around her.

Black Sun

by Julia Kristeva

Black Sun explores the subject of melancholia and creates some unexpected links between beauty and sadness. Kristeva is challenging the idea of beauty and considering that melancholy can be beautiful, maybe even euphoric?

When thinking about depression being euphoric, my mind took me to a series I watched recently called Euphoria. It tells a story of a girl who’s had large issues with her mental health since she was very young and has been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. The way they portray her character in a way links her depressive states with her euphoric states and they both become each other, her euphoric states become almost depressive and vice versa.

When thinking about fine lines and the things that are considered extreme opposites almost being blurred into one whole, the question of how valid and truthful are our observation of things as individuals….or as Kristeva puts it “beauty replaces the ephemeral through deceit”, is what we want to see because it more appealing to us blocking our view of the truth which has always been there?

‘Black Sun’

16mm B&W film transferred to digital

duration: 15′ 36″

by Jim Hobbs

Thinking back to what observation means.

This short experimental film is exactly that. An observation of the sun. A long gaze at it.

Historically staring at the sun has been linked to notions of insanity, mortality and depression.

When thinking about the main location of filming this short, Death Valley, one immediately makes the connection between all the notions suggested above. A desert, for me, has an immediate implication of being lost, isolated, possibly for a very long amount of time or forever? The suggested notions are almost like the levels of this isolated experience in relation to time. One might initially become depressed as they loose hope and have been deprived of many necessities, then their brain might try to trick them and create an illusion in hope that this would keep them going longer and survive this isolation and finally one’s mind would most likely divert into questioning their mortality. This is a very physical (being in a desert literary) and narrative way of thinking of the desert, the sun and the connotations they have.

Another aspect to think about is the choice of equipment. The artist has used 16mm B&W film. The location, Death Valley, where sun is as intense as it gets combined with the choice of equipment which literary displays its final visuals through allowing light to burn through the film strip is clearly a very intentional choice. The themes of depression, insanity and mortality are also reflected in this intensity that the strong sun on location and the physical burning through the film allows.

Despite the melancholic environment, there are some shots such as the long takes of the desert, which in fact bring a level of serenity and poise in contrast to the condemning sun.

For more of Jim Hobbs’s work press here

Further Research

David Keith Lynch (born January 20, 1946) is an American filmmaker, television director, visual artist, musician and occasional actor. Known for his surrealist films, he has developed his own unique cinematic style which has been dubbed “Lynchian” and is characterized by its dream imagery and meticulous sound design” expand on that.

or more on character Ruby from Euphoria?

Practical Reflection

I made these simple drawings whilst thinking about one particular quote from Annie Dillard’s Total Eclipse…

” … like falling down that hole of sleep from which you wake yourself whimpering “

I used sharpey markers for the first two and a black ink pen for the one on the further right.

I started by creating a circular shape right in the middle of the page as a very obvious and straightforward thought of an eclipse and its intensity. When thinking about given quote, I felt like Dillard drew a perfect connection between the feeling of falling in your sleep and waking up in distress and disorientation to the feeling of experiencing an eclipse and how overwhelming it can be. This made me want to visualise this downward movement of falling and so I transformed the circular shape in the middle into a different shape travelling from top to bottom and added some reds and greys which completed the form and suggestion of movement.

I applied a similar technique to the second drawing but took a more rough approach. The overall scenery is pitch black and there is a sort of light tunnel appearing which is the ‘falling movement space” and again have added some red as a bleed through of that intensity of an eclipse.

The last image is much more simple and not as dark. The idea was for the high repetition of the same movement of falling suggested in previous images to create some sort of discomfort and feel unpredictable.

Sarah Mcdonald

My paintings explore the depiction of space and examine acts of looking. I layer patterns and surfaces to build up compositions. I want to invite the viewer to consider the status of form and space through my paintings.”

Sarah Mcdonald

Silent Walk

Species of Spaces, George Perec (1974)


Spatial Stories, The Practise of Everyday Life, Michel de Certeau


Observing the weather : 24/9/20-31/9/20

These were 2 ideas of how to observe the weather.

(*observe weather through my window. take photos and use different colour transparent sheets depending on mood?)

(* observe weather through walks through park and taking photos/videos/mud/wet/dry/ground)

When I tried the mud one, it really didn’t work out as imagined (add unsuccessful photos) I randomly started observing it through light and I liked how it worked out so didn’t end up trying out the idea with colours and moods.

Dr. Andrew Knight Hill

Dr. Andrew Knight Hill is a is a composer of electroacoustic music, specialising in studio composed works both acousmatic (purely sound based) and audio-visual.

His work often revolves around audiences and how they might interpret certain everyday objects. More importantly how these interpretations relate to our experience of the real and the virtual. 

VOID (2019)

Audiovisual Composition (2k Video with 48kHz Stereo Sound)

VOID (2019) presents a journey in space which is inspired by the non-place notion that Marc Auge constructs in his essay Non-places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity. In a way detaching audiences from the existing place and leading them into a journey of extreme self awareness and realisation of their ability to perceive this simultaneously existing non-place.

In some ways this extreme self-awareness in VOID allows the viewer and equal feeling of becoming out of touch with reality. The persistent humming sound creates some sort of trans through its repetitive yet diverse tones, whilst the tapping sounds strengthens and reinforces the materiality of what they are observing in attempt to bring them back to reality.

The notion of non-place being explored in some ways overlaps with the idea of eliminating the boundaries that come with the traditional perception of reality that Jean Baudrillard explores in Simulacra and Simulation. Meaning that as non-place can exist in symbiosis with place, reality can also have other realities existing simultaneously.

Gong (2019)

35mm Optical Sound, Stereo – [Dir. David Leister]

Gong (2019) explores an asynchronous relationship between sound and image. Viewers are most often exposed to synchronised media, whether it be film, adverts, music videos etc. sound is very often in sync with action in order to construct this traditional perception of reality they have. Considering that light (273, 400) (Aaron Debbink, Speed of Sound and Light) travels faster than sound (761mph) (Nancy Hall,Speed of Sound, NASA), then the technical reality is that people see the action before they can hear the sound, however that is not their perceived reality.

Hence this audiovisual piece creates anticipation and anxiety as to when the next bang will happen. There is also uncertainty as to what sort of place might the visuals be aiming to represent. It is very clearly an abstract and imaginary place, however the combination of the flashing vibrant colours and the ominous and unpredictably fluctuating in pitch sounds are a rather unexpected synthesis in portraying the unstable and dramatic virtual place.

Thinking about the drama properties of Gong (2019), I instantly led my thoughts to a very important note that Dr. Andrew Knight- Hill made during his talk in regards to the power of a successful sound and image relationship. He notes it can transform the place/space into the drama of a narrative. Coccolith (2016) is a movie for which Dr. Hill created the sound design, there is one referenced scene specifically, where the splashing waves and the acoustics of a tunnel become/embody the drama through the use of sound.

Further information of the referenced work of Dr. Andrew Knight-Hill’s work and more can be found here.

Simulacra and Simulation – Jean Baudrillard

This was an amazing read, it brought up many questions in regards to what is considered reality, but also thinking about what we are able to perceive as such.

Jean Baudrillard presents the term simulacrum; a representation of someone or something. As already mentioned the text challenges what is real through analysing many possibilities of a simulacrum or simulation, even suggesting that representing the real nowadays is not achieved through trying to duplicate the real but by creating a hyperreal.

One of Baudrillard’s initial references during his journey of asking the reader to challenge their perception of reality is of the Descartes’ method. René Descartes, creator of Cartesian doubt, has already proved that our sensory experiences are often wrong and therefore should be doubted. This constant doubt in sensory experience pushed my thoughts towards a reality beyond perception. One experienced through embodiment. Could both the physical and spiritual lived experience, be used as a way of allowing us to see the ultimate reality, if such exists? Or does reality exist in multiplicity?

Baudrillard uses two examples which question reality and the boundaries we as people might often put on it. One is of Disneyland as the hyperreal and imaginary. Let’s take Disneyland in France as an example. It is a place situated in Paris, build by people and operating because of people’s labour. However anyone who has been there would know that when you enter Disneyland, you almost enter another realm of reality. Everything within Disneyland is signs and symbols pointing to well known mediated environments such as the Cinderella Castle or the Alice in Wonderland maze. These things bring the on screen imaginary worlds to life, and any other information such as the geographical location of the theme park becomes irrelevant to the reality being experienced within this hyperrealistic environment.

The second example given is imagining a fake robbery. A simulacrum of a robbery cannot be achieved, because the artificial signs will get mixed up with real elements such as other people and they will most likely perceive this fake robbery as a real one. This example aims to prove that it is impossible to isolate the process of simulation from the real. The opposite is also argued which leads us to conclude that actually it is impossible to prove the real.

Further Research on Brandon LaBelle – on Sound and Listening.

Brandon LaBelle is an artist whose work concentrates on the importance of listening and how a certain action and/or intervention within a space can produce a very particular sound which can give us a lot of information regarding a place without the need of visual information. This reminds me of Pierre Schaeffer’s concept of sound object, where he suggests experiencing a sound whilst detaching it from its source and allowing it to have its own existence. LaBelle seems to be more interested in what this sound can tell us information wise, whilst Schaeffer possibly focuses on the variety of connotations the same sound can have without it’s source.

During the Venice Architecture Biennale 2018, LaBelle takes part in an interview giving an insight into his practise. He describes how sounds he can hear which are happening far away from him and he has no visual knowledge of their source are already informing his understanding of his surrounding on a subconscious level. He goes onto present sound as a contributor to a persons orientation and as a way of one finding themselves in a space without having any sort of focused attention, which again brings us to his practise of actually using certain sounds to develop orientation and enhance the sense of belonging through many kinds of experimentations such as performance.

Within his research and practise LaBelle addresses people as listeners in order to explore how listening can shape our body as well as mind. The Floating Citizens (2018) is a performance video where he had asked dancers to create choreography in the middle of the city of Santa Cruz de Tenerife in response to what they were hearing. Through their movements they are in a way painting an image of their listening action. The dancers performance is fluctuates between in sync and desynchronised, representing their relationship to the sound of the city as individual but also in coexistence. In one video the sound we hear is rather dissociative, there is no evident drastic change to it, and so the performance is rather still too in reflection to the act of listening which acts as their orientation within the space. Whilst another video takes the dancers to a different part of the city where the sounds used are more varied and vibrant and so their response becomes more involved and expressive.

Practical Reflection

I have filmed two distinctly different videos and have used the same sound as a sonic representation of what is happening within the video. One video has a truthful representation of the sounds which occurred whilst filming the video, whilst the other one doesn’t. The question is, does this manipulation of sound, which is experienced in films ( often in relation to weapons) all the time without us noticing, really make this mediated environment any less truthful to what it is representing?

Whilst watching the “real’ video and the one that has been put together and thinking about this mediated environment. The representation of the vibrating light creating a leafy whoosh sound is not real as natural light does not necessarily even emit sound available to the human abilities of hearing. However it can be argued that the representation of the light emitting this sound in the virtual environment created, is real. The main reason of this argument being the study of Simulacra and Simulation by Jean Baudrillard :

“The simulacrum is never that which conceals the truth—it is the truth which conceals that there is none. The simulacrum is true.”

(suggested by the Hebrew Bible, Ecclesiastes)

This is the first experiment, where I have used the sound of the leafs. I have however unsynced it with the original image of the leafs in order to create some sort of common ground for the image of the trembling light which definitely won’t be in sync with the sound without manipulating it.

In this second experiment there is no comparison of the reality of sound and its source to the detachment of it. There are simply 2 environments and the original sound of the leafs being manipulated through pitch shift and reverb.

This transformation of the original and natural sound of the leafs, aims to create a sonic detachment from the sound source as well as the already visual detachment discussed in the first experiment.

Student Led Seminar on Observation.

Sanja Dudek

on staging.

walking around exercise.

german film: not understanding language but the staging tells us more about the story.

Is it possible that directors/producers have too much say in the way they manipulate the staging in order to tell a story. possibly they don’t leave much for the interpretation of the viewer. rather limited? If so is that a bad thing? How can we challenge it?

Hitchcock and perspective of women in his movies. Always POV looking down on them angle? An artist made. a compilation of scenes of women with such POV

Similar issue when it comes to social media and the way we observe it. or do they observe us. we are the product, not the app. Are we being manipulated into thinking our thoughts are ours when they’re not.

Megan Swaffer

on “The Social Dilemma”

*they overlap on observation and communication