rebecca's WIP

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comm lab (video + sound)

Tipping Floor: a short film made by Minju Viviana Kim, Gene Han and myself.

Filmed at Sims Municipal Recycling Facility in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Music composed by Molly Herron. “Open Systems” performed by Leah Asher and Andie Springer (violins), Hannah Levinson (viola) and Mariel Roberts (cello).

Watching it makes me think of this talk by Slavoj Zizek on trash.

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This morning, Minju, Gene and I made a visit to Sims Municipal Recycling facility in Sunset Park to do our video shoot. Sims is a privately-owned company that contracts with New York City to sort the majority of the city’s glass, metal and plastic recycling (the paper goes to a different plant in Staten Island). Their facility in Sunset Park, which opened in 2013, is the largest recycling plant in the United States, and one of the most amazing (and dystopian) places I’ve ever visited.

The three of us woke up super early and spent the whole morning filming in the recycling plant and around the grounds. We were able to get up close to all of the different sorting machines, visit the receiving bay (and the largest piles of trash I’ve ever seen in my life), see the bales of sorted recycling, and lots more. Minju and I each had a camera — she was in charge of the wider-angle shots and I used the 50mm for more close-up and detail views — and Gene was tasked with sound, which proved to be somewhat of a challenge since it was SO loud inside the facility because of all the machines.

I wish we’d had more time in the plant itself but we had to be supervised by one of their staff so we only had a limited window. For safety reasons, we had to wear really cool hard hats, goggles, vests and steel-toed shoes the entire time (and earplugs!). Stills from the footage I shot, plus a requisite hard hat selfie, are below.

sims_1

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This past week, I started playing around with the Canon 5D and shooting some test footage for our short ‘documentary’ on garbage. I did a quick edit of some of my best shots from the other day — mostly of trash around the NYU area — which you can see below. I used a 50mm lens and experimented with some ways to abstract the garbage and make it more visual.

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For our final video project, my group (Minju Kim, Gene Han and myself) will be making a documentary about garbage in New York. We initially kicked around a lot of ideas, came to two final contenders (this vs. a documentary about a section of the Berlin Wall that currently resides in New York) and ultimately decided to make a piece about trash.

Garbage is an awesomely huge topic, and there are an overwhelming amount of approaches to take. We could make a video about sanitation workers, or a particular intersection, or a garbage dump (if only Fresh Kills were still operational), the list goes on and on.  Right now, our idea is very broad, and I hope that through the process of critiquing and class discussion, we can come to something that feels narrower and more focused.

Personally, I’m interested in exploring garbage as a kind of portrait of who we are. I’m thinking about this on multiple scales — both on the level of the individual (what happens to our stuff when we get rid of it? what’s the life cycle of the coffee cup we throw in the trash?) and as a culture (what story does our trash tell about us as a larger collective?). I’m interested in creating a more abstract story that evokes a mood or sense of place, rather than making something with an educational or hard-hitting message. One piece that really inspires me is a video and sound installation called Single Stream by Pawel Wojtasik, Toby Lee and Ernst Karel.

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For our first Comm Lab project, Jacob Riley-Wasserman, Craig Pickard and I created a 2-minute sound collage using material that we recorded individually. Our soundscape combines sounds of different scales and environments — sounds of a hospital procedure, ripping paper, toys, pouring water, a skateboard rolling down the sidewalk, etc. — and layers them together into an abstract composition.

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This week’s readings really resonated with me and touched on a lot of things I think about frequently. Much of the art work I’ve made in the recent past uses appropriation as a strategy in some way — whether it’s through internet images or restaging an existing work  — and it’s useful to step back and think about some of the larger questions and issues.

Embrace the Remix (Kirby Ferguson)

The thesis of Kirby Ferguson’s Ted talk was as simple and poignant as “everything is a remix.” In most ways, I totally agree with this as a fundamental assumption about not only culture but about the world. We are porous beings, and our minds and souls are influenced by our history and our contemporary culture. It’s impossible to make and think in a vacuum. Appropriation, quotation and borrowing of all shapes and sizes permeate our culture from the works of Cindy Sherman to Girl Talk’s remixes to reposting on Tumblr blogs. The idea of true “originality” is predicated on notions of artistic genius and what it means to be a self that at this point seem outdated and pretty implausible.

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starting point 2

Yesterday afternoon, I ventured solo to Chinatown to go on a sound walk. Overall, the walk was an interesting and provocative adventure that raised questions about how I navigate the stimulus of the city around me and my own interior life. The walk allowed me to experience something familiar (or quasi-familiar — I grew up in NYC and have walked the streets of Chinatown countless times) in a new way. Listening to the audio while I walked — at times ambient noise, other times historical or narrative voice-over — shifted my attention and made me attuned to small details and poetic moments that I’d normally overlook.

What I felt most prominently throughout the walk was a feeling of disorientation and alienation. I felt like an outsider, or an awkward tourist, often waiting at a street corner and not sure where to turn, hyper-aware of how I fit into that particular environment. I kept fighting the compulsion to check my phone, to confirm I was going in the right direction, to see myself on the map as a pulsating blue dot moving north or south. My own disorientation made me think a lot about questions of trust, and how in the process of going on this walk I was, in a sense, giving up some of my agency and trusting the mystery voice on the audio track to guide me through this defamiliarized city.

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I came across this video by Everynone (in collaboration with RadioLab and NPR) and it reminded me of my project visually similar imgs so obviously I had to add it to my list of references. I really like the associative structure that the video uses: somebody on a cell phone saying “you’re breaking up” cuts to a scene of a couple breaking up; a broken plate becomes a karate chop and then an x-ray of a broken bone; a piano tumbling out an apartment window morphs into a skydiver floating through the air. It beautifully stitches disparate scenes and moments from life into a connected, but not totally cohesive, whole.

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