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Critical Evaluation

Critical Evaluation Of Own Media Product

I have always been consumed with interest about the body and mind, especially when it concerns the senses. I have previously investigated the relationship between the brain and the ear and interpreted the connection through photography and animation. Looking at how we as humans have developed a way of being able to cope with so many different interactions within our environment flawlessly. With a new project beginning I felt it was a perfect opportunity to look into another key sense that has always interested me, sight. I wanted to look at how we see and how our brains cope with the endless amount of information almost unnoticeably and portray it into a media product.

The Idea
After reading John Berger’s “Ways of seeing” and watching the accompanying series where Vertov said, “I’m an eye. A mechanical eye. I, the machine, show you a world only I can see it” (The ways of seeing, 2008). Dziga Vertov, a film director, talks about the film camera, how it is a portal of vision and acts methodically, like a hunter on its subject. The camera shows what is there in a way only it sees it. I wrote a couple of blogs about John Berger and Vertov who featured in his series and I realised how in my media product I wanted the camera to have an actor’s or leading role, more of a purpose and sense of place and awareness in the scene. The camera is personified; it has taken on human like qualities and interacts with the viewer. The camera lens has often been compared to an eye and in my final piece I wanted it to be the “preying eye” dominant of the situation, leading it, being the most important element at first. I also knew I wanted to create an animation using photographs to portray my idea.

Eye and Brain
Our brains control every aspect of bodies including movement, emotion, sensation, experience and thought. It is the one part of our body scientists and doctors do not fully understand, as there are areas untouchable whilst alive otherwise it would cause damage the brain as Gregory states “the brain has been described as the only lump of matter we know from the inside” (1966:p60). It is quite beautiful that there is still a part of us that is still ours and secret from exploration especially being our brain as it is our mind. When you think of your own brain you don’t imagine the material and structure of it. You see in pictures, colours, words, sound it’s like thousands of films from everything you’ve dreamt and seen in your life. It is a well-built machine programmed to receive, interpret and understand so many different types of information simultaneously. Gregory discusses how the brain and its complicated collection of nerve cells are like a machine “Like a computer the brain accepts information, and makes decisions according to the available information” (1966:p64). Yet again our bodies are compared to that of machines. So many of our technology today has been built out of the basic foundations of our bodies, artificial intelligence to make unemotional versions of humans. In relation to my media product, it made me think of the electrical pulses that shoot and connect within our brains because of stimulation caused by light changes. Sight is so important and vital and often taken for granted as Slacks describes “we are not given the world: we make our world trough incessant experience, categorization, memory, reconnection” (2002:p10). We grow up, adapt and become accustomed to the environment we live in. But when we are challenged with something new and unknown we become confused and frustrated. Brains are puzzle solvers and must decipher anything it doesn’t comprehend. This is what I wanted to portray. This sense of curiosity and requirement for understanding is what influences and spurs my work on. As Furniss has said “an artist in some respects depicts himself or herself within a work” (2007:p165). I completely agree, especially with the kind of photography I participate in, stop motion. I set up the scene; I control the camera, light the subject, and animate all the pieces together for hours. In a blog I wrote about Muybridge “At this time and even today it was revolutionary to be able to use this technique to actually change the way we see the world” (2011). It was Muybridge that really spurred on the interest to turn my love for photography into something moving, something more than just a photograph, something real. Of course I will be portrayed in my work, as the piece I create is a tangible thought process that I have had. It is something I have wondered about, researched, planned and developed into something so that people can see what happens in my head. It is a piece of footage of my mind.

In the beginning of the video, the figure wakes up, blinks and becomes aware of the camera. He is hesitant but also inquisitive; people are constantly learning and investigating. As he draws closer to the camera, which represents the eyes, he absorbs flashes of light. The viewer becomes aware that something inside his mind is happening, shown below in the images that were used to create the sequence.

Eye to Brain (2011)

People are wary not only of the camera, but situations they are not in control of. Using slow shutter speeds, a torch and a very still model I created something that wasn’t there. If the shutter on the camera were left open you would see the room he was in. I wanted the darkness and blackness to keep the viewer absolutely fixed on him. He is the subject. He is the signifier, and what is signified is that he is the brain; he is a portrayal of himself in his own mind looking through his eyes (the camera) into the world outside. The brain is a never-ending vacuum searching for information and the emptiness around him signifies this endless limit of space. He is unsure of his surroundings when he is stimulated by the world outside and investigates like creatures do. The sphere of light is his brain, as shown below, a cell absorbing thoughts, feelings and senses. We follow one thought and its path to its destination.
I wanted it to look surreal. As we have no actual footage of the brain’s electrical pulses I felt I had a free rein. There are thousands of charts and readings proving brain activity and the impulses themselves but people can only relate to what they know to make sense of something unimaginable. Evidently I have the luxury of being as imaginative as I want to re-create what it may be like inside. There is an irony to writing and thinking about the electrical pulses in your own brain. Because as you do it, your brain has sent thousands of impulses of thinking about these pulses trying to comprehend what it would be like as shown below.

Eye to Brain (2011)

Bordwell has talked about when a spectator looks at a film and tries to make some kind of sense of it there are four different types of people that try and interpret it. The first one interested me the most “the spectator draws not only on knowledge of filmic and extra filmic conventions but also conceptions of causality, space, and time and on concrete items of information” (1989:p8). He talks of films but it relates to looking at any artwork. A person will try and search for any established knowledge they have to relate and connect to the work they see before them. Art is subjective and interpretive to an individual person and each person will see something different. This is true not only to art but life in general. Each person will look at a situation, and comprehend it in there own unique way. Their brains may keep it catalogued as memory whilst others forget, as it isn’t as important to them.
When the figure draws in light I wanted it firstly to signify the inspiration of art and photography. Having looked through the lens and coming away having felt apart of it, using its lens as your own and seeing the world as an eye. I secondly wanted it to signify memory. The signifier is the camera which documents life, be it a real or fake situation, it still documents a specific piece of time. The links aren’t obvious as they are created through convention so it is iconic. As he, the brain, has acknowledged the outside world and comprehended it through the eyes, he draws a camera and takes a photograph of the environment as part of the record of events that happened through his life as shown below.

Eye to Brain (2011)

I didn’t want to make what he actually looks at through the camera important, because that’s not what this piece is about. It’s not about what he is looking at but what happens once his eyes have acknowledged the situation and sent the signals back to him to comprehend so he can deal with it. He starts unhappy; because as humans we are uncomfortable with situations we don’t understand. But by the end he understands and smiles, happy with the surroundings and documents it with a memory.

In this piece I wanted to show the connection between the eyes and brain, between sight and thought. I wanted to show the importance of the connection of sight and memory with the camera. Its how I look at life, how I want to document it. I want a career in taking photographs, which are memories and when I try to comprehend a subject and demonstrate it I do it visually and through the camera and increasingly more through stop motion animation. I really enjoyed this project, writing the blogs really helped me organise my thoughts and make them more comprehendible. The final piece was a 1minute 18 second video consisting of 197 photographs animated together. I feel I achieved everything I wanted to and it has spurred me onto continue this subject in future projects.
Bordwell, D (1989). Making Meaning. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. p8.

Furniss, M (2007). Art in Motion: Animation Aesthetics. 2nd Ed. Eastleigh: John Libbey Publishing. p165.

Gregory, R (1966). Eye and Brain: The psychology of seeing. Milan: Librex. p60.

Gregory, R (1966). Eye and Brain: The psychology of seeing. Milan: Librex. p64.

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