‘Imagine that during your entire lifetime you could record only two videos…only two, not more: one for your ancestors, the other for your grandchildren. What would you record? What would you say? What trace would you leave of yourself for the future to come? (Ruxandra, Storytelling Workshop, 2017)
Archives are depositories of layered time. They contain traces of our past, as well as imaginings of our future. Curators, preservationists, and also experimental filmmakers think and use film archives for their material, often decayed properties, thinking about films as fragments of time. In this sense archives become a sort of ruins. The home movie or the family film is a ruin of our own inner self that continuously reminds us the inevitable passage of time. You either love or hate home movies. I have chosen to hate them, because they keep reminding me of what I will never become. This is why they continue to fascinate me.
PLAY THE ARCHIVE is a series of three videos that reuse archival footage as ‘forms to fill in’, where their original meaning is being invested by time, memory and space, where past and present merge and the layers of time disappear under the lyrical grain of the acetate reel. These videos explore another side of Sicily (my adoptive country), one that has been almost forgotten. At the same time they explore another side of myself: one that is at the same time past, present and imagined future. What I am interested in, is the aesthetic feel of the home movie, of its grain that was reborn in the Internet era as a pixel. I want to dig out how this grain ‘feels’ and how it is able to condense my own and my ancestors’ emotions, while I assume the role of a postmodern Chronos.
PLAY THE ARCHIVE SERIES
The series is an experimental part of my PhD project that is running at the University of Leeds between 2016 and 2019 and is entited:
Home movie 4.0: an emotional and sensorial investigation of the Sicilian family film
‘The products of memory are primarily creative products, the provisional results of the clashes between individual lives and culture in general. They not only enable structured expression, but also invite subversions or parodies, alternative or unconventional statements. ‘(Jose van Dijk)
The main aim of the project is to open up the creative meaning of the home movie archive to a wider audience, consisting not only in researchers, artists and filmmakers, but a more enlarged public made of the contemporary family. Therefore the core question can be formulated as follows: What makes a home movie memorable, worthy of the attention of a wider public?
This is a question that can be answered from two perspectives: a theoretical one, that makes use of analytical tools in order to uncover the structure and modus operandi of memory objects such as home movies, and a practical one, which tells us how existing hands-on practice of filmmakers and artists shapes the perception and reception of home movies as creative objects. Nevertheless, elaborating on only one perspective is not enough to fully grasp the question of what makes a home movie memorable, as it is the interrelation between theory and practice that is able to uncover the full power and potential of the home movie archive. How can we bring theory and practice closer together in order to close the constantly increasing gap that fuels the ‘archive paradox’? (Theory and practice are complementary fields, in the sense that while creative practice is good at exemplifying but bad at naming concepts – an artist is rarely able to explain his own work to the public/his work speaks for itself -, theory is good at naming but bad at exemplifying concepts – terminology works as an explanation of studied phenomenon). To be able to explore what makes a home movie memorable, we need to find an approach that is able to work at the intersection of theoretical reflection and creative thought.
To this end I explore home movies from two angles: a practice-oriented one (what is the creative process behind the reuse of home movies; can it help us identify ‘moments’ that are more frequently reused?) and a theoretical one (how are these ‘moments’ built from an aesthetic / filmic level). To this double vision is added a third, that of artistic practice as a research methodology, able to bring out the spaces between practical and theoretical thought, the ‘intermittences’ that although not consciously perceived, make these memorable moments, offering the qualities of what Roland Barthes defined as the ‘punctum’. I will use the video diary as an exploratory tool for these liminal gaps, capable of making more concrete the link between critical and creative thinking.