Monday, 3 May 2010

I'm moving.

Find me at http://timothyjhodge.wordpress.com/
That is where all my writing shall be from now on. I felt it necessary to keep all my writing in one place and to diversify and begin writing on more varied subjects.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

My take on Bigotgate.

I’d like to start by making the point that the Gordon Brown gaffe now being named as “bigotgate” has been blown out of proportion, mainly by the media but also through sites such as twitter.

I’ve seen a number of responses to what has happened, many more sensational than the last. Firstly, there’s the Murdoch angle. I label it the Murdoch angle because The Sun and Sky are doing most of the Tories dirty work when it comes to spinning. It’s no secret that The Sun has changed allegiance to the Conservatives and Murdoch is doing all in his considerable power to see us return to the dark days of Tory government. I haven’t written anything about the Murdoch Press thus far as I was outraged by the reporting of last weeks debate by Sky News. I was so disgusted by their blatant Tory bias that I felt unable to coherently write about what I was witnessing without resorting to expletives or libelous language.

Bigotgate has been a field day for Murdoch industries and I wouldn’t be surprised if there have been tears of Tory joy over Gordon Brown’s gaffe. They certainly have done their part to fuel the incident and blow it out of proportion in an attempt to further smear Brown’s public image. Take for example the gagging of a poll which showed a smidgen of support for Brown.

The opposite angle to this is that in defence of Brown. I’m thinking in particular of an oversensitive article by Milena Popova. People have the right to be offended by whatever has that affect on them and I’m sure Popova has her reasons for being offended but was what Gillian Duffy said really bigoted?

Gillian Duffy raised a point on immigration, in particular the number of Eastern Europeans in Rochdale. Let’s make it clear, it is perfectly acceptable to tackle the issue of immigration. It is a major issue in all policy making. Throughout her discussion with Gordon Brown, Gillian Duffy spoke intelligently with knowledge of party policies and has been let down by the unfortunately comedic sound bite of her saying “Eastern Europeans, where are they coming from?” which it is not fair to judge her on. In her defence I cannot see how anything she said could be considered bigoted. Immigration is there to be tackled and if people are afraid of talking about it then as a society were are entering dangerous territory. Here are some facts on Easter European immigration.

We must remind ourselves that Gillian Duffy is a self professed life long Labour voter, precisely what the Tories are targeting. It is no secret that David Cameron et al want to swing Labours core vote their way. Is it any surprise then that Gordon Brown calling one of his own core voters a bigot was leapt on by the right wing press?

It must also be highlighted that Gordon Brown tried to steer away from the subject of immigration when challenged by Duffy, probably because Labour policy on immigration, while they “recognise people’s legitimate concerns about the impact it can have on communities”, takes a slightly different angle to that of Duffy. There is not much on cutting back on immigration as so much as putting more controls in place. I think our diverse society is something we can be proud of in this country with race relations constantly improving. That is not to say that for people like Gillian Duffy it should not be a concern.

It seems Gordon Brown doesn’t like the subject of immigration being addressed and to me this is a reflection of the uber-politically-correct movement we have seen during this Labour government. To mention immigration or to be concerned by the opportunities available to the British population is to be racist. This is ridiculous. British people have every right to feel aggrieved if job opportunities are being taken by immigrants just as the population of any other country would have the same right. Writing this I am actually wincing at the thought of me coming across very Daily Mail. I think this a result of the overly cautious, easily offended society we have become under this Labour government. It’s about time we were able to tackle issues such as immigration head on and allow people to voice their opinions as they have a right to do.

Also, I’d like to put to bed any notion that Gordon Brown is alone in his dual facades. Do you really think no other politician moans about the public after having met them? I cannot for a second believe that David Cameron says nice things about the “hoodies” he has met once he gets back into his Jaguar. Remember, and I don’t like defending politicians, but we are allowed to say what we like about them but they can’t say what they like about us, but I guess that’s the price they pay for getting into a position where they need our votes.

As a final point I’d like to highlight two more concerns. Firstly, whether he was right to say what he said or not, do we really want a man who will say something that will land him in hot water while wearing a microphone, leading our country? And secondly as the Murdoch machine keeps rolling and getting stronger with every day I just hope the general public are intelligent enough to see through the bias and vote for what is best for them and not what suits Rupert and co. I’m sure we are, aren’t we?

A fairly middle of the road article about a fairly middle of the road story.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Bonuses

Critical Summary.

The following is my critical summary as included at the front of my reflective journal, looking back over the last semester and how my work has developed.
  • In semester one I started exploring British society and in particular the working class. I adopted quite a personal approach and identity in relation to said themes became very important to me. I started creating a number of paintings while looking at photographers such as Martin Parr and Iain Dobie and their scenes of everyday Britain. I realised that the energy in my paintings was coming from my own frustration and insecurities surrounding my own identity, feeling working class but living a traditionally middle class lifestyle. The last painting I created in semester one was a large scale history painting (looking at Jorg Immendorff) and I felt it was quite unsuccessful; it became too bogged down by composition and lost the fluidity and spontaneity that were evident in all my other pieces. This was a difficult point to end on entering a long break and I decided that going in semester two I needed to refresh and try something new.
  • I had been watching a number of British social realist films throughout semester one as research and continued this into semester two with renewed energy. I realised this was an interesting and perhaps the most appropriate medium in which to tackle the themes I had been exploring. Feeling despondent about my painting I decided to start writing short monologues for fictional characters. I felt very self conscious about these pieces, perhaps because in some instances they alluded to person feelings. Being influenced by films by directors such as Ken Loach, Mike Leigh and Tony Richardson I decided to incorporate my writing into short films tackling issues of everyday life in Britain, in relation to identity, society, politics and economics. I felt that my writing was a much stronger way of approaching these themes than painting and allowed me to communicate what I was trying to get across. I wanted the short films to be a vessel for my writing and to put the emphasis on the feelings and situation of the character and their life.
  • I decided, as I was using a medium that was new to me, I had to do research so started looking into film theory, in particular narratology, semiotics and methods of story telling. I looked at a number of books (Bordwell (1985) and Stam, Burgoyne, Flitterman-Lewis (1992) in particular) which gave me an insight and better understanding of film theory. I picked up a number of ideas for framing shots, the way I would film certain shots (ie. Point-of-view), as well as semiological references and how I could include certain imagery or signs to influence or guide the viewer. I felt it became difficult to fully understand the large amount of theory I was reading and decided to allow myself to be somewhat intuitive when creating films but then to step back, assess them and pick out key features of my work and then to read the relevant theory and better understand why I had done something and what effect it was resulting in.
  • Aside from film theory I was doing other research into the subject matter of sociology and politics, specifically in regard to class and identity (Skeggs (2004)). I looked into theories of ‘self’ and identity and the evolution of class and its relation to economics and a wider social and political picture. Throughout I felt it necessary to keep up to date with politics and current affairs and became very engaged with this, particular in the run up to the general election, when differences in class were being brought into the media and public debate. I believe this helped me maintain a momentum and drive, staying interested in my work and engaging on a number of levels.
  • Writing became increasingly important throughout my research, partly to reflect and speculate on what I had learned and how I could implement it as well as offering my opinions on political matters. As well as writing reflectively, I was writing in a more involved way with the subject matter, responding to what I had seen, watched, read or learned. The more I immersed myself in political discussion the stronger my own sense of identity and political allegiance grew and this is something that I really want to capture in or allow to influence my work, but up until now have not been able to do. Even though I have not been able to directly include such things in my work, having corresponded with MPs and expressed my opinions on a number of political matters I think my future monologue writing will be far more informed and sincere, something I was concerned with from the beginning.
  • My group exhibition and critique fell in the same week and it was definitely a week that altered my work. Firstly, our exhibition was in a multi storey car park in Winchester and I was struggling for ideas as I felt I had moved on from my painting and didn’t want to show them as they didn’t really capture what I was exploring at the time. I couldn’t show my recent films because of the lack of power in the space. The thought of creating work in the space during the exhibition really intrigued me, as did the space itself. I decided to investigate the themes I’d been exploring on a more personal level so arranged small discussions with a few people at a time on the topics of politics, society, education and class. I filmed these discussions with a view to having them as independent pieces as well as starting points for new fiction films. My work was slowed by technical difficulties, which I hadn’t encountered before, while editing the footage. I was left feeling very frustrated after working for 12 hours a day for no result and with only half of what I wanted to show (along with more technical problems) resulting in a less than useful critique in which it was hard for people to give me feedback when I felt I really needed it. With the Easter break approaching I returned to doing more research and looking in more depth at the works of Ken Loach and Mike Leigh (as well as more contemporary films) and some of their ideas on film making with the hope that it would give me fresh ideas to go back and tackle this process again.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Loach and Leigh.

Apologies for not writing in over a week. My page view graph has flatlined at zero and such objective feedback is hard to take and makes me embarrassed.

I’ve been lazy over the Easter period, I predicted it happening.

I am back into working ways now and have spent the morning reading articles and highlighting relevant points and including them in my reflective journal. I’ve read two lengthy interviews with Ken Loach and Mike Leigh, both of which have been very useful. I would like to find more critical analysis of some of their film, as opposed to simple reviews.

I related what Loach and Leigh said in the interviews to my own work and have come up with some thoughts, I guess, in response to some of the critique of my short films.

Optimism is long term. The characters are in the here and now, living in the moment and I’m giving the viewer a glimpse of that. To portray them with optimism would only seem contrived and fake. Humour and harnessing the amazing human capacity for people down on their luck to be funny is one way to break up the pessimism or realism. It is important this is not perceived as trite or cheap as it’s pivotal to avoiding creating stereotypical characters. An individual reacting with dry humour to bad situations keeps them human and realistic.

I think I need to continue writing and exploring script ideas and ideally try to keep the scripts as loose as possible to allow for improvisation. This feels like it could be difficult as I am not working with professional actors but with friends and people around me. Loach is well known for using people who aren’t actors in his work, though those people are always from the area he is filming and have a lot in common with the characters of his films. It may be difficult to find such characters at an art school, keeping in mind that my disillusionment with art school is partly what’s driven me to create this style of work.

I need to focus on the humour in my writing, not just for comic relief and definitely not to appease the smiley-happy brigade but, as I said before, to maintain a realistic human feel to the characters, to make them more three-dimensional and not stereotypical. In my critique a few weeks ago, the mature German Phd student who leads my group and speaks brilliant English, used the word silhouette instead of stereotype. I liked this as it made me realise I need to ensure my characters are not simply outlines but are fully rounded entities.

This reading of Ken Loach and Mike Leigh has been invaluable on a number of levels. Here are two quotes from each man that I have picked out from the interviews.
"It’s a mark of how much the right wing has triumphed that people just associate strikes with inconvenience."
- Ken Loach
"I do this because my job – and this is what all artists do whatever the medium, because all art is based on improvisation and order – is to start something that grows all over the place and then figure out how to shape it into something that’s coherent."
- Mike Leigh on negotiating with actors as creative collaborators
Not a total disaster for a first post in a while.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Manipulating Class.

I’ve been reading “Class, Self, Culture” by Beverley Skeggs. The following is my reaction to what I’ve gained from it in relation to my own artistic practise exploring British society and the class system. Excuse me, if I repeat or reiterate points highlighted by Skeggs. This is partly to organise my own thoughts and reflect on what I have learned.

Class does still exist. It is not talked about as frequently or in the same way as it has historically. It has taken on a different guise. It is now represented by a number of things; location (geographically or for example a local estate within a community), political alignment, culture and lifestyle. It is to be noted however, that this representations are formed not by who they relate to but by other social groups to re-affirm their own self image. Such class identities are constructed to limit mobility. That is to say, the middle-class (authoritative) will enhance their own value by constructing and repeating negative values they assign to the working-class. It must therefore be understand that any negative representation of the working-class is an attempt by the middle-class  to attribute value to themselves. As Skeggs says; “making oneself tasteful by judging others tasteless”. This is done through the authorisation and institutionalisation of class symbols, suiting the middle-class who occupy the positions of political authority within institutions.

The repetition and institutionalisation of the constructed values attributed to the working-class highlight the fragile position of the middle-class and their “authority”. These efforts to keep the working-class in a fixed place can challenged through the critique of the middle-class and the questioning and devaluing of authority.

The creation of classed symbols and class representations acts to maintain class divisions.

As a point separate to Skeggs but in line with current affairs I would like to highlight the proposed Labour policy to allow football fans a greater chance of having a say in the running of their football clubs. Under this plan fans will be allowed a stake of 25% in their club combating the recent worsening feeling of football fans to the owners of their clubs. It will provide fans with the power to prevent takeovers and the purchasing of controlling shares from businessmen who may not fully appreciate the heritage of a club and its meaning to the fans. Examples can be seen now at Manchester United and Liverpool. The Tories have dismissed this as gimmicky and I’d have to agree it is a gimmick. But could it be a gimmick that will work? I don’t expect the Tories to understand football, which has long been the working man’s game. Could this move by Labour to reinforce what would be seen as their core vote potentially work for them? The importance of football is not to be underestimated in Britain and with the timing of the election so close to the World Cup, could the increased interest in football in this country potentially swing some votes Labour’s way. I’m not sure yet what long term effects such a policy would have on the game but it’s safe to say if it gives power to the fans who, of late, have had a raw time of it, then it could just be a stroke of genius. That is to assume that football does have a great enough importance to large sections of society. I’d like to hear other people’s thoughts on this.

I hope I don’t sound like a class-warrior. Please get involved and share your opinions.

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Distractions 2.

Okay, I’ve had a shower, a couple of coffees and some breakfast and I’ve got through a bit of work. Time for a break and to continue my earlier post.

Being at home provides so many distractions. Take this morning as an example. Already I’ve done some excessive tweeting, chatted on Facebook (these occur all the time, no matter where I am), I’ve been distracted by my brother’s angry rap music, I’ve been roped into helping my mum with some self-assembly garden furniture, I’ve had to slalom through my own house to avoid childminded kids. It’s endless distractions. It also doesn’t help that my dad likes to set the central heating to “slow cook”. I can feel my body simmering, by the end of the day I’ll tear away from the bone like tender meat. I’m constantly having to open windows wherever I go in the house.

My natural tendency to procrastinate increases when back home. Reading turns into one of the most challenging activities known to man. I’m trying to read up on class, popular culture, “self” and cinema/film theory. It’s difficult when I can’t read more than a paragraph or when I do, I look back over it and realise I haven’t absorbed anything.

I have managed to do some “work”. I’ve printed eleven pages of old blog posts. I did manage to read some pages of a book on popular culture and photocopied some pages to put in my reflective journal. I also got out the highlighter pens and went wild with them on there. Green highlighting and orange asterisks. Fluorescent glory.

I guess that’s enough to deserve this break in which I’m really still working. Today’s been good so far. I just hope I can avoid further distractions. The big one, coming up to around midday, is the lure of raiding the cupboards. I will eat. Just not yet and when I do, not for too long. That’s one of the major problems I face, breaking for too long. The longer I abstain from working the less likely I am to go back to it.

I guess I should sit down and actually read. (And then photocopy and highlight).

I shall do this and then reflect on what I have learned.

I apologise for how disjointed and poorly written this is. It is not planned and is pretty much just a “note to self” kind of monologue spiel. Hopefully I’ll post some more insightful writing later. Sorry.

“Childminded” is highlighted as a spelling mistake on WordPress, with the correct suggestion being “evil-minded”. Oh WordPress you old cynic.

Distractions.

WARNING! This post will take on a different style to my recent posts. This will be very centred around me. I need it to be for my reflective journal university module. And it’s also 7am and I haven’t slept well.

I’m back home. And by home I mean my parents’ house. I’m here for two weeks over Easter and really need to get some work done. I haven’t been able to bring my computer back so writing is about the most intense task I can make my laptop perform. I’ve realised, since starting university, that coming back home isn’t good for my work ethic. I’m trying to put my finger on why. I got in last night and felt so unbelievably relaxed. I was at peace, it was beautiful. Not very conducive for work however.

Being awake at 7am should be quite good but really it just provides me with the time to watch the entire original Star War trilogy or to get some serious Xbox play time in before my brother wakes up. My brothers are a distraction also, whether it’s just spending time talking, or playing Xbox or fighting.

It’s strange being home. Good but strange. I start thinking about having mental, fancy breakfasts.

My minds just drawn a blank. I can’t remember what I was going to write in this post. I’m off to get a shower and do some photocopying. Photocopying is good, it feels and looks like work, gets stuff done but is practically effortless. I’m sure I’ll add to this later but for now, one half-done-job down, a few more to go. Interspersed with Xbox 360 on HDTV obviously. Who could resist that? I’m only human. Don’t judge me.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Nothing.

Today, I’m going to write about nothing. Wish me luck.

Firstly, I have the same problem nearly daily. What to write? I was asking for help when it was suggested that I should write about nothing (because I’m good at that apparently). This idea intrigued me, so here goes.

I love talking about nothing. It is the only thing I know anything about.

- Oscar Wilde
How do you talk about nothing? You can talk about nothing of importance, of trivialities. But there is some, if limited, content to what you are saying. In turn how do you write about nothing? Some may cite social media sites such as twitter or Facebook as masses of meaningless content and drivel. I’m dragging this out, it’s not a difficult question. You can’t. Once you try to talk about nothing, it becomes something. An interesting paradox.

So if you can’t talk or write about nothing, what about negative space then? Negative space isn’t nothing, it is negative space. It is key to compositions in painting and photography allowing the focal point of said composition to be placed in one of the golden areas of focus. Is there a literary equivalent? I’m terrified that having thought of this question I will soon realise it is impossible to answer but it will continue to occupy my mind, eventually sending me mad. But what the hell, let’s have a crack.

I need to take a step back, address what negative space is. It is the space surrounding an object in which nothing resides but allows the viewer’s eye to focus on the intended object. Without it you could not see the intended object.
“A hole can itself have as much shape-meaning as a solid mass.” – Henry Moore
So it is the nothingness in which something can exist. So logically, in literature, it would be the unwritten. The mind of the reader, their suspension of disbelief which allows the written to make sense in their mind and exist in their imagination. In literature the editing process is as important as the writing itself, so it would be safe to assume that the author makes a deliberate effort when chosing what to include in a piece  of writing and what to omit. It is partly these omissions which allow the resulting writing to exist in a more effective and natural form in the same way that a painter may decide not to paint a certain part of a scene to draw more focus to what he deems important. To bring the analogy into the 21st century, how one may use photo editing software to erase parts of a photograph for the benefit of the overall image.

To summarise, whether it be in painting, photography, cinema or literature, what is not is as important as what is. For if there is no darkness, there is no light.

Using this logic, I can happily spend time doing nothing for doing nothing allows something to exist.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

The Modern Role of the Artist.

I just listened to a BBC Radio 3 programme about art as a means of tackling difficult emotional debates and complex, modern social dilemmas. The programme was presented by Matthew Sweet and featured a lecture by Tom Shakespeare. A lot of the following is reiterating and giving my own views on what was said in the programme.

This is something that strikes me as interesting right away as I can relate it to my own work looking at British society and the class system. Art has long been used to highlight contentious subjects in an impacting way. Art moves people and makes people think at a deep level, it opens our minds. Looking at a piece of art evokes hundreds of emotions and thoughts and these can help us tackle difficult problems in the world and our lives. People can relate to art, they can see it on a number of levels in a way which one can’t with statistics or scientific facts. The emotions evoked through art is what allows us to dwell on difficult subjects in a way which rationality can’t.

One of the points made was that an artist should force people to think. I thought this was obvious, I’ve said this since my school days that good art is something which makes you ask questions. It was suggested that artists should be seen as intellectuals in our societies and I agree. The degree to which artists research and follow various enquiries can be equal to any scientist or philosopher.
Art is difficult, it is a life long commitment to a form of enquiry, it’s research before it’s communication. Artists have a greater responsibility than we can imagine.
Art is a means of communicating and opening a platform for public debate on subjects that affect us all but are often only addressed in specialist scientific jargon. Art can speak to our human condition about complicated social and moral dilemmas, when science can’t reach the average layman. I would like to see a greater responsibility put on artists to challenge and enquire into problematic areas and to communicate their findings. I would also like to see the funding available for artists to do this. It would improve the contemporary art world and result in more work with real social and cultural value and less trite and trivial art made for the market.

I’ve said my little bit, now listen to the programme.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Ignorance isn’t always bliss. Educate yourself you damn heathen!

Ignore the title. It’s an exaggeration of sorts. It’s an exaggeration in that I wouldn’t say it to someone but thoughts of the same effect have crossed my mind when talking to someone who is not part of the art world.
Since the yBas in the 1990s triggered a boom in public interest of the fine art world, it has given a voice to the general masses in which was once a very exclusive and elitist section of culture. This is NOT a bad thing. This is fantastic. Art should be for everyone, everyone should have a voice and an opinion. Whether that person does research and reading into the art world, keeps abreast with current news and trends and gains a knowledge and understanding of the context and history surrounding artists and works or just stands on the sidelines shouting “advice” in a similar way to how I shout at the television when watching football, is up to the individual.

One thing I thought coming to art school would help me with is handling the typical argument of “Joe-I don’t get modern art-Bloggs”. That argument being, “is that art? I could do that. A four year old could do that!” You know the score. “An unmade bed? I’ve got one lying around at home, is that art?” NO IT ISN’T!
The counter argument is simple, taking Tracey Emin’s “My Bed” as an example. Her’s is art because she thought about taking that bed into the context of a gallery space. She took it into the art world, with a concept behind it. The concept in this case being deeply personal. She was taking a step back and looking at her lifestyle, then baring the most personal of her possessions and affectations for all to view and judge, allowing the bed to tell its own story. It highlights the imperfections and insecurities of the artist.

Your bed however, Mr. Bloggs, isn’t art because you didn’t think of it. You’ve thought of it now having seen Emin’s bed.

There was a BBC series last year called “School of Saatchi”. It was essentially an art world X-factor, starring Emin and eternal suck-up Matthew Collings as well as some other art world non-entities as “the panel”. There were also a group of contesants, a mixture of annoyingly cocky, arrogant, eccentric, idiotic and slimey. There were at least a couple of contesants who seemed genuinely talented and had interesting ideas and concepts driving their work. The whole premise of the series was to impress the panel of Saatchi’s minions and to ultimately get Saatchi to purchase or show a contestant’s work. It was annoyingly entertaining in the way that style of programme always is. It was infuriating to watch, but you couldn’t stop.
My main problem with is was that it showed a group of artists who were not representative of the art world, who were making deliberately controversial work to impress Saatchi. Airing to the masses, this did not portray contemporary art in a good light.
How can we argue about the values of true art when rubbish like that is put on a pedestal as examples of contemporary British art?

The next stage of Mr. Bloggs’ argument is; “Okay, I can’t do the bed, how about if I make something new? What if I put my toaster on top of my TV? Is that art?”
Yes Mr. Bloggs, if you can justify your concept behind it and take it into an artistic context (not necessarily a gallery), it is art.

This is the line we must walk, however painful. It must also be highlighted that there is a difference between what is art and what is good art. The individual (and not just monetary) value  of a piece is another argument altogether!

What adds to my infuriation with this argument is that it was won nearly a century ago. Marcel Duchamp and the Dadaists showed that art wasn’t just paintings and sculpture and that other objects, such as Duchamp’s  readymades, could be art when taken into that context. Manzoni did a similar thing later on with much of his work.
Another dimension to this argument is the one surrounding the economics of art. This is often hard to justify and being honest, I don’t always like to, especially in the current economic climate, I believe money needs to be spent wisely. The way I do try to justify it though, is by grouping artists with professional athletes such as footballers and with Hollywood movie stars. People will always pick holes in this and there’s only so much you can do to argue the point. I tend not to.

What does annoy me is the exaggeration or ignorance when it comes to the real value of individual pieces of work. I talked to someone this week who was appalled at the thought that spin paintings made by Damien Hirst and David Dimbleby on the BBCs “Seven Ages of Britain” would sell for “a million each”, for what was thirty seconds of easy work. I’d highly doubt whether these pieces would ever sell, I think Hirst would probably give them to Dimbleby otherwise they would have been destroyed. It’s the belief that artists have a license to sell anything they touch for millions. Yes the prices are high, especially when it comes to the likes of Hirst et al but Mr. Bloggs does have a tendency to exaggerate the prices of individual pieces.
It’s a difficult position to be in, having to justify the work of others in an effort to protect the integrity of what you do. It seems though, that it’s a position we, in the art world, look unlikely to escape from anytime soon.

I looked at every other word when writing that and wondered, “is that a word?” It’s obviously been a while since I’ve written anything of importance.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Contradictions.

Humans are interesting aren’t they? Honestly, could there be a more confusing species? Apart from Tories I mean.
Contradictions in our opinions and personalities is one thing that I think makes us what we are. The biggest selling book of all time is seemingly based around contradictions.
I hope you follow what I mean. If not, let me start with one example that I believe I know quite well. Me.
  • I claim to be a working class northerner. I was actually born in Bristol and go to university in Winchester.
  • I go to art school but get frustrated with art and much prefer football.
  • I’m 5′6″ but work as a doorman.
  • I’m a cynic and a realist (read pessimist) but I can see beauty in the simplest of things.
  • I like to think I’m quite confident in my abilities but do like constant affirmation.
  • I like politics but hate it at the same time.
  • I love Leeds United but my god they don’t half piss me off.
See what I’m getting at? I bet you could make a similar list for yourself and people you know. The human race is a walking, talking contradiction. It’s interesting to me though, especially  with my current work exploring identity and British society. I think most of these contradictions come from our own self-image or how we portray ourselves to others. I think this idea and theme is something I want to try to nail down and highlight in future work. It would make whatever (or whoever) I’m writing or creating feel far more human and less stereotypical or caricatured.

I like to think I’m good at writing but consistently close with the thought “well that was a shambles”.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Bloggity, bloggity.

Bloggity, bloggity, bloggity, blah!
This week (15th-19th March) has been one of the worst so far this year. Where to start? I will dissect it day by day. (Today being; to the best of my knowledge, having not slept, Friday.) 


Monday
Something or other occurred on this day. Our exhibition did not due to last minute planning problems. I did something (inconsequential), I think.

Tuesday
9am-11am I was in Chesil multi storey car park for my exhibition. I could not pay for my bay as the pressure pads deemed my weight less than that of a car. (By far and away the best compliment I received all week, not that I'm insecure and in need of constant affirmation.)

In this car park bay was me, four chairs, a couple of other people, a video camera and a tripod. I had a sheet of prompt questions and proceeded to film an interview between me and the others on the subjects of British society and politics. I was quite pleased with the footage I got.


I took this home and started to edit. For five hours. I came upon some difficulties with the wretched Adobe Media Encoder. I took a break to visit some of the other groups' exhibitions, which I will not comment on or review now but would be happy to share my opinions on should anyone ask.


I came home and worked on my footage in Adobe Premiere Pro CS4 and Media Encoder for a further six hours. WITH NOTHING TO SHOW FOR IT! Inex-fucking-plicable problems mean that Media Encoder decides to NOT WORK! (Excuse the technical jargon.)


I went to bed angry and depressed.


Wednesday
More car park. 11am-1pm today. It was sunny. The car park made me, for some reason, need to wee a lot. Sophie joined me today and I talked to her on and off camera at great length. I got some good footage.

I returned to my cursed bedroom desk to sweat in front of my computer monitor for approximately a decade. 

Oh and I also, sort of, lost my entire hard drive based movie collection. This didn't help. 
I continued to sit at home, trying to wrestle with the son of a bitch Media Encoder, while everyone else went out to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. (I'm not Irish and neither are they but heyho, it's the world we live in.)
By 10pm on the verge of a breakdown, sobbing like a four year old girl, I gave up and went to bed.


Thursday
 After a twelve hour sleep I awoke feeling more depressed than refreshed. I had my crit at 2pm so had to try and create something from my footage. You can probably guess by now what happened.

Heading out; laptop in bag, in hand, I trudged to uni and set up in my studio. 


I chose, when starting university, to invest in a desktop PC as opposed to any laptop or evil Apple variety. This choice was based on performance and price but as a result leave my mobile computing capabilities with little to be desired. It works fine, it's just old. Like the man working in my local Wetherspoon's. The main problem with my laptop is the poor speaker sound quality, which should be considered quite important when showing a series of short films, but I thought I'd get by, as I do. Wrong. It was a shambles and, having been reluctant to state this in the public domain thus far, resulted in a less than useful crit session. This is of course, no fault (well, maybe limited fault) of the persons partaking in the crit but more down to the inadequacies of Adobe Media Encoder.


Heading home thoroughly dejected I vowed to myself not to do any work for a while. Instead, I prepared myself for real work from 9pm-1am. Fun. It was uneventful; dull some might say.


Thursday-and-a-half (Friday)
I DID NOT SLEEP! Ask me why.
Why you ask?
Because I'm an idiot! I got in, ate, talked to my housemate Jon for 1,2,3... 4 hours. Before deciding enough was enough and going downstairs to play Fifa10. And continue talking to Jon, for another four hours. Using my limited mathematical ability I work this out to be 9am on the next day after the one I just existed through. Now I'm here, writing this, awake, now.


So, where from here?

My first thought is to curl up in the foetal position and hibernate. I may just do that for the rest of today and this weekend.



On Monday and Tuesday evening next week I'm doing a physical intervention course for my doorman work. This requires me to be macho, something I just don't think I can manage at the moment. I'm also missing the Leeds vs Millwall game, possibly about the only thing that could have drawn out that latent macho man, hiding deep down in the darkest caverns of my being.


Next Sunday I go home for Easter. I can't wait.


As for now, I'm hungry so need to work out which meal it is I'm supposed to be eating.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Work Station

My desk at home. Too many hours spent here.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

My short films. *Strong Language*


 

I've had some mixed responses to these short films. Some blunt dislike but mostly positive. 
People have said they are depressing and seem to think they are personal to me. 
I guess if they're depressing I've sort of done my job but I do NOT believe they are personal. Well anymore personal than any creation is to the creator. The views voiced by the characters in the short films are not necessarily my views. You don't watch a feature film and relate the action or dialogue back to the writer or director. Maybe this means I haven't detached myself enough from them. I may have to look into methods of doing that. Maybe it's because most of the feedback has come from people I know in one capacity or another.
I've been really self conscious about this work (and even considered taking them down from the internet and deleting them yesterday) but I'm going to continue working with ideas and making similar short films. I already have a number of short scripts as well as many more unwritten ideas. I'm going to play around with techniques and styles and keep putting them out there for critique.

All feedback and critique is welcomed and encouraged. Thank you.

Oh and a massive thanks to Mark McKenny who voiced both of the above pieces.

Incoherent, inane, inconsequential drivel.

I have a hell of a lot of reading to do.
I have books on film theory and some more books on film theory.
I have books on popular culture and the media and a hell of a lot of readers from a friends old course. So much to get through. So much knowledge to absorb. It's daunting but really bloody exciting too. I'M LEARNING!

What else do I have to talk about?
Oh yes, films. They're on the way (well two are done and online but I want to write this up first before posting them here.) Having said that I've just looked at the toolbar here, I swear you used to be able to upload videos. Where's the button gone?!

Anywho, I watched the First Time Voters Question Time. A few points on it; Dermot O'Leary isn't actually clinically retarded as I thought he was, it has reinforced where my vote is going at the next general election, I (and hopefully some of the panel) realised that us "young people" or first time voters cannot be thrown under one blanket, like any individuals we have different priorities and agendas. There was one lad on there who wanted to see the BBC privatised. What a tit. The main difference was that some people didn't seem inclined to vote unless pressured or persuaded by images of celebrities telling them to vote. Seems silly to me, shouldn't people have already realised the importance of voting. It was suggested that political parties don't reach out the young people enough and maybe they do need to, but I'd argue any voter should be proactive in researching policies and looking at what parties are saying. I think a balance is needed, a good compromise.
What disappointed me about this Question Time was that it didn't really resolve anything or clear anything up. As much as I have researched policies, I would like to see a platform where parties outline their policies specifically affecting first time voters. I think this would lead to a bigger turnout come May.


As far as platforms like this go, the upcoming Prime Ministerial debates are the closest thing we've had in a long time. It is exciting. The strict rules are interesting as well (I would love to read the full list). They are put in place to stop any bias being conveyed in the coverage, so I think will lead to a really odd, maybe boring, but definitely interesting style of coverage. I'm also not happy about them being shared between BBC, ITV and Sky. They should all be on BBC and ITV. I can't see myself going to the pub to watch the debate on Sky.


Moving on, here's a link to a short film that I found and love. It's given me some great ideas for my pieces. 


 

I'm sure I had more to write about but I feel like I should leave this post as it is. Kick off is approaching and I think I'll crack out another post with links to my films and a bit of response to them before the football starts. That is what Saturdays were invented for after all. Let's be honest, it matters more than most things doesn't it?

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

02/03/10

Time for some reflection. Check me out keeping up to date with this. I'm good aren't I? AREN'T I? TELL ME I'M GOOD! 

I told you I was good.

So I've realised that I write in a similar way to how I paint. In both instances I wrestle with the medium, moulding it and shaping it into what I want and then ending quite abruptly. It's quite frantic and spontaneous and I take an educated guess as to when it's actually finished.

Moving on, I had a seminar today. I was quite nervous but it was quite good in the end. I gave a presentation of slides of my work for about half an hour and was asked questions on my work. I invited criticism on some of my most recent paintings and all the comments were fair. They mostly revolved around the work being a bit confused, specifically about it's agenda and message and that I really need to put my cards on the table with what I'm trying to say.

Having said that, I believe moving onto working in film will allow me to be assertive with my message and give it some focus.


I've been wrestling with the film making and I've tried voice acting some of the monologues myself but it all came out wrong. I don't like using my own voice as I want to detach myself from the writing slightly. As I've written the script, if I was to voice them as well it would feel very insincere and quite self-pittying due to the nature of the scripts. My friend Mark McKenny helped me out today, he voice acted three of the monologues and did a fantastic job. His Liverpudlian accent suits them perfectly. I'm really pleased with them and grateful to him for having a crack at it. I just have to get some more decent footage now and throw them together and experiment. It feel quite promising at the moment and I feel like I've done a hell of a lot of work today. I'm knackered.

Friday, 26 February 2010

And more theory.

Okay, I've thought of a couple more points that I want to crack out in words but I can't be bothered to mess around with the formatting of the last post to make it coherent so I'm just throwing them here in a new post.

The focus of these ideas has all along been the writing. The films are a vessel for the writing. I think that is another reason why I am having an off screen voice over as opposed to an on screen actor. To put the emphasis on what is written/is being said and why there is little interaction with the scene other than simple signifiers to set the mood of the piece.

As my ideas exist now there seems to be a sort of ambiguity when it comes to a time frame. I'm not sure if what the character is saying is happening at the same time as what is being seen or if the snapshot of footage from this person's perspective exists independently of the speech. I'm not sure what the connotations of either interpretation are or whether I need to enforce one possibility and reject the other. The absence of the character from the scene is important I think for reasons I mentioned above. But what else does this suggest?

Diegetic sound is something else I need to consider. The use of background noises, do I re-record noises and incorporate them or do I simply take what was recorded originally and introduce the recorded speech? Again if the camera work is from the character's perspective then that suggests they experienced all the sounds and noises. How do I alter or edit these? There are integral messages in the background noises but they are not the focus as the speech is, they are simply there to guide the viewer.

It's all confusing, I need to continue to look at theory as I go along and create some sort of coherent explanation of why I choose to do things in a certain way because I am as yet unsure other than for very basic reasons that I can't quite communicate.

Theory, theory, theory.

After yesterday coming to some sense over the responsibility the artist should take when exploring and understanding the meaning of their work I now feel weighed down by all the possible avenues of interpretation and meaning when it comes to making films.

I've been trying to read up on some theory about semiotics and narration. I find it hard to concentrate on reading any large amount of text and the books I'm looking at may as well be written in Latin.

Semiotics, narrative, narratology, fabula, the gaze, semantics, discourse, point-of-view, focalization, intradiegetic, homodiegetic, heterodiegetic, extradiegetic, intrinsic, invoking, fundamental, third-person, primary, character, camera narrators, voice-over, psychoanalysis. It goes on and on. 

There's so much to learn and know. I don't expect to understand all of it or know whether I'm incorporating any of into my work but I feel I should know a fair amount and why I'm doing things.


My ideas so far revolve around a sort of first person character-camera view. The optics of the main character who narrates/tells his short story/performs his monologue as an off-screen voice over. The off-screen narration reminds me of documentary and I think this will work as I like the idea of the films being a short documentary of someone's experience in which the viewer shares through the character-camera view. Within this setup the gaze is that of the character, but also the viewer as well as the camera or director. How does the meaning alter if I introduce interaction with other characters? Obviously camera angles and what I film are very important, I've thought about this slightly, pointing the camera down or upwards can alter the impression. The scene can change the mood of the film. It seems difficult to cover all the bases though. I find psychoanalysis quite daunting. I am trying to understand how what I do may be perceived if psychoanalysised but I don't think I'll ever be able to understand it fully and I'm worried about what I film being read in the wrong way. Is there even a wrong way? I guess if a psychoanalysis of my film contradicts what I was going for then I have gone wrong.


It's all so confusing and difficult to get to grips with. I think I may try to start with the basics and develop from there, introducing more signs as the work progresses. 


I've got so smothered in theory that I can't remember what else I was going to write. I'm drowning.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Up Against The Wall

A slight update: I'm still trying to write monologues. I have my video camera and am trying to obtain some good footage. I'm watching some Mike Leigh films when not being distracted by Peter Capaldi's brilliant performances as Malcolm Tucker in 'The Thick of it'.


Today I attended a platform lecture at university by David Bate. It was about reading images, using the Jeff Wall piece 'Milk' 1984 as an example. I took a fair amount of notes and I found it very interesting. I had looked at a couple of Roland Barthes' texts and have a background knowledge of some very basic Freudian psychoanalysis.


There was some interesting points made about semiotics and signifiers, coded messages and denotation/connotation. There was a lot said about chains of thought and association when looking at a picture and how one thought leads to another but how most of these associations are simply that, things we associate ourselves through perceived connotations of imagery. A large part of the lecture was on how the title 'Milk' directs the viewer down a specific chain of thoughts. None of these thoughts or references are directly visible or denoted in the picture but arrive in our minds through the connotations of specific icons or images in a picture.


Some points I picked up on that I want to look at using in my films are the power of gesture and how small details, whether conscious or not, can alter the viewer's perception. An example, from work by Eisenstein, which I feel strongly inclined to reference, is the clenched fist at a person's side, connoting oppression and frustration or defiance. I also like the connotations of shapes, as in the Jeff Wall piece, rectangles for an institutionalised, state background and the triangular figure shape being a sturdy, organised shape in reference to classical painting. Another idea that I think could be key to my work is that of the decisive moment in regard to narrative. It's not the decisive moment of pressing the shutter on a camera but more the scene which is depicted being a key moment where the playing out of the story hangs in the balance. A still photograph gives the viewer scope to imagine how a scene may play out but a film maker ultimately makes that choice for the viewer. These decisive moments of narrative intrigue me greatly.


Another key point I took from the lecture is that you will never know exactly what you are doing when creating a work but it is of great importance to recognise your responsibility as an artist to think about the references you include and decisions you make in regard to the meaning of your work. To just create is to be a lazy artist. There is a responsibility to think intently on what you are doing from the beginning of a piece through to its curation in a show. You will not always think of everything that people see in your piece and that is okay as it simply adds to the discursive. References may not have been intended but if people see them then they are there.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Correspondence with MP Mark Oaten RE: Robin Hood Tax

tim,
 
Thanks for this
 
 
In principle we support the robin hood tax 
- it is an interesting proposal. 
I think there are some technical issues that 
would need to be overcome and 
also a more international approach would 
make it more effective.
 
In the interim we are proposing a 10% tax 
on bank profits to help rebalance the books 
- where the tax payer acts as a safety net for banks.
 
Unfortunately this invite has come a bit late 
and I already have meetings 
- but I will find out what is said at the meeting.
 
Mark
________________________________________
Sent: 22 February 2010 10:48
To: OATEN, Mark
Subject:
 
Mark Oaten
Winchester
 
 
Dear Mr Oaten,
 
You are my MP.  I support the "Robin Hood" 
financial transaction tax(http://robinhoodtax.org.uk). 
This tiny tax on financial transactions could 
raise billions of pounds for good causes. 
Advocates of the Robin Hood Tax will hold 
a Parliamentary launch between 12.30-2.30pm on 
Wednesday 24th February in Committee Room 17 
of the House of Commons. 
I request that you attend this event. 
A formal invitation with more details and 
contact information is attached.
 
Yours sincerely,
 
 
Tim Hodge
Winchester 

Thursday, 18 February 2010

A letter to Sir Nicholas Winterton

Dear Sir,

I would like to come to your defence over your comments of there being a "totally different type of people" in standard class train carriages.

You couldn't be more correct sir.

You are certainly poles apart from any person who travels in standard class. I for one, who travel cross country in standard class, find it extremely hard to relate to you at all.

I'm sure if you are reading this (and although I doubt it, I hope you are as any responible MP would), you have worked out the purpose of my email.

Yes, us mere mortals in standard class definitely do have a different outlook on life. And I am glad of this. I highly doubt I could look at myself in the mirror, or any other highly polished surface for that matter, or sleep at night if I shared a similar outlook to you.

As a final point, please don't feel like you are not welcome in standard class. Just please don't expect people not to look over your shoulder or distract you with their mere pathetic existence. Having said this, I'm sure you won't be needing to make such long, arduous journies much longer. That seems to be the nature of 21st century politics, one can no longer voice their opinions on the common, disease-ridden, working class scum with their filthy offspring and their vocal chords which make noise.

All the best for your retirement. (I can recommend some good books to read, films to watch and parks to sit in. Do you play golf? If not you may want to take it up.)

Yours indignantly,
Tim Hodge

18th February 2010 13:30

As I write this I am still sat in bed. I am certain to miss my crit group at 2pm. As both crits and reflection seem integral parts of my course, or my "practise", I feel I should reflect on why I am not there.
Answer: I slept in.

Why?
Because I was watching the Winter Olympics until gone 4am.


"You know why kids love athletes?" 
"Because they screw lingerie models?"
"No, that's why we love athletes. Kids love them because they follow their dreams."
-Up in the Air, 2010

I guess I still do love athletes and partly because of this very reason.
Hopefully the drive, determinaton and ambition of these athletes can rub off on me as sitting in bed now at 13:47, I clearly don't have any.
 

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Reflection.

Ok, I'm under more and more pressure to do this reflective journal. I need to start it now and I need to stop neglecting this blog. Whatever I write here from now on shall be going in my reflective journal.

I'm fed up. Fed up of painting and art and society and everything. Blaaargh! Art school is so detached from reality and it annoys me.
So in an attempt to create something that has even the slightest value or relevance to anything I've decided I'm going to move into making short films and/or videos. I'm looking at buying a camcorder and I'm going to film various scenes that catch my eye. I'm going to write scripts and monologues for voice overs. I feel it is important to emphasise that the scripts are what I'm really going for here, I want to get back into writing. It's more useful to me than painting and I think it's more appropriate to the subject matter I am tackling.

I am reading up on some film theory and semiotics and doing some research into relevant British short films. Hopefully I can carry on writing and get hold of a camcorder and get some filming done soon.

Sorry if this isn't the most coherent post but I'm trying to bash these words out while they're on my mind so I don't keep putting it off. 


Anything else that pops into my mind should be abruptly plastered all over this sorry excuse for a blog.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Friday, 15 January 2010