Egg and Spoon

 

Author: Helen Bendon
Format: Digital Video Loop
Duration: 6 mins


Research Statement

Project Summary
Egg & Spoon is a Digital Video Loop for Projection. It is one outcome from a period of research around stillness. Within classic film narrative we are not usually indulged in stillness. However, when we encounter narrative or psychological stasis in film, video, installation (etc), this can be most challenging to our expectation. This project centres on the problematics of representing stasis in durational work. Egg & Spoon is a practice-based research project, focusing specifically on the physical occupation of the domestic environment as a private space to explore moments of stillness, private reflection and hence, breaks in the narrative flow, experimenting with multi- or non-linear forms of presentation. Within the work a couple race around a domestic space in a perpetual and complex battle of human relationships. The nature of the battle – the race itself acts as a balance of menace and humour.

Research Questions
An investigation into representations of narrative and psychological stasis in moving image work by definition poses some interesting questions around dealing with stillness or stasis in a linear format such as film or video.

Drawing on narrative conventions and cinematic coding of the protagonists relationship to home, this project considers how the domestic can be an environment conducive to investigating the relationship between psychological stasis and narrative stasis.
How the internal world of the protagonist can take over and cause a halt or postponement to narrative progression.
How can the undercurrents that lead one to slip into spaces of the psyche be explored visually?
Through the production of this work, what questions are raised around the exploration of this space both physically and psychologically?

Research Methodologies
I.) Investigations around stasis were undertaken with reference to a theoretical framework of research.
This project was informed by a range of theoretical and contextual considerations (including investigations into Deleuze’s work on stillness and movement, Theodore W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer’s critique on viewing film). These issues are expanded in A Place for Ambiguity: articulating practice as research, Journal of Media Practice, Vol 6(3) 2005 Intellect, Ltd p157-165.
II.) Alongside this research, the processes were documented to bring to the fore an interrogation of practice as a research language. In this project, it was particularly important to explicitly explore the significance of process in developing research outcomes. For example, as a performative work exploring the dynamic of the couple, one of the methodologies was to occupy the roles and understand the rules of engagement prior to the shoot.

III.) Within this investigation there was also a focus on the form of the output to draw attention to the idea (perversion) of representations of stasis within durational work, and how non-linear presentations can be explored as an appropriate mode of reception. This work is part of an ongoing practice concerned with domestic space, stasis and female experience. This particular work led me to look in detail at the filmmaker Chantal Akerman’s thematic concerns of representations of women, the everyday and notions of the public/private that recur in her film work. This reference, amongst others, was useful to explore physical space as a reflection of the protagonist’s psychological position. Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975), presents a clear example of routine, and repetition of actions which I have taken forward performatively in Egg & Spoon. The shifts in each loop of activity are very important in the structure of Egg & Spoon, ‘the irruption of differences holds the promise of some dramatic change’ (Margulies 1996:80). This idea of working with audience expectation and the existing structures of film narrative are integral to my concerns in this project. Akerman’s later installation works were also referenced as important points of reference in the JMP article.

IV.) In making Egg & Spoon, I began investigating the physical occupation of the domestic environment with greater emphasis placed upon the actual space itself, to see what this might become when turned into an explicit psychological terrain. There is undoubtedly a sense of dual possibilities inherent in the space. “As Freud explained, what is homely, heimlich, is not only the cosy, the languid, the domestic, but also the sinister, the secret, the concealed” (Stone 1995, 96).
In other works, (Held, 2004, Flight, 2006, Cheek by Jowl, 2007) I use domestic space to explore moments of stillness, slippages from a perceived reality and/or private reflection. These moments are deliberately structured to break the narrative flow. However, in Egg & Spoon, the stillness is metaphorical – the couple can’t or won’t shift from this pattern of behaviour.

V.) The camera is never comfortably positioned; rather it is on the move, awkwardly forced around the racers, further implying a sense of unease in a supposedly safe domestic space. The editing too, is sharp, blunt, cutting. This dynamic in production is integral. The camera, a channel from the private space, exposes unrelentingly moving stuck-ness. The sound design works with the uneven tone of the racers on the different floor surfaces and assists in the affect of uncomfortable pace changes.

VI.) When the work has been screened, it is projected at approximately life size. This work sits at the cusp between hilarity and discomfort and this has very much been the response of audiences. For exhibition, the loop is cut without titles, and so the race continues relentlessly. Through this looping, the restoration of order is subverted shifting the focus towards the internal world of the protagonists. Hence the form and content of Egg & Spoon serves to maintain the continuation of their behaviour.

Outcomes

The process was carefully documented and sits along side this work as a critical and contextual analysis reflective of the process. This was first explored as a conference paper Stuck: Moving Representations of Psychological Stasis presented at Articulating Media Practice As Research: Funding, Ratings And Research Contexts, London South Bank University (17 June 2005).
The process was further developed in the Journal of Media Practice article (2005).

Criteria by which the piece should be assessed as research

As an exploration of the theme of relational dynamics.

As a consideration of the relationship between form, content and reception, experimenting with non-linear forms of presentation and investigating narratives without resolution, formally (looping) and in the content itself (repetitive, circular behaviours), both of which are characteristics of Egg & Spoon.

As part of a larger ongoing project that is concerned with moving representations of psychological stasis. Developing my notion of psychological stasis around my previous work, where ideas are usually played out through the physical occupation of the domestic environment as a private space, and more often than not focus specifically on investigating female experience. I am relating stasis specifically to notions of entrapment, repetition, and the idea of a defeated potential expressed within the private. (See other works at www.helenbendon.com).

As a contribution to the discussions on practice based research and visual language as research.

References

Adorno, T.W. and Horkheimer, M. (1944; 1997) ‘The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception’ in Dialectic of Enlightenment (trans. John Cumming) London: Verso, pp.120-167.
Akerman, C. (Dir.) Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975)
Bendon, H. ‘A Place for Ambiguity: articulating practice as research’, Journal of Media Practice, Vol 6(3) 2005 Intellect, Ltd p157-165.
Deleuze, G. (2005a) Cinema 1, The Movement-Image (trans. Tomlinson, H & Habberjam, B.) London: Continuum. (Originally published In France 1983)
Deleuze, G. (2005b) Cinema 2, The Time-Image (trans. Tomlinson, H & Galeta, R.) London: Continuum. (Originally published In France 1985)
Margulies, I. (1996) Nothing Happens Chantal Akerman’s Hyperrealist Everyday Durham: Duke University Press
Stone, D. (1995) ‘Homes without Heimats? – Jean Améry at the limits’ in Wood, S. (ed) Home and Family Angelaki 2:1 UK: Antony Rowe Ltd


Peer Reviews

All reviews refer to original research statements which have been edited in response to what follows

Review 1: Accept subject to revised documentation
An original and rigorously accomplished filmic exploration of relations between subjectivities through events in domestic interiors, designed to be looped for cumulative impression (this needs to be flagged on DVD). Its significance needs to be established in terms of contexts (to be provided).

Notes on Supporting Statement:

Contexts
Needs a contexts paragraph to locate the work more clearly within the relevant theoretical frames of reference, expanding reference to Deleuze, Adorno and Horkheimer in ‘Research Methodologies’. Also needs to position itself in relation to other relevant academic and creative practices / works that engage with constructs of domestic place and space, and to expand statement in criteria section that this is part of an ongoing body of work. Alternatively, we might like to accept an abstract of the published article and a cross-reference.

Research assessment criteria
None suggested

Research outcomes

Explored in JMP article

Review 2: Accept subject to rewrite of statement:

A 6-minute video loop that portrays a male and female couple’s frantic ‘egg and spoon race’ around a large house. The piece works to illustrate, through performance and its formal strategies, the dynamics of the couple’s relationship and uses a simple but inventive device to explore this in relation to the boundaries of the domestic space. The video shifts between an informal camera position (implicit in the hectic struggle of the performers) to a more self-consciously cinematic approach. This works effectively to modulate between the video’s humorous elements and its more unsettling undertones. The presentation of the piece as a continuous loop underlines the intended relationship between narrative and psychological stasis.

The supporting statement itself is generally clear in outlining the research questions and underlying theoretical concerns informing the project. However, I feel that in some respects there were more questions and themes suggested in the statement than perhaps is dealt with entirely by this work alone. For example, there could perhaps have been a little more said about the question of the domestic space as a place of stillness and reflection and narrative flow. This is mentioned as a central theme to be investigated but is suggested here more through its opposite – a sense of the domestic space as place of entrapment and relational tension. I would have been interested to hear a little more on the filmmaker’s understanding of how the loop functions in relation to non-linear forms of presentation, given that was mentioned as an area of specific interest. There is no mention in the statement of whether the work has been shown in its intended form and information on this and the work’s reception might have been useful here. The use of sound was also not discussed, although I felt that the choice of using just the clatter of the couple careering around the house worked well to emphasise the frenetic performance and was one of the strongest affective elements of the piece.

In spite of wanting a little more information from the statement, it is clear to see how Egg and Spoon can be seen as operating as part of an on-going practice based research that might deal with these interesting, wider questions over a series of works. Through the use of a highly symbolic, non-verbal performance, this video successfully demonstrates a working through of theoretical research in an engaging and effective manner.

Suggested amendments to statement
Slight clarification of how Egg and Spoon works in relation to the consideration of domestic space in relation to stillness and reflection. A little more on the issue of non-linear presentation.
Some mention of the approach to the audio on the project.
Some more information on the video’s exhibition & reception.

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