We Cannot Unsee
Today marked the end of the collective lab sessions as part of We Cannot Unsee. It's been a nice few days – I can't remember the last time someone handed me a Bolex and sent me out onto the street to shoot whatever I want. It's great nice both to get reacquainted with some of the equipment in no.w.here's lab, and also to meet some new – and interesting – film makers.
Our projects will be originated on Orwo UN54 – this isn't mandatory, but is provided from the lab. Despite a teenage bias that constraints are there to be ignored or fought against, I'm actually really looking forward to working with Orwo. No-one's going to bring back Plus-X any time soon, but UN54 has a finer grain that Double-X, and in the rough-and-ready lab tests we did it looked quite beautiful at times. There's print stock too, and a small budget to do what we want – I'm considering squandering it all on colour neg but there are probably other costs to cover first, and keeping within the constraint of Orwo B&W seems like a tight thing to do.
One thing I like about the lab at no.w.here: It's unashamedly practical. Which isn't to say that conceptual work doesn't pass through every day, but once that work is in the lab, all that matters is the practical. This has a few nice effects. One is the experience of being forced to work with your own hands, even if that's self-enforced. Things happen methodically, and retain a solidity that digital images – or even digital processes within an overall analogue workflow – never can. The second is the kind of creativity that happens in between the gaps of those practical processes. I do a lot of work in software, and it's a general truism that you can do whatever you want, in moving image terms, once you're in the right program or suite. But the flipside is that you have to know what you want to achieve before you start. The lab is a place where mistakes are turned into successes, little results noted down and saved up for another project. Finally, practicality has an anti-heirarchical effect. When you're working in the lab, no-one cares who suggests anything, as long as it works. Collaboration is a given – it's hard to watch someone struggle with something when you're standing right next to them – and at the same time when you're really stuck with something you'll listen to anyone who has ideas about how to fix it. I really like that.