All posts by Monika

Mystic Methods in Creation

Midi Onodera (back to camera) presents her K-film to workshoppers (L>R) Matt Soar, Phil Hoffman, Nicole Robicheau, Vicki Lean, Dayna McLeod, Ryan Cadrette

Collaborators in Adventures in Research Creation (ARC) met again in Montreal on January 27 & 28 for further explorations into Korsakow. Midi Onodera and Phil Hoffman were back in town from Toronto, with Vicki Lean, MFA candidate in Film Production at York, and MBA, who is working as Phil’s assistant on this project. Vicki has made a Korsakow film using her father’s 8mm home-movie footage (which we’re now curious to see), so she’s well-placed to assist on Phil’s new K-film project. Phil is working with the late Marion McMahon’s archive, including her unfinished film project as well as various stories, notes and images from her personal archive. Midi continued to work on Midi’s Mystic Oracle of Axioms which she has just completed and will be revealing on her own website on Feb 29, so make sure you consult about your future later this month! has now launched: Midi’s Mystic Oracle of Axioms.

Working methods seemed to be this workshop’s implicit lesson as we peeked into the “back end” of people’s projects, the “Main Window” and “SNU Editors” that reveal a project’s architecture and the methods in the making: How many actual SNUs (smallest narrative units) were used, what keywords and what are their interrelationships? Midi talked about making the Mystic Oracle as a learning exercise to better comprehend first-hand how the K-system functioned. Her beautiful use of complex graphics and sounds evoke a clairvoyant’s mystic fortune tellings, an interesting paradox between the seemingly ephemeral psychic ability to see into the future and the rigourous structure that in fact guides one prediction to another in a strictly-determined set of relations.

Phil describes his working process; Vicki on left, programmer Dave Reisch and Midi in f/g

While Midi’s project seemed one of deliberate construction and careful building and progressive adding on, Phil talked about the voluminous materials from Marion’s archive, and the relative freedom that Korsakow allowed in simply incorporating materials without excessive deliberation, and then inviting another force to be at work in decision-making and movement from SNU to SNU once broad keywords provided some thematizing. (Technically speaking, this would be Korsakow’s algorithms, but Phil seemed to leave this more open…) So, his film could work at multiple registers through keywording: archives, poetics, journaling, travel… Not unlike his earlier films (think ?O, Zoo!)

Also joining us this round was Nicole Robicheau, who is doing her MA in Media Studies in Communication Studies at Concordia, and working on a fascinating project about the Canada-US border at Stanstead QC and Derbyline VT. Employing voice interviews with locals in both towns and still photographs she took while doing fieldwork, Nicole is using Korsakow for the first time. Yet her seamless sound editing, her impeccable sound quality and rich content wouldn’t give this away (demonstrating her experience as a journalist for CBC). Using photographic ‘stills’ and keeping a listener/viewer engaged is no small feat, which she’s attained already in these early stages. The insights into the changing nature of this border are numerous, as local townspeople from both sides tell of the border’s history and increasing surveillance since 9/11.

Hard at work on Day 1 (L>R), Dayna, Nicole, Phil, Vicki, Monika, Midi

ARC co-director Matt Soar also presented some of his preliminary SNUs for Ceci n’est pas Embres, mesmerizing rotoscoped images of road travels, still-photo collages with voice-over conversations of he and his family from winter 2010 in the miniscule town of Embres in France. He’s been working with editor, Dayna McLeod, who was also present and gave mini-workshops on subtitles and her signature ‘pop’ editing style of jump-cutting interviews, Korsakow programmer Dave Reisch dropped by on Day 2, and I (Monika Kin Gagnon), was also there, trying out the latest version ‘candidate,’ Korsakow 5.0.6, while playing with my films for Dayna’s amazing weekly video production challenge, 52 pick-up. We meet again in April.

Auspicious Beginnings

Adventures in Research Creation (ARC) had auspicious beginnings last week. Our eminent collaborators, filmmakers Midi Onodera and Phil Hoffman, joined us in Montreal for a two-day Korsakow workshop on Oct 13 & 14, with resident facilitator/artist/coach, Dayna McLeod, who provided one-on-two orientation to the Korsakow system, which we’ve invited them to explore. While seasoned filmmakers Midi and Phil, initially expressed some initial apprehension about the relation of the Korsakow system to their practices, they both launched with sweet abandon into the realm of what I nicknamed in making a Korsakow film: the ether (dreamland of ideas, love it here), production (compress your damned SNU in the right codec!) and the abyss of Korsakow mechanics (apologies to Florian and Dave, who do always make it work).

Midi is well-known since 2006 for her disciplined, calendar-structured movie-making for mobile media, with projects such as 365 Short Videos (a movie-a-day created in 2006–07), Movie of the Week (2009) and this year’s FPS which is entirely composed of still images. Movie of the Week is currently on view at the Communication Studies Media Gallery at Concordia, soon to be reviewed by anamorphic media artist extraordinaire and new PhD student, Alison Emiko Loader, in the online peer-reviewed, Imaginations. (You’ll find an earlier interview with Midi here.) During the workshop, Midi deconstructed a recently completed linear film, which she shot in Tuscany this summer (feature-length in Onodera-n terms, at 10 minutes). But then shockingly concluded that her experiment hadn’t worked! The linear hadn’t so simply migrated or unbundled itself into the non-linear. Ah, sweet sound to my ears, as I’m anxiously awaiting that she begin experimenting with her footage and photos from Afghanistan where she was artist-in-residence with the Canadian Forces in September 2010. (After her talk at our department in mid-September I asked her what she’d do differently if she were able to go for a re-shoot? “I’d duct-tape iPhones and iPads to my body so they’d be ready to go at any moment, in any direction.”

Phil was originally going to be ‘translating’ his remarkable analogue non-linear 16mm film projects, Opening Series into Korsakow, but hesitated when he decided that they were deeply committed to film (that is, the material pellicule, and the physical act of splicing that precedes each screening), and he has now changed tack. (He presented an Opening Series at our DNA Symposium in May 2011.) Phil arrived with a little red suitcase that weighed a ton, and has another project in mind that he experimented with while here. I’ll only say that it is an unfinished film that has been patiently waiting for 15 years. Korsakow may demonstrate itself to be the perfect remedy.

Visible City Project + Archive director Janine Marchessault was also in town, and she and I observed that we had radically different filmmakers at work: Midi’s fast-paced online persona gives us everyday glimpses in regulated doses, while Phil’s deliberative approach is like watching an iceberg, wherein much lies below the surface.

It was great to have our graduate students, Irene Serrano-Vazquez and Ryan Cadrette with us. Irene just started in our Joint PhD Progamme and is here from Madrid where she will continue her work as a journalist; she will be doing research on transmedia storytelling. Ryan is an MA student in our department doing research on interactive narrative, and was busily working on a Korsakow film for Matt’s course, the Media Research Lab. Our next touchdown is November 11.

— Monika Kin Gagnon