Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Norman's Voyage to America

 In October 1939 Norman McLaren set sail for America on the SS Cameronia with his partner Guy Glover.
Only a month since the war had begun, the Cameronia made the passage to New York unaccompanied.
At the time the passengers had been told a convoy system was in operation but McLaren noted that no other ships had been seen
McLaren describes the journey in great detail, down to the colour of the ship's paint...on this occasion ( and it turned out a dozen others during the war) it was a dull grey...to blend in with the grey sea!!
On the seventh day of sailing was ''the first fine day we've had''. After dinner he sat out on deck with Guy and Jimmie,a passenger they had befriended from Canada.
" It was a pitch black night, heavy clouds, raining cats and dogs- and not a single light from the ship.
Nevertheless the sea just around the ship where water was being stirred up was giving off clouds of luminous and phosphorescent light, and sparkling and twinkling with fierce little bright spots."

McLaren goes on to give the most beautiful decsription of light on the water where no light should be...there were no lights as the ship traveling in war time would be in blackout for safety. It is a description which reveals some of the vision of a creative mind....and the child like wonder with which McLaren viewed nature.

" It was as if there were thousands of little electric bulbs flashing on and off and dancing about in the water, as well as clouds of white frothy light streaming past us! "

Guy went on to explain why this phenomenon happens....caused by little fish and other sea creatures......

I love the thought that Norman was as fascinated by water as I am and that he describes it in this way!

Both photos here are of the river where I grew up and which I still love to walk beside...and look at endlessly......constant motion...never the same water.

this image I love especially..I took it just after the snow melted in March 2011. the water looks so diffeent on either side of the dam...it used to be used to power a mill wheel many years ago.But here the drop in height alters the flow and the way the light hits it and reflects. The scientist in me wants to know how that happens...the artist just appreciates it. Maybe Guy could have told me how?

Monday, 2 May 2011

light and place

Today's encounter with light and place!! same time roughly this time further up the hill away from Balmerino....since I began this idea of catching a moment on my journeys home I have begun to look at the landscape in a very different way...I noticed today how different the light id looking out to the river..compared to

This.....which was on the other side of the road facing the opposite way.....I just happened to spy these amazing gnarled beech tree roots as I stopped to catch the light....as it peeked behind and through this cloud........................and to think these beech trees see this every day............                                      

Lawn with music!

Have listened to a variety of music over last week...about 50 tracks in all...and came across a perfect little track for the Lawn film....seeing it with the music makes me now want to finish it...I posted it early this am but could not view it on my pc...thought it was not here but...it is!!!  will think of the next part of the story          

Sunday, 1 May 2011

light ...home time

The most recent in a series of photos I have taken all around the same time of day on my journey home..this one near Balhelvie on the Barony road from Dundee to Newburgh.                                                             

And this one....around the same time of day....6.00 pm ish......looking through the woods near Balmerino towards the low sun. Only in Sc otland have I seen views like this...something about the sun low in the sky gives the most wonderful light quality...and the drama of trees in silhouette.....I feel so lucky to live here!!


MRI scanner...and imaging

I have been interested in the science of movement for as long as I have been involved in dance!!! In 2003 I was involved with a pilot project looking at heart and nerve cell research material and trying to visualise this through dance and music....The work that resulted ' The journey within' was my response to that material..I would have loved to take the project on..we narrowly missed funding ...The project was called dance spark( from the spark of an idea that occurred when I sat down first to talk with the scientist Mark Evans and theatre manager Colin Veitch....how to create the Eureka effect in a theatre show about the body). The slides and small movies I watched then really inspired me....to watch what is happening inside the body...to try to understand the process of ....growth....chemical messengers.....etc...through these images was amazing. I wanted to have an interaction with dancers and the slides.                                                                       
I also went to a talk a few years ago about CT scans  by Mark Lithgow ..who has conducted many studies of scans and their resulting diagnosis........ and was fascinated by his work...he was looking into the variuos characteristics of artists and scientists...I feel I am somewhere between..  

I also have always loved the picture Norman McLaren made on an X ray of his head. I listened to him talk about it...he had had head pains and had the X ray to check him out...and kept the copy as he felt it was a kind of portarit...At one time I wanted to explore the brain and creativity within this masters project. I had a preliminary talk with a radiographer last year. She felt there was a whole world of possibility in this idea. How much could you tell about creative activity and the brain ....I know many studies have looked at for example... brain activity and meditation ( the Dalai Lama was involved in such a project three years ago) and brain activity in relation to musical activity . I would love to examine choreography and brain activity!!   

So it seemed a logical next step to make contact with Ninewells and to go and have another look at scanning.I set up a visit with Margot McBride who taeches radiology at Dundee University. I was given a guided tour of both scanning and CT facilities, and saw some 3D imaging work from a cardio echo scanning machine ( doubly interesting as I have recently been through this procedure as a patient both in Greece in November and in Perth ) Great  to have someone with teaching expertise take me through this material tho. In the end I may not use this idea...I will work on mcLaren's sketch tho and want to make one for my own brain!!                                                                                                                                                

story telling...script

I am now at the point where my story ...for my project...is really taking shape. It is not going to be a story as in 'fairytale' or 'mystery' but perhaps now taking on more of a documentary feel. Some time back we had sessions with Mark Grindle , a scriptwriter, about script writing for film. He showed us a number of films he had written...and spent quite some time with us analysing what makes a good story.....plot...characters...do you want to see what happens...what is the disturbance...who is the protagonist..what is the question being dealt with. Somw of these questions were quite hard to answer in the first session..but we looked at a lot of examples and you kin dof get the feeling soon enough for what works and what does not. Mark listened to the group go through our ideas nad was encouraging..helping us all to ask ourselves.....will it work? are you trying to do too much here? Is it exciting>
Our second session with Mark was also great. He listened to our forming ideas...we each had to outluine our scripts...and again helped us to question our own practice. I am hoping I might have another chance to meet up with him next year when my film is a bit further on.
I feel I can already tell a good yarn...a lot of the work I do with children in dance involves telling stories through dance. I have come to get a sense of which stories are popular. In the end all the elements must be there for it to work well. I guess even as a documentary the story must be a good one.
since Mark's session I have looked at films in a new way...trying to decide why it is a good story or not...refining my likes and dislikes too. Simplicity is a good thing..I have always felt this...but I feel I try to pack too much in when I think of what I will approach in my work about McLaren.

Like him, I find it hard not to let my mind wander through all the possibilities....so many problems to solve!!

the still point of the turning world; Jessica Langford

This piece inspired me to try out sand animation if only to find out how it was done.....Jessica has done with dance...from an animation background...what I am trying to do with animation...from a dance background.
I know Norman Douglas's work too...and like it..so this was a double treat for me to find this film. It is good to see someone else exploring...it is a lovely piece of dance/ theatre/ animation. I especially love the way the film and performance are totally integrated. I watched a dance performance two weeks ago which had film and dance, and did not really feel that they were integrated as well as this...it is something to think about.

at my external, Henry Lutman suggested that to have performance and film was asking a lot of myself and that perhaps I should just make the film and add performance in some showings....in other words the film should satnd alone. I guess this would make some elements of the work less complicated!! langford has presented both as a  film...performance and animation...I have to really question what I want to do.


What is this strange thing ????????
.....one of the things animation can do is to ask you to look at something you know well  ( In this case dancer/ choreographer Michael Popper!)from  a new perspective...to make you really engage with a subject on a new level. I also like , increasingly, work which uses the camera to capture real action but to interpret it in a new way. Somehow it is more satisfying to have to work things out...to participate more deeply...as an audience.

It makes me think of a piece I once did where I set myself the task of moving so slowly that nobody noticed I was moving till I reached a new place.......Animation allows you to dictate the pace...speed up ...slow down...achieve movement that would otherwise be impossible!!