What is in the contents of your head at the moment of the beep?
This film was commissioned as part of a residency within the Wellcome Collection’s Hubbub Group and exhibited at the “Rest & its discontents” exhibition at Mile End Art Pavilion, London October 2016.
Using playful imagery the film presents a collection of short vignettes that explore the strange and often abstract nature of our everyday inner experiences.
The experiences were documented through a process called descriptive experience sampling (DES), a technique developed by American psychologist Russel Hurlburt that aims to document inner experiences – the thoughts, feelings, sensations and bodily experiences that constitute our everyday consciousness.
Participants of DES wear a small beeper which sounds randomly throughout the day, at the moment of the beep, individuals are instructed to note down the exact contents of their experience (this could include internal monologues, physical sensations or visual imagery).
Follow up interviews tease out the information of the experiences and distill them into short summaries. These so called “beep summaries” provide wonderfully vivid depictions, almost like a dream diary, for seemingly mundane everyday experiences.
Using material gathered by several members of the Hubbub team, this film translates and re-interprets the contents of the beep summaries, referencing the distortions and adaptations that occur when we try to conceptualise our inner experiences with others.
The film was shot over the summer of 2016 on a Sony A7s. I used old M42 lenses to help give the piece a faded, dream like quality – which was further aided by adding film grain and muting the colours slightly in post. Most of the portraits were shot on an old Takumar 50mm 1.4 lens which has a beautiful vintage bokeh, which is full of character and lacks the somewhat clinical precision of a modern lens.
Find out more about the Hubbub Research group here: hubbubresearch.org
There was a lovely edition of BBC R4’s “Four Thought” broadcast last week called “Capturing Moonlight”. In this short programme, poet Astrid Alben discusses her experiences of using art and science together to better understand the nature of moonlight. What is particularly interesting to me is hearing about Astrid’s endeavour to navigate the complexities of science in order to deepen her own artistic practice.
Back in 2015 I collaborated with Astrid and Hester Aardse of the PARS Foundation to produce a listening experience for a Wellcome Collection event called ‘Some Like Dark‘, which formed part of her investigation into moonlight.
Together we crafted an audio work which centred around an interview recorded with physicist Sir John Pendry. The piece explores how our modern understanding of light developed through investigations by James Clerk Maxwell in the 19th Century and concludes with a playful discussion about trying to capture moonlight in a box (excerpt 4).
The 30 minute piece also included readings and audio works from theatre maker Jan van den Berg, lighting designer; Jennifer Tipton and sound poet; Jaap Blonk.
A short film I made for the Royal Institution that explores the relationship between entropy and time. The piece formed part of the larger Ri Advent Calendar project which explored the four laws of thermodynamics.
An animation I produced last year with animator / illustrator Rosanna Wan for the Royal Institution.
Rosanna’s distinct visuals incorporate a hand drawn style that tell the story of cartographer Marie Tharp, whose work helped to detail the complex geography of ocean floors around the world.
Her maps helped to demonstrate that the ocean floor was in fact a complex assortment of peaks and troughs – which went against conventional wisdom at the time. Despite fierce opposition, she stuck fast to her findings and as more data was collated, the tide of opposition turned, paving the way for our modern understanding of plate tectonics.
Rest matters to everyone. Its presence, absence and quality affects mind, body, culture and society. Rest & its discontents explores the dynamics of rest, stress, relaxation, sound, noise, work and mindwandering in an evolving laboratory of moving image, performance, drawing, poetry, data, sound, music and debate.
The short film is the final piece I’ve produced as part of my 2-year residency within the Wellcome Collection’s Hubbub Group.
The film uses material gathered from individuals participating in Descriptive Experience Sampling (DES) to generate short vignettes which explore and re-interpret their inner experiences. DES is a method pioneered by US psychologist Russell Hurlburt which aims to document the nature and quality of an individual’s inner experiences.
Participants are given a beeper that sounds randomly throughout the day and when it does, individuals are asked to make a note of the contents of their experience. Follow up interviews tease out the detail of each experience to produce a short “beep summary”, a short vignette or snapshot of an isolated experience in time.
Experience Composite, uses the the contents of the beep summaries and experiments with framing, looping and over-dubbing to explore the nature of our inner experiences. The film also re-interprets the summaries in playful ways to highlight the unavoidable distortion and artifice introduced when attempting to document or conceptualise our inner experiences.
Here’s a short animation I wrote and produced with animator / illustrator Andrew Khosravani.
The piece is narrated by Hannah Fry and tells the story of how zero became a number. We were very happy about it getting a “Staff Pick” on Vimeo!
The scripting for the piece was tricky, it took several weeks to wrap our heads around the subject and then boil a significant amount of history down into around 3 minutes… inevitably details had to be cut and even after recording the voice-over with Hannah we had to make some difficult decisions to make further cuts. All in the name of reducing animation time – which was significant for a piece like this – Andrew did an incredible job!
Oh and the chapter numbers are obviously all in binary.
Video produced for the Royal Institution, for the 2015 Advent Project “A Place Called Space”. The piece is composed from multiple interviews with astronauts that were recorded between September – November 2015.
The film features 4 astronauts (Dan Tani, Helen Sharman, Jean-François Clervoy , Mike Barratt) and uses NASA archive footage to explore the ins and outs of living in space (spoiler alert: it’s fun, but it ain’t easy!).
All interviews were transcribed and then common threads were grouped together and collected on an edit timeline. The audio segments were cut down and edited together, then brought into FCPX where they were combined with video footage. I spent quite a while searching and logging appropriate NASA archive footage. Once the rough form was assembled, I introduced some music and refined the edit to work with the tracks I’d chosen.
This year we wanted to go all out for our April Fools effort, so we decided to make a video to announce this year’s (fake) Christmas Lectures subject and lecturer. You can see the effort below:
In reality, the lecturer featured in the video is none-other than Ri Director of Finance, Michael de Crespigny (at least his name was real) who, may I add, played a fantastic role in portraying a quantum astrologer.
Although we don’t usually make a video announcing the Christmas Lecturer we wanted to create a piece of content that would work for our international YouTube audience as much as those that regularly tune into the Lectures in the UK.
So we set about scripting a piece that straddled the line between nonsense and plausibility, settling on the subject of astrology and making liberal use of the word “quantum” to hopefully pull the wool over people’s eyes.
I recently made a short film for the Royal Institution that tells a story of the miners safety lamp, also known as the “Davy Lamp” – invented by Sir Humphry Davy in the 19th Century.
The lamp was designed to allow miners to safely light their way in the mines using candles or oil lamps – which were previously at risk of igniting flammable gases that leaked from the coal baring rocks, often leading to devastating explosions and large loss of life.
Find out more by watching the video!
This is the first time we’ve explored an archive story through the format of Andy’s Tale’s From the Prep Room series and I really like how the historical narrative is combined with the usual demonstration elements of the series – it’s something we’ll think about doing more in the future.
Riffing off the film’s subject matter, I thought I’d experiment with shooting most of the film in candle light in a pitch black environment – which was made possible by the low light capabilities of the Sony A7s, combined with a very fast vintage lens (Takumar 50mm f1.4). I really love the intimate setting that this creates and it also helped to hide the fact that we shot this in a very dull location (the Ri’s windowless basement lab used for school workshops).
Slow motion footage was captured on the Panasonic GH4 at around 100fps – watching the flames billowing out of the gas filled tube is particularly mesmerising!