Sundays In Majdanpek
on a Saturday in Whitechapel
Steven Ball & Rastko Novakovic continued
SB: The first time we talked about this I asked you why you used text
rather than voice over. I hadn’t then seen your previous video Tomorrow
and the Day Before, which does actually use a voice over, with a
different strategy but to the same ends as the text in Sundays in
Majdanpek which is to say very measured, deliberate, almost difficult
to follow because of the ‘unnaturalness’ of the delivery.
In the second part of Sundays in Majdanpek the text moves at
a rate that is the time it takes to read the text on screen and, even
though it’s ‘easier’ to read in that sense, the idea
of reading a text in a time-based work takes away the opportunity one
usually has to reread certain sentences, flip back the page and see how
things refer to each other; we don’t have that opportunity when
watching the video.
RN: In Part one the rhythm of the text is much more uniform, it gives
you more leisure to read. In Part two I read the text out and then cut
the on-screen text to the rhythm of my voice, with a sentence being the
in and out point. In mainstream cinema, subtitles are determined by a
certain number of words, they make it easy to read. My video requires
a different kind of attention: if you read it to yourself the rhythm makes
perfect sense. As far as the contradiction of the difficulty of reading
text and sub-titles is concerned, I think the screen is by far the greatest
force destroying our ability to read. Children who are brought up looking
only at screens have a problem reading the words off a page purely because
it involves a different kind of attention and a different kind of eye
movement. So in that sense I think, yes, the rhythm of the words prevents
you from reading what is there, but in another sense it’s almost
as if reading and text has been made into something which hasn’t
been decided by anyone else, it’s been changed by the actual form
of television, of movies, and so on. So the fact that we have a cut every
three seconds produces a specific kind of attention and viewing patterns.
When you come to look at whatever you’re looking at, a flower or
a painting, you apply the same kind of attention to it.
SB: I guess that this is what you refer to in Tomorrow and the Day
Before as the process of the “industrialisation of perception”,
but in the second part of Sundays in Majdanpek you are following
that process yourself, almost mimicking it.
RN: I’m in dialogue with it, it’s a fact that we have to deal
SB: I was interested in that tension between spoken and written text and
it was only when I read the transcript that I could follow things more
RN: In that sense it was made for repeated viewing, and maybe ideally
everyone would get a copy of it and be able to browse it at their leisure.
SB: Or perhaps be able to view
it online. Later in the text, in Part two after the sentence where
you speak about the screen: “…Over 50 years of its birth cries
have imploded history into dots, full stops and closeups to end all footsteps,
all smiles and histories which do not move in playback…” …there
is a line that says “I am a tourist, nothing but a swarm of pixels.”
I read that as a referring to the digitisation of images, of history and
the way one perceives it through the moving image and I relate that to
this idea of the industrialisation of perception.
RN: Yes, I was thinking of history and specifically the medium that it
is presented or preserved in. Nowadays we are moving away from a text-based
representation of history. It’s still there strongly as a base level,
but the extent to which screen-based technologies have impinged on history
and on an analysis of history is quite remarkable and also worrying because
there are no checks, there are very few standards on how you treat these
texts and materials. When you say “industrialisation”, one
thing that I am interested in is the standardisation of technology and
how that both influences the way we see things and the way we record things.
SB: And also the way we read things? You can go back to the way industrialisation
has standardised language and the written word, but there is also another
argument which says that the Internet, in facilitating the creation of
‘virtual communities’, has reinvigorated the idea of some
form of ‘folk’ approach to communication, which might mediate
against the existing standardisation, certainly the Gutenberg standardisation
of the printing press.
RN: Well, in one sense the way we remember things is far different now
that we have printed text. Who knows how people used to dream before we
started watching films? Did we have cuts? Long takes? Close ups?
SB: Do you dream Cinematographically?
RN: No, I don’t think my dreams can be fitted into any particular
discipline. They are not very literary either.
SB: I’m convinced that technology is a driving force in perception.
I think the cognitive approach to the way we learn to see is very much
in keeping with this and in the past century has been driven largely by
the moving image and cinema. The rise of psychoanalysis has happened within
the same time frame, so it’s not too much of a leap to suggest that
dreams are facilitated by media technology. That’s really the only
reason why I bring this up as a question, but it seems to follow the notion
of the industrialisation of perception.
RN: In one sense, I didn’t really do anything, I just used a Sony
camera and a Panasonic camera and produced something which tried a little
bit to resist the way the makers of these products want you to use these
cameras, but ultimately I lost in that game.