Project Name: Venice's Golden Record
Venice’s Golden Record revolves around strengthening the appearance of Venice’s local culture. By using video as a means for preservation, I explored areas unaffected by bustling tourists and overwhelming commercialisation to falsely portray a positive experience of Venice.
See my final outcome below followed by my project process.
What were my initial thoughts?
My research project became about acknowledging the limitations of having a 12 day research project. I had structured my 12 days before I’d arrived but I started to get cold feet. What I realised was, a whole month in Venice analysing my experience of the Island was always going to overtake any physical work I could make during those 10 days. There was no use going in there with a strict plan. As a result, I spent my time documenting my thoughts and feelings, thinking about how that could influence a piece of work. The result was a much more fluid process, allowing myself the creative freedom to not get caught up in the limited time I had.
How did I focus my experiences into a piece of work?
My main interest for the project was “why do we idealise somewhere that we ruin?”. With flood problems and more recently, the overwhelming amount of tourists, I couldn’t understand why more drastic measures were not in place to preserve the island. I decided to focus my research efforts on identifying Venice’s merits and faults as a way of understanding this.
What did I find?
I found that every romantic element of Venice had been commercialised beyond enjoyment. Gondola rides are overpriced and tours are often cut short where they wish to continue taking advantage of the tourist crowds. There are men that come round thrusting roses into couples hands before demanding money and being angry when they didn’t succeed. One of my flatmates from the trip quickly annoyed a woman who appeared in full Venetian dress every morning by the waterfront on our way to work. Fraser would wave, she would wave back, any joke or laugh beyond that demanded money.
The worst was how you’re made to feel like a nuisance for not coughing up over a moment of genuine interaction.
Unfortunately, the negatives outweighed the positives: the tourist crowds were relentless; the general cost of living was expensive; there were no creature comforts such as hot water or wifi; selective commercialisation of different districts. These things combined made the trip feel unlike both a holiday or a home.
The biggest problem was that Venice seemed to be stuck between local and global culture. A Hard Rock cafe and a designer shopping outlet opposite an in-house gelato shop. The best place I found was right round the corner from my flat - Fondamenta Nouve. There, I discovered the handmade quality to Venice. I found an old woman’s shop where she upcycles as well as makes her own Venetian costumes. The waterfront was long and quiet with a view of the cemetery island. The hospital looked more like a grand church than a medical facility. The one worry I had was that floods of tourists would too find this spot before ruining it.
Despite all this, I did not want to focus on the faults of Venice as it would serve no purpose to me. I wanted to look back having remembered the times I did enjoy as well as preserve the small areas that the locals have retreated to. I resigned my video work to romanticising Venice again.
Using the following criteria, I considered the use of editing in the form of a VHS video:
1) Privacy - displaying VHS clips suggests a sense of intimacy in the moments being captured.
2) Memory Aid - jogs memory in forgotten moments. This supports championing my positive experiences.
3) Sentimentality - selective footage taking implies special quality or meaning in what is being captured. My experience and therefore my research is personal to me, my work should reflect that.
4) Time Stamp - places memory in plausibility. Due to the creation of the footage, I have the dates and times I can draw the video clips back to.
5) Identity - who is curating the footage? Why have they chose what they have chosen? I am curating the footage in the hopes of preserving the parts of Venice that have not been commercialised.
6) Sequence - to be played in order in as a part of a communal event. This work will be displayed in a show in Shoreditch in August.
What did you make?
I edited a video with an animated background and several old fashioned tv’s overlaid playing my clips from Venice. This was a test to see how my style would conflict with the portrayal I was going for:
The background was too busy. I had made it from a photo I had taken outside a flower shop and ran it through a kaleidoscope effect to try and make it aesthetically pleasing. In the end, there was too much to look at.
I had edited several sets of clips into the video. This, again, made the work too busy.
The VHS element to the work seemed more of a trope than something that had been fully understood and applied to the work.
The busyness does aid the idea that there’s an air of falseness to the footage, as though it’s been overdone to compensate but really the visual experience is unpleasant.
Below is the first edit.
What did you change?
I researched the video movement of the 1970s to understand more about why artists were taking ownership of the format. I found that it was used to provoke action within communities as it was a low budget way of spreading a message, “the people’s television”.
I renamed the project to “Venice’s Golden Record”. This is a play on “Voyager’s Golden Record”, a disk sent up into space with several images and songs that represent life on earth.
I discarded footage from my Canon M100 and instead used footage from an old Kodak EasyShare. This camera is one of the early versions of the digital camera. It comes with that awful zoom noise and only shoots in 640x480. The decision was made to remain accurate to VHS aesthetic I was mimicking. With just the effects on the computer overlaid onto my 1080p footage, it’s clear I’m borrowing for the sake of “pretty” footage.
I decided to use only stills from these video clips. The idea was to further indoctrinate the footage, to show only the highlights. With poor quality footage and several blurry, out of focus images, it’s clear the images have sentimental value to the film maker. This links to my earlier points about VHS footage.
Below is the final edit.
Thoughts on this work?
As I am a tourist, my perception of Venetian culture will never accurate. In terms of serving a purpose to the community, it’s hard to say I’m acting on their behalf when my work does not include their feedback.
This footage was shot to portray the best of Venice. Similarly with social media, it can be argued that I’m perpetuating a false identity by not accepting the “bad” in my footage. The intention to shoot the best accepts an intention to lie. This may be seen through by an audience, especially where some images are clearly video stills.