Image above: InTransit
“Don’t bend, don’t water it down, don’t try to make it logical, don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions logically”
– Franz Kafka
In a spare few hours between the Sightlines conference and the MINA symposium in Melbourne, visiting scholar and filmmaker Gerda Cammaer found time to give an enlivening talk about her practice at a surprise Docuverse event. Born in Beligium, but living and working in Toronto, Gerda opened her discussion of celluloid filmmaking, flaneuring and immersive film practices enabled by portable technology, with the above quote by Kafka. The theme of obsessions traversed Gerda’s talk; covering her work using found footage, home movies, travel filmmaking and education.
Earlier in the day at Sightlines, Gerda had presented her immersive travel film Mobilarte to a great response. In this film, the affordances of the iPad had been enhanced in postproduction with music and sound design techniques to give the feeling of what it’s like to ride in a Tuk Tuk in Mozambique. The materiality of this practice called to mind some of the Sensory Ethnography Lab films, with their attempts to translate specific experiences of the world through filmic techniques.
Gerda talked about the concept of the modern day flaneurse, a female imagining of Baudelaire’s concept of the flaneur. Gerda quoted documentary theorist Trinh T. Minh-ha “to be in touch with the ordinary in non-ordinary ways so that it can become something extra-ordinary frame”. I think this idea especially resonated in Gerda’s work which used vernacular material she had captured as well as archival and found footage, reframing it to allow critical ways of seeing and thinking about documentary within a contemporary context.
Gerda also shared some insights into travel filming and generational differences. While older people were more inclined to point the camera outwards, millenials tended towards positioning themselves foremost in the frame- selfie style. Informed by discussions with her students, Gerda presented a critical motivation for this framing, stemming from her students’ deep anxieties with their place in the world, and the belief that their presence is the only evidence that they were really there. Something to think about anyway.
The discussion of travel filmmaking tied in with Gerda’s introduction to her current project, Viewfinders, a collaborative project with Swinburne University’s Max Schleser. This project will be presented at the Docuverse Symposium on February 10th, 2017.
This was a great way to end the series of Docuverse events for 2016, with a talk that perfectly encapsulated some of our key aims; a discussion of practice and theory that is both connected to historical documentary as well as reaching forward into emergent territories, processes and ways of thinking in the 21st century. We look forward to further expanding the Docuverse in 2017.