fiona_james fiona_james fiona_james fiona_james fiona_james 1 5 plot 1.jpg fiona_james   fiona_james fiona_james fiona_james   fiona_james fiona_james fiona_james fiona_james
Part I
Animated sketch book with roving structure

19th October 2009

Plot begins with a building that has ended. Situated in the San Fernando Valley it was a prime example of architectures International Style, encapsulating Richard Neutras’ principle ideas and showcasing his advancement in technical innovation.

Know for his fastidious attention to clients’ requirement, the property commissioned by the director Joseph Von Sternberg was no exception to the rule. A synthesis of the characters in question, its mechanics and features appeared to be lifted from a film set, with the final ascetic saying as much about it owner as it did the designer.

Termed the father of the femme fatal, its residence career was a path of peaks and troughs. From the silent era he successful traversed films incorporation of sound and enjoyed a period of celebrated acclaim for his works with Marlene Dietrich, but by the late 30's his presence on the Hollywood scene had diminish as audiences of the day began to find his works abstract and too visually reliant. As a result of his uncompromising nature, rifts with producers and senior executives lead him produce his last work un-financed in Japan where he was finally able to exert complete control every element of production in which included the narration in the style of traditional Benshi.

Before its demolition, in 1972, the property was also home Ayn Rand, A Russian born philosopher and founder of the objectivist school, who preached her ideas though fictive novels in a genre she termed romantic realism. Her first popular work The Fountain Head written in 1943, adapted for film in 1949, brought her beliefs in individualism and a laissez-fare economy to the American masses where she still has a considerable following. Her works public appeal has experienced a resurgence following the onset of the economic crisis.

Part 2
anecdotes and illustrations, a last minuet edit

24 October 2009

Featuring Nicky Agunwa as the Benshi.

Part II sought to address the contradictions inherent in the act of Benshi narration, (a technique adopted by Von Sternberg).
Originally developed to explain the context and background of American silent films to Japanese audiences, Benshi tended to abandon faithful translation for the sake of entertainment, favouring embellishment and improvisation. As a result the audiences of such events were drawn largely by certain performers, rather than the reputation of the films they accompanied.

A video was back projected through the doors of the Kunsthalles’ bookshop with my self and a German translator, Nicky Agunwa, positioned either side. Nicky had been involved since the projects initiation. Her questions about the material I was dealing with affected the direction of my original research and the video content for that night. She was free to add background references where she felt I lacked clarity and to skip elements that didn’t interest her.

Her resulting text was a German translation that greatly differed from my original script. Partly written in the tone of Sternbergs Biography this had been abstracted by using the term ‘He’ and ‘She’ to stand in for several different characters so their relative relationships became generalised.

By taking an audience member into the process of ‘making’ I hoped to destabilise my control over the final material and present a contrast to Sternbergs use of the Benshi technique for total Auteur.
We wore costumes that referenced the eye brows of Sternbergs muse presented on their side these allowed us to extenuate certain parts of the script like we were a pair of roving brackets.

The video that accompanied this was put together (the day before) while working on the translation and built up to the creation of a performed visual gesture that used feedback to create an optical effect. The process depicted was quite playful relying heavily on found formal motifs. It featuring a well-known actress and actor (Sternbergs muse and a character from a movie adaptation of a Ayn Rand novel) along side an architect and his wife included in preparation for the following week, which would be based more specifically on them.

On the night the bookshops exterior door was unintentionally left open causing the screen to bellow and shift the image out of focus.

Though detrimental to the presentation this provided the premise for the following weeks performance.



Part 3
Remarkably still in the gaps

2 November 2009

Featuring Alex Whitbread as the architect talking on his newly opened building (Broadcasting Tower, Leeds), Dolcie Joslyn as the structuring device, draped in the dimensions of a long destroyed building, and Heather Bass as the sculptor (present via video).

Part III aimed at addressing some of the previous week findings. It discussed where elements of the work had failed (the technical set up leading to the loss of the projected image) and looked at the vulnerability of workings so last minuet by putting it in context with an associates less ephemeral practice.

A key element in the performance was actress, Dolcie Joslyn, who acted as a back drop and screen by manipulating a costume of black felt lines based on the dimensions of the Von Sternberg residence. At a scale of 1:1 the lines lengths were determined by a drawing of the house architectural layout. Draped in this mass she moved on cue between four predetermined position (representing different narrative view points).

The performance was further structured by a talk by Alex Whitbread of FCBstudios (he also featured as an actor in the previous week film) who spoke freely on his personal experiences as a contemporary architect working on large commissions for public sites.

In anticipation of the opening of his first building (Broadcasting Tower, home of Leed Universtiys architecture school) the following day he choose to discuss
the act of drawing for proposals and creative loss through unrealised ideas,
The effects of releasing intellectual property and relinquishing product
And the challenge of presenting his building to an audience aurally without an image of it present in the space (the only premise I’d set him)

The time allocated to these three segments was determined by the duration the actress could hold a position that framed him with visual from behind, with the performance progressing when her stamina broke. This was intercepted by recently devised sketches, chosen by Alex (from an archive developed since the first performance) that helped link his points to my original research material.

Also present was a pictorial reference to his wife's work as a sculptor, who practice is predominantly concerned with the effects of care on physical material, and footage of her reading the conclusion of Graham Greens 1952 short story the destructors. The topics he had decided to speak on where informed by conversations we’d had in the lead up to the performance which had also lead my studio experiments.



Thinking Big
Random Play
Fiddling with the Faculty (w/ Edward Clive)
Draft 1, 2, & 3 (w/ Jane Frances Dunlop)
Liberate Labour
Triggering Diagram
The Enormous Space

88 Hight Street
Flat 4
CT11 9RX

Fiona James