Extracts from a discussion on Mobile Videos, June 2008
A mobile phone... It's in our pockets. We just take it with us to the fair, take it with us to the play, take it with us when going from one place to the other, carry it with us on the way.
Often, while looking out of the window of a bus, I used to wonder... if I were to pause and think, what would I think about the outside? I made a mobile video of the view from the window of the bus. And then when I saw it later, I realised, while music played and people chatted, and there was a restlessness in the bus, people on the road were very quiet and completely solitary.
Just day before yesterday, in the evening, it was raining heavily. It is said a downpour can ruin many things. But when I stood and watched, it seemed to me everything was becoming more resplendent. I found this attractive. Everything looked so different from usual. Descriptions of rain are usually about how people run for shelter, leave what they are doing, But what I was seeing was something different. I thought a photo may not capture this difference. I wanted to see if I could make a video resonate with what I was thinking. I looked through the screen and started recording. Someone held an umbrella, another had covered himself with a plastic sheet. Someone was returning from work, a scarf thrown over his head. People were not running around. Some were buying vegetables for home. And there was a chowmein stall - It was open to the sky.The man was busy frying chowmien in the pan. I thought a photograph would not have helped me capture this style, the special music... Along with the raindrops was the sound "chhan-chhan-chhan", as the stirrer moved in the pan, while everyone stood around under their umbrellas, waiting to eat.
That day my parents, my sisters and cousins - they all started dancing together, spontaneously. I had never seen them like this before. I mean, it wasn't any special occasion... We just happened to be in a room together, and everyone started dancing. The young and the old, all danced together. For no special reason. I'd never seen such a burst of joy, expressed in this way, inside a room, before. I was surprised. And I wanted to keep with myself this memory of having been surprised.
It could be something banal. But was I attracted by it? If it attracted me, then it was significant enough to be shot. It's possible it remained banal for someone else. But if it seemed important to me, then, yes, it was something worthy of being looked at.
For instance, I'd often look out of my window at the shadows cast by clothes put out to dry.These shadows would hover over the entire lane, and create a very special ambience. Shadows would glide over people's faces, knock against things. I'd always try to search a language to think, to describe this environment of shadows.
To make a mobile video, one doesn't need to go out in search of a "special" event or occasion. Mobile videos draw from the simplest moments of our lives. In that sense, the mobile phone camera makes one look for the special within the ordinary. A woman may wear make-up everyday. But to make a mobile video of this simple thing, makes her, her make-up and the ordinariness of that moment, special.
One immediately thinks of a mobile video as being something personal. But mobile phone conversations, sms, photos, videos, ring tone etc have a velocity in everyday life - they get their life from being in circulation. That is why, even though mobile phones have very small screens, the staggered circulation of its images stretches their lived beyond the first moment in which they were taken.
In the two years that we have been making mobile videos, it seems to me that all of us have deepened out ways of looking through the act of looking around us, everyday. In writing, we think about what we have seen and how to write it. But in making mobile videos, the view before us unravels itself frame by frame. There is a relation between the practice of writing and the practice of making mobile videos. One requires inner stillness, and the other requires us to still our surroundings. I think with a mobile video, we try to find a stillness amidst the speed around us.
We try to find a moment of stillness in the world.
And in writing?
In writing... In writing it is as if we are inhabiting a stillness and trying to write it. By making a mobile video, we still that which is speeding, so we may think from within it.
So a mobile video makes us go deeper into something than writing does...?
No, I'm not saying that. I can try to understand that which I can see by revisiting it in my mind's eye. But what about that which elides me? A mobile video can help me bring it into my view. So I can be with it.
Is it that we see something and immediately know it is interesting, we should make a mobile video of it?
No... The question for me is, how do we perceive something that races past us? What can we do to bring it into our field of vision? How can I hold it, even for a moment, while it rushes past me, so I may enter it to think with it?
Mobile phone videos are embedded in networks. This opens up a big playing field. The shrinking and expanding images around us become a player here. As do those minor moments which would not even have been thought of as occasions before.
The world is foggy. When you capture a grain from it, as you may sometimes do with a mobile video, it helps you understand the expanse and the detail.
I may have made an image of something that I don't recognise. This image may allow others to address those images which remain unnamed in their lives.
A frame is like a hook that gathers that which lies scattered around us. And I join a few of my own hooks to think ahead with the frame. Probably the attempt is that what lies scattered in my life is brought to speech through the movement within the frames. Or maybe I depict the dilations of my eyes and in this I connect the various scattered flickers that are around me.
In the depiction of things around us, we sometimes see them still, sometimes in movement, and sometimes in turmoil. So this is a way to try to understand how to look. And when this is deepened, we create generative environments. From where does this generative form come into our thinking? This is a question. What is in our imagination that searches the generative both in stillness and in change? Whose mind is this? Where did it come from? Where is it about to go? It is the turmoil of these questions that shapes the way we construct a frame. They are an occasion to think, to rethink what we have thought before, and to plough further. Where can it take us? How deeply are we connected to it? This life, things around us, changes around us, the time in which we live - how are we related to all this? This is how we think with mobile videos.
See Mobile Sketches/Memory Card 01 here.
Download mp4 file of Mobile Sketches/Memory Card 01 here.