"It's as if I sat down with a ball of yarn and started knitting,
without knowing whether I was knitting a pair of socks or
What I present to you here is an exercise. For this edition of Episodi, I assigned myself the task of editing a video out of all the video documentation we had of LAPSody 2019.
I took this as an opportunity to revisit the performances at my own pace, without suffering from the scattered brain of a festival organizer. I was also curious as to the possible discoveries I would make: What was gained and what was lost in the transition from live performances to video documentation?
This exercise also had a pedagogical aim: I have never had formal training in video editing, but I wanted to learn (more).
I had no pre-planned script or strategy as I delved into the material. I didn't even know the genre of the video that I was making: Was it performance documentation, a trailer, video art, or something else?
I simply envisioned a process where I would let the material “speak” to me.
I knew I had chosen a very labor-intensive method, but I didn't quite imagine the pickle I'd gotten myself into.
At best, I felt a zen-like contentment while working meticulously on little details, such as connecting one frame to another or overlaying two seconds of sound.
At worst, I would take a step back to look at the 30-second sequence I had spent half a day working on, only to find that I didn't actually like the outcome or that it felt at odds with the rest of the video.
How do you keep an eye on the big picture while simultaneously focusing on the details?
A week into the project, I showed one of my efforts to a friend. He had neither visited the festival nor knew the material I was working with. As we watched through the twenty-minute video together, a sudden, exasperated thought struck me:
"It looks as if I've done nothing!"
I was imagining what he saw. To him, the hours I had spent selecting, organizing, and sequencing the material, working on transitions from one image or sound to another, were probably invisible.
My friend suggested I could focus, for example, on the rhythm: create a distinct pattern between tightly knit close-up shots and single long shots. This would be one way of bringing forward my own, subjective interpretation.
As much as I agreed with him, later, when I got back to my notes, I wrote down defiantly:
"My signature is in the seams. If you don't see it, you are not paying attention."
Nonetheless, as I gradually grew more confident with the editing software, I also grew bolder with the material. The images grew shorter, the transitions more drastic.
Maybe it was the words of my friend echoing in my mind. The longer I let an image run, the more I felt I gave up my own authorship. I let the performer, again, take center stage, and became a mere witness.
"I need to make my presence felt. Cut!"
Or maybe it was due to my preconditioned eye. We are accustomed to seeing images fly by on social media, ads, movie trailers. Heck, even the broadcast news is nowadays faster paced than it was a decade ago.
Working against this aesthetic ideal requires a conscious effort.
Or perhaps we just perceive things differently on video compared to live situations. In live situations, the spectator may direct their gaze and their focus more freely, whereas on video, one is tied to the picture frame.
Video seems to call for a more condensed expression.
I went down this path for a while. Condensing, condensing, condensing. Then I stopped.
I noticed that several things didn't agree with my actions.
First of all, what I had in my hands was performance documentation. There was no escaping this fact. The camera was most often placed on a stand and recorded the whole action from start to finish. The shots were mostly long and lingering: close-ups and alternate camera angles were relatively few and far between.
I had footage of fourteen different performances that took place during LAPSody 2019, Signatures, but was there any other common thread to be found among them? Or any other thread I could create myself, by forcibly editing the material?
Lastly, there were my skills in editing - or the lack of.
I went back to the 20-minute rough cut I had from before and started over.
After about two to three weeks of working intensively on the material, I ran out of inspiration and energy. My laptop also started to jam. It was high time to export the media and pull the plug.
Maybe I had also reached a point of saturation.
I had started the editing with the clip of Mihalis Shammas' sound performance (perhaps because this was the last performance of the festival and thus the first clip on Final Cut, where the material was in reverse order). From there, I had moved intuitively to the next.
I noticed that implicitly I had thought of including something of every performance in one video (except for Petros Konnaris' one-on-one performance that we, the organizers, have no documentation of). But then I reached Antonín Brinda's Painting Snow, and didn't feel like adding another image.
I wanted to incorporate scenes from Nerisa Guevara's and Padungsak Kochsomrong's performances, but eventually couldn't find a place for them in the linear form of expression. I am presenting them in this exposition as separate clips.
In the end, how did my signature turn out?
Maybe it is like that of a child who has only recently learned to write and is now trying to acquire a personal style. It might be a little bit shaky, with traces of mimicry, and some false assertiveness involved.
However, it is there. In the seams.