Becoming, Barcelona

Becoming, Barcelona (16 minutes)

Cast: Hannah Cecily, Theodor Spiridon

Music: Jack Foran

It is important to state that the aspect of intuition depends solely on a subjective interpretation of my practitioner decisions in the moment of filming. Ultimately, my experience of intuition is grounded in my previous practice and education in filmmaking, which are, in turn, rooted in certain habits and tendencies but also in regular reflection on these habits and tendencies. What I mean by intuition is therefore simply the acknowledgement, as a film practitioner, of my focused participation in and immediate response to the present moment of the creative process, without the conscious awareness of any preconceived plan or narrative/formal context. In comparison, the editing process was rather a form of distillation: a gradual reduction of the large volume of footage into shorter segments – shots – that stood out for me in comparison to the rest of the footage, and in which an emphatic moment of performance coincides aesthetically with wider reality in order to give rise to affects rather than coherent and contextualised meaning. The heuristic of the editing process was inevitably driven by my practitioner sensibilities, and in that sense was quite the opposite of randomness or chance. Rather, it was a process through which a personal artistic piece of filmmaking was chiselled out of the raw material, which itself nevertheless represents a direct outcome of the process of affective atmosphere. The post-production process therefore stands in marked separation from the method of affective atmosphere that this exposition focuses on.

The filming consisted of a thirty-six-hour air trip to Barcelona with a pair of performers. The affective atmosphere approach extended throughout the entire trip, during which we all tried to sustain a deep connection to the present moment, being affected by our environment and by each other, rather than enacting fictional characters, representing meaning or narrative, or engaging with each other in an ordinary, habitual way. It seemed meaningful for there to be a journey at the heart of the production process, since this would increase the encounter with new environments and create regular ‘pitchfork’ path splits, which could then lead to path choices based on the affective atmosphere – emerging from intuition, affect, and chance – rather than being made logically or based on an intention or a plan. At the same time, the basic trajectory with a few specific destinations along the way would anchor the idea of a journey, allowing for certain linearity from which non-linear choices could emerge (for example, we knew that we were going to spend the night in a specific hotel in Barcelona, but that said nothing about how exactly we would get there).

The structure of the resulting film is chronological, which gives it a clear sense of narrative; however, the narrative structure reflects the chronology of real events: the structure is the trip itself, which took place for us in actuality. Another structural layer is also added on the level of the image through the alternation between different digital cameras and the Super 8 film camera. This creates a sense of a (meaningful) visual pattern; nevertheless, this does not reflect any predefined visual concept, but rather corresponds with the intuitive choices made in the event of filming, while being immersed in the becoming of the moment, without any clear separation between reality and fiction, or between the process of filming and the process of becoming. These choices about the use of specific cameras are therefore already merged with parts of the filmed scenes or situations, and the visual pattern emerges organically from the editing process.

This clip represents a brief fragment of the continuous digital recording while making Becoming, Barcelona: we were flowing through reality and intuitively pursuing the aesthetic potential of our environment. 

The unpredictability of this journey was increased by deliberately selecting a destination to which neither I nor the performers had ever been. In fact, I didn’t want the performers to know where we were going until the very day of travel, so that they could not formulate any ideas or biases about the trip in relation to the destination; they only learned where they were going when already entering the affective atmosphere on the day. I provided them with a sealed envelope with their boarding pass and all the journey details and instructed them only to open this on their way to the train station, after they had tried to clear their minds and immerse themselves in their immediate environment. As the performers had never met, the envelope also contained a photograph of the other performer. This was a deliberate choice, so that there was no layer of ‘acting as strangers’ necessary to perform within the affective atmosphere. Since affective atmosphere relies on removing both the representation of fictional characters and the presentation of one’s habitual personality, it would not be desirable for the performers to know each other, and then have to suppress this knowledge – this would clearly be a distraction to the affective atmosphere. However, since we all were not supposed to interact in an ordinary, habitual way, it was important for them to recognise each other upon first encounter, hence the provision of the photograph.

I was filming continuously for most of the trip, using three digital cameras and a Super 8 camera (using them individually, rather than filming simultaneously). The alternation between the cameras was motivated often practically, but also intuitively – making choices through the embodied and emplaced reflection in action. I didn’t set up or control any lights; the stylised impression of some of the shots simply emerged from intuitive decisions in response to the aesthetic potential of the places in which we had found ourselves by accident or without prior consideration. As part of the affective atmosphere process we didn’t have a fixed itinerary for most of our journey, but instead allowed ourselves as much as possible to be channelled by the becoming of reality around us, while pursuing the aesthetic potential of the given locations.

This clip demonstrates our participation in the affective atmosphere during an ordinary moment inside the hotel. As I continuously filmed, the performers stayed present in the moment, having brief random exchanges informed and inspired by the rhizomatic script.

This is the hotel room scene in Becoming, Barcelona, resulting from the process outlined and demonstrated below. The affects in the performance are amplified by Jack Foran’s music and sound design, which intuitively respond to the affective atmosphere captured in the moment. 

When we returned to the hotel for the night, we continued filming before going to sleep. I initiated this process by helping the performers renew their attention to the present moment; in this way, the affective atmosphere was intensified – having an impact on the performance but also on the affective nature of the resulting scene as a whole.