nicole rademacher

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Experimental Documentary? What is that?

video
(p.s. I like the little-ness of the video)

So while working on my thesis I was reading the book Experimental Ethnography (see prior post). Through reading this and thinking about the series of videos I was working on and my research, I decided that these videos are 'experimental documentaries.' What the hell does that mean?

I am fascinated by people watching (and who isn't, really?). Just sitting on a street corner, holding the camera steady, you can find so many stories in one. The one above just appeared. If you pay attention there are a few others, you have to piece them together though, because they aren't the focus of the video. The narrative unfolded itself in front of me, in front of the camera. Take a second and sit on a city bus bench. Just sit there. For five minutes and you might glimpse someone else's life. For thirty and you may see a scenario. Longer and you could be privy to whole events developing in front of you. Maybe they won't seem significant your characters at that moment in their lives, but you as the outsider can sense the event's significance. Wait and be patient. Let the story unfold on its own. Those fleeting gestures that we so nonchalantly express become characters in the narrative as well.

Above is a busy street corner in Buenos Aires. The subjects are seemingly unaware of the story that we, the viewers are following. They are consumed with their lives, consumed with the waiting for someone to arrive. As the awaited person nears the subjects, the little girl (she must be four) exits the frame - just as bouncy as she entered it. The woman meets with the father and the little one follows her into the frame only to leave just as quickly. Almost as soon as the woman enters the frame, the father extends his hand to hold the child's. He holds it in the air, suspended. It freezes in the same distance away from his hip, even as he moves and changes his position. The hand keeps its distance, awaiting the girl's hand. Yet, the child has exited the frame. The adults are ready to cross the street, but still, the little girl has not yet returned to the frame. Finally, as we hear a car revving up to gear, after stopping for the red light, she girl enters our view, but as the father's hand extends to meet the child's, she walks away, towards the moving traffic. His hand struggles and fights with her arm to link with her hand. He finally succeeds and they successfully cross the street.

Who knew that all of that would unfold in front of me while I waited for my friend to take money out of the ATM? How did I get so lucky as to see that beautiful episode? To see the struggle the girl is having with trying to declare her independence, with wanting to do something on her own. Something as simple as crossing the street. She is completely unaware of the danger she could be in because she is completely unaware of what is going on around her. Funny, how we choose to be aware of certain things. How we choose to perceive certain things. Sometimes we don't consciously choose, but we still choose - what is important to us and our current situation.

So, sit on a bus bench. Don't sit in the park - too many trees. You can sit in the park after you have sat on a few bus benches. You have to acclimate to the type of seeing that you are going to do. To the type of seeing you are going to experience. Watch what goes on around you. I like to watch the untold stories of the gestures, like the hand struggling to take the other or the cough that is never covered by the small hand of the little girl.

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