Blas González – Putting yourself in the picture

I‘ve had a total of six of these Context & Narrative assignments so far, all very different, all interesting. Only one of them actually used a two week diary to base the assignment on. I’m not quite sure why that is!

Blas Gonzalez wrote a diary and turned it into a video piece. At assessment we liked it so much that we invited our Principal and Director of Quality (aka Gareth and Alison) to share the work. In feedback the assessors made special mention of the video calling it an ‘original and highly effective interpretation of this assignment’.

The diary is on youtube here.

Why is it a successful assignment?

It works on so many levels for one thing. Blas puts himself into the picture in so many different ways – he represents himself in many different ways.

Each double page spread is two days. The day begins on the recto – the right hand page, and finishes on the verso – the left hand page, so you have to flip the page to finish the day. Each day begins with a photograph. Each day is titled at the top, which is repeated as a subtitle in the video. The titles aren’t prescriptive – they don’t offer just one meaning, but they do relate clearly to the theme of autobiography.

What Blas is actually writing about I have no idea as I don’t speak Spanish, although the subtitles help of course. But it doesn’t matter. The text isn’t needed to contextualise the photographs, it just works as a visual signifier – ‘reflection’ for instance, and no doubt a few other things as well. Interesting isn’t it, that text can create meaning without being able to understand it?

The narrative structure seems to have two parts. The first part is the turning of the pages, the second part is an ‘intervention’ where Blas adds a final image and ‘signs it off’ with an Open College of the Arts pen. This second part is introduced with a gesture where the hand pats the empty page. ‘The White Page’ and ‘The Last Page’ bookend the whole sequence. Conceptually this is all quite neat.

The music adds another layer of meaning of course. It gives a psychological edge. Blas is lucky enough to have a family member who’s a musician so he has copyright permission for an original piece of music.

The fact that it’s presented as a video piece rather than a physical diary works for me too. For one thing, it’s in the blog and shared across the web. Second, you’ve got this kind of regression where Blas is representing representations of himself, giving you the author at double remove. It plays with representation on that level.

Although in parts it is dark, maybe that conceptual lightness, that sense of play, is the best thing about this assignment.

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6 comments for “Blas González – Putting yourself in the picture

  1. 9 March 2017 at 3:12 pm

    Thanks for sharing this creative piece.

    The last interaction with the diary, and the last image, is such a good idea, seeing your hand performing this final action + the mise-en-abyme offers another level of reading to this already visually engaging diary.

    Like you Blas, I have been trying lately to let my mother language take more place in my work, and to use it as a sign if not as a language. I’d be curious to know how you deal with this in your work, if you have created other pieces using Spanish?

    • 9 March 2017 at 4:48 pm

      Thank you for your nice comments Stephanie 🙂

      Regarding your question about mother language, I keep my online learning blog in English, and although at the beginning I tried to use only English within all OCA related work, lately I decided to use Spanish in my physical notebook that it’s my first support for research and notes, and then translate them into the learning blog.

      Using my mother language allows me to be more thoughtful and go deeper in my reflections than using English, and it makes me feel more authentic and able to express a wider range of feelings. In assignment three of I&P I am going to use Spanish and Portuguese signs in some pictures.

  2. 9 March 2017 at 5:51 pm

    Robert, thank you so much for your analysis of my assignment three of C&N; I think this module of the course was key to gain conciousness of myself, and it offered me an opportunity to reflect about events of everyday life, considering how many opportunities were there to develop my personal view. It’s a pleasure to share it with other fellow students and OCA community.

    • Robert
      9 March 2017 at 7:12 pm

      You’re very welcome Blas.

  3. 10 March 2017 at 3:34 pm

    So much of this work appealed to me when when I saw the video on Blas’s blog – it still does on a further viewing (and listening). The handwritten pages being the major portion, with photographs seeming almost secondary yet not: reversing a perhaps more usual format where photographs have small captions. I very much enjoyed the harmony of writing, image and music working together to create something deeper.
    The occasional pat of a page speaks to me of a sense of satisfaction in having completed a day and then being ready for the next one, with that final pat seeming stronger, more proprietary.
    A lovely piece of work. Well-done Blas.

    • 12 March 2017 at 2:46 pm

      Thank you Catherine for your nice comments. Good reflection about the pats; some of them maybe should denote a satisfaction and ownership as you say; but the intention of the “Belgium pat” is to show my anger and sadness about the terrorist attack to the Brussels airport in April 2016, which socked all of us those days.

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