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.