8 May 2014

Electric Blanket 1

"My good friend Sam Meech once said that a day without speaking to a pensioner is a day wasted. After five sessions working with the tenants in Liverpool Mutual Homes I am inclined to agree. There is something incredibly valuable and emotionally enriching in having the time to speak with older generations about their lives – whether it is fragments of time past come back in the form of anecdotes, or simple reflections of how simple idiosyncrasies define each person differently and give individuals voice in what can be quiet homogenized environments and lifestyles. The film I made together with the tenants is hopefully an effective gathering of these moments, and an expression of the innate value of people as they see themselves.

The Electric Blanket programme at FACT gives access and tutorials for using tablet technology to people at five different housing schemes across Liverpool. My role was to bring a creative exercise, to supplement the excellent practical grounding provided weekly by Jonathan Turton. 

With Laura Yates, Communities Programmer at FACT, I helped the residents use iPads to make short films of themselves talking about an object they have. The residents each brought in a special object and spoke to the camera about what it means to them, its history, and the role it currently plays in their lives. We then used an app to superimpose transparent images on top of the video, to create a simple digital montage artwork. So, as well as learning some practical skills – how to take a photo of the object, how to make a film of your friend, how to bring these digital files together as one film – there was a creative and expressive outcome.

The idea was to provide a quick and simple way into using the technology to create a personal record. To create a platform where an individual can express something true and effortless about themselves. While the films made by each participant required some learning and patience, I do think that each has a kind of effortlessness in terms of reaching into their individuality. Objects have this potential, and the manner of mixing them we chose is hopefully a reflection of this.

In line with the way I approach technology in my art practice, the application we used is not for making artwork at all, but rather for branding, or ‘watermarking’ video. This meant we could talk about how the misuse of different bits of software can create interesting creative opportunities. Perhaps this is a glimpse into radical opportunities which we will develop on with the tenants in the future!
The sessions were very vibrant, and full of the emotional resonance that comes when people talk clearly about their life – whether the past or present.  After each session, and the final showing in the Box at FACT, I came away with a deeper understanding of the potential of recording technology to add a new dimension to people’s understanding of their own value – and that of the people around them. This kind of DIY process contributes something which is very distant from mainstream media in this sense."
You can watch the video Nathan made with the residents here: https://vimeo.com/93400894