Artist Statement

The main concept behind the works is the use of music and interpretation, along with the idea of reactions and sensations for the viewer. I have always been interested in making music, especially on piano and guitar. The works have centred on me as the main character, as this is a personal journey I have taken from Western music through to cultures that I had not previously explored.
Much of the work is presented through video, as this was the best way to communicate ideas and themes of performances. The guitar performance was based on my love of music, and the use of space and character, inspired by Vanessa Beecroft (Beecroft, 2017). This bought about the uncomfortable sensations for the audience, and the sense of unconventionality with the audience and me sitting in an art department, singing. This then led me into the works of John Smith (Smith, 1976), who captures the everyday movements people, and the making of Untitled [Singing film], whereupon people were filmed singing their favourite song in unconventional places.
Culture was then an influence upon the works as I looked into the makings of Chinese opera. Those such as Mulan Psalm (Mulan Psalm, 2008), Butterfly Fairy Tale (Butterfly Fairy Tale, 2015) and The Drunken Concubine (Drunken Beauty, 2013) heavily influenced me as I then produced my own opera in the spoken word. Masks in Chinese opera are specifically designed for each character, which colours and lines having a distinct meaning including white for treachery and yellow for ambitious (Ark, 2014). The design of my own masks reflects these meanings for each character, with my own characters having the characteristics of loyalty and ambition, painted in accordance of these rules. In the initial videos, Sylvie Fleury was a large influence as the speaker determined the character, much like in her work where the music determines this (Fleury, 2014).
Themes within Chinese music and opera include that of romanticism, manipulation and mistaken identity. The creation of the spoken word came from the appropriation of lyrics from songs including Zui Lang Man De Shi (The Most Romantic Thing) (Chao, 2012) and operas such as The Old Man in the Moonlight (“The Old Man in the Moonlight”, n.d.). Each of these contained the aforementioned themes and was individually performed to. Through these scenes, I wanted to create the sensation that the viewer was walking into something that felt personal, such like the earlier performance. This was inspired by scenes within The Cowherd and the Weaving Maid (“The Cowherd and the Weaving Maid”, n.d.) and The Old Man in the Moonlight (“The Old Man in the Moonlight”, n.d.), both Cantonese operas.
During the progression of these films it was found that there was little connection to the original theme of music, and the visual aspects of Chinese opera. With the inspiration of the operas Butterfly Fairy Tale (Butterfly Fairy Tale, 2015), English Monkey King (English Monkey King, 2015) and Lady White Snake (The Tale of the White Snake, 2014), traditional Chinese music and clips were introduced to my interpretation of Chinese opera, with the themes of personal romance and music. Moonlight Cord is displayed in a dark space for practicality and the sense of walking in to something personal.
 
Blog: www.charlotteabrahamart.wordpress.com
 
References
Ark, N. (2014). Beijing Opera Masks – Meaning of Colors Used in MasksNouahsark.com. Retrieved 2 November 2017, from http://www.nouahsark.com/en/infocenter/culture/art/opera_masks/meaning.php
Beecroft, V. (2017). VB84. Florence: Uffizi. Retrieved 14 October 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u49cjqsUP-o&t=4s
Butterfly Fairy Tale. (2015). China. Retrieved 20 November 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Plzcn2MbAfM
Chao, C. (2012). Zui Lang Man De Shi. Retrieved 12 November 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VmeM46a3IDc
Drunken Beauty. (2013). Retrieved 02 November 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GvE8cDVBi3I
English Monkey King. (2015). Retrieved 20 November 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=488&v=DFW5Ut-OIco
Fleury, S. (2014). Camino del Sol. Paris: Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac. Retrieved 15 October 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bn0wrbVtAqQ
Mulan Psalm. (2008). Wiener State Opera. Retrieved 2 November 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wWMB74odD5U&t=269s
Smith, J. (1976). The Girl Chewing Gum. Tate. Retrieved 30 October 2017, from http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/video/john-smith-girl-chewing-gum
The Cowherd and the Weaving MaidJordan: Popular Chinese Stories. Retrieved 13 November 2017, from http://pages.ucsd.edu/~dkjordan/cgi-bin/chopera.pl?taleid=Story211
The Old Man in the MoonlightJordan: Popular Chinese Stories. Retrieved 13 November 2017, from http://pages.ucsd.edu/~dkjordan/cgi-bin/chopera.pl?taleid=Story026
The Tale of the White Snake. (2014). Retrieved 20 November 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DIB0N6ZkoGI
 

Moonlight Cord Experiments

I decided to re-record my performance part for Moonlight Cord, as I had found I was a little nervous performing this time round. This then meant that my movements were smaller and more controlled, rather than the large, loose movements that I wanted to feature in the final product. I eventually found that I preferred the original video much better than the other two that I recorded, and therefore uploaded the original as my final piece for this project.

When recording this version, I was happier with the movements as they were more exaggerated. I wasn’t happy, however with the way in which this was recorded as I feel very much a second thought, being half way down the screen most of the time. This also meant that my face often did not match with those in the clips, unlike the original Moonlight Cord. It did, on the other hand, allow the audience to view the whole of the screen, as there was actions in all parts, as you were able to see the full extent of many of my movements. There was no slips of the camera either, unlike in the original version where you are able to see another person’s piece.

Within this version, I decided to record it in a different place, which unfortunately had less space. This meant that it was cramped between the camera and myself. The lack of space did mean that I was able to encompass the whole of the camera shot. On the other hand, it also meant that I came off camera shot a lot. This included my hands and a large part of my head at several points. I have also decided not to choose this version as my hair was loose, which is made very obvious at several points.
I had also accidentally left the beginning part of the film in, where it is supposed to be blacked out. I only realised this when I saw it played on my laptop through YouTube, which was a different screen to which I edited on. I decided to keep this as part of the piece as it showed the behind the scenes footage that you may not be able to see otherwise. I am also unsure as to whether this will actually show up when the video is displayed, but I have left that to chance.
Overall, I enjoyed the majority of this project and also where it has led me to. I did not think that I would do so many films, however through the process I have become very fast at proficient at editing each film. The fact that the films themselves got progressively shorter also helped this. I also enjoyed the whole aspect of Chinese opera as this is not completely conventional in Western culture, and I felt somewhat privileged that I was able to immerse myself in a small part of their culture.
Finally, I have decided to display the first of Moonlight Cord as I feel that this was the best interpretation to the themes I have produced through my work. I showed each version in varying orders to several people and they all commented that the original version was quicker, with better camera angles and editing. For more detail on this, visit my Artist Statement.

Moonlight Cord

After much consideration, and some playing around with Moonlight Dawn, creating a wide range of Moonlight Dawn Experiments, I decided to put all of these elements into one video. I adapted the script from Moonlight Dawn, cutting out parts that I wasn’t sure about when I initially wrote it, allowing myself to quickly create a final Script. This version was only three minutes long, compared to my initial Red Angel Chinese Opera, which was over seven minutes. I also kept the elements of the hair and the mask the same, as these were still portraying the character that I wanted.
I kept with the same music and video clips also as I found it very difficult to not only find other appropriate clips, but also to add them into the video. These clips were suitable to the story and the video itself.

I felt more nervous to perform than usual, and I feel that this may have effected the final piece. Arm movements were not as exaggerated as usual, which did portray some kind of shyness to the camera. I do, however, like the final video as the story and clips fit in well with each other. The sources for which I have used also fit in well with my own story line.

Moonlight Dawn Experiments

Once I got comments back on Moonlight Dawn, I decided to experiment with some of the suggestions on that piece, before designing a new one. One variation I decided to play with was the use of more Chinese music within the piece, as a background to the audio piece, and as an experiment of sound. After comments on Moonlight Dawn, I decided that I wanted more of a connection to Chinese opera and Chinese music. I added in more of the music that was found for the last piece, and adapted this to fit in with the speech and movements.

Playing around with the lengths of clips and mixing them together was interesting. This experiment video is sometimes particularly loud, and I would thus have to change that in editing. The progression of one clip to another, each that has been edited individually, has been covered by the speech, however this also partners well. I feel as though I would benefit using sound throughout the video. This also connects back into Untitled [Singing Film], and the use of music.
I also decided to play around with adding in clips from Chinese operas that I found on YouTube, in order to gain a sense of what it could look like as a final piece, and to have an experiment with video. I decided not to completely fade my own video completely out, as I often found that this would overlay straight onto another actors face. This effect also allowed audience concentration on images vary between the black and white Chinese opera, and the colour of my mask and actions, while also allowing the contrast between the both to be shown. These clips are from Butterfly Fairy TaleEnglish Monkey King and Lady White Snake.

I found matching the clips difficult with the speech, and especially that of the music in the background. It was also difficult to find clips within the operas that kept with the theme of having a single character within the grasp of romance. The clips that I found, I felt were appropriate for the video, and worked well in black and white. Colour contrasts kept the interest of the viewer and also showed the viewer what was myself, and what I had appropriated from other sources.
I then decided to mix these together to see the final effect of adding both more music, and Chinese opera clips. This was to ensure that there was a connection to the opera, rather than just having a Chinese-style mask and hairstyle.

I found this to be very effective and to convey my ideas across clearer than before. As these are simply small experiments, I would like to look further into clips that I can use, that fit in better with the themes. As in the second experiment, the constant of the colour, with the sporadic black and white clips, keeps the audience interested in the video.
In my next video, I would like to add all of these elements together; Chinese music, and clips of Chinese opera, in a shorter and more concise story, lasting around three minutes long.

Moonlight Dawn

The final edit of the film was made with music from Traditional Chinese Music, taken off of YouTube, mixed with my own Script, adapted from several traditional Chinese operas and music including; The Old Man in the Moonlight and Zui Lang Man De Shi – The Most Romantic Thing. The mask was used from the last film, Red Angel Chinese Opera, as I felt that these characters were very similar in their experiences of romance.
I found that I was happier with this final edit compared to the final edit of Red Angel, as this version was more Chinese orientated. This was due to the change in the hair style and the added extra of the Chinese music at intervals. I am, however, still slightly unsure of the video due to personal confidence of acting and work, and also the direction of which this could take until comments are made upon the work.

Comments on this piece included that it was still too long. People knew the classic love story, and were quickly finding it boring, and thus I decided on a three minute limit to my next piece. This keeps the story short and sweet, while also being able to add the necessary elements of the opera, without it being an overdose. I also wanted to add in more Chinese music in order to see the cultural effect that it has. Layering on top of this, I would also want to add in black and white clips of Chinese operas, in order to create a clearer link between my own piece and the opera scene. Lastly, I would like to try out the green screen in order to see if I am able to add this into my work, or whether this makes it more difficult to work with.

Red Angel Next Steps

To expand on the Red Angel Chinese Opera, I have decided to create another version. I would like this version to be one that is done on my own, as many of the comments about the previous version were about the male actor, his lack of expression in his movements, and how he was obviously wearing an Apple watch. I also felt more comfortable with the idea of performing alone for this piece.
The next opera-inspired poem I decided to write came from the heart, and was somewhat based off of some of my own experiences of love. This is the love of friends, family and partners.
While taking to Chinese Opera, and keeping within the themes and costumes that they design, I also had a look at Chinese love songs, and the way in which love is described in these. The songs included; Tian Mi Mi – As Sweet As HoneyZui Lang Man De Shi – The Most Romantic Thing and Yue Liang Dai Biao Wo De Xin – The Moon Represents My Heart. These three songs are all very calming, and contain romantic aspects without specifying love, which is an aspect I want to bring into my writing of my next opera. Once I had found small passages that I wanted to adapt, I was able to create a Script very quickly.
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I also felt that I could add music to the mix, allowing larger gaps between some of the speech in order to add in traditional Chinese music. After a long time spent searching on YouTube, I was able to find a 2 hour traditional Chinese track, which bought together over 10 songs, which I was able to pick and choose from. The first nine minutes of this is what I decided to cut into the video. I also changed the speed of each clip, in order to slow, or speed up the sound according to the position in the video that it had.

I decided to take a longer time to think about how I would present myself in the video, including masks, costumes and hairstyles. There was a decision to wear a plan black t-shirt, maybe long-sleeved as not only did I not have time to design, make nor buy an Chinese material or clothing, but also when things are performed off-stage in opera, their costumes are not as elaborate. I also decided to not use any props, as this was very difficult to use in Red Angel. I finally deiced to use one of the same masks as I used last time, as I wanted to portray the same character.


Hair was a large aspect that I needed to change from Red Angel to my new video, as previously there was no emphasis on this. I looked into Chinese Hairstyles, and found a Chinese Princess Hair Tutorial that emphasises the hair, without being overly extravagant – my character is not of wealth, and this is shown in the hair.

 

Red Angel Chinese Opera

I initially planned for my piece to be showing in one of the white rooms of the studios. My mind was quickly changed when I found that the image came up very clear in one of the dark rooms. The projector and speakers were then set up in here for people to view. I originally wanted to display the masks along with the video, however I felt that I could not find an appropriate space for this, and the audience can capture the meaning and beauty in the film.
Editing the video was very quick as the interpretive actions were done in time to the speech. This allowed me to understand the use of getting it right first time during filming, rather than pieces many parts together.
I decided on the name Red Angel as these are some of the most common words in the opera. It is also because red defines bravery, loyalty, positivity and prosperity in a character. The angel part is because they are divine creatures, much like the female character within the story.
Overall, I was happy to research Chinese opera, and I have found it very interesting, and that I would consider other ‘non-Western’ routes for my artwork. However, I also felt as though I did not enjoy this as much as I did with the other films I have done, and also found it very awkward at all points of editing and producing.
Below is the final edit of Red Angel, which can also be found on YouTube.

When showing this to the studio group, many of them enjoyed the speech, especially as this was only myself doing both parts. There were also many comments about how it was clear which character was speaking, even though it was only one voice. Someone did find this too long, and I would agree with this and I feel as though 6 minutes would be long enough. To improve upon this, I have been given the idea of making, or finding more traditional costumes, finding other people to perform (as I didn’t like the project primarily because of this factor), and making it shorter. Another way to present it would be to have it on a larger screen, like in the cinema, while having it on the loop with seats all around, allowing people to come in and out. A last way to present this is having a live performance – having two or three people do live acting while I speak into a microphone.I found these ideas really constructive and hope to get others involved in this project, which would be very fun.

Red Angel Chinese Opera – Planning

After researching about the different Chinese operas, the processes, designs and dance, and also looking at Bauhaus and their costumes, I went on to design my own opera.
I had several versions of a script, as I have always found it difficult to create stories. The Final Script is available in PDF form. It was based off of The Drunken Concubine and Mulan Psalm, both very influential Chinese operas. The story is of two people who fall in love, and wish to meet each other the next day in a meadow. The man did not turn up, and the lady turns bitter and sour, hatching a plan to deceive him into believing she is the best thing that could come around, acting as a wise gentleman. The man then repented for his sins, and asked the lady to be once again his. The lady is then pleased as her plan worked, but still aware that he may leave her once again.
I designed three masks for this; one for the lady, one for ‘the gentleman’/deceiving lady, and one for the man. I followed the colour meanings that the Chinese use, which can be found in the post Chinese Opera Masks and Makeup. I also took advice from Nouahsark about the layering and designing your own masks. There were simple costumes of plain t-shirts and a patterned blanket. This was inspired by both Bauhaus and Chinese opera, as they both have very simple, but often bright outfits. This was also done to keep the costs down. Inspirations for the masks/makeup are below:


The opera was filmed in three takes, as improvisation was used, much like Bauhaus used it in many of their performances.
I also ended up speaking the opera, concentrating on the themes and meanings. This was also because I was too nervous to sing, and I feel as though it would not have the same effect. Because this was spoken, it made the performance part much shorter, and I think I would have been a bit stuck if I had to produce all the choreography alongside the opera. Admittedly, I was also uncomfortable with producing an opera, especially compared with some of the other pieces I have recently completed. I did, however enjoy learning about another art form that I would not have normally considered.
I also wanted to try and fit in some elements of Bauhaus [Performance] – The Turn of the 20th Century, as I found these costumes and performances very strange but captivating, which is an element that I wish the opera to have.
My own designs are below.

Untitled [Singing Film]


My final edit of the film Untitled [Singing Film] was uploaded on YouTube, in order for not only easy access, but also as this is a useful platform to use for the artwork, and for the message of mine to come across. The piece was displayed by projector in a bit of a mess of wires – this was not the intended effect, as I would wish to have the projector and wires behind the wall, out of sight to the viewers of the piece. I also did not have the chance to warn people that they must take part in the film by singing along to at least one song, also making a different atmosphere to the piece altogether. I did, however, enjoy the uncomfortable atmosphere that was created when the piece was shown to the studio group, as this was unexpected. It is an aspect that I wish to continue through my work as this is an aspect I did not know that I could control with my art practice.


 

Performance to Film

From the performance, I wanted to recreate the moment that was made in the performance when the audience and myself were singing along to Someone Like You. This was a somewhat surreal moment as this is not something naturally done in the middle of the art department.
For this, I asked friends and family to sing and mouth along to their favourite and most meaningful songs in strange, or personal places. This included the songs of; Earthquake (Tiny Tempah and Labriynth), Someone Like You (Adele) and Changed the Way You Kissed Me (Example), and the locations of my mothers’ car, RUSU and down by the lake on campus. My mother also partook in this, and this generational gap, especially as she knew the words, was very motivational for me to partake in the video piece. This generational gap also allowed sentimentality within the piece, which makes it very much more personal for me, such as some of the songs within the piece to others. I also wanted to capture the singing as though I am a spectator in their lives, much like the artists Martin ParrMarc Isaacs and John Smith.

My plan is to mash these together into a five minute film, which when displayed, will be an interactive piece. There is no particular order that which I would like the clips to be placed, however I will have to listen to the songs to determine matching beats and lyrics. When people enter the room, they will do so knowing that they have to sing along to at least one of the songs that are played. If I had more time, I would like to be able to narrate a story of someone’s life, perhaps my own, influenced by John Akomfrah and his works.


While editing the film, I had to use several layers – more than I am used to. This made the process more complicated than originally thought as I accidentally kept deleting parts when adding new clips and audio in. This made editing tricky, however I utilised the maximum space available to edit in Adobe Premiere Pro. I was happy with the overall edit, even though I would have preferred to create something more along the lines of a 20 minute feature film.