Week 20 – The Cormorant

I have recently been collecting film footage along the river for an audio story submitted by Sylvie. She speaks very emotively of her journey the river took her upon.

Sylvie first visited the River Otter in 2014 and very quickly became fond of the space. She would regularly travel to the area to enjoy weekends walking along the river and observing its wildlife.

She soon discovered the beaver family that had appeared on the river, and after hearing of plans to remove them, she became involved in campaigns to protest such a move.

Over the years, Sylvie has become more and more involved in campaigning for animal rights and more awareness of ecological and climate issues. The River Otter has been the catalyst for such a change in direction, and Sylvie feels the river has very much changed her life over the last five years.

I have been very compelled by this Story, as it represents someone who’s ideals and lifestyle have been altered by the river. This change in political and ecological views originating from the emotive prowess of the River Otter is, in itself, a story well worth telling.

To this end, I attempted to find a visual that would work for Sylvie’s Story, which would help an audience gain a feel for the journey she has been on. I found this one of the more challenging visuals to develop, as such representation in visual terms is not as easy to reproduce.

I looked at a range of options, from abstract views to open vistas of the river valley. I also considered a more macro-based focus showing insects and other invertebrates. None of these worked as well.

I had considered abstract views of the beaver, but for the duration of this FMP, the beaver and otter family were not to be seen.

In the end, I decided to use a selection of footage I have recently recorded. That of a Cormorant sitting on a log. This seemed, to sum up, the journey that Sylvie had taken, as she found sitting on the riverbank observing the natural world passing by as her most favourite pastime.

The Cormorant seemed best placed to represent this due to the position and length of time the bird is present. At the time of recording, it was noted by some passers-by that he was posing for the camera, which I found worthy of note.

It does feel that, in order to achieve an impact within a local audience, Riparian would need to consider the visual side very carefully. The works are being produced as part of my FMP for my MA. As such, a specific angle on contextualised visuals linked to an audio narrative would be needed.

However, this approach may not necessarily work for a local audience, many of whom would be wanting to see footage of wildlife and familiar river scenes, including the allusive – such as the Otter, Kingfisher and Beaver.

This notion strikes me as it pushes me into a dilemma. Effectively the need to produce work for my FMP is essential, and that the work has to be of a contextualised and metaphorically based gaze upon the subject. This represents the work that I am enjoying creating.

Effectively the FMP work I am attempting has the focus of finding the Signified within the image and achieving a subjective reaction within an observer.

The public exhibition, on the other hand, could go down a more objective route and end up with visuals that orchestrate the Signified – that simply highlighting what is there already.

This second route is very interesting to me as it would indicate that I am no longer producing work for my own interests and ideas, but creating work specifically for an audience. One whose objectives, interests and levels of understanding are known and understood by myself.

In many ways, I am now starting to understand the challenges faced by practitioners such as Mathews, Kander and Kechun, where they have created works that they enjoy, but have then developed their practices to produce images that the audience also can participate in.

I feel this dual ability is something I am still developing as I find only producing objectified views of the river is not something I wish to do. I believe my aims to gather stills and images from more unique angles will better respond to my plans to create more emotive works. I am also now considering how I can achieve such works and still gain audience interaction.

I have now started to think about an exhibition for my work, and this will be a question I ask myself a lot over the coming weeks.

Sylvie’s Story can be seen below.