The Monkeyshines series is a three part series created by the Edison Company to test their new invention. Each only a few seconds long, they are screen tests featuring a technician in a white lab coat making gestures. The reel for Monkeyshines No 3 has been lost. The series pre-dates The Black Maria.
“Understood in its totality, the spectacle is both the outcome and the goal of the dominant mode of production. It is not something added to the real world- not a decorative element, so to speak. On the contrary, it is at the very heart of society’s real unreality…” -Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle
In 1892, as a response to their invention of the Kinetograph and Kinetoscope (widely regarded as the first devices for the recording and viewing of things in motion), the Thomas Edison Company constructed “The Black Maria”, America’s first film studio.
The studio was an architectural enigma to its contemporaries. Featuring a retractable roof and Tar-paper cladding which when lifted allowed light into the room within. The earliest recordings such as “The Blacksmith Scene” and “Fred Ott’s Sneeze” seem to reflect the architecture in which they were created. To the point, raw and without embellishment. In a testament both to humanity’s curiosity and vanity, Edison’s Kinetoscope and simple, backlot films were instrumental in the launch of the first public commercial picture houses; the Holland Bros “Kinetoscope Parlors”.
Thus the love affair between filmmaking, commerce and the public had begun.
Unlike its predecessor, contemporary film is a rigorous discipline. It is highly edited, prescribed, often contrived and has aneconomic reach beyond perhaps even Edison’s imaginings. Its growth as a commercial institution is exceeded only by its social affect.
Films influence how we construct images of the world, and accordingly how societies interact with and within it. Why is it that despite the rise of the Anti-photoshop movement with regard to the manipulation of still images, do we as a society continue to allow for and accept the construction of utopic unrealities in film and television as the norm?
In an overexposed world saturated with imagery, is there value in raw footage or is manipulation a necessity in the communication of narratives and ideas?
Furthermore, why do we buy into material labelled as “reality” on the small screen so willingly despite the blatant signs of its fabrication?
This design studio will challenge accepted notions of contemporary film production as a planned and choreographed discipline by subverting the spaces in which it is created using techniques inherent in its making. The outward trajectory of the subversion of the institute must be considered.
The Brief is to design an Institute of Film and Production – a mechanism by which the ‘moving image’ and its role within society can be carefully understood, analysed, redefined and experienced. It is imperative that a hypothesis is developed through examining the cyclical relationship between the creator, process, product and audience of the moving image. You will interrogate the craft ‘behind the scene’, learn trade tricks and become experts in the art itself. Conclusions will take ‘centre stage’ in the formulation of your proposals.
As a response to the contemporary climate (Make it Australian Campaign 2017 and 2018 Hollywood Film Incentive) this studioalso encouragesa local focus. What defines the Australian Film Industry and how can we reinforce its identity?
In May 2018 , the NSW government approved a $207million investment in a dedicated arts precinct between the Harbour Bridge and Barangaroo. The site: The Cleland Bond Building (33 Playfair St, The Rocks NSW 2000), sits within close proximity. What relationships can be built and are there opportunities to further expand this initiative?
Lights, Camera, Action.