The videos in this programme share a simple methodology. They are unedited, raw digital files with diegetic sound, and without formal title pages. Their methods appear to be spontaneous improvisations, without a conventional purpose, as moments where the maker has found some meaning/inspiration/energy in their dialogue between camera and surrounding. And while approaches may vary, the videos shown here are connected through this record of a lived moment, the intra-action with the flow of the present in what appears to be intuitive/instinctual/organic. 

These characteristics sit in contrast to conventional film and video production, which often favours preparation of concept, and/or alterations through postproduction techniques. The videos shown here offer a different approach to this filmic paradigm. The handheld, responsive use of the active camera, capable of presenting its image within the act of recording, becomes a dialogue through the live feed display as a technologically imagined present. Film’s opaque production (the ‘black box’) renders filmmaker's unable to converse with their present in this way. Video may offer a means of engaging in the present through the lived dialogue of unstable elements in flux. 

Hearse#2, 2020, Zara Joan Miller

Deutsche Psalmen, 2020, Alex OB

Untitled, 2017, John Seth

Isolated Reeds, Sony Xperia XZ2 (II), 15:41, 24/03/2020, Walthamstow Wetlands, Amy Dickson (co-programmer)

If You Are Quiet You Will Find Poetry, 2014, Jessica Karuhanga

Spinning Shadows, 2013, Nicky Hamlyn

WhatsApp Video 2019-09-08 at 104203, Lydia Ourahmane

11., 2016, Jesús Ascanio

Waverley 1, 2016, Sarah Harbridge

Leaf Light, iPhone 7 plus, 16/01/20, Jamie Jenkinson (co-programmer)

Dandelion Movie, 2014, Usama Alshaibi

The unprepared and unaltered video recording—as those shown here—are often labeled “sketches” in their comparison to conventional filmmaking; a distinction that can shut down further consideration. The “sketch” can be understood as a preliminary idea to be realised with greater precision in the future, and/or the production of a likeness that is made quickly, and thus impaired by the speed of its recording. The (labour-)value of the sketch becomes temporal, awaiting development; as the past of an improved future. The “video-sketch” may then imply such preparation, of an upcoming scene or shot, or a test for something more substantial in the future. Yet this is not the original meaning of the “sketch,” coming from the Greek “skhedios,” meaning “done without preparation.” This premodern interpretation favours the present, in experiencing and engaging in nowness. While modern interpretations look toward a future determined by a past. 

This latter temporality upholds a Newtonian timeline, the same causal underpinning that spurred the Enlightenment’s worldview and the development of our colonial (post)modernity. Its linear time rationalises the future through the past, (pre)determining the present through a progress driven conservatism. And as we find ourselves in this future––surpassing the dates of science fiction in [cinematically] predicted pandemics and climate disasters––perhaps there is some justification in looking to the now, of delving into an experienced/extreme/deep present, in the possibility of living (rather than imagining) creative process through improvised video recording. 

Improvisation has a long and vibrant heritage in music and dance. These practices have the ability to engage in an experienced/extreme/deep present through ritual acts of creativity that appear to function outside the pressures of western sociocultural conformity (rationale, stability, capitalism). This ability to experience the present has been a source of inspiration to many, developing into futurist movements through such radical realisations of the present(s). Video has become a means of documenting the now, of experiencing present(s)––our own and of others–– which is a characteristic of its functionality, and different to film. 

Film is a product of Newtonian physics. Photons collide with silver halide forming silver atoms, to be chemically developed and stabilised, resulting in projection through photon-preventing grain. Each process has an intended future, from camera setup and shooting, to development and projection. The decisions of each stage implicate a future that is then gaged/rationalised/validated by their past. This is exemplified in the importance of pre and post-production in filmmaking; of preparing/determining the future, and/or altering/correcting the past. In this modern paradigm (also exemplified in conceptual art) the physical present is downplayed as a creative element, one that the maker/director/artist/other is not required to physically partake in. As they can conceive of it mentally, they can live their futures––disembodied and unbound by any present(s).

Filmmaking is experienced in this way, outside the present, as filmmakers cannot see the images being made in the manner they are to be seen. The filmmaker must plan/control/hope that the outcome is relatable to the intention, alter it afterwards, or (as embraced in experimental practices) play with unpredictable elements of chance in the future. As the videomaker can see the video as it is being made, experiencing the video as it will be seen, chance occurs in the present. Therefore, the videomaker is not required to plan/hope/control a future. They can engage directly in the moment in which the near future becomes the present; in what is being lived over what can be imagined.

Video is a product of quantum physics. Photons become electrons in the sensor, being read as voltages in the processor, and illuminated on the display. Using practical terms, video is processed, as an organising and imagining of present information. Film is developed, as a growth and progression into the future. While a simple distinction, it suggests how video can be used in a very different manner to film when considering present(s). Video’s automated processing enables control-free improvisation, while its integration into everyday devices allows for spontaneous recording. Videomaking can be lived, in a dialogue between maker, apparatus and subject within a present moment, without the need for a prepared past or intended future.

Newton’s concept of time predicted a present bound by a future-determining past. We now understand time as relative, multidimensional, and retrocausal; ideas that empirically disprove Newton’s linear model of progress. And yet, this Enlightenment worldview went on to justify exponential progress and the fetishised newness of modernity, as a linear model of time that remains embedded in much of contemporary creative practice. The present(s) in these videos can suggest an alternative temporality, where perhaps past and future converge through the present. Where Newton’s past traverses the present, directed towards predetermining a future–– that which has become our (still-impending) present––Video has the opportunity to slow down. To live in the current flow of the present, to value it, using methods that favour nowness over potential newness.

In the videos shown here, the makers—ourselves included—have chosen not to alter the recorded present(s). They may appear simple, “sketch”-like in their lack of past and/or future intentions; preconceptions that may be lingerings of the Enlightenment’s disinterest in the present(s) and fetishisarion of the future. Instead they offer an attempt to see present. This is not to prioritise one practice/method/temporality over another––there are wonderful works made from envisioning the future––it is rather to consider alternatives to a linear dependency on the future. Futures have become the product of those with power/privilege to create their future. These vids offer and experience of a now, and perhaps a means of finding ourselves and others within the same world(s), of connecting people, through methods that are simple, accessible and lived.