Using the Camera

Workshop with Dr Christina Papagiannouli
Dr Christina Papagiannouli from the University of South Wales led a workshop with the students focusing on the use of the mobile phone camera. The workshop consisted of two main activities:

The first one involved walking around the room but looking only through the phone's camera. As a result, the visual field was considerably narrower and our visual connection with the space around us was mediated through looking into the phone's screen. We did the activity twice, first with our own phones and then with the phone of a partner. Whereas the first time, the activity brought attention to the particular way of seeing and moving into the space that emerges when one looks at the world only through the phone's screen, the second time the activity brought attention to social attitudes around the ownership of the phone. How does it feel to find material on our phone that we did not record? Some of the footage generated a sense of the uncanny as the recorded material demonstrated the very same event that we all recorded but at the same time each recording was unique. In the footage recorded by others, we would find ourselves part of the event, whereas in the footage we recorded we were nowhere to be seen, as we occupied the space behind the camera. There was something around the portability of the phone that was also underlined by this exercise. Since the activity we were all engaged in filming was the very situation of the group walking around the room, we soon began to play with different ways of holding the phone and different relations between hand-eye-space.

For the second activity we split in smaller groups. In each group a person offered themselves to be filmed, and the rest of the group could move around them and film any aspect of this person from any angle. Again, this created an enhanced sense of looking, almost prying and invading tacit rules as to where, how and to what extent we are allowed to look at each other. It also generated a sense of self-consciousness on behalf of the person who offered themselves to be recorded, as several little cameras were moving, zooming, and capturing even those parts of one's body that are inaccessible to the person (unless one works with mirrors). The second part of the activity was concerned with composition. All the phones were placed at the centre and were simultaneously playing the footage. The group was allowed to change the position of the phones in response to the composition that was unfolding in the little screens. Playing back side by side the material we had just recorded allowed the emergence of a body in the making, with the recorded images sometimes creating the illusion of a complete or at least unified body and other times only showing fragments in complete disarray.