The Moving Image Lab

Experiments in film viewing atmospheres.

2 designers, 3 contributors

4 installations/screenings, 2 exhibitions, 1 film festival

Boston, MA + Istanbul, Turkey

Status: CLOSED

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The Moving Image Lab is an experimental audience and film studies project initiated by SPACE. The idea of the Moving Image Lab and the corresponding book project descended on Farida Amar and Seyda Aylin Gürses at the London Heathrow Airport while they were waiting for their return flight to Boston from Istanbul, one fine December day in 2009. Amar and Gürses, decided to take the risk of achieving no significant results at all, and start a series of screenings and discussions on carefully selected films, incorporating sensory enhancements to the existing environment where these films are viewed. They were especially curious about how this manipulation would affect the audience during their viewing experience. How the re-thinking of film viewing atmospheres - the removal of predetermined seating arrangements, changes in volume and temperature, the installation of spatial design elements that confront our visual vocabularies and sense of texture, and carefully considered tastes and smells - could break down walls and barriers between the people in the audience and also between the film and the audience. The auto-ethnographic analyses of these experiments, the resulting exhibitions and a compilation of the audio and visual documentation transformed this study into a multimedia project. Overall, the book and the experiments to be conducted may assist us in producing constructive, solid suggestions to the industry, artists and alternative film societies with regard to film viewing practices.


Questions:

  • How can atmospheric designs customized for a particular film influence an audience’s experience and understanding of and their ability to relate to the film?
  • How does this perception influence their decision to participate in typical contemporary film viewing environments such as movie theaters, film festivals, or screenings in parks or gallery spaces, and interacting with other members of the audience?
  • How would the film industry be able to attract and influence more people to gather in public spaces to experience film as a shared experience rather than downloading it online and watching it at home? In relation to that, for which reasons would the film industry be willing to explore alternative ways of attracting and influencing audiences?


It is critical to first ask if contact or connection with film is ever desirable between the viewer and the viewed. We wanted to observe and challenge the political, social, personal, moral, etc. alliances or detachments that define us as viewers when we encounter cinematic devices by designing the atmosphere in which the film was experienced. We believed that the cross-disciplinary approach of film and multimedia installation artwork - which have power over our sensory mechanisms and thus our experiences and our association to our environment - might be the only way to build that very connection. And so, we designed The Moving Image Lab in order to test this belief and challenge our own hypothesis. In doing so, we allowed the audience from each of our screenings to provide feedback, reactions and responses to our expectations by placing them directly into these sensory storytelling environments without pressure, giving us honest, direct results at a human level. And what we learned from the viewers was beyond our expectation, proving that yes, designed sensory environments can help audiences relate better to film, but even more, relate to one another. Breaking down barriers between strangers in the name of film. The majority of our audiences began to interact with each other during the screening and chose to stay after in order to participate in a moderated discussion which sometimes lasted for hours.


One of our favorite moments of the audience interacting with each other and the film simultaneously, occurred during the Moving Image Lab screening of “Grizzly Man”. Reacting to Timothy Treadwell with all sincerity, our audience was completely engulfed in this man’s desperate attempts to be part of the lives of the Grizzly bears. They were caught yelling at the image of this man, as well as each other at various points throughout the film; forgetting about all the manners we as a society have come to accept while movie-viewing.


We, as the creators of the Moving Image Lab, knew we had crossed into the chaotic human realm of artistic experience. We had broken down the invisible walls separating the projection screen and our minds, and created a unique experience where the audience could not just see the film, but feel a part of it. We learned that people will want to endorse an industry which provides environments which they cannot experience at home or online.


In collaboration with atmospheric architects and visual artists, we build complete installations within which audiences experience idiosyncratic film viewings. We take into consideration not only what they see, but also what they smell, taste, and how they hear the film. What colors and materials, lighting design, and food best bring the film to life. It is more than 4D cinema, it is literally a step into the story of the film itself from the moment you walk in.


Over the course of multiple discussions from both of these labs, we developed a research approach that we call collective auto-ethnography. This method and its design reflect both how we used our own lives, views and data, as well as our commitment to a shared, communal process. We understand our team of contributors to this study comprised of not only the creators of the program but our participants and followers as well. The discussions after the screenings were digitally recorded and transcribed verbatim for analysis. The analysis of surveys filled out by every audience member is being conducted simultaneously with on-going conversations. The transcriptions and survey results will be coded and added to the chapters that are being drafted for the final report, which will be released in the form of a published book. This spirit will continue into the layout and design of the book, creating unconventional visual and reading experiences that allow the viewer to engage and participate with the content.




Project logo.
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SPACE logo variation for The Moving Image Lab.
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Experimental film screening.
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Experimental film screening.
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Moderated discussion after one of the the experimental screenings.
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Image from an exhibition.
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Image from an exhibition.
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Domesticated Film Festival poster.
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Using Format