Field Notes From A Mine
"Field Notes From A Mine" is a cut-up film of an abstract documentary on different routes and areas of North African nomads, a collaboration between Tom Tlalim and Martijn van Boven with input of V2_Lab. It premiered during the IFFR 2012.
How to make a documentary about data? The process behind this film was inspired by developments in the field of data-mining. In this emerging field, meaning and patterns are harvested from vast collections of data. Technology in this field is used to find meaning, or narrative context in otherwise unintelligible lists of numbers. Meaning is being “mined” from the raw data. But how does it look or sound? The starting point of Field Notes From A Mine is that technology and its products are unavoidable in our culture, and has now become an operational space.
During the making of this film software was created which renders image and sound from virtual walks through data. While observing the output materials, a critical distance and look for narratives within it is taken. The footage was intensely observed and mined for traces of a refrain, of memory, patterns, residues, blueprints or echoes. These output materials were treated as documentary footage or as if they were field notes taken in the dark during an excursion into a world which has no image or sound.
Field Notes From a Mine is a documentary about a data environment. The film is computer-generated and has no concrete material, except for the data set which is organized as a map. The data is a list of cities, villages, oasis's and unnamed places in North Africa, and the paths between them. These paths were used as pilgrimage routes between 1300 and 1900 C.E.*. This data set was chosen for its evenly-distributed spatial quality, like a network or a grid. This map worked as a placeholder for the audiovisual material of the film, and for geo-referenced data which was collected and used to produce these materials. The data includes national borders, records of geographical and weather conditions, pictures, color schemes, and ethnomusicological analyses of regional music.
The twenty minutes long timeline of the film follows a single route across this map. The route starts from a place without a name in south Sudan, and moves through the continent all the way to Marrakech. As the film advances, the points at which a border is crossed become important catalysts. During the twenty minutes of the film, 6900 kilometers are travelled and ten national entities are crossed. Each crossing is the start of a new part in the film. This temporal construction illustrates the artificial presence of borders within the continuum of the continent, while it also strengthens in the broadest sense, the opposition between a discrete and a continuous approach with relation to space. These are also embodied in the relation between digital and analog technologies used. This is why it was important for Van Boven en Tlalim not only to record an immersive reality of spatial transformation and movement, but to also engage and spend time with the static gaze of the border, in its rational demarkation of the space being covered. The border is therefore not merely seen as an obstacle, but as a parallel world where a parallel life and development takes place.
Field Notes From A Mine premiered at the IFFR 2012 as part of the Tiger Award program (short films), for which the film has been nominated: www.filmfestivalrotterdam.com
World wide distribution goes through NIMk, Amsterdam.