Film: Driver; Passenger
by Beauchamp Art
This video depicts a short drive returning from the coast as the light of the light of day slips under the horizon and the illuminations of street vehicles begin to erupt under the darkly blanketed sky, engulfed in the uneasy tones of a worrisome drone, drowning the sounds of the scene in disharmony. This was produced earlier on in the project, primarily as an editorial and atmospheric exercise, but the aesthetic of the video was fairly rewarding to work on, and the audio produced an interesting ambience that transformed music into noise.
Editing the footage was not too time consuming, though as this features figurative imagery (and a linear progression, from light to dark) compared to the abstract imagery I often use (although here there was a definite desire to focus, in some of the clips, on the ‘abstract’ or geometric ford within the frame, alternating between nondescript lights and clearly defined junctions), a different approach was required. Some sections of the footage were filmed through the windscreen or side windows, other parts used the reflections in the mirrors, whilst other featured a mixture of the driving figure with the landscape moving outside behind him.
The clips were all imported and laid out in full within the timeline, from these I then selected particularly interesting or successful clips, avoiding having too many similar clips, and placed them in sequence. Initially, I intended to keep them in chronological order, but as this produced too much repetition, I decided to break this ordering, but attempt to keep a sense of continuum irregardless of the actual deference from the real passage of time. Digital stabilisation was used to compensate for the vibrations of the car and the unmounted camera, which was balanced on some surfaces in one clips, but otherwise was simply held in hand. The colour of the footage was adjusted, the dark areas were crushed so they were solid black, with the blues and reds increased in saturation and each clip individually adjusted to provide created aesthetic continuity.
This was set to a distorted version of Deftones’ song Passenger and a soundscape produced in response to the atmosphere of the journey. This featured sections of the song, particularly the percussion-less instrumental introduction, slowed down dramatically, with a discordant descending tonal sequence and a single chord held for the entire length of the video. The key selected was intended to coincide with the cadences of the main piece of music, but also disrupt them, creating disharmony and an unspecific tempo.
Indeed, the slow droning music and muffled internal audio taken from the original footage is suggestive of the opening sequence for a film and could have easily been accompanied by a credits sequence, or a poetic reinterpretation of the format (having quotes, phrases, etc). This gives the impression that the film is building to a climax that never comes, the destination is not shown, but one is suggested by the presence of the GPS screen towards the end. But for the viewer, the car/camera is simply moving through place, across the “non-place” [Auge, 1995] of the motorway.
The road itself is a place without meaning beyond its function as an in-between of two places, one of departure and one of destination; the car nor the road itself is not a destination, it is not a ‘place’ but a ‘space’ to be occupied in order to reach a ‘place’, somewhere to be embodied. Much as the static between television channels is not the spectacle to be glanced at, not the remote the object to be revered. Though the power associated with it as a tool to direct attention is comparable to the car’s power to direct the body; both seek to move the self in one form or another, which puts the individual in charge of this direction in a position of power; as they have the power to initiate feedback, to more actively engage. Those without the steering wheel, or remote control are passengers, passivity only overruled by an engagement though the authority figure whom acts as a medium between the passenger, interaction and the outcome.
The car also creates a sense of inertial for the individuals on board. As the vehicle is moving, we, the driver and passengers, are static relative to the vehicle, but are moving relative to the Earth (similar to the sense of standing still on the plant whilst it flies through space; we do not experience this sense of speed, as the velocity affects the superstructure, not the individual body). Much as the political body can be given a sense of power of change by offering reform and revolution, but revolutions tend to revolve; the proletariat may obliterate the bourgeois and become the new bourgeois, rather than overturn the overall hierarchical system.
(Nevertheless, the hypocrisy at the route of such contradiction could be seen to reveal that that there applies one set of rules for the bourgeois and another for the proletariat; reflecting how the bigger the crime, the less likely there is to be a conviction. As Goebbels (not a figure often associated with liberal discussion) pointed out “The English follow the principle that when one lies, it should be a big lie, and one should stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous.” Tell the people that they are oppressed by the Human Rights act – as the current Conservative Government is – and it seems so erroneous, so maliciously malformed a concept that there must be an undercurrent of truth to it, or it could not be supported even momentarily. If they were to overturn the Human Rights they negate their own Right to Life, not that I am encouraging violence, just pointing out that they should be held to their own standards – though not necessarily a measure of rope.)
Furthermore, the interplay between the GPS as digital interface, a graphic representation live-mapping the real world through which the driver navigates, is offset by the windscreen as the transparent media through which the viewer gazes. This could be seen to reflect the imperfect supposition of the growth of omnipresent viewing, such as that offered by ubiquitous computing, presenting itself as invisible, embodying the notion of “a transparent interface […] that erases itself, so that the user is no longer aware of confronting a medium, but instead stands in an immediate relationship to the contents of that medium” [Bolter; Grusin, 2000: 23-24]. Digital media wish to present themselves as un-mediating, so they fold into the wider perspective unnoticed.
However, this perfect continuum is currently unattainable. With a dream amnestied in the interface between night and day, nocturnal inter-face between the divides of the 24-hour cycle (such as is feature in the dusk-to-evening setting of the video) thereby presenting a greater experience of the ‘real’ than the digital rendered forms. Thus, “total visibility is media processed, it is a construction. In reality we have, as Peter Weibel once noted, zones of visibility and zones of invisibility” [Gzinic, 2001: 16]. With the GPS screen in the periphery and the rest of the world going past, transforming the mount between three-dimension space into a temporal experience, the physical movement across a surface reflecting the movement through time. The role of the passenger becomes one of vicarious passivity, it observes the movement but takes not direct role in its management ore manifestation.
GPS systems in and of themselves are fairly interesting devices, as their position depends on clock and the ability to tell time to the smallest possible unit, relying on atomic clocks that ping back with such regularity they make clockwork look practically Pagan. It is the time it takes for a message to be sent between the devices and two or more satellites that is used to triangulate the position of the vehicle and to subsequently relay further information, potentially at the expense of seeing the world immediately before the driver; whom may see the road before them and know a clearly defined route but the authority of the voice of the GPS compels them to take a turn the wrong way up a one-way-street.
As the maps and topographic information is dehumanised and rendered in dumb words for the listener, the cognitive dissonance between what is seen and war they are being told leaves them ignorant to their immediacy and to put their faith in the machine over themselves. This may become problematic when the same principals are rolled out across the wider (wealthy) world. As Auerbach observers, “we will define and regiment our lives, including our social lives and our perceptions of our selves, in ways that are conducive to what a computer can ‘understand.’ Their dumbness will become ours” [Auerbach, 2014]. The world becomes banal, individuals function unquestioningly, order is total(itarian), the populous submits to the meritocratically superior machines because they know best, we are stupid and should do as we are told. Then the driverless car heads over a cliff, all the passengers are cremated alive, dumbly content.
The video was influenced by the slow, contemplative, low-light nighttime neo-noir driving sequences from films like David Lynch’s (1997) Lost Highway, Nicolas Winding’s (2011) Drive, whilst hinting at a predominately dark aesthetic offset by distinct light source, such as is used in Ridley Scott’s (1982) Blade Runner. Though whereas they seek to use the drive as a visual narrative device, to give a sense of plot progression overlaid with the protagonist’s contemplations, this merely meanders through the motions, offering the viewer a lazy eye through which to stare in banal fascination as the momentary spectacles of sporadic dazzling lights and the contradiction of kinaesthesia and stasis offered by the locomotive experience as seen through a camera’s lens.
Having re-examined this video, I then decided to include a short title section, with DRIVER PASSENGER and BENJAMIN S. BEAUCHAMP place on three separate lines, all match in width, with slightly increased kerning to space the letters wider, a discrete blurring effect the letters and a slow zoom, set over a section of the video that had been righted for the text to show up through, set against solid black.
Though unlike the films that follow this, notable TFHDR, the titles are not immediately at the start – similar to the Feedback video, where there is a dark pause either side of the titles – but rather at the end of the first clip, featuring out of focus car headlights, which is itself a bit of a cliché, which is being used from a self-aware stand point, but does not transcend Modernity to enable a Post-Modern critically, besides in this subsequent annotating. It is not subverted, but used consciously.
Moreover, at the end of the video, when the video jumps slightly (due to the image stabilisation reading the passing car as a movement of the frame) a distorted television effect was applied. This was intended to remind the viewer of the medium’s lack of transparency rather explicitly. However, this was seen as too explicit, so i decided to refill the image from the screen, slowly pulling the camera back to reveal the bounders of the frame, with the distorted TV subtly added on in the final few frames.
This refilming of the conclusion could be seen to draw attention to the act of mediation, positioning the viewer behind a more overtly layered landscape. This may suggest that the windscreen of a car is comparable to a television or computer screen, with movement and transition observed and directed, but the moment is never felt, until the journey comes to a close, abruptly, as a crash; a vehicular glitch on the information super-highway, or gradually, as the destination is reach, and the presence of the mediate slips out of focus.
The viewer’s synthetic locomotion abruptly ends. Through the window, through the GPS, through the screen, the viewer crashes through the chair behind them and head-long out of out the back of their skull.
Stills from the updated Driver; Passenger film.
- Auerbach, David (2014) The Stupidity of Computers. N+1 Magazine (Online) <http://nplusonemag.com/the-stupidity-of-computers> Accessed 4.3.14
- Auge, M. (1995) Non-places: Introduction to An Anthropology of Supermodernity. Verso. London.
- Bolter, Jay David; Grusin, Richard. (2000) Remediation: Understanding New Media. MIT Press. Paperback edition. London, England.
- Gzinic (2001) Interaction: Artistic Practice in the Network. Ed. Scholder, A. and Crandall, J. Eyebeam New York