ZONE

US, 1995
8mins, Beta SP, NTSC, B&W

Directed, Produced, Written, Camera, Edited Laura Waddington

Premiere

The 25th Montreal International Festival of New Cinema, 1996

Synopsis

An experiment – filming without looking through a viewfinder, the camera attached to my body. I filmed it, in 1994, on a ship, crossing the Atlantic and created the story later on. Now I feel only the process was of interest and the last shot, a Filipino sailor, cleaning the decks at 4am. When, in 2000, the Rotterdam Film Festival commissioned me to make a video in a port, this image led me to make CARGO.

On the making of “ZONE

When I started shooting video, I was constantly comparing it to film so I made the decision to film without using my eyes for a few years, in order to unlearn my habits and assumptions. I bought a spy camera and sewed it into the lining of a traditional Turkish waistcoat, covered in small circular mirrors. By removing one of the mirrors, the camera gazed out at the world, unnoticed. Connected to a small 8mm video recorder in a pouch around my waist, it could record up to ninety minutes of tape.

I boarded a transatlantic cruise ship, bound for England. Wandering the decks, I learnt to frame with the movement of my body, my shoulders hunched over to prevent the camera from sloping up towards the sky. Fascinated by the blurred boundary between documentary and fiction, I wanted to see if I could create a fictional story out of randomly shot documentary footage.

related passage in “Scattered Truth”
 

Extract 1 of ‘ZONE: AN EXERCISE OF UNLEARNING TO “RE-ARM THE EYES

Both Vertov and Snow question the sensory apparatus of the viewer, proposing visual experiences that can no longer be associated with the conventional paradigm of the “natural” vision of the human eye, but rather experimental products derived from the optical and perceptual possibilities of the machine. However, this sort of imbrication between gaze and camera does not occur in analogous fashion in ZONE, where, instead, it is the body that becomes a diaphragm and carries out new possible forms of witness. The proximity of the video camera to the body, in fact, makes the hybridization between body, gaze and machine more complex compared to the relationship established by Vertov and Snow, where the capacity to see is delegated exclusively to the technical device, and it consequently ends up being controllable and predictable. Man with a Movie Camera, in fact, is the manifesto for a new cinema that leaves behind fiction and any attempt at entertainment, in favor, instead, of a didactic and educational practice for a reflection on the very means of cinema. La Région Centrale, conversely, is a veritable essay on perceptual potential. Snow’s camera reaches where the eye cannot, so that the visual experience ends up being almost psychedelic and immersive. Indeed, as Tomas writes, “La Région Centrale was able to trigger physiological effects that mimicked a body’s sensory responses to a gravityless open-ended three-dimensional space.” Although this cinematographic tradition, of the eye that becomes machine, constitutes a horizon of reference for Laura Waddington, it is still the corporeal component — absent in the aforementioned words — that significantly marks the documentary experience of ZONE. The adhesion of the camera to the body establishes a close relationship between the organic and human dimension and the technical one of the device, leading them almost to be superimposed. However, it is precisely this hybridization that results in the eye’s loss of control over the cinematographic act; if, in fact, in the cases of Vertov and Snow, the camera is a prolongation of sight, which amplifies its potential, Waddington entrusts the machine with every prerogative of the eye, which thus loses any control over the means. Vision becomes machine, certainly, but it is the body that governs the gesture, provoking a“defamiliarization” both in the act of seeing and in the act of shooting.
 
Cecilia Bima VISUAL GAPS: LOW DEFINITION FOR AN ETHICS OF BEARING WITNESS
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Extract 2 of’ZONE: AN EXERCISE OF UNLEARNING TO “RE-ARM THE EYES

It is on this point that Waddington’s work distances itself from the progress of Argus Panoptes, namely that it does not constitute an attempt to hide her gaze from other subjects, but, on the contrary, to execute a new way of exercising that gaze. It is the body that guides it, dismantling every habit of cinematographic practice.
 
“It would be wrong to suspect voyeurism in the use of a camera, normally reserved for spying. For what Laura Waddington is really tracing is her capacity to renounce her gaze and abandon herself to the movement of her body in order to produce a trembling of vision… a gaze that encompasses everything in a single gesture.”
 
Bouchra Kahlili’s words underscore the desire [of the filmmaker] to bring an end to the feeling of familiarity with which we treat the images and the act of documenting events, what, in other words, George Didi-Huberman calls an exercise of “disarming the eyes” — “il faut désarmer les yeux: faire tomber les remparts que l’idée prélable — le préjugé — interpose entre l’oeil et la chose.”
 
Cecilia Bima VISUAL GAPS: LOW DEFINITION FOR AN ETHICS OF BEARING WITNESS
 
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Press Quotes

“In ZONE the observing subject is the filmmaker herself, who travels on a cruise ship with a hidden camera. Here again the voice over sets the tone – a meditation on longing and loss. The voyage as search for identity is a thread linking all of Waddington’s works. The goal of the journeys are unknown and not important, what counts is the experience itself. The experiences are not made passively, the filmmaker becoming part of the stories and lives she films.”
Olivier Rahayel FILM-DIENST, Germany

“She does not stop there. She sets about methodically destroying this trembling image: she re-films the images in video, then breaks through the layers to get closer to the consistency of film. There is nothing redemptive in this re-working of texture. It is, in fact, the degrading of the original recording to better reveal the nature of its vision: impure, fragile and haphazard. This ceding of control is why there will be no fetish of the recorded image in the cinema of Laura Waddington.It is what allows her to make The Lost Days (1999) without having filmed a single shot.
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Bouchra Khalili, THE 51st OBERHAUSEN SHORT FILM FESTIVAL CATALOGUE

“At first, video was a way for her to overcome practical difficulties “While I was living in New York, I met electronic musicians who were making and distributing music out of their apartments. I felt that cinema would eventually move in this direction and that with a small camera, even if I couldn’t find production funds, I’d always be able to continue shooting.” With video, she says she wanted to “unlearn” the reflexes she’d acquired shooting film. By filming “without using (her) eyes” as with ZONE, filmed in 1995 on a transatlantic ship with a video camera sewn into her jacket.”
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Mathilde Blottière et Laurent Rigoulet, TELERAMA, France

ZONE (1995) is an experiment, an attempt on the artist’s part to reevaluate and deconstruct the teachings acquired during her education in the practice of cinema. More concretely, the documentary sets in motion dynamics that aim to dismantle and question the foundations of conventional cinematographic language;
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Cecilia Bima “ZONE: AN EXERCISE OF UNLEARNING TO “RE-ARM THE EYES

“Laura Waddington is afraid of flying: She doesn’t board a plane, ever (well, ever….). Instead, she travels by bus or train or ship – the latter, the most archaic in a lot of ways, being the locus of two videos, ZONE (1995) and CARGO (2001). The old-fashioned ways used nowadays mainly by those lacking the funds for luxuries like time… The world slows down like that while growing back again to an older yet more natural size. It’s 19th century redux, befitting an oeuvre with a social agenda which for so many of the airplane-internet-mobile-set, Today’s People, feels passé but isn’t for the majority of human beings on this planet, Earth.”
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Olaf Möller “The Days and Years of My Travels”

Stylized surveillance footage constructs a dreamlike narrative of desire and loss.
THE NEW YORK VIDEO FESTIVAL 1996, Film Society of Lincoln Center


Screenings

The 25th Montreal International Festival of New Film and Video, 1996
The 5th New York Video Festival, Film Society of Lincoln Center, 1996
VIPER International Film,Video and Multimedia Festival, Lucerne, 1996
The 8th European Media Art Festival, Osnabruk, 1996
The 12th Hamburg Short film festival, Hamburg, 1996
“In Person: Laura Waddington” Austrian Film Museum, Vienna, organised by Six Pack Film, Vienna, 2002
The 51st Oberhausen International Short Film Festival,  2005  (“Crossing Frontiers – Laura Waddington”)
The 41st Pesaro International Film Festival, 2005 (“Homage to Laura Waddington”)


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