Michelle has 9 post(s)

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In Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times, the factory scene where the Tramp transitions from his task of turning knobs to other activities interested me. After such repetitive, mechanical action the Tramp has a difficult time performing new actions. I was interested in the idea of how the Tramp had done one single action for so long that he becomes a single-action automaton. In regards to daily life, I wanted to express how humans have a tendency to repeat the same actions in the same way. Our hands become accustomed to moving in certain ways that we are not usually aware of. In my video, I wanted to expose the automaticity in our movements by removing the hand from its usual context. I also wanted to express the idea of neuroplasticity, or how our behaviors ‘wear grooves’ in our brains that form habits. Therefore I chose to perform these isolated movements on a blank piece of maleable clay. Beginning with a sort of tabula rasa, the end result are imprints on the clay that come from the repeated actions of the hand. The hand has a difficult time transitioning from one action to another, as the Tramp continues to twitch as though turning invisible knobs.

{ 10:03 pm

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PDF: frontdesk_script2

 

 

During my experience working at the front desk in Carr Haus, I’ve been interested in the way those who enter the building interact with me, if at all. The way I’m situated, sitting and still in the space, versus those who are in movement and with a destination in mind, creates a different sort of interaction that other places on campus. I’m also working as “the person at the front desk” rather than just a student, which also leads to different greetings than in other situations at RISD. Therefore, I experimented with greetings during two shifts. In the first, I smiled at each person who came through the room. In the second shift, I smiled and said hi to everyone who came in. I recorded their responses.

With this information, I thought more about how greetings are scripted. We resort to basic expressions and words to greet others (primarily strangers) because this is much easier than coming up with a more original and potentially risky way of initiating contact with another human. I translated the recorded dialogue into a script format, bound in a small book. I am the character “FRONT DESK” and the people who come through are “PERSON”. Actions are recorded in parentheses and the direction they are going (to the Carr Haus cafe, the student lounge, or the offices upstairs) are recorded through stage directions (Stage Right, Stage Left, and Down Stage respectively). I separated the three sorts of reactions I got from people into three Acts. The first, No Contact is for those who ignored my greeting. Act II, Recognition, is for those who made eye contact and some sort of facial expression. Act III, Greeting, are the interactions that included a conversation between FRONT DESK and PERSON. The amount of each reaction is mapped by the length of each map.

 

{ 4:57 pm

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I find it interesting that there is only auditory dialogue in this film when it comes through technology. In the beginning, we see the head of the factory in his office, yet we don’t hear him speak until he comes on a screen. Only when he is in this 2D form is he able to speak. He is also more powerful in the video-call form, since he can see everything in the factory, including the bathrooms. He barks orders such as “Section 5, speed her up, four zero one”. This is a very mechanical order that doesn’t make sense to someone who isn’t familiar with the factory’s organizational structure.

Only having auditory dialogue come through technology has the effect of dehumanizing the characters. The boss’ commands sound much more authoritative coming through overhead speakers rather than face-to-face.

When the representatives for the Billows Feeding Machine come in, they don’t introduce the machine themselves. They set up a record player to play a prerecorded explanation of the invention. Creates a distance between the representatives and the machine, as well as between them and their potential customer. Makes the technology more human whereas the humans become more mechanical.

3:10 – boss man on video call (section 5, speed her up, 401)
3:20 – overhead speakers, not seen
4:50 – section five, more speed, 4-7
5:40 – hey, quit stalling, get back to work
6:55 – explanation of Billows Feeding Machine through record rather than the representatives. even more distancing.
14:00 – bossman turns around in his chair to video call camera, section five, keep to the limit (?)

For the rest of the movie, dialogue between characters that are in physical presence of one another is signified through dialogue intertitles. It begins with a factory worker saying “He’s crazy!” when Chaplin’s Tramp character tries jumping into the machine to keep turning the knobs. When dialogue is necessary, the film uses these intertitles.

14:40 – ***when a worker says something, it’s in a dialogue card “He’s crazy!” rather than actual sound of voice.
19:15 – doctor says, but through dialogue card “Take it easy and avoid excitement.”
20:43 – “so you’re the leader” dialogue card of policeman, when arresting chaplin for starting protest
30:14 – “Take them away.” government workers say, when taking the Gamin’s sisters away.
30:35 – “where’s the other girl?” when she runs away, policeman asks
34:33 – “Well, you’re a free man” jailman says to Chaplin
34:45 – Can’t I stay a little longer? I’m so happy here.” Chaplin says to jailman.
34:55 – “This letter will help you to get work. Now make good.”
35:57 – “Find a wedge like this” Shipbuilder says to Chaplin
37:44 – “She stole a loaf of bread” Baker says to police
37:51 – “No, she didn’t – I did.” Chaplin says
38:10 – “It was the girl – not the man” lady says to baker
40:45 – “Remember me – and the bread?” Chaplin says to gamin
41:42 – “Now is your chance to escape!” Chaplin to gamin
42:41 – “Where do you live?” Chaplin to gamin
42:46 – “No place – anywhere.” Gamin to Chaplin
43:23 – “Can you imagine us in a little home like that?” Chaplin to gamin
45:12 – “I’ll do it! We’ll get a home even if I have to work for it”
45:47 – “The night watchman broke his leg.” man on street
48:11 – “Look, I can do it blindfolded!” Tramp to gamin

There are moments in the film where the Tramp character goes to the extreme and by doing so, acts more like a machine than ever. The first instance of this is when he has his nervous breakdown in the factory. It begins when the Tramp takes his first break. While walking away from the factory line, his arms still twitch in the same motion he’s been doing. In order to get out of this repetitive motion, he stretches. It happens again during lunch, when he picks up a bowl of soup and flings the contents out because he keeps flicking his wrists. It’s as though his body has been programmed to do one task and has a hard time becoming human again. Later on, after he jumps into the machine in order to continue turning the knobs, once he comes out, he’s fully in his mental breakdown. He’s almost this automaton with one set action. Twists anything resembling a knob:
noses
nipples
buttons on the secretary’s skirt
fire hydrant
another lady’s hexagonal buttons

During his breakdown, he is like a broken machine performing the wrong functions as well as the correct function to such an extreme that it causes chaos.

Runs around, pulling levers and turning dials that damages the machine.
Broken machine to broken mind. The environment treats the Tramp as a one-function machine, so much that he, as the worker, becomes it.

Another time in which the Tramp becomes like a broken machine is when he is in jail. He has a hard time fitting in, among others as well as within the orderly structure of the prison routine. He doesn’t know exactly how to march or sit down for lunch on time. After accidentally sniffing cocaine (nose-powder), he becomes an extreme version of this, but more robotic. He spins in circles while walking and walks in the other direction. All the while his motions are in sync with the other prisoners’ militaristic marches, he goes in the wrong direction. Machine performing the wrong functions again.

 

 

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9by9grid

 

 

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