As contribution for the Out Of The Box exhibition at Vienna's Museum for Applied Arts we presented a case study that provides insight into a specific application of narrative methodology, in which we explored how one of Hollywood’s most prominent landscape icons – the Californian desert – is constantly rewritten and re-read through the stories of its people. Our objective was to produce nine short films based on interviews with a diverse selection of desert residents to explore how stories can be applied as medium of spatial production. To do this we conducted a four-step approach.
01 Spoken Word Recording
In the first step we recorded life stories of desert residents who told us why they moved to the Californian desert and why they decided to stay. This opened a wide variety of autobiographical perspectives of the desert's larger historical, economical and cultural contexts. As entry point to our exhibition visitors could listen to an original recording of a desert resident telling episodes of his life story.
02 Transcribing, Chronotope Analysis, Scripting
In a second step we translated the spoken word of the recording into a transcript and studied it carefully to identify how the narrative produces and portrays the desert as relational terrain of plot and place interactions. Accordingly we used Mikhail Bakhtin's literary tools (chronotope analysis) to extract the leading motives of these interactions. Then we developed new plots that portrayed the desert-landscapes for our desert portray story-specifically. To enact the narrative production of space we presented the real time typing of the script in the VERTICAL VIDEO PROJECTION 01. It introduces screen writing as versatile strategy to explore site-designs for purposes that may not have been considered yet although the stories for them already exist.
03 Building Environments From Script
Our goal was to develop sites for the quests of the storytellers that could also figure as identity landmarks. For this we developed site designs that took on roles in the script and envisioned them as existing desert locations. Then we constructed them as film set models. For the exhibit we realized the site of our case study in sand and clay. However, to question the viewers reference point of perception we projected an aerial photography of the model onto it and set it up as VERTICAL VIDEO PROJECTION 02 beside the animated script in VERTICAL VIDEO PROJECTION 01.
04 Filming The Desert Portray
In our final step we filmed the storyteller from an aerial view as he walked across the site and told his story. In doing so the desert slowly unfolds its meaning and allows the viewer to experience the narrative as interpretative medium of space. In the exhibit the movie was positioned beside the other projections as VERTICAL VIDEO PROJECTION 03.
This four step approach included three transformations between media – from spoken word to script, from script to film set model, and from the film set model to the documentation of its actual use by the storyteller which outlines our project’s field of research.