Hackney Girl Artistic Statement

'Hackney Girl' (2003) is a DVD Rom for Windows by Ian Flitman that explores new narrative structures in digitally expanded cinema. It can be viewed one to one via the computer screen, or better still, be data-projected for a more communal cinematic experience. It also exists at a lower resolution on the website www.blipstation.com.

The piece is a video-wall diary describing the artist's journey from Hackney, London where there are significant immigrant populations of Turkish extraction, to Istanbul in Turkey where he decided to live. It is a love story documenting the artist's involvement with Hackney Girl's eponymous heroine, Yasemin Güvenç, a Turkish actress, who went back to Istanbul to work.

Still from Hackney Girl showing video-wall arrangement of movie clips

A central theme is that of environments and the people that populate them. As such it is a visual meditation on place and displacement. The camera thus follows the people who inhabit the scene as well as the scene itself. Each time you walk in a place like Hackney Marshes, the weather, the people and the path you take all conspire to give you another version of the same story: a walk in your environment. In effect, each time you play Hackney Girl, you get another walk.

The work draws on a visual library of nearly 600 stills and over 550 short movie clips to present this visual collage of static shots and moving images that also end in a freeze photo frame. This along with the three by three grid of alternately filling and emptying screens provides the piece's staccato rhythm.

There are of course key shots always included to keep the narrative direction clear. One of these is Yasemin asking the artist the difference between 'environment' and 'surroundings' in English. There are 76 variants for the question and answer alone and this excludes all the surrounding graphical parameters of the shots of Istanbul buildings, and environs.

The story is dynamically edited at runtime producing an endless variety of cuts and differently nuanced versions of the same basic narrative. It is impossible to see the same version twice. Each film can last between 12 and 18 minutes depending on the shot selection determined by the computer. Thus it also explores the new possibilities of narrative in digital mediated film. Our memories like the piece itself constantly reselect and exclude events to transform our past anew. It should be thus seen twice for its unique properties to be appreciated and understood. Then the act of viewing becomes something else: an exercise in pattern recognition.

The piece poses questions both about editorial control and the possibility of random access memory archived in a self-determining yet rule based form. It quotes sources as diverse as Freud, Bubba Sparxxx, Turkish Pop Cinema and John Keats. The stills below show how lines from the Romantic poet’s Ode to Psyche which encapsulate the work’s central aesthetic are visually quoted. This clip appears in the scenes from Columbia Street Market where the different species of people and flowers are captured in all their incredible variety:

Stills from Hackney Girl movie clip quoting Keats

Hackney Girl has been shown in over a dozen media art festivals and galleries around the world including FILE in Brasil, EMAF in Germany and won the Best Narrative Award at the Flash In The Can Festival in Toronto in 2004. It is also on several university reading lists including MIT as a work of reference regarding non-linear narrative in film. The artist is now based in London.