Instrument of Reflection: A Study in Smartphone Filming



The author Kevin Lee, an established producer of video essays on film and media, gives an account of a project to film a critical essay on a video installation work by Bill Viola set in St. Paul's Cathedral in London. The overwhelming majority of video essays are produced by re-editing found footage of films and media; what problems and special considerations arise when the source media can only be captured at a specific location? The video essay, co-produced with scholar Kriss Ravetto, involved on-site filming of Viola's four-screen installation Martyrs using smartphones. This was due to the restrictions imposed by the filming conditions. Kevin Lee accounts for Martyrs as a cooperation between institutions of religion, art, and tourism, whose respective ideological drives are manifested in the work and its presentation. Various cinematographic techniques for capturing the work are discussed, as well as considerations that arose from sensitivities over the shifting relations between the cinematographer, the handheld filming apparatus, the video installation, and other viewers of the installation. Kevin Lee reflects on the experience as a mode of videographic criticism performed as an act of live, real-time spectatorship, with possibilities of intervention in the work as a social experience.

Author Biography

Kevin B. Lee, Merz Akademie, University of Applied Art, Design and Media

Kevin B. Lee is a filmmaker and critic who has made over 360 video essays exploring film and media. His award-winning “Transformers: The Premake” introduced the “desktop documentary” format, was named one of the best documentaries of 2014 by Sight & Sound and screened in many festivals. Through Bottled Songs (collaboration with Chloé Galibert-Laîné), he was awarded a Sundance Institute Art of Nonfiction Grant, a European Media Artist Platform Residency, and a Eurimages Lab Project Award at Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. In 2019 “Learning Farocki,” was commissioned by the Goethe Institut. Kevin has written for The New York Times, Sight & Sound, Slate and Indiewire, and is currently Professor of “Crossmedia Publishing” at Merz Akademie, Stuttgart.






Alternative Methods and Histories