“Transmediascape,” with 8 film/video works of varied length and diverse methods, is one of the many great programs in the 12th International Women’s Film Festival in Seoul (April 8-15). Hana Makhmalbaf’s Green Days (73 min., HD, 2009, Iran), the first work I have watched in this program, has a compelling force which makes me want to spend more thoughts on what “Transmediascape” may mean. How does this idea help to provide a different angle to look at Green Days, my work Voices Seen, Images Heard, also part of this program, the line-drawing-based animated fictional saga of human civilization by Korean artist Song Sang-hee, or Siren Eun’s multi-panel, single-channel digital portraits of female Korean opera artists ‘enacting’ maleness with mainly posing and face-painting?

I’d like to begin by laying down my interpretive parameters of this notion.

“-scape”…the framed wide view

“Scape” (as in landscape, cityscape or soundscape) is a wide view of land represented in a picture. It invokes the language of physical geography. It is the formation of a spectacle which is a topological surface. “Scape” as a surface is a geography with variation in physical relief and resultant effects on the general human drama (and daily routine). While surface relief can be perceived as a general form, when zooming in, one finds a vast range of earth and rocks of varied textures, demonstrating weather and time effect by only the marks it leaves. A “mediascape” is such topological surface formed by different mediated aural-visual forms, each component amounting to very different cognition and perceptual experiences.

In a “transmediascape,” the (intended) deployment of multiple media/art forms allows a human condition, a subject matter, or a state of mind, to be articulated as a collage of multiple mediation. Each media element forms a unique kind of audio-visual texture, and a critical stance that is specific and possible only to that medium. A “transmediascape” in this sense is positive, assertive articulation of a position, at the same time a self-critique of the limit of each media element deployed. Traveling through a “transmediacape,” one enters an installation of how different mediated forms of representation compete to generate knowledge that is at once positive and contestable. “Transmediascape” benefits from incoherence and incommensurability and turns both into self-conscious strategies.

Green Days…head-on collision at fault lines

In the context of “transmediascape,” Green Days brings together a range of polemically commensurable media components that seek to merge and integrate only to arrive at fissures. Director Makhmalbaf puts together her work using four very different kinds of material.

The first is found footage on the YouTube, with which she ties in the presence of the grass-root, the pedestrian eye-witnesses, the passers-by who see and react with common sense humanness, or else raw fear at the outburst of terror. These are mainly images of the police beating up protestors and wounded victims in great pain.

A second sort of material in the work is theatre: the film’s protagonist, a young woman seeking emotional cure via participation in drama activity, is attempting to represent the unspeakable horror she and her generation experience. The scenes of rehearsal and improvisation visualize the rugged process to get the right dramatic articulation and modes of performance, but only in futility – as no conceivable performance method is enough to give a fair representation of their fear. Rehearsal and improvisation forms the very drama of working out one’s reasoning and driving away the demons of irrationality, the present continuous tense of the making sense of what’s incomprehensible, of finding a voice, the right kind of scream and a facial expression with the right distortion that only manage to sustain the act of endless struggle but to no avail.

The third is interviews. The young protagonist finds herself in the middle of the crowd and roaming through the streets asking all kinds of citizens who they would vote for – Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, or Mir-Hossein Mousavi. [to learn more about the election and the protests…] The interviews draw in split views. The talking heads are not only the heads that talk, but also the minds that think, the individuals who have an opinion and a unique voice. The free expression in front of the camera of who they would support, in my view, is also an irony of democracy.

The fourth element is the moments of the young protagonist’s confession supposed to be in psychotherapy sessions. While the psychologist is not much visible, nor are we shown the interaction between the expert and the patient, the confession is in effect a talking-head’s direct confession to the camera, thus the audience, an almost unmediated moment of raw articulation of desperation.

Each of the above four components could have been turned into an elaborate discourse of its own. Their juxtaposition maps a broad landscape that sets up the contrast and incommensurable co-presence of reason and loss of sense, the symbolic and the rhetorical, violence and terror, intense artistic pursuit with the maximization of aesthetic strategies versus the spectacles of raw cell-phone pedestrian eye-witness, and finally demographic broad coverage of citizens of different class background versus the very personal, private and psychological selves on display. It seems as if only endless utterances on all possible levels would be enough to get just closer to a possible critique of an impossible situation – a place where the political system itself rules out any chance of democracy.

I count none of the strategies above as pure aestheticization, but a necessary strategy to articulate the personal in the political. Had Makhmalbaf been able to take more time on work, would she have deployed as well the trope of Twitter and like social networking, which actually have resulted in the protests nicknamed “Twitter Revolution”? (Linda C.H. Lai)