The Untamed – Pechakucha

So the first exercise, the videographic pechakucha, I found curiously both quite restrictive and almost too open, though I think this is very much by design.

Basically, once you’ve identified your source (in my case, two episodes of The Untamed), then you need to find 10 six second clips, and set them against 1 minute of uninterrupted audio from the series. The exercise description doesn’t specify what guidelines you might use to choose the clips or the audio—and so you can be as free-wheeling or as rule-imposing as you choose as you set about the process.

I actually struggled with this quite a bit at first, and made an initial pechakucha that I didn’t share (okay until now, I’ll link to it here just for the purpose of comparison…). My initial instinct was to use the audio from the opening sequence of The Untamed, in which we hear of the myth of the notorious Yiling Patriarch (who actually turns out to be our lovable and not really that fearsome main lead, Wei Wuxian) told through gossip and through a teacher’s lecture. I thought it would be interesting to juxtapose this gossip/myth making with intimate or daily moments of Wei Wuxian’s life that showed him to be more human and less devil incarnate/stuff of legends.

BUT I ran into a problem that had everything to do with my (trans)cultural situation as an English speaker, non-Chinese speaker, as well as with the distribution of The Untamed. The only video files that existed had the Chinese hardcoded into them, and if I wanted my English-speaking audience (and myself) to understand, I would need the English subs as well, which I burned in so both would be visible. And then on top of that I wanted my audio selection to have subs too, so that the remixed visual and audio could speak to one another, so I created those subtitles myself. This amount of layered audio-visual information (my own manual English subs for the audio, and the Chinese and English subs for the video) turned out to be serious information overload for my test viewers, and also warred with my vidder aesthetics, where I’m always seeking out the most HQ, least busy, logo-less, sub-less source I can find. In the end I had lots of ideas in mind with these juxtapositions, but the video that resulted really just felt like a hot mess.

So I went back to the drawing board with a more instinctive approach. I let myself leave out the English subs and crop out the Chinese subs. I realized that I could engage with those transcultural layers elsewhere—that not every video had to do everything. And I turned back to the spirit of the exercise, which seems designed to let patterns emerge from the source itself and to maybe more intuitively see what limitations you yourself bring to your clip choosing process. This time, I chose audio that was instrumental only, no dialogue, and I chose clips that felt like we were sweeping in and out of the show, high angles and low angles, long shots juxtaposed against close ups, for a sense of movement. I really like what resulted—I felt like it conveys a sense of the series emotional range and thematic and visual preoccupations, all compressed into that 1 minute.

And if my initial version wanted to juxtapose the grand myths being told about Wei Wuxian with his more human reality, then really my preoccupation with the sweeping and intimate found its way into my pechakucha anyway, just more intuitively through my formal choices and through the makeup of the source text itself, rather than through didactic intent.