The Summer School of the Visual was first carried out in 1997 under the organizational leadership of the Union of Cultural Societies Nova Gorica, an organization that deals with the field of social culture in the civil sphere even today. From 2000 on the organizational and executive headquarters of the Summer School of the Visual organization is with the regional branch office of the Republic of Slovenia Public Fund for Cultural Activities Nova Gorica. It is taking place in the joint organization with the Audiovisual laboratory of the Institute of Slovenian Ethnology of the Scientific Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts. The mastermind, head and mentor of the summer educational project Summer School of the Visual in Nova Gorica is Naško Križnar, PhD.
Placing the Summer School of the Visual to Nova Gorica, which is together with the neighbouring Gorica (Italy) a place that joins spirits of two different and formerly uniquely stigmatized cultures, is undoubtedly a contribution to the contemporary approach of coexistence of cultures and cultural entities in the European space.
Moreover, the relatively new university centre enables exchange and acquiring additional knowledge and represents a new source for the users of the school in the international space. Nova Gorica is the ideal place for knowledge flow from the Western European space into Eastern and South-eastern European space.
Last but not least, the orientation of the Summer School of the Visual is a guarantee for future efforts of the participants in the field of cultural heritage preservation. Together with the internationalization of the school we have been striving to achieve within the Central European space by including participants from Serbia, Croatia, Austria, Italy, Balkan countries and the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary for many years it also means learning about different cultures, diversity, cultural dialogue, multiculturalism. Student gathering within the Summer School of the Visual prompts multidirectional activities that enable recognizing love for one's own culture, love for fellow man by means of interest and learning about his culture and expresses desire for coexistence.
Organization of educational seminars on visual ethnography and visual documentation of social and cultural processes in two neighbouring regions with different entities of participants encourages tolerance and understanding among neighbouring societies and cultures. It enhances understanding, tolerance and cooperation in neighbouring regions and countries of former Yugoslavia. It diminishes cultural differences among regions and cultures. It promotes documentary video recording in the context of intra- and intercultural communication.
On its 10th anniversary Naško Križnar presented the Summer School of the Visual in a short essay, saying: "Learning at the Summer School of the Visual arises from the methodology of visual anthropology and ethnographic film but it is focused on the skills different sorts of visual products in the field of the so-called non-artistic film and video have in common. For this reason the summer school is attended by the students of social sciences and humanities along with all who would like to use their own visual products at their pedagogical, cultural artistic or research work.
At the Summer School of the Visual working with a video camera is presented as a special perspective of culture research. The contact of the visual medium with the research activity makes room for completely new aspects of culture and social environment. Let me just remind you of the field of non-verbal communication that can be recorded only by means of film or video camera. Recording gives cultural components new meanings we otherwise would not even be aware of.
The participants are trained for the production and analysis of rough visual material, which are introduced to them as two complementary processes. They are also trained for video editing as a way of structuring and forming the material into suitable forms of presentation. In the research filming there are a lot of such forms. At the summer school we get acquainted with a form of a short visual ethnography. The summer school stimulates the kind of a documentary film Toni de Bromhead, lecturer at a London film school, denotes in the following way: "It uses the same narrative techniques as documentaries but in its purest form it sacrifices the dramatic suspense and emotional identification for ethnographic information and descriptions."
It may be true that the main goal of the summer school is training in recording and editing skills but there is always a surplus of this goal. This may be what Luc de Heusch expressed as: "Film is a document from the reality point of vierw but at the same time it is art as well."
Jean Rouch's answer to the question about who he was filming for was he was filming for himself and that he was filming because film was the only way he could show others how he saw them.
For the majority of the participants the Summer School of the Visual is their first encounter with visual technology, the contents of visual research and the production of the visual. For most this is an important turning point in thinking about the possible approaches to research in humanities. The greatest contribution of the Summer School of the Visual is perhaps the formation of the mental turning point and the plan for possible alternatives according to the disposition of an individual and his needs.
To reach the predetermined goals the Summer School of the Visual experiences changes and improvements each year. The first year there were only lectures on theory and practice of visual culture. Next year the Summer School of the Visual was orientated to practice. The beginning of cooperation with Allison Jablonko, who has shown her loyalty to the Summer School of the Visual by participating seven times, represents the first major change. She introduced the workshop entitled Visual notes which in my opinion is the most appropriate for the notions of researchers who would like to use video camera in their field work. Her workshop encourages and strengthens conscious decisions about what to film and how. It also teaches us how to analyse and systematize visual material. Without this knowledge visual research does not exist.
The Summer School of the Visual used to start with the workshop of A. Jablonko and continue with a joint production of a short documentary film. It soon turned out that participants need a lesson on handling a video camera before the A. Jablonko's workshop because at the workshop they had to start filming immediately. This brought about Tone Rački's workshop on work with a small video camera. We have been looking forward to his workshops for seven consecutive years.
However, this did not solve all the dilemmas. The difference between the distinctively research oriented workshop of A. Jablonko and the following workshop on video production was too great. The first one emphasized the meaning of rough material and the possibility of its systematization while the second one taught us how to plan filming for editing and how to create media products, which was often mutually exclusive. Thus the workshop on documentary video production was turned into the workshop on research video production.
An important emphasis in the fields of visual research methodology and visual ethnography was given to the Summer School of the Visual by two visiting lecturers Beate Engelbrecht (2000) and Peter Crawford (2001).
A big step in the development of the Summer School of the Visual in the field of visual ethnography production was made by Metje Postma (2002, 2003) when she brought a learning model of a research film from Leiden University (NE) to Nova Gorica. After her a similar learning method was introduced by Barbara Lüem (2004). A special enrichment was brought in 2004 by the participation of Asen Balicki, the doyen of ethnographic film.
Up to the eighth Summer School of the Visual the production of visual ethnography was taught by individual visiting lecturers while in the years 2001 and 2005 it was conducted by Naško Križnar. From 20001 editing is taught by Miha Peče.
Contemporary structure of the Summer School of the Visual is close to the ideal model according to its goals, according to the duration of the Summer School of the Visual and according to the number of lecturers and participants. The first part is theoretical, the second cinematographic and the third, the most critical for the success of this school, production. The latter includes:
- formation of images with a small video camera,
- preparation of the filming plan (research),
- analysis and listing of material,
- preparation of the editing plan,
- product presentation.
However, the main "doctrine" or philosophy we have been sticking to from the beginning of the Summer School of the Visual is that visual literacy helps with more qualitative visual products in all visual forms.
The Summer School of the Visual has been developing from the technological perspective as well. We started out with a simple analogue technique in VHS, Hi8 and Beta formats and with analogue electronic editing. Today we work in a digital environment from filming to the final product.
At the beginning the participants were creating their final product under the guidance of the mentor while today they are divided into pairs, moving from workshop to workshop, from camera exercises to planning and production of visual ethnography. All the time they bear their theme in mind and with the mentor's help they learn to form its visual presentation."
From the establishment on a number of domestic and foreign lecturers have given lectures at this school (Asen Balikci, Rajko Bizjak, Peter Crawford, Roberto Dapit, Aleš Doktorič, Jože Dolmark, Beate Engelbrecht, Aurora Fonda, Silvan Furlan, Janez Hönn, Allison Jablonko, Hilde Kristin Kjös, Naško Križnar, Primož Lampič, Barbara Lüem, Amir Muratović, Miha Peče, Stojan Pelko, Metje Postma, Nataša Prosenc, Tone Rački, Mojca Ravnik, Borko Radešček, Janez Strehovec, Nadja Valentinčič, Zdenko Vrdlovec, Melita Zajc, Andrej Zdravič).
The Summer School of the Visual in Nova Gorica has been attended by 171 participants. In fourteen years 1176 hours of lectures and practices have been executed. The archive of the school comprises 57 units of videographic material. Numerous short films produced at the Summer school of the visual were shown at domestic and foreign festivals of documentary and ethnographic film. They didn't miss out on awards. All the films of annual production are first publicly presented at the end of the Summer School of the Visual. Film projection is also a condition for receiving the certificate upon finishing school.
The main sponsors and supporters of the school are the Municipality of Nova Gorica, the Republic of Slovenia Public Fund for Cultural Activities, the Scientific Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts. Occasionally organizers get additional sponsors and we have introduced tuition fee as well.
The idea of the Summer School of the Visual is based on the assumption that the skill of non-artistic video record can be the basis for the versatile usage of visual information in the field of research, educational and cultural activity.
One of the main purposes of the school is to transfer itself into the educational practice of visual research, mainly taking place in the field of humanities, especially in the field of ethnology, cultural anthropology, sociology. The participants are trained for the production and analysis of visual material and also by video editing as a way of structuring and forming material into suitable forms of presentation.
The educational programme enables a wide range of the interested and from the professional and social aspect heterogeneously oriented participants to realize their denied wish for fulfilment and approval, for fulfilment of the need for free time activities, after all the participants acquire knowledge that exceeds fulfilment of the need for a hobby and many are led to other and different vocational guidance.
The school combines the following educational elements: lectures, discussions, film viewing, learning how to record, material analysis, video film editing. Each of these chapters requires special theoretical preparation of the participants and practical training. When discussing and creating a theme, the participants work in pairs, thus the final product – a visual note – is a group but still author's work. The basic doctrine of the school has all these years been to teach the participants the basics of visual literacy, which contributes to higher quality of visual products in all visual forms.
As regards linguistic affiliation at the seminars of the Summer School of the Visual the lectures are mainly given in English, which is an additional aspect of the so-called lifelong learning and acquiring different usable knowledge that determines different successful or less successful business careers.
Education at the school is at university level and the participants come from different cultural, social and professional environments. For the majority of the participants the summer school is their first encounter with visual technology, the contents of visual research and the production of the visual. We cannot exclude creative components from the understanding of the context of the Summer School of the Visual, however, it does include a wide range of technical skills. After all, the ultimate and for the participants extremely important goal is their own short film with all the regularities of presenting the chosen theme in the form of a film.
Nova Gorica prides itself on exclusive specimen of visual ethnology notes of the town life, territory of the town, people and their stories through which the participants have been led by remarkable domestic and foreign mentors for more than a decade. 64 units of videographic material, stored at the regional branch office of the Republic of Slovenia Public Fund for Cultural Activities in Nova Gorica and at the Audiovisual laboratory of the Institute of Slovenian Ethnology of the Scientific Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, is a rich treasury of visual documents of an era, events, comprehension of things and frame of mind. Through the prism of infinity the collection of short films produced at the Summer School of the Visual in Nova Gorica will undoubtedly achieve the status of a museum object.
And instead of conclusion. The selected reflections of the lecturers and the participants say more about the Summer School of the Visual than any kind of theorization and enumerating information.
FROM THE NOTES OF THE SUMMER SCHOOL OF THE VISUAL PARTICIPANTS
Metje Postma, mentor (Learning basis of the visual in Nova Gorica, Bulletin of the Slovene Ethnological Society, 43/1, 2, 2003)
At the Summer School of the Visual we put more focus on field research and on studying everyday life than on studying research objects or visual media. The important characteristic of visual ethnology is that it takes "visual surface" (the term introduced by Allison Jablonko) as its starting point and the research object. This term could be understood as a part of reality of the way of life that can be observed and as organization of space and time of a community or a cultural group and what it produces.
In Allison Jablonko's opinion, paying attention to our inner commentary during filming and putting down our commentaries together with our observations after filming, these thoughts can help us understand our own motivations and questions when directing our camera. This process resembles the process Tone Rački probably had in mind when he said that we had to "learn to observe ourselves in the process of creating meaning and building our view during filming".
Tone, a professional artist, conducted exercises with camera. His first task was to teach the participants how to create logical "visual and time frames" in a film/video. We might say that his intellectual frame is mostly artistic or symbolic. He encouraged the participants to think about the way observing world around us reflects meanings and emotions in the mind and body of the cameraman. He showed interest especially for the philosophy of life and art. The ultimate purpose of a cameraman in this aspect is to communicate visual metaphors these images are creating to the audience. His exercises were mostly executed in practice, so the awareness about what this meant had to come from practice.
With this knowledge we sent the participants to the streets of Nova Gorica with their first task. We told them to produce visual notes about any situation or event that could, in their opinion, be interesting. They returned with different films: a waiter serving ice-cream to a guest; people taking their dogs for a walk; old men talking on a bench; a man talking to his friend while his child is in the pushchair; a man making pizzas; florists; people at the marketplace or while buying fish at a stall; a parking ticket seller; a ticket agent at the railway station.
Allison Jablonko, mentor (Time and visual notes, Bulletin of the Slovene Ethnological Society, 43/1, 2, 2003)
At the summer school the richness of the theoretical material is emphasized by the active attendance of the participants. During lessons they do not take a lot of notes but ideas are quickly realized. When? A small part of learning time intended for filming is by no means sufficient, especially when the participants are expected to make personal contact with people. After a few days the participants realize that they have to shoot early in the morning, between meals or late at night, depending on the schedules of the people they are filming. This year one of the projects was taking place at the railway station with the first train departing before six o'clock in the morning. The second project was filmed at a bar which came to life after midnight.
Everything went smoothly so far. But filming is only the second stage (the first one being breaking through the theory and history). The connection between these two stages does not manifest itself until the third stage - during watching films and the discussion. When is this supposed to happen? In the previous years, when there were not as many teachers, there was no time for watching current projects of all the participants. This year each team of five participants had to review their material, make a filming list and select films for the final presentation on their own. According to the high proportion between the teachers and the participants and the fact that there were enough television and/or LCD screens on video cameras the teams were able to work at the same time and the mentor could answer the participants' questions.
Albina Bobnar, participant (Listen to the elders and more experienced, Bulletin of the Slovene Ethnological Society, 43/1, 2, 2003)
I've entered the world of the visual through science and connected the society I live in with art. We worked in groups, in pairs. Sveto and I are completely different which proved to be very good when making of our film. After the first theoretical instructions of our teacher Tone Rački we both "chased" after films quite clumsily. Sometimes we didn't achieve the purpose of the exercise, another time the light wasn't right or the object wasn't right or we panicked about how incompetent we were. After the theoretical lectures of the Slovenian lecturers (Naško Križnar, Ph.D., Tone Rački, academic painter, and Miha Peče, art historian) and three days we dared to take a walk around town with the camera. Nova Gorica became the ideal visual laboratory, script, material for presentation of everyday life activities. As a woman I had the advantage of filming first. As soon as I stayed alone with the camera, I panicked because I couldn't film. My technical knowledge and handling someone else's camera respectively was terrible.
Nadja Valentinčič Furlan, mentor (Rose is a beautiful flower, Bulletin of the Slovene Ethnological Society, 43/1, 2, 2003)
In terms of contents we defined the project in three points:
1. the creation of the symbol of Nova Gorica and its meaning,
2. present functioning of the symbol (its occurrence and the level of the identification of the inhabitants of Nova Gorica with it,
3. the presence of the real rose in the town.
The principle ways of acquiring audiovisual information were filming the interviews and directed observation with a camera. We wanted to film a survey with passers-by as well but unsuccessfully – everyone was scared away by the cameras. But this deficit was compensated for in the interviews: three informants were already speaking about their experiences with the symbol and in the remaining five interviews we took advantage of the fact that all the narrators were inhabitants of Nova Gorica and we asked each of them for their personal opinion. The video film discloses the directness of their answers in this part.
Urška Flerin, participant (How to show that a motor is running with a soundless camera, Bulletin of the Slovene Ethnological Society, 43/1, 2, 2003)
Urša: The beginning of the Summer School of the Visual was curiously amusing for me. The ride to Nova Gorica with my colleagues went by fast. We were all full of expectations about what we were going to do and what kind of films we were going to make and we were also influenced by our classmates', who had already participated in the summer school, reports because their assessments were more than positive. On the way to Nova Gorica, just as he turned the key to start the motor, the colleague behind the wheel asked me: "Urša, is the motor running?" During the conversation we found just how many different senses we have for receiving information around us and how we could understand a message more wholly and with less disturbances if we used all our senses which is also true for working with camera. Nadja, why have you decided to come to the summer school?
Nadja: I've always been attracted to film. I've always been interested in the images on the film tape, the stories, the depictions of an activity ... even before I started studying anthropology. I've always wanted to learn how to film and the summer school seemed like an excellent opportunity to make this true. However, I have to admit that I wasn't aware of the amazing things one could do with a camera. Awesome. I didn't know anything about working with a camera but now I think I approximately understand how to start filming, how to approach people with a camera, how to film the material, analyse it and at the end edit it. I hope I can really do something like this at my work and that I will pursue this as much as I can. And you?
Nova Gorica, 27 September 2010 Maja Jerman Bratec
Sources and literature:
Križnar, Naško (2009). Images of culture in visual ethnography. Separate lectures at the Summer School of the Visual.
Križnar, Naško. Six years of the Summer School of the Visual, Bulletin of the Slovene Ethnological Society, 43/1, 2, 2003, pp. 98–-102.
Ten years of the Summer School of the Visual in Nova Gorica (2006), Republic of Slovenia Public Fund for Cultural Activities Regional branch office Nova Gorica
 Republic of Slovenia Public Fund for Cultural Activities is an important culture network in the country with rich experiences in organizational, educational, publishing and financial field as well as in the international space.
 The Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (SASA) was founded in 1938 and it is the supreme national scientific artistic institution. It joins scientists and artists who were elected members for their special achievements in the field of science and art.
 Ethnologist and archaeologist, researcher, author of numerous texts from the field of visual anthropology, author of prize-winning short film Piščal (The Whistle) about the famous archaeological find at the Divje Babe archaeological site, member of the international IUAES (International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences) Commission on Visual Anthropology, co-operator of the Ethnological research of culture in Slovenia and the Slovene ethnic territory research programme and head of the ISE audiovisual laboratory section. As a visiting assistant professor he gave lectures on Visual anthropology at the Department of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology of the Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana, and is currently giving lectures at the Faculty of Humanities in Koper as well as on Visual anthropology in the framework of Interfaculty postgraduate master study at the Faculty of Social Sciences.
 Visual ethnography is a form of visual production in humanities and social sciences - ethnology, anthropology, sociology - where researchers use visual technology for recording the culture of everyday life.