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<nettime> re: Cinema
Alan Sondheim on Sun, 18 Jun 2006 23:49:04 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> re: Cinema


Making a general reply, in regard to cinema, digital, analogic, or 
otherwise::

First, There is _no_ cinema; there are discursive practices, fields of all 
sorts, with fuzzy boundaries, technologies that come and go, labors and 
energies that drive them. 'Cinema' itself already connotes style, 'seri- 
ousness,' formal and overdetermined histories, a viewpoint which already 
tends towards its status as the 'dominant form' of art in the 20th 
century.

I submit there is no dominant art form in any century; this is what art 
historians do: make dominance. For whom would cinema be dominant in this 
manner? What demographics? Is this the result of polling? What is cinema?
Perhaps rock is dominant? The novel and proliferation of literacy in 
general? Street theater? War? Disease?

Second, perhaps you know more conservative or media-bound people than I 
do; almost all the interesting work (video, qt, flash, etc.) I've seen 
online is done by people without a film, or for that matter, a digital 
video background. Someone will say or write, 'I've done a piece in quick- 
time'; they don't say they're videomakers or filmmakers or web artists 
(well, sometimes) or net artists (that phrase already seems overdeterm- 
ined as well with such a short 'history'). And they certainly don't say 
they're 'quicktime artists' or some such.

Even 'film theory' - Metz for example - works as well with avatars, online 
behavior, MOOs, performance, being onine or offline. Film theory did 
interesting turns back then as theorists themselves increasingly blurred 
the boundaries of their subject matter until everything inside and 
outside media was encountered.

I think distinctions should be dropped at this point; they're rotted! 
They're rotted because of the effects they continue to have - on universi- 
ty departments (what is and is not acceptable), on granting organizations, 
on distributors, on both online and offline venues. I give an example of 
my own work, obviously closest to that. I do laptop performance, have a 
show up now with video and computer projections, video and computer moni- 
tors, my online work splashes across a variety of media (defined in terms 
of applications), some has been interactive, some not, some has deliber- 
ately broken down, some seems to play forever. When I apply for a grant in 
category X, I'm told the work doesn't 'fit.' I'm not the only one in this 
situation - if I was, it could be nothing more than pathology, idiolect. 
Most artists I know - some from video, some from film, some ab nihilo in 
terms of background - run into these problems. In other words, definitions 
a priori carry power, carry the _cut,_ exclude by their very nature.

(I should add this is particularly true for artists whose work is primar- 
ily online (one way or another): this is where all those issues of 
intellectual property, history, grants to the ephemeral, come to roost. 
And schools generally respond to all of this by rear-guard creation of new 
boundaries, divisions; it's interesting as well to see what is 
academically acceptable and not acceptable in terms of online publication 
- this continues to change, as academies hold onto non-Wiki/blog bound 
objecthood, even in the absence of material, i.e. paper, production.)

This isn't anything new; it's out of Foucault obviously. But the problems 
persist, as if humans today have to learn how to _look_ again, without the 
cultural baggage that leads eventually to connoisseurship and all the 
problems that entails. And 'cinema,' 'cineaste,' has, one way or another, 
been deeply embedded with, in bed with, the connoisseur.

If I believed in manifestos, I'd be screaming: Down with Definitions! 
Destroy All Cinema! Learn To Look! (but then I'd be already imitating the 
old Destroy All Music festivals which produced some of the most interest- 
ing performance, sonic or otherwise, that I've encountered).

Finally, at least in some areas, for example net art, the very use of 
distinctive terminology carries arrogance and (cultural) power with it - 
again, whose net art, what history, etc. etc.? There are probably well 
over a billion online at this point, and as Tom points out, everyone is 
making video, but also everyone is making everything; in the midst of the 
misery of the planet, creation is bursting forth. So there's a political 
agenda to my reply here: Online, let the URL or whatever, telnet, ftp, 
etc. etc. take you to unfathomable places where you're lost, challenged, 
surrounded, exhilarated. And leave the old forms, whatever they are or 
were, with whatever histories, far behind. Even if one is bound to 
recreate the past, it's _new._

- Alan


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