Monday, March 06, 2006

Collaboration: Shared Thoughtography and Sonic Hauntologies

To paraphrase a straightforward question I got from Steve Shaviro, who I first met while writing my experimental novels in the early 90s, as part of the Q&A session right after my recent visiting artist presentation at Wayne State: "What's the difference between writing on your own and making new media art works in collaboration?"

To paraphrase myself, I answered by saying that I thought collaboration was liberating in that it gave me an opportunity to network my practice with others, oftentimes virtually, and created a work that resonated with the others I was "intersubjectively jamming" with.

To elaborate, performing in a shared headspace of hyperimprovisational co-creation, one that feels like it takes place in asynchronous realtime, opens the work up to external influence, but an external influence that is being parallel processed internally by all of the players, one that creates its own operating context and that hacks into what I thought was my own methodology but that now gets me playing (moving) differently. This is bound to happen in any open playing field of composition, and when the operating context becomes a productive headspace for the players to lose themselves in, it makes the overall experience an enriched social performance (which isn't to say that there are not logjams, miscues, failures of/in communication, etc., but the sediment of the social experience in total almost always feels more relevant than playing solo).

Think of it as multi-linear, experiential tagging. Or how about "call-and- response" parallel processing?

Shaviro's follow-up question was: "What makes a good collaborator?"

To paraphrase myself again, I tend to focus on the shared sensibilities of the players I perform with, and like to take into account how the specific backgrounds and interests of the collaborators might inform a particular work. In a work like FILMTEXT, it was a common interest in what we termed "digital thoughtography" and the blur of the otherworldly, that informed our asynchronous, creative jam sessions. And after talking with Shaviro, I realize there was also an innate connection all throughout the creation of FILMTEXT to what some are calling "sonic hauntology" (in French, hauntology and ontology are somewhat indistinguishable in the way they are spoken and, in fact, the former term was introduced by Derrida in his book "Spectres of Marx").

Of course, this collaborative or group energy happens in filmmaking all the time, at least when it works. It's really the job of the arthouse cinema director to help conduct the networked energies and performances of the various collaborators who contribute to or otherwise supplement the creative process the director envisions as necessary to make the work come to life.

Since I have started my new "Foreign Film Series", I have come to see that the creative flow of real "indie" movie-making is very similar to the earlier experiences I had working on my new media trilogy, particularly when it comes to the constant inmixing of what we still call production and post-production. Oftentimes the creative work process challenges the artist's ability to orchestrate this all-important collaborative or group energy (in the case of film, just think of the sheer amount of time it takes to raise the funding for any serious feature-length film, to locate the cast and crew, secure the locations, shoot, edit, develop a unique soundtrack, etc.).

Although, to further mix things up, what's the difference between movie-making, new media producing, and creating elaborate works of video art that mimic other aesthetic processes that digitally manipulate the data like any hactivist would?

Some would say the materiality of the medium is at issue here. But for me it's all about the capturing and manipulating of the meta/data. I did it in my early novels too.

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