Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Text That Wouldn't Go Away

TEXT is making a comeback. Not that it ever left, but as some folks decry the loss of good literature to the ghoulish corporate types in the publishing industry (myself included), TEXT has been relocating itself in the wireless networks, in blog space, in net art, and most exciting of all in cinema space and live performance space too.

In 2001, my collaborator Chad Mossholder and I performed a "live writing DJ event" in Lucerne as part of their Surf-Sample-Manipulate festival. The idea was to project live writing by moi while Chad created live sounds using the DJ program Live, with most of the sounds he was manipulating having been sampled from scenes we recorded the previous 48 hours practicing dérive in Lucerne. Since I always try to improvisationally write out my creative work while listening to experimental audio, it was as if I were back in my studio fingering my keyboard, but this time I was doing it in front of a couple hundred Swiss hipsters.

There are other examples of this kind of "live writing" style and it sounds like my forever-awake colleague Alan Sondheim, who has been innovating new forms of art for - what is it? 40 years now? - is combining live subtitling with his DV mix as part of an exhibition in L.A. called em/bedded. I love the idea of live subtitling, and am beginning to investigate other new media developments in the emerging fields of improvisational cinema and assembled cinema. The latter term I picked up (like a virus) from another colleague who is forever-awake and shifting into new zones of flight - G.H. Hovagmiyan. G.H.'s assembled cinema reminds me of what another colleague of mine, Tjark Ihmels, calls generative cinema, a style of database-driven narrative that he employed for his recently released Posing at Three-Thirty. Believe it or not, similar ideas to these were floating through the intense discussions we were having around the making of GRAMMATRON back in 1993-1996. For me, until the networks can really handle the smooth (i.e. glitch-free) HD data that emerging HD-DVD technology will be able to accommodate, I am still going to look at both the net model and the shiny plastic model as well.

Then there is the best of the video art blogs too, like this one from the Wizard Behind The Curtain, Doron Golan. And what about Sustainable Story Systems? Re-mixable films as live performance? As the good folks at Mod Films speculate:
The key will be the exploitation of new means of leveraging film assets instead of throwing them away after a film is released. In this way films can become their own commercial production libraries. Re-use has never been a focus of film-making but it is fundamental to exploiting creative potential in any industry. In order for film and interactive productions to work better in tandem, there has to be a shift in perception. The film print is now only one part of the master.
I would have to agree with that. In fact, the film print isn't even an issue unless it seems like a worthwhile investment. Rather, the artistically-generated "source material" can be used across a variety of media platorms and genres. I did this with FILMTEXT where the DV source was used for a net art work, a museum video art installation, a series of VJ performances, a wide range of digital prints, and a PDA art exhibition.

But now I'm already getting off-subject again (and isn't interesting as I attempt to revitalize TEXT as art material, I end up talking about cinema, video blogs, and VJ performance?). TEXT - like the kind that makes its way into the intertitles of the midsection of Hou Hsiao Hsien's Three Times, is making a comeback as a narrative-driver across the media spectrum. It's even happening in literature per se, especially those writerly text experiments being conducted out in the fringe press scene, many of which are listed here.

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