Wednesday, July 05, 2006

VJ Greenaway II

As VJ Greenaway himself said when giving the Cinema Militans Lecture in 2003:
Cinema died on the 31st September 1983 when the zapper, or the remote control, was introduced into the living-rooms of the world.

Cinema is a passive medium. It might well have fulfilled many of the expectations of an audience of our fathers and forefathers prepared to sit back, watch illusions and suspend disbelief, but I believe we can no longer claim this to be sufficient. New technologies have prepared and empowered the human imagination in new ways. There is, as we all well know, brand new audiences out there who make up not just a television generation, but a post-television generation where the characteristics of the laptop are persuasive and generate new demands and create new benchmark standards. The ideas of excessive choice, personal investigation, personal communication and huge interactivity have come a long way since September 1983, and the act of cinema has had to exist alongside and be a partner to a whole new world of multiple-media activities, which have all intrinsically metamorphosed cinema itself. Interactivity and multimedia may well be words that are too familiar anymore to be truly attended to, but they are certainly the major contemporary cultural stimulants. How will cinema cope with them, because it surely must. If the cinema intends to survive, I believe, it has to make a pact and a relationship with concepts of interactivity, and it has to see itself as only part of a multimedia cultural adventure.
It's funny, but when I released FILMTEXT in 2001, I had no idea this was also on Greenaway's mind. There were hints of these kinds of developments around the time of the opening of my net art retrospective at the ICA in London, where I met Mike Figgis who was then premiering his movie Hotel at the ICA as well. I remember telling Figgis how excited I was by his previous work Time Code (a crucial instance of hyperimprovisatioinal cinema) and we talked about him performing live cinematic remixes of his movies (VJ Figgis). Now his production company has created a six part interactive urban music drama premiering on PSP Handheld, Channel 4, 3 Mobile, MTV UK, and MTV BASE.

About a year after FILMTEXT was released, there was the Future Cinema exhibition at ZKM and although it was an important survey of expanded forms of moving image art, it did not include the likes of Greenaway or Figgis (it still felt too arty and tied to the museum, i.e. very installation-based). FILMTEXT was on their radar, I know, because one of the curators expressed interest, but in the end, internal politics killed that possibility, and cinematic forms of net art were hard to contextualize (as they still are today).

But back to Greenaway. For the theoretically minded, there's the "Opening Peter Greenaway's Tulse Luper Suitcases" cluster of "readings" at image&narrative:
The creation of a new media language in The Tulse Luper Suitcases takes shape at different levels, leading to a case of macro-micro-mirroring. At a macro-level, Greenaway has chosen to expand the project over a network of different media, from three DVD feature films exhibiting Luper's story to different websites explaining the project and developing the myth further, tracking the changes, reworking footage and even incorporating earlier Greenaway projects such as the The Falls documentaries. The project also encompasses visual workshops, TV-programmes, CD-roms and CD-rom-like guided tours on the internet (the Weblers-site), exhibitions, an online game, stories written by Luper, an opera, and a book. In its structure, the project mirrors Scheherazade' s network of stories - a reference that is made obvious by the 1001 days that the Luper Network Site will be under construction. Somewhat like the tales, all media refer to the others, overlapping in their use of material, reworking it or taking over a thread that has been left dangling somewhere else. What is most striking is thus not the sheer diversity of media involved in the project, but their compatibility in turning the Luper myth taking shape through the network into a coherent yet dispersed whole.

At a micro-level, each medium is marked by crossovers and hybridity to such an extent that the validity of the concept medium specificity seems further away than ever. The Tulse Luper Suitcases ' The Moab Story - the first part of the feature film trilogy – carries not only the fictitious story of Luper in Moab in images and sounds, but consists of a patchwork of materials. The adventures and travels of Luper (reminiscent of the picaresque novel) are interwoven with documentary footage from First World War food drops in Antwerp, 3D-digital reconstructions of ancient Mormon cities in the Utah desert, and minute examinations of the material within the 92 suitcases Luper has collected. Nevertheless, more important than the syntagmatic juxtaposition of different media traditions is the paradigmatic superimposition of techniques and aesthetics, making the Luper language itself thicken into a choir of mediatic discourses.
The more I research this project, the more it makes me want to enter its madness. Hybridized hypermedia as historical fiction-in-the-making.

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Blogger Reel Fanatic said...

Interesting stuff ... while visiting Amsterdam recently, I had the pleasure of seeing a video installation about Rembrandt by Greenaway entitled Nightwatching ... Fascinating to behold

4:09 PM  

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