Friday, May 26, 2006

Skin Is In

Anything goes in Cannes, as long as it still has some artistic merit:
Many industry execs agree, feeling that while sex sells, it comes down to quality. "These films are doing quite well in the market if they're artistic in nature," said SPC exec vp, acquisitions and production Dylan Leiner. "They won't necessarily be box-office champions, but if they're well made by real filmmakers and the sex is included for artistic merit, they'll find an audience."
Apparently this anthology of short art-porn films, is now about to get major distro.

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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Totally Rad

This looks interesting:

[ctrl] [alt]: 2007


The challenge of theorizing and developing new forms of resistance will be taken up in [ctrl] [alt]: alternatives, encounters, movements. As the conference¹s subtitle indicates, [ctrl] [alt] will address potential strategies and tactics for confronting these mechanisms of control. Working from the notion that control is often best (en)countered via practices that engage experimental methods, transdisciplinarity and creativity, we hope to foster an environment in which we can construct collective visions for social change.

Academia often regards itself as an end in itself, apart from concrete social struggles. Even when progressive academics engage the social world theoretically, they often do not acknowledge an indebtedness to, and impact upon, political struggles. At the same time, anti-intellectualism often circulates within activist groups. And art often becomes a fashionable and institutionalized product, failing to actualize its radical potential.

Given this mess, we seek imaginative works that cross borders between genres and disciplines including the highly political boundaries between art practice, academia and activism. We are particularly interested in papers, panels, roundtables, workshops, interventions, performances and artworks that incorporate critical, anti-oppressive perspectives. We invite contributions by artists, activists, scholars and writers as well as any others working in non-traditional spaces of knowledge production.
And what if per chance you happen to be an artist, activist, scholar, writer, and radicalized citizen of the world all wrapped up in the same brand-name packaging? Take the word scholar out of that mix and you have lots of radicalized artist-writer-activists outside of academia already out doing it, no? There are the underground artist-activists ("non-traditional others"?) who participate in the underground economy looking for ways to "get by" - and then there are those like, say, Susan Sarandon or even Pamela Anderson who depend on various commerical links for their survival. Or does their sympathy for the corporate devil automatically disqualify them?

My last post on Godard was about his film "Sympathy for the Devil" and included an excerpt from the "All About Eve" section where this line comes up:
Is it true there is only one way to be an intellectual revolutionary and that is to give up being an intellectual?
To which the character being asked the question, Eve Democracy, answers "yes."

How does that fit into the description of the event above when they say "anti-intellectualism often circulates within activist groups. And art often becomes a fashionable and institutionalized product, failing to actualize its radical potential." This is true, and let's not forget that whenever a group of academics try to facilitate an event that will radicalize academia so that it moves beyond its conservative (read: safe) academic impulse, the premise of the argument being staged, as argument, oftentimes feels too safe and secure in the knowedge of its own discourse which is oftentimes related to the issue of job safety and security. It will not be easy to "address potential strategies and tactics for confronting these mechanisms of control" when your lede goes
"[t]he challenge of theorizing and developing new forms of resistance..."
since once the theory takes precedence, so much potential is immediately lost. This is not to say theory has no place in the resistance, but we need to take our cue from the early 20th century avant-garde (advanced cultural troops) and use theory as one element among many to help alter the political environment. And what is "theory" anyway? Too many times, fill-in-the-blank (for example, CRITICAL ) "theory" gets packaged as the next trendy movement in academia and a new series of books is born followed by a network-specific hiring spree. Think of all the "cognitive loading" and "opportunity costs" (to use remixed ideas from Bruce Sterling's new book Shaping Things) that came with studying post-structuralist, deconstructionist, and critical theory - not to mention cultural studies - and we still have to wake up every morning and watch the G. W. Bushies destroy our country. The question for me becomes: how can we approach these issues without being anti-intellectual, unnecessarily theoretical for theory's sake, nor artistically-oriented to the commercial marketplace, i.e. with an idealized gallery and/or set of collectors in mind?

One possible way to deal with these inherent self-contradictions that are not going to go away, is to just find the space of time to make stuff. Not just make stuff out of thin air for the sheer beauty of it, but navigate the media landscape, steal all of the potentially useful stuff that's already out there metadata-wise, and then improvisationally remix it with no preconceived notion of where really you want to go with it, so that you (artist-activist) no longer know how it will all come out when you are ready to stop making it and move on to the next thing.

In other words: surf-sample-manipulate (which is a D-I-Y theory that has been appropriated by academia for its own uses - good!)

Yes, this is a form of resistance - in fact, it's a part of a lineage of resistance in the arts, one that you can trace back to Europe with Dadaism, but that comes to America with some so-called Modern poetry, Black Mountain College, jazz, the beat scene, Happenings, etc.

As for [ctrl] [alt], it seems like it's getting looser than the 2004 version. Maybe we'll send them this DVD lovely as one possible digital-pharmakon-on-high.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Beauty of Fraudulent Cinema

Over the weekend, I saw a lot of movies, in hopes of generating new ideas for future projects (and the current ones as well).

In the section "All About Eve," from Jean-Luc Godard's Sympathy for the Devil (1968), a pseudo-documentary on the making of the famous Rolling Stones hit of the same name (and starring the Stones), the actress Anne Wiazemsky, who plays Eve Democracy, is being followed by a camera crew as she walks through the woods and is asked a series of seemingly unrelated questions by a reporter, to which she answers either yes or no. It is from this exchange that one of Godard's most notorious lines comes to life, specifically:
Is it true there is only one way to be an intellectual revolutionary and that is to give up being an intellectual?
To which Eve Democracy answers "yes."

I did a random Google search on the film and was pleasantly surprised to find an article on the movie published just this past Sunday in the London Observer. Good timing, I guess.

As the article says:
The film was critically panned on its release. Most damagingly for Godard, it was mocked in France where rock music had yet to be taken seriously. 'This is the work of cretins, and Godard is the most cretinous of them all,' said the Situationist philosopher Guy Debord. The film has been derided ever since as a classic example of mid-Sixties radical chic - meaning that it was pretentious, incomprehensible and, worst of all, boring.
Imagine that, the famous Situationist Guy Debord, known for being jealous, zealous, and feisty, had issues with this interventionist cinematic style that cleverly blurs the lines of distinction between fiction, fact, propaganda, and what we now call truthiness. As Godard himself once said:
Cinema is the most beautiful fraud in the world.
If ever there was a filmmaker who could take the ideas of Situationism and convert them into a diacritical cinematic style, it is Godard, and though I imagine it would be difficult for most people to sit through this film, of course I loved it, especially eavesdropping on the Stones' recording session and seeing how the hit song went through radical alterations over the course of the improvisational developments inside the studio. It reminded me of the "make it up as you go along" jam sessions I engaged in with my old band Hum back in the 90s. You can see this improvisational "make it up as you go along" vibe in Godard's making of the film itself - something that resonates with the emerging digital cinema (HD and HDV) of today.

For those lucky enough to be passing through Paris this summer, be sure to check out "Voyages en utopie", Jean-Luc Godard 1946-2006, the first-ever large scale exhibition of Godard's work featuring "films, essays, videos, television appearances and a range of notes and documents."

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Monday, May 22, 2006

Going Viral

In a recent post, I lashed out at the recent dearth of symposiums and festivals here in the US that featured politically-charged new media art projects and that profiled progressive theoretical stances that, together with the art projects, would actively intervene in the traditional media culture we find ourselves awash in during this time of major political upheaval. I briefly made reference to The Yes Men, USDAT, and even Tom Tomorrow. But I forgot to mention Critical Arts Ensemble (CAE), and now Eyebeam is featuring an event around the release of their latest work, a book entitled Marching Plague: Germ Warfare and Global Public Health published by Autonomedia and appearing in conjunction with their art work “Marching Plague” included in the 2006 Whitney Biennial.

As we know from William Burroughs, language too is a virus, and CAE says:
Marching Plague examines the scientific evidence and the rhetoric surrounding biological warfare, particularly the development of anthrax and other bio-weapons, and makes a strong case against the likelihood of such weapons ever being used in a terrorist situation. Studying the history and science of such weapons, they conclude that for reasons of accuracy and potency, biological weapons lack the efficiency required to produce the widespread devastation typically associated with bioterrorism.
This is the same issue I addressed in my art work FILMTEXT but that oftentimes was overshadowed by the visual dynamics of the piece as a work of interactive cinema. That's why I wrote the artist article Expanding the Concept of Writing: Notes on Net Art, Digital Narrative and Viral Ethics for Leonardo. If you look at the FILMTEXT piece more closely, you will see all kinds of references to the interrelatioship between biological viruses, computer viruses, and media viruses, as well as the use of memes as a philosophical weapon to distort the political economy of meaning while building momentum for your [whose?] ideological agenda.

This kind of thinking is much more active at blogging sites like The Huffington Post and their Contagious Media Festival than in academic conferences.

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