Friday, June 02, 2006

Rabbinical Studies

For those who follow the developments over at DJRABBI, there are a few new projects up at the website, including a new "radio show" (a mix of DJRABBI audio) - and the VJ demo reel too (tip of the hat to Cuechamp.).

The "Society of the Spectacle" DVDs are still selling well, including some institutional purchases, and why not? For 30 bucks you get a copy of a DVD artwork that has been exhibited in over 30 international venues, including the META.morphosis show in Spain at MEIAC, where it is part of the permanent collection. The limited signed edition is only $100.

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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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Wednesday, May 31, 2006


My colleague Simon Mills from Nottingham, UK, used to edit the journal frAme (originally called Freebase) and has just launched the new framed website. framed is supported by Arts Council England and Nottingham Trent University. According to the home page:
Between 1995 and 2004 the frAme: Online Journal of Culture & Technology published a broad range of work by an eclectic mix of writers and artists who were working with new media.

This was a significant period in the history of new media. Internet usage, especially the world wide web, was becoming widespread and many were creatively experimenting with and discussing the implications of utilising the emerging networks and technologies.

As a site of dissemination of some of that work, frAme remains a record of the creative engagements artists were making during that time.

framed marks the closing of the journal and augments it as a record of this period by interviewing many of the artists and writers it published with regard to their practice, both past and present, and to enquire with them about the current state of new media art and writing.
The initial launch starts off with four interviews, including one with Matthew Fuller, one of the instigators of Mongrel, and one with moi. Says Matt:
I’m interested in the question of ‘Art methodologies’, modes of thinking and perceiving that had at certain times been peculiar to art, such as reflexivity; a certain kind of freedom, or the ability to take every part of an occurrence, an event, an object and the way it is viewed and used into account in its reinvention; attention to materiality; the commitment to experiment ‘live’, with life, rather than under lab conditions. These amongst others form art methodologies. What I can see occurring now more generally as a condition to be tested and used is that these have migrated from art practice specifically, into other parts of life. The media systems of art, such as galleries, user/audience networks, certain kinds of ways of looking and thinking, magazines and information circulation mechanisms, particular attention shaping devices such as press releases, books, ‘exhibitions’, and other formations are often retained as points of contact with the kinds of networks that they afford, but they are no longer the home-base or the capturing device for people operating with such art methodologies.
Hear ye, hear ye.

UPDATE: This, from Doug Kellner in the first issue (1998) of frAme, then called Freebase:
I now want to argue that in the contemporary high tech societies there is emerging a significant expansion and redefinition of the public sphere and that these developments, connected primarily with media and computer technologies, require a reformulation and expansion of the concept of critical or committed intellectual. Earlier in the century, Brecht and Benjamin saw the revolutionary potential of new technologies like film and radio and urged radical intellectuals to seize these new forces of production, to "refunction" them, and to turn them into instruments to democratize and revolutionize society. Sartre too worked on radio and television series and insisted that "committed writers must get into these relay station arts of the movies and radio" [...]

[...]Consequently, I would argue that effective use of technology is essential in contemporary politics and that intellectuals who wish to intervene in the new public spheres need to deploy new communications media to participate in democratic debate and to shape the future of contemporary societies and culture. My argument is that first broadcast media like radio and television, and now computers have produced new public spheres and spaces for information, debate, and participation that contain both the potential to invigorate democracy and to increase the dissemination of critical and progressive ideas -- as well as new possibilities for manipulation and social control. But participation in these new public spheres -- computer bulletin boards and discussion groups, talk radio and television, and the emerging sphere of what I call cyberspace democracy require intellectuals to gain new technical skills and to master new technologies.[...]
Of course, this was written before The Rise of the Blog and other forms of e-publishing. I would say blogging sites like Dailykos, Firedoglake, and especially Glen Greenwald are beginning to fulfill Kellner's vision in the netroots political space. And I have linked to others in the theory-crit "poly-ticks" space who take on contemporary political issues from a more nuanced perspective. This would include this site and this one as well.

More coming...

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Monday, May 29, 2006

Play It As It Lays

Useful application of the concepts Muse and improvisation are coming back in force on the WWW.

For example, Quickmuse, featured in the New York Times book section today.

Don't even think about Baudrillard, Virilio, Cixous, or Heidegger Schmeideggger. Just poeticize:
Mr. Gordon, a poetry enthusiast who is editor of, a Jewish literature site, said he was interested in the general subject of improvisation in the arts. "Improvisation makes it fresher, more vital," he said. "It doesn't give poets a chance to be careful. It offers them the opportunity to surprise themselves, to say things they didn't know they wanted to say, things their fingers know but their brains do not."
This reminds me of something my old Prof, Alain Robbe-Grillet, once said, when he was attacked by a budding PhD feminista in our class, whereupon she accused him of exploiting the women characters in his novels and films. Robbe-Grillet, full use of his arms and hands in gestural mutation, said: "My mind can't control what my hands are creating."

The Times article continues:
And of course improvisation has a long history in American culture, especially in jazz. Frank O'Hara and Jack Kerouac wrote quickly, though Truman Capote famously derided Kerouac's work as typing not writing.
Typing not writing? Kerouac or Capote? We report, you decide.

Anyway, I knew a resurgence of interest in improvisational writing would rematerialize on the WWW during the latter stages of the Bush fiasco, how could it not? Interestingly enough, not only is engaging in an improvisatory writing style a countercultural political move that breaks away from the strategic hustle of wannabe millionaires and Cinderella-waiting-to-be-discovered writers alike, it's also an alternative way to counter the commercial logic of the traditional publishing space that seems to value everything I find wrong in contemporary fiction (overwrought, preconceived, and desperately seeking political correctness).

These days it looks as though improvisational musing also challenges the small press scene too, which though valiant in its efforts to keep the cult of print literature (per se) alive in the digipop culture, is really being run (overrun) by the PhD crowd weaned on post-structuralism and what I think of as "fine-tuned" postmodern workshop-style fiction. Although I still prefer work from the indie presses over the congloms, the indies do seem to be suffering from the "look how smart I am, I understand Baudrillard, Virilio, and Cixous!" anxiety of influence that has killed the creative spirit of so many potentially illuminating writers. But hey, isn't it great to use standard pomo narrative tricks to show the world (or the 300 people in it who will peruse your pages) that your character is really nothing but a simulation of her former self?

Again, not to sound too anti-theory, but there are too many so-called "creative writers" going for their PhD as the only way to evolve a life practice that will afford them the time they need to write their novels. No worries, go for it. That's your way, and it may be the only way you have left open for personal artistic development. But the "cognitive loading" and "opportunity costs" that come with such pursuits seems to be making most of the work too smart for its own good, lacking a sense of what I have previously called "experiential tagging" (writing from the angle of experience), and now the best of the small press scene, or what's left of it, is still highlighting their affiliation with the books and thought of the trendy French and German philosophers of 20 years ago, as if the literature (per se) that grows out of that (higher) education will resonate with what we think of as posterity and seriousness.

The best book of "not-fiction" fiction I have read all year is Chris Kraus' Torpor. The most delicious irony of its publication is that it is published by Semiotext(e) - thanks to Sylvere Lotringer who, it's no secret, is the model for one of the two leading protagonists. It would be good to follow-up reading Kraus' book with Kathy Acker's Don Quixote: a dream (again), another book that Sylvere appears in. Read those two books, then never pick up a French theory book again (OK, never is a long time). Clean your brain of it all and keep trying to tap into that unconscious neural mechanism that no brain scan in the world can seem to find (amazing, isn't it?).

Start over. Just improvise new works of art and, if ya like, shoot them over the net.

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