Posts Tagged ‘video’

Begging For More

February 18, 2013

The Licking County Concerned Citizens for Public Health and Environment held a meeting on February 17, 2013. The 2-18-13 Newark Advocate reported on the meeting and quoted committee member Carol Apacki as saying “We want to raise public awareness on this issue, and people can take that information and do what they want with it.”
How many times have we heard that? Is it doing any good? If not, why not? What alternative approach could there possibly be? Why can’t we imagine it?
We all know (ala knee jerk reaction) that taking “that information and do[ing] what they want with it” can span the spectrum of responses—from creationist fundamentalist religious ones, to economic conservative or liberal ones, from I’m-aware-of-a-lot-of-things-let’s-not-rock-the-boat to radical activism. Providing information for the recipient to “do what they want with it” doesn’t work. It fails because it does not produce the intended response– folks actively engaging in the “cause” to produce the demanded change. Sounds reasonable and liberal enough. I give people a plethora of information. They can’t help but conclude with the hoped for response. And yet repeatedly THAT is not occurring. Why not?
Upton Sinclair writes The Jungle. Readers are outraged that this is what is involved with the food they eat. Because it is not good for the public health and environment there is a demand for change. Change occurs. This is the historic narrative approach. The narration, as all narrations do, follows a this, then this, then this time line model. Repeating the narration repeats the time line model. The historic approach (implicated by a time line) leads through the present into the inevitability of the future. Being inevitable creates some urgency—resist (facilitate change) or be overcome by the anticipated march of history. This was the approach with regard to most matters leading up to the end of the twentieth century. A simple but effective logic that contributes to the formation of what Ranciere regards as “sense”.
Previous posts of this blog have been investigating video in contemporary culture, especially the aspect whereby video performs memory, producing time and difference. Here’s a time lapse video of a glacier disappearing. Want to see it again? Here’s a Michael Moore film on the easy accessibility of guns in our society. It is filled with a lot of information. Let’s replay the Michael Moore film. Video performing memory, as opposed to narrative (re)constructing memory along a “first this, then that” basis (narrative always begins and inevitably ends, even when repeated), dispenses with the inevitable and its implication of urgency. Want to see that glacier disappear again? There is no connection between this performed memory of the glacier disappearing (which we can repeat ad nauseum) and any inevitable outcome of this memory, with any urgency to act on some (nonexistent) inevitability. “We want to raise public awareness on this issue, and people can take that information and do what they want with it.” And many things are done with this information, as many things are done with videos.
So what works given that the obsolete narrative approach and the contemporary assumption that creating awareness will produce an inevitable intended response don’t? Video as communication of ongoing event seems to be especially effective in generating the desired inevitable response and its needed urgency. Whether natural disaster, victim account, covert filming of illegal activity, etc. video presentation becomes akin to Sinclair’s presentation in terms of ultimate outcome. But this brings us to privacy concerns, Occupy and eventually, the current ongoing discourse on “the right to look.” Occupy seizes on the “public”-ness of public space. An analogous scenario could be made for the various “public” rights of expression, freedom of the press and dissemination of information, universal internet access, etc. Privacy rights and laws are becoming ever more a priority for the 1% determining our governance. The right to look is not found anywhere in the document drafted by the eligible 5% who governed the land, serfs, indentured servants, and slaves in late 18th century America. Please, oh rulers of our great land, we beg of you, let us look (and see), and communicate (via digital media) what is going on around us right now– not “to raise public awareness” but to communicate and act immediately, which is what we already do when we drive our cars and perform at work.
Hmmm… Somehow that last line doesn’t look just right. Wonder why that is?

Begging By The Way

February 17, 2013

“BILL MOYERS: To whom or to what do you owe that defining choice of Omar Khayyám over the Playboy calendar? Because that’s the story of your life.
MARTÍN ESPADA: I certainly owe those who came before me. In particular, I owe my father. My father did not have a college education. There were not books of poetry all over the house. But there was this book. It was significant and profound for someone to hand me a book of poetry. I was surrounded already by the images in that Playboy calendar. And they were not as meaningful to me as the images in the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. And so I’m very grateful to my father for giving me that that book.”
(from the transcript of Bill Moyers’ conversation with Martin Espada, Moyers&Co. 2-15-2013)

“Tarde’s achievement, Lazzarato claims, is to have made memory the constitutive element of a social or economic quantity and to have understood memory as a production of time and difference.” (Ina Blom’s essay The Autobiography of Video: Outline for a Revisionist Account of Early Video Art, Critical Inquiry Vol. 39 No.2, Pg. 282)

And what if the person interviewed by Bill Moyers had said he encountered the Rubáiyát and the Playboy calendar within the same period of his youth? And that no one had introduced him to the one or the other? And that ultimately, it was (to paraphrase Donald Judd), just one thing after another? And what if “memory as a production of time and difference” is what accounts for what made one person’s experience “significant and profound” and the other’s just another in a continuum of events, without time or place, but only quality? And what if this likewise makes for why one individual’s poetry is received as, is considered as “significant and profound”, and the other’s not? And what if this accounts for why one poet, whose work is considered “significant and profound”, finds himself interviewed by Bill Moyers (who only deals with what is “significant and profound”) while the other will never appear? A previous blog post, Getting A Little Behind In My Work 12-13-12, considered “Video’s unique ability to describe or represent (sans words) and contemporary culture’s preference for being shown rather than told”. Another earlier post, The Deer Hunter 11-25-12, states that “A video documentation performs an event as opposed to a written literary narrative that relies on a timeline structure (this comes before that).” “Significant and profound” now begin to aggregate around the “production” of time and difference rather than the accumulation of time and difference (the historic perspective, the one favored by Moyers). “Significant and profound” begin to actively participate in and contribute to the mechanism of what Ranciere describes as sense. Memory performed as video can make no inherent claim of “significant and profound” quality; what is produced within video is just one thing after another. The video itself, as a historic event, may be described as “significant and profound” but this begs the question. Considering that video, like memory, can be understood “as a production of time and difference”, for whom is the memory (either as event or as video) “significant and profound”? And why?

Getting A Little Behind In My Work

December 13, 2012

            I (un)intentionally backed into Ludwig Wittgenstein while considering the various questions that video within culture present. Video’s unique ability to describe or represent (sans words) and contemporary culture’s preference for being shown rather than told leaves some incredible imaginings. One could imagine a glossary or dictionary where the meaning of a given word is described or represented by video alone. A Merriam-Webster’s where all words would have video definitions.  This would be an exaggerated continuance of Pinchevski’s rationale for a video archive of testimonies. Would it be more accurate or complete? What kind of language would this be, this exchange of visual imagery without the conventions of the written word? Would it be like the pictogram sentences of children’s puzzle books or maybe more like an expanded version of charades? What would a logic of such propositions be like? This is where Wittgenstein grinds into the reverie with his original picture theory of propositions (serious, non-Hegelian analytic philosophy, mind you). Some of his early definitions of what a proposition is and how it works seem to be equally descriptive of video one hundred years later. Am I really reading this? (Am I really writing this?) Of course, Wittgenstein’s outlook changes and evolves into his later insights on language, rules and games. But how much of this anticipated our current reliance on video for communication and “factual” analysis (whether police forensics, athletic performance, contract verification, etc.)? Benjamin may have accurately described the shift in visual culture to one reliant on mechanically reproductive technologies but I never came away with the impression that he was describing any kind of fundamental change in language, or communication. What if one read Wittgenstein’s evolved thinking with an interpretation that maintained his discarded picture theory of propositions, but with these “pictures’ being taken to be videos instead? How would that inform our understanding of current culture? Stay tuned.

A Tribute To George

November 27, 2012

George Bogdanovitch passed away at the end of October. George was an arts educator and artist, a painter. George’s background was rather unusual by the rigors of today’s economics. His undergraduate degree was in Philosophy, with an MA in Art History and finally an MFA in painting and drawing. He also studied with Hans Hofmann and Allan Kaprow.  I enjoyed many conversations with George, mostly about art and culture. In the latter part of his life, George had some difficulty coming to terms with art, and the new arts educators supplanting the usual university turnover. It is difficult to decide whether they couldn’t talk with George, or wouldn’t. George was opinionated and outspoken. He didn’t cotton bad art (or educating). He began to be regarded as a curmudgeon, almost a pariah by some. Part of this had nothing to do with either George, or the new arts educators. The post modern didn’t dwell on good art/bad art. It was concerned with exploding what art is, finding it on the margins, in the street, on the packaging of fast food. For George, the post modern was new. Aggravating this all was popular culture; the capitalist culture that worshipped and demanded ever more new. His was the generation that established the preconditions of this need for the new.

Once again I had the good fortune of spending some time conversing with an arts educator before the resumption of classes post holiday break. She recounted shows she had been to, both in NYC as well as central Ohio. One NYC show she could describe the work presented. The others were mainly endorsements or descriptions of the artists’ outlook, without a clue on my part as to what she had experienced. Oh, but you must go see them, she has such a weird take on what it is to paint, etc. Attempts at synthesis with current culture or the arts curricula, student work, etc. led nowhere. Connections of this with that were untenable as it was all deemed fractious, fragmented, diverse and incoherent. What a person did to earn a living, the odds of any art student doing such from their art, the reasons for making art, and what is accepted or embraced as such were not considered parts of a continuum. All of this eventually left the arts educator realizing it was time to move on (talking art and culture leads nowhere), and me rather flummoxed. Later I thought of Pinchevski’s insights (previous posting), that the nature of technology has a bearing on the “discourse network” also described as “writing-down system”. Pinchevski approached it from the latter aspect in terms of the difference in archives. But I thought of it in terms of the former, of discourse as conversation. Maybe the arts educator could not describe the works she experienced but only her own response to them because any description or representation would have best been done through a digital imaging technology, like a cell phone (camera) or video recording. Thus, as Pinchevski points out, the works presented in the show could have been described or represented immediately through such performance, or (continuous) re-performance. What I took to be an inadequacy, a loss for words (over the description of the works presented at the various shows), could likewise be considered as a quite natural and acceptable no-need-for-words (you can see them online!).

During our conversation I mentioned George’s passing. A curious connection results from remembering George, his finding himself more and more at odds with the new(er) art faculty, and the loss for words that our conversation revealed when it came to describing the art witnessed. Some of the discourse concerning art after the end of art involved Kant’s aesthetic, especially that regarding the sublime. Kant’s sublime is, by nature, contained, limited, occurs within an envelope of space and time – yet it cannot be explicitly, completely, precisely or adequately defined. Skip the what came first, chicken or egg debate (theory or practice). Suffice it to say post modern art (and beyond) began more and more to be such that it could not be “explicitly, completely, precisely or adequately defined.” Enter video. Video gave credence (and sanity) to such an art (and culture) through the reassurance of continuously accessible (re)performance in place of words (and text). It provided a “discourse network” that elides reliance on the spoken word (conversation). Why should I tell you when I can show you (over and over and over)? For George, part of the delight, the pleasure of art, was in being able to talk about it, critique it, say it is bad or good in relation to the culture, the economy and politics. Unfortunately, George’s passing may also perform the passing of such conversation.