Al Razutis (Al Razutis@GULFNETPINC. COM)
Tue, 29 Oct 1996 OJ.38.38 GMT



Between reading FRAMEWORKS and inhabiting a parallel cyber-universe of 3-D photo-video-computer motion-picture discussions, I was struck by the relative isolation of both bulletin boards. Surely Berners-Lee and the gods of hypertext never imagined isolation of thought based in purely old technical features: is it film? is it video? what constitutes the legitimate motion-picture realm in the 21st century? what is good or bad 3-D? which are the correct mediums? who is our audience? etc.

In the sprocket-less cyberspace of 3d video, multiplexed holographic motion-images, motion- picture mappings of VRML objects (potentially existing simultaneously in all live connections of the internet at once!), discussions of past film avant-gardes seem distant to the live- interconnections of internet directions. There is a historical break going on not only how we distribute and collect information, who controls it (the corporate Uncle Sams - they are trying), but how we exchange motion-picture images in a new cyber-medium.

No one is going to forbit the social activity of seeing a sound or silent film in a theater, of renting a space and bringing in your 16mm projector to an 'intimate' audience of well-informed avant gardist viewers. But much of motion-picture experience will be more and more modified by computer viewing stations, and to the point that whether or not the motion picture image had 'sprocket holes' or whether it was optically-holographically multiplexed will be less relevant than the new content and context (the digital-networked) with which it arrives.


The emergence of products like virtual i/o glasses where the viewer sees/hears a 2-d or 3-d videotape or digital graphics from their computer, where the perceived 'image screens exists (seeminly projected) a few feet in front of the viewer and where ambient views are non-existent, where the image can be seen while standing, sitting, reclining OR INTERACTING on-line...these types of delivery systems re-define spectatorship and the socio-economic and political aspects of making, distributing, viewing and analyzing the 'motion-picture.


Whereas we fellow Canadians and Americans worshipped our 'me-first!" historicizing, the feminist-marxist-semiotic-socio-political-plhilosophers which constantly emerged in the 70's, 80's and 90's gave us something to "think" about when evaluating and valorizing culture. (The French also 'flew' first, I read somewhere.. .they, not Edison (a plagiarist) invented cinema.)

There should be a lament (even within the French) for the marxian scholar who, while having great aspirations, missed out on the in-determinate nature of human psychology. A lament also that it was only Freud who dreamt that women had 'penis envy' and Hitchcock's wasn't the one, that the Science of Chaos and fractals would best approximate what is happening now on the net in terms of money transfers, communication rates and proliferations. In other words, a lament for its extinction since it served to provide the ideological sparks that brought forth angry debate and new ideas however flawed the marxian socio-politic was.

When I read Pauline Kael's latest lament on the extinction of the 'classical pleasures of cinema' I was not moved to tears but elation that finally we can get beyond linear, institional spectatorship, gallery systems and the conceits of curators, that finally the old 'music hall' is dead. And good riddance! Periodically, there are many that argue (on FRAMEWORKS) almost exclusively for the 'good old days' when experimental film was a 'pure' experience, pre-video, when the film screenings were intimate and free beer was had by all/ Well, the French, in particular, haven't been bogged down in sentimentality, instead pursuing the larger questions of ideology, technology and future cultures -- from Barthes, Metz, Lacan, Baudrillard, Irigaray, to the "vision machine" writings of Paul Virilio.


What then is history, if hypertext simultaneity and VRML browsers make it possible for anyone to publish and under all kinds of pretenses and non-sequiturs? What is 'precious' about art now? What are the new 'paradigms' of theory and thought on experimental-avant/garde film? Is such a thing - a single theory or paradigm - even possible? Are we now fractalized into various camps of imaginary sub-cultures? EVEN THE VERY TERM 'avant-garde', if applied to any present and future cyber-movie-experiemental movement, has little in common with the modernist and post- modern definitions and accompanying "halls of fame" in the museum.


I remember meeting an American video curator at MUTATIONS (1994) in Paris and hearing an unbelievable discourse on the 'history of video art' that was exclusively based on her New York-Boston connections. Many of the French video artists and historians sitting in the audience were similarly outraged. So the Americanized (now here's an appropriation!) "avant-garde" was being "re-historicized" and canonized to be ready, presumably, for the next MUSEUM official "group" show. To be curated, of course, by this very same critic and be based on her BOOK which would now enter the discourse on "history". Some "famous curator" at the Long Beach Museum of Art, now entrenched in Austria. Does this very same thing happen in underground, experimental, and mis-named 'avant-garde' film? You bet. Typically, by way of the Whitney and the many rear-guard critics out there. Jonas Mekas (our old Lithuanian-socialist founder of co-ops), where are you when the 'official canon' starts to be museum-ized, canonized, mummified?

The 'museum' has also happened to Antonin Artaud (now in with his 'drawings' and 'angry outbursts') and in spite of his certain wishes. (Imagine Artaud in a museum?) It will happen to Smith, inevitably moved with his suitcases and shabby hotel rooms into the white-walled museum. It's happened to Burroughs too. All avant-gardes get historicized (by careerist curators with a "correct" view of history and friends); all institutions outlive the revolutionaries.

So, some of us want to leave 'modernism', 'post-modernism' and its various regional and historical 'avant-gardes' behind.


Do you think it is possible to set up a 'museum' on the internet? Only if viewers are told what is good, where to go, what channels to watch, from what is available. Only if someone controls the internet, and sets the "standards" by which all information/software and hardware must conform.

Who is going to set the standards by which the world sees motion-picture images on the net? Well, WIRED has a lot to say about it and these discussions by "netizens" show greater foresight than the discussions of film-makers who long for the good-old days of 'pre-video' and the 'intimacy of one person shows' to 20 people and free beer.

The WAR to decide HDTV standards, internet standards, conformity and control, is raging with big capitalist broadcasters-cablecasters-telephone interests trying to "channel" the internet. If they win, we get to see all the NBC-Disney shows as endless re-runs.

The "war on drugs" is just a buch of crap compared to the war to control the net. The netizen chatlines are better informed about our own precarious motion-picture" future than (our own) film critics and film historians, especially those of the 'experimental avant-garde'.

Say it isn't so.

Debates about the previous film avant-gardes are being left in the dust.

Here's hoping for more.

Xal razutis

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