To and From SeNef 2004 by Al Razutis

"What's on TV, the Academy Awards, Sundance or Slamdance, Toronto, LA or all those 'indie' film fests isn't 'about art' or the future of cinema. Those excercises in 'being seen', 'making deals', and getting 'fucked up' with some 'bitches' isn't about enchantment and world culture. Pitch your film, make your deals, but shut the fuck up about art and avant-garde. You can't have it all ways. What's great about SeNef and EMAF is that these fests celebrate where cinema is being created for the future and it isn't about distribution deals and budgets." (XAR)

Take your pick:

Concepts/Contexts -- Getting There -- Programming and Curating -- New Projectionists -- Digital Express

Background to SeNef 2004, Seoul, Korea

>In the spring of '04 an e-mail came in out of the blue from Felix Ji-Hoon Kim, film programmer for SeNef 2004 - Seoul Net and Film Festival. The e-mail was an invitation to exhibit my film - video - holographic works, as a mini-retrospective, at the SeNef 2004 festival in September.

Prior to this correspondence I had not paid much attention to the resurgence of Asian experimental film and video interests. With my disdain for North American 'indie showcase' film festivals and inability to finish new works keeping me 'out of the loop', and my on-again, off-again relationship with European film fests I wondered whether this festival would be 'worth attending'. But the context was compelling: a festival celebrating the many forms of cinema: internet/web, interactive, historical, experimental, multi-media, digital feature film. A celebration of 'what was' and 'what will be' in the rapidly changing field of 'motion-picture film'. So I responded with interest and agreed to parcticipate once we could work out the details.

SeNef is in part a creation of Ahn C. Park, the festival Director. He has travelled to world's festivals (like EMAF) and has seen world media in its evolving forms. As a visionary Korean cultural entrepreneur, he is presenting, along with his colleagues, a future-defining cultural experience. I was told by several people that Korean film history had been virtually destroyed prior to 1948 under Japanes occupation and the current resurgence of interest in art and media typifies the Korean experience.

The south Koreans are active in reviving culture in the post-military dictatorship era (1990). Unlike the stalinist hero-worshipping totalitarian north (which is desperate to aquire the wealth of the south, blaming the US for every imaginable problem) the South Koreans demonstrate prosperity, curiosity and the creative energy to overcome past difficulties by engaging with the world.

Korean-based Samsung is big-time (and a sponsor of the Media Lounge installations for SeNef2004). Its technical creativity and size rival Sony. Korean culture goes back thousands of years and their history is their own, contrary to the revisionism of the People's Republic of China which claims that the Koreans are 'Chinese', and so it would follow that Korea 'belongs to us'. Within this backdrop, and the multi-television-screen skyscapes of a modern Seoul, Mr. Park and his colleagues had given the local population and the world a truly visionary festival whose motto was "Digital convergence and artistic expansion".

SeNef2004 Concept:

"Greeting its fifth year, SeNef2004's key words are 'Digital convergence & Artistic Expansion'. Convergence is the key characteristic that differentiates the digital technology with the existing media technology. Digital combines and connects all kinds of medium into one. We can send images in real time as well as freely manipulate and edit images that we received. Furthermore, these images can freely be shared with the anonymous others.....the Time has arrived for us to be able to call all kinds of images as digital images. Expansion is the statement of new aesthetical and cultural potentials that can be unfolded from convergence...The phenomena of simultaneous expansion of macrocinema and microcinema as well as interactive pieces, web cinema, flash animation and digital features makes one directly experience the power and speed of expansion"

(excerpted from SeNef Catalog - p.17)

My work in the context of media culture and Canada:

My work spans generations of activities (60's to present), analog to digital, film, video, 3D, web. As 'multi-media' creations, they exhibit flavors and influences from other disciplines and medias. They are without the conceits of 'nationality' (they do not celebrate a particular national 'interest' or 'school'), they are not regionalist- chauvinist (LA, Vancouver, American, Canadian?) and certainly they have a history of combatative exchanges with academics and critics.

The works were created within what was termed 'experimental' (once underground) or 'avant-garde' film and 'media arts', and intersect with the various sub-cultures found in 'stereoscopic 3D' and 'holography'. Some of the works are expressedly political ('avant-gardist') in nature, some are formalist and there is a history of past battles that have been waged, won, and lost. This history is contained in part in the 'selected writings' list, and certainly the 'Adventures of Alice' sheds some light on the 'cultures' of holography and stereoscopic 3D photography, cultures which find themselves under various 'technical' dominations and interests.

The battles that have been conducted on behalf of these works, and against these works are not 'theoretical'. They have occured and continue to occur on a very real 'playing field': the ability of these works to be exhibited, preserved, and the ability to create new works. When the detractors of my efforts succeed in obtaining curatorial power (as in the case of the Toronto Experimental Film Congress in '89), when a certain cabal of curators become the 'official export' of media art in Canada, when the 'cabalarians' become regulars on Canada Council juries giving grants to their friends, and denying same to all others, this becomes an 'erasure' of history that serves the vanities of a selected few. And though it is 'nothing new', past generations having had to suffer under different forms of cronyism, it is still intollerable in its appearance. And if the vanity of the well-connected becomes the determining characteristic of what is seen, what survives, what is recorded into history, then the acceptance of that hegemony is nothing more than cowardice on the part of those who prefer 'polite discourse' (typically, academic) to the 'vulgarity' of those who would protest (with their 'rants', as it has been termed).

There are battles that are waged on the web, for example, between people who will never meet in person. Sometimes these battles feature nearly anonymous persons offering glib opinions about the works of others, or opinions about 'what is important' from a typically uninformed but opinionated point of view. Bulletin boards such as Frameworks in the 90's were full of students, dilletantes, casual drop-ins intermingled with academics, critics, filmmakers, each waging a war for a 'position'. Some academics (the marxist poseur and Northwestern U. prof Chuck Kleinhans comes to mind) lurked around until their pet peeve or promotion surfaced.

The SeNef concept reminded me of some of the arguments I once had on 'Frameworks' in the 90's and my call for a 'sproket-less' film, for 3D film-video, interactive VR film. (See my postings on Frameworks for more on this subject.) I remember how this call was responded to by some on the list as 'utopian fantasy'. That was in the late 90's, this was 2004 where cinema had evolved into web, interactive, game-engine, 3D, digital video formats

A sidebar:

'Video will never happen, it's only bad film' - Experimental filmmakers' chauvinist mantra in the 70's.

It is interesting that a lot of eX-filmers and early 'critics' of video that dissed 'video' as ever having a 'place' in the motion-picture 'fine arts', and 'never to be included' in the pantheon of eX-filmers, are now quick to deny having made any such statements (since they are likely practicing video or teaching video). And so it is with 'digital film' and its early critics in the 80's and 90's.

These days I also hear comments from the x-y-z gen dissing history, precedents, as 'da old school' disagreements and 'what's the big deal?'. These typically emanate from self-confident 20-something 'film-makers' doing the after-grad international festival rounds, or from confortable curators not wishing to be troubled before retirement. Well, it ain't 'no big deal' to those who think that they invented 'it all', and 'all by themselves'... typically using cracked software, right-clicks of the mouse, while imitating everything that came before 'as if it were their own'.

As you may have surmised, it is a 'big-deal' for me and those of us who have had to make our way through the meta-histories of 'how it all began' by actually making work, substantiating our ideas by presenting the works, and resisting the notion that all one has to do is 'claim' to have made some 'work'. Honoring the 'facts' of creation is different from liking or disliking them. Just tell that to the Canadians.

Canadian artist?

The festival were inviting me as a 'Canadian artist - filmmaker' and sought to engage with the Canadian government (Canadian Consulate) for travel assistance. I cautioned them at the beginning not to be overly optimistic, since my previous exhibitions and retrospectives in France and Germany had not received any Canadian support.

My own 'means of production' and distribution are precarious and there's nothing 'romantic' or 'heroic' about them. I don't live the life of some 'retired gentleman' on an island (as Welsby contended in his web-slander), embittered, alienated, out of touch, and critical of those ('misunderstood' and 'heroic' academics) who are carrying the well-paid torch of experimental film culture. Contemporary to his libel, I was actually surviving at the low end of the scale ('tax free!') and without the CC grant perks and academic benefits enjoyed by the well-travelled Welsbys of the world.

The works that I was invited to exhibit were created outside of corporate, government-sponsored, or university institutions, and they were not promoted or distributed by the government subsidized special-interrest 'co-ops' that had become the de-facto launching places for 'Canadian media art'. And some of these works have almost been lost: if it had not been for Mike Hoolboom securing a place for the film originals in the National Archives of Canada, most of the film work would have certainly been lost. There had been no funds to store them any longer in the 90's, there were no archives being supported by the nuveau academics at the Vancouver film programs, no money to archive, no preservation, no kidding.

Those that can control the 'means of production', 'means of distribution' can control the means of 'cultural work' and the record and memory of it, in this and other countries. They are the aparachniks who stay on in the 'party', reaping the benefits of retirement, awards, and whose goal is to erase any evidence to the contrary.

If you're not subsidized (by grants or corporate expense accounts), if you're not a well-paid faculty member on another 'research' junket, if you're on your 'own', independent, and 'avant-garde' the going gets tough. Almost impossible. Most works presented at festivals are 'sponsored' by someone or some institution. In Canada, where 'Governor General Awards' are handed out yearly to the previously well-connected now retired bunch, where 'Order of Canada' features the really well connected and retired bunch, where grants and awards are non-competetive business (co-ops like Video In have been receiving them for decades, with totals now in the millions), and where networked interests are conducted on the basis of 'you scratch my back I'll vote for your grant', the means of production is indeed one of either 'network' or 'tough shit and die'. That's why most people 'keep their connections' or 'keep their faculty position' until they retire, and then die, but not before their 'students' have assumed the role of caretakers of the meta-history of authorized culture.

"If Vancouver cinema during the twentieth century is to be remembered for anything, it may be for experimental film."
- Colin Browne, Fugitive Events: A History of Filmmaking in British Columbia 1899-1970

Those are nice sentiments from SFU's Professor Browne. However, the 'remembrance of things past' depends on such things as film archives, which at the Pacific Cinematheque in Vancouver - as of 2004 - remain under-represented, donation-only, collections without much of a archival future. I also would add that 'Vancouver cinema' might also be remembered as the place which celebrated mediocrity in film (at the subsidized NFB, CBC, Telefilm) and when it came to supporting a 'film industry' (essentially a service industry for US TV productions, low budget features and 'movies of the week') it may be remembered as a place that secured confortable lifestyles for the few. It will also be remembered as a place that burried avant-garde innovation under phony gay chauvinism and academic self promotion - a place where it became almost impossible to survive unless one was 'well connected' to the 'Western Front' or one of the universities.

Culture and production value:

The simple truth is that 'production value' (once a industry term for on-screen investment) is dependent on expensive tech (standards of technical delivery - like resolution), which typically reside in universities, corporations, or co-ops. If you don't have 'it', you're situated at the 'low band' spectrum. This is essentially a production 'conceit' similar to what occurs in 'professional' realms where production 'value' is typically determined by 'budget' (the bigger the 'better', etc.).

When we speak of 'culture' and 'production value', we are talking about 'preferred means of expression' that somehow represents a unique signature of a particular culture (eg. 'Canadian experimental film'). My situation is typically that of a 'displaced person': I have been excommunicated by the Toronto curator academics (Testa, Elder) in the 80's as 'un-Canadian' (meaning, 'American') because of my interests in video, multi-media and everything 'un-Canadian' (meaning, uninterested in the 'nature of the photographic image' or the philosophies of alienation and representation). Even though my works were created in Canada during the 70's-90's, and anticipated many of the currently fashionable media forms, they have been almost invisible in Canadian shows since my departure from academia in the late 80's. And now I've pissed off the academics, curators and art school administrators in published broadsides.

And indeed, in case there was ever any doubt, there would be no Canadian government support received by SeNef for this 'Canadian artist' exhibition. The official explanation was that the SeNef request was not made 'in time' to be adequately dealt with in the 'fiscal year'. I know from past experiences with government funding and discretionary funds, that where there is a will, there is a 'way', and I haven't seen any will on the part of 'government' to fund these 'Canadian works' for some time.

Getting There:

The Ins and Outs of...

Films-videos 'Gender-specific Art':

"Why Don't You Just Leave?':

'Interactive-VR Movies:'

Frames from 'Virtual Flesh':

3D DVDs 'West-Coast Artists':

'Anarchism' - Interferometry:

'AMERIKA' as installation:

'VISUAL ESSAYS' film frames:

3D VIDEO ART 'Selections':

 

Programming - in vitro:

During the summer, correspondence dwindled. Felix Kim had a whole festival of films to program, and by July a new correspondent, curator Jeon Sung-kwon, began to make arrangements with me for the installation version of 'Amerika', and 3D - VR contents.

I proposed a film-video program on 'Gender Specific Art', but adequate translation of subjects proved impossible and this was replaced by a single monitor installation 'Why Don't You Just Leave?' (co-authored with Anne Popperwell), a video piece that is typically video-projected in gallery environs and deals with male violence against women.

My proposed workshop on 'The New Projectionists' (interactive - VR) was subject to repeated negotiations, and I finally ran out of time and patience and scaled it down to a workshop on 'Stereoscopic 3D videography'.

Most disappointing was the cancellation of a interactive-3D video piece titled 'Virtual Flesh'. This installation could not be prepared due to SeNef inability to up-front the packaging costs in a timely manner. The piece was replaced by a four-monitor installation of 'West-Coast Artists in Light', a stereoscopic 3D documentary DVD on holographic pioneering efforts in developing 'motion-pictures' and working with 'the holographic body'.

An early proposed holographic installation 'Anarchism in the Age of Interferometry', as well as a program of shorts featuring 'Splice' and other political subject videos were deleted entirely due to curatorial decisions.

It was also decided that 'Amerika', the film, would be presented as a 3-screen gallery installation from DVDs, and 'Visual Essays' would be screened only as film.

My 3D video art would be presented as a public theater projection program 'Selections' using two video projectors, silver screen, and my de-mux box.

My participation on the international film jury, as 'President of the Jury', was also confirmed.

Arrangements such as flight information, itinerary, workshop contents, accommodations, were left to the last moment.

During the summer months I assembled the SeNef program, primarily at Chuck Paxton's Burbank Holographic studio and computer facilities which Chuck generously provided to me without charge.

Without a guaranteed departure date, and without a contract on paper, I drove north from LA to Canada with all of my tapes, discs, computer software and films.

On the verge of not getting there:

Here's the scenario: a car full of tapes, cds, computers, and suitcases of archival materials, many of which are irreplaceable. There's a heat wave in central California. The car begins to 'disintegrate' - break down, on Intersate 5 in the middle of nowhere, near 'Los Banos'.

This was a journey from 'hell' - one that featured multiple mechanical breakdowns - along freeways, in parking lots, and sleeping at various friend's residences in California, in Oregon, in Washington. Two weeks on the road, where there should have been two days.

Finally, I arrived home on Saturna Island with all inventory intact, and a week later I boarded a Air Canada flight in Vancouver bound for Seoul, Korea.

With two suitcases of tapes, films, DVDs, cables, equipment, 3D camera I felt like my 'world' was precariously stowed in the baggage compartment or in carry-ons, and just one major screw up, and the 'world' would cease to exist. However, Korean Customs was a no problem. I had nothing to 'declare' except my personal possessions.


I was met at the airport by a Festival volunteer, Jun Choi, who at once made me comfortable and provided me with the first concrete information that I needed: the festival and exhibition schedule and introduction to Korea. Prior to that, I had little idea of what was in store for me and 'when' all of these events were to take place. The festival 'hospitality staff' had ommitted some of these crucial facts and it was left to the volunteers to 'deliver'. However, I was delivered Mr. Choi to what would be my SeNef 2004 accomodations in Seoul, the Olympia 5-star hotel, and that was certainly the beginning of great 'hospitality'.

 

Programming and curating:

Ilmin Museum of Art (gallery installations)   --   Hollywood Theater (film and video theater)

I had little idea from the correspondence that with Felix Kim and Jeon Sung-kwon what informing principles behind film programming gallery istallation curating would be. This was due in part to a lack of English material on SeNef web sites course catalog statements were being written as program finalized. >

It was only after I arrived in Seoul that I was able to read the organizer's Ahn C Park's general curating statement, which confirmed to me why I had been invited, and also confirmed that both the film programmers and the installation curators would be acting to implement their respective interpretations of the following curating doctrine:

"SeNef has aimed to be the ground for the understanding of how image is reinvented through the new media...For that purpose, we have taken the diverse ways of screening, such as theater screening, on-line sctreaming, mobile service and gallery exhbtion. So, a number of forms...can, not only collide, but also converse with each other through the various ways of screening."

Felix Kim

Felix Ji-Hoon Kim was my first contact and film programmer (curator) of this huge multi-genre and multi-media festival. He was overworked (programming hundereds of films, arranging exhibitions, translations, catalog materials), but tireless, and generous with his time. He was very informed of film history (having studied this subject in academics), film criticism and theory, including the French and Nicole Brenez, and to me he represented a intelligence and foresight that rivaled any film art festival programmer. His views in programming a range of works that spanned dada silents, music videos, experimental and my avant-garde films, stereoscopic 3D videos, and included digital video features transfered to film. This range of programmed works was ambitious and remarkably creative.

If you think of a 200 page catalog that is dominated by film descriptions, and which contains categories such as Digital Express (discussed at end, below), Over the Cinema, Back to the Origin, Cinema Now and Future, Mastervision and 3D, Expansion of British Cinema, Digifun Midnight, Jukebox Midnight, and which spans genres and styles including narrative, documentary, experimental, animation, interactive, web and just about anything that is a hybrid of these categories, then you can guage how complex and ambitious this programming by Felix Kim was.

This is the way cinema should be presented: in all of its past, present and future possiblities. And this type of programming is found elsewhere in Europe (at EMAF in Germany, for example). It is beginning to re-appear again in some smaller North American film festivals, especially those dedicated to 'experimental' media.

As in all such festivals, the viewer is challenged by the number of works and the impossiblity of seeing all of the works which are typically presented in several competing venues at overlapping or similar times.

My 'art film theater' presentations:


As part of my film exhibition, I presented two screenings of 'Visual Essays: Origins of Film', with new 16mm prints, at the 'art cinema house'. These 'visual essays', created one reel at a time in 1973-1984, speak to the dream-like nature of film subjects and film structure and are equally relevant in today's digital multi-media environment (where history and authenticity sometimes is completely overlooked).

These essays are very much 'about film', both in historical and formal contexts, and as such should be seen as a projected film, not DVD or tape. I enjoyed seeing this work in the context of this festival and enjoyed the after screening discussions with a surprisingly informed and engaged audience.


Also included in the film festival theater presentations at the art cinema house were two screenings of 'Selections', my 42 minute video program of 'stereoscopic 3D video art'. This was presented on DVD using cross-polarized dual-projection of stereoscopic video (de-mux from source). The subject matter and form are 'experimental' and a departure from the 'standard 3D stuff'.

After a first technically 'challenged' screening, where the vertical alignment of the stereo pair went awry during the screening and likely precipitated 'headaches' for some viewers, the second day's screening went without problems. The staff was better prepared the second time around, having seen what '3D' really was and how to set it up, and I was happy to see the works on a large silver screen in all of their stereoscopic versions.

No love here

The film work that I hated in the film festival was the academic, theoretical Brechtian-inspired politically correct left-wing 'bourgeois deconstruction' junk by Peter Greenaway ('The Tulse Luper Suitcases - Part II') - presented on opening night (I walked out of it half way), and the Digital Express competition entry by Trinh Minh-ha 'Night Passage' (discussed below in Digital Express). These overly hyped and 'awarded' works seem to me destined for the trash heap of history, but not without accolades and awards heaped on them by the 'Emperor's New Clothes left-of-the-indie overpass crowd of post-Brechtian reflexive school of po-mo deconstructionist theory'.

The New Projectionists - the New Cinema

"Cinema is a history of documentations and representations using the moving image as a basic concept. Artists dealing with this moving image, search for its relationship with the real world, and deconstruct and reconstruct traditional concepts of art restlessly. Last 40 years the most remarkable phenomenon is that cinema, significantly by extension to video and projected images, has moved to real spaces seeking for representing new forms and ways of applying time flow. And also by expanding to materials of digital media, film as the movement of time, and its projection gave the new paradigm to the concept of cinema. Now cinema has moved away from the traditional cinema space into the gallery space and changes its shape of physical space broadening the spectator's way of seeing."

-- Samsung Media Lounge catalog


Ilmin Museum of Art group shot

New possibilities for cinema involves the work of Paul Marino, and his colleagues at Machinima in New York, for pioneering the concept of 'game engine' as cinematograph in this new digital cinema. Marino presented a 'filmmaking as game engine' works and contributed to a workshop and panel presentation on the subjects of VR, artificial intelligence, and the utilization of game engines in motion picture creations.

Paul Marino comes from advertising and now is producing a studio-like enterprise using game-engine technology as the key to the motion-picture production experience. And I think it really works well, and is more radical than a lot of 'experimental' works that are produced as 'conceptual investigations' on the nature of the 'photographic image', and all the other academic blah blah blahs that result in tenure these days in Canada.

This work demonstrates the shift that has taken place in terms of what constitutes 'the camera'. If the game engine can be accepted as camera, with the POV joystick in the player's hand, with multiple-user functionality, with web distribution and interaction, then the notion of 'what is cinema now' has radically shifted.

It is unfortunate, however, that the attendance at the film events was rather small, especially for the digital features. But let's not forget that the 'FILM FESTIVAL' was really a partner of the 'NET FESTIVAL' which was seen worldwide, with separate competing works, prizes, and a distribution and attendance that was internet - wide.

Jeon Sung-kwon curated the Samsung Media Lounge installations at the Ilmin Museum of Art in downtown Seoul. This was a critical component of SeNef and was declared by Ahn C. Park the interactive and installation possiblities of film. Jeon had come aboard in June-July so it was partially a catch-up experience for him; as such it was difficult for me to initially guage what was his interests and focus in curating was so we both operated on certain 'assumptions'.

There were two floors to the exhibition. The first floor featured gallery works by Kim Hee-young and a rather nuveau academic-art installation by Addad Hannah. These were joined by the one of the worst installation films ('Ipanema Theories' by Gonzalez-Foerster) I had ever seen. 'Ipanema Theories' was a film projection that featured the appearance of little if any editing. All the focus pulls, random movements, camera adjustments, false starts that one normally associates with the 'outs bin' were left in the work with the result that it appeared to have been shot by a 10 year old learning how to operate his/her first video camera. I just thought it was awful stuff.

However, also featured on the first floor was one of the best new cinema interactive concepts I had seen at the festival: 'The Central City Projects' by the U.K. artist Stanza. Quite simply, intelligently and elegantly, the Stanza works - including the variations he presented in a special workshop on his concepts and web technologies - re-define the idea of 'recording', editing, and 'projecting' film. He utilizes numerous audio - video sources from worldwide locations, combines them using interesting algorhythm editing schemas, and projects them on the world wide web using a standard (IE in the demos) browser. That's streamed media brought into the gallery and it really hit home with the workshop audience.

Stanza's work redefines 'cinema' and the 'motion-picture' experience as a programmable browsing event. Find his works on the web, you know the searchable way.

This kind of work is something the 'Frameworkers' of the 90's would have had a hard time swallowing. 'Where's the scratching on film' they might wonder in a era of browser-projected, interactive and multiple sourced films.

Upstairs on the second floor were my works and a installation 'Soft Cinema' by Lev Manovich, one of my favorite critical authors on the subjects of VR and the politics of the image.

Manovich, also, uses multiple-source (though not simultaneous in time) images, multiple frames, scripted sci-fi narrative, and algorhythm editing techniques to present interactive narratives on multiple monitors. The installations are accompanied by pages and pages of critical remarks to the viewer. Manovich's work was like a strange, fragmented narration which required 'meditation' rather than a 'reading'.

In the end, these pieces were too formal, too academic, too slick for me. I prefered Stanza's strange playground on the web where all things were being 'processed' by the bigger and better browsers that would project it for us everywhere and anyware. And across the way, there was my work in all its 'vulgarity' (as it was once termed, in Canada.)

My installation of 'Amerika' in three screens was a bizarre co-tenant with the Manovich quiet, slick installation on the second floor. "Amerika' is 11 years of work, between 1972 and 1983, created without ANY government assistance, strictly out of pocket, anarchic, full of stock footage, sometimes ugly and scratched, sometimes all optical printing fx, and generally LOUD with three channels of multi-mixed mayhem. But it seemed like a 'good place' for it since it had been created in the pre-cd era and pre-laser-disc era of 'interactive' viewing. It had been created as a multiple-source, interactive structure, show-in-any-order, one-reel-at-a-time, simulacral spectacle of 'North Amerikan' image factories looking for a digital container (I couldn't afford the Laser Disc mastering costs in 1984 from Pioneer in Long Beach - 6 grand, or something like that.).

So, twenty years later, 'Amerika' was presented on 3-screens in DVD format in a gallery, across the room from Lev Manovich, the theoretician-artist, and it still 'worked for me' and a lot of other visitors because the notion of 'continuity' is really less important than the idea of 'expansion'.

Technical issues and installations:

Some problems occured in the beginning with the 'Amerika' film in particular with setting correct sound levels, or setting the DVDs to be played every hour in sync. But these were minor problems in comparison with the other problems I had when my stereoscopic 3D DVD installation.

The four-monitor installation of 'West Coast Artists in Light' was presented WITHOUT 3D for a entire week because the staff couldn't figure out how to make the glasses work, not having seen 3D ever before, or so it seemed.

This was indeed unfortunate since I was hoping a simple four monitor installation with glasses would be easy to install. What I got was four lousy color monitors, one without red in its playback, and no 3D for a week.

In the future I will be more thorough in my documentation for the works.

Also disappointing was the scale of the monitor presentation of 'Why Don't You Just Leave?' (co-authored with Anne Popperwell).

This piece is usually presented as a projection on a table or on a wall. At Ilmin it was presented on a small monitor in a wall, and as such, was rather difficult to experience.

 

What is cinema now?

The definition of 'film-maker' has changed, along with the digital and web technologies. 'Filmmakers' shoot in digital video, or film, or create digital files output on the web or rendered as...video or film or media streamed on the web. It took a while to get 'legitimized' but by now the arguments against digital videography by filmmakers are only in the dusty wastebins of 'Frameworks' archives. Editing and projection has become 'desk-top' (Premiere, Final Cut, etc.) and output includes DVD, web, interactive media.

Many contemporary fine art gallery exhibitions have discovered what they term 'multi-media installation art'. Sometimes these are nothing more than 'kinetic paintings' (for example: a video projected featuring a VERY SLOW FRAME RATE), attempting to present a simpleton's curating point of view ('see, video is like painting...'). Sometimes video is part performance, sometimes a sculpture, and on it goes. Each form of presentation / installation is attempting to re-define the media arts and in relation to other (art) institutions (e.g. fine art).

Beyond the simpleton concepts of film and video as 'kinetic paintings' is the concept that these medias have evolved into strategies of mapping and describing space and time, and our cultural experiences of space and time, in ways that are unique and unforseen. The digital evolution has created the possiblity of simultaneous projection (via the web), multiple sources, shifting and non-linear editing structures, construction and destruction of meaning, and hybrid forms which join other medias into hitherto unseen combinations.

This is not merely a 'formal' excercise. It reflects the general shift from 'classic' methodologies of image and sound creation to the experimental arts that dominate today's digital web cultures. Meditations on the 'photographic image' are pretty much 'old school' metaphysics now, on the same dusty shelf as 'modernism' and 'nihilism' and various 'national experimentalalisms'.

Digital Express:

SeNef had two parts (Net and Film) and each part had a competetition section. In film, this was 'Digital Express', a digital feature film competition with experimental narratives, multi-screened pieces, docu-dramatic works, personal narratives, all shot in DV and packaged either on 35mm film or video.

"...the main characteristic of Digital Express is coexistence of ambitious formal experiments and detailed applications of digital technology to the conventions and production techniques of traditional filmmaking."

SeNef catalog p. 27

Judging digital features - commentary on works - the irritatingly bad, and then the good.

Which brings us to 'Night Passage' by Trinh Minh-ha and Jean-Paul Bourdier, a film that got me really ticked off as to how reputations determine the 'value' of film internationally. I was expecting an exceptional film because the pre-screen commentary, the 'international reputation' of the filmmaker was so established. What I got was a illustrated lecture and ruminations through a library of philosophical quotations (by other writers). What I got was something a fourth-year film student would find as 'apalling'.

What struck me immediately about Night Passage was its clumsy use of drama and words as a stand-in for a concept, and symptom, in a psycho-social portrait of an alienated Vietnamese girl. So I sat back and watched the debacle of a filmmaker (Minh-ha) who could not direct camera or editing, who relied on corny step-motion printing effects and garrish scenography to convey her intellectual (philosophical) subjects, stumbling from one 'station' to the next. It appeared that the director Minh-ha had no clue as to how to direct actors, who in turn had no clue how to interpret long ponderous philosophical quotations from writers like Borges. I sadly noted that each scene, each chapter, progressively displayed more and more of this academic conceit masquerading as filmmaking. I thought, 'yes, but it works in the academy', and that's the audience. So why is it a finalist here? I suspect that part of the problem was 'language', that the badly acted, ponderous, and sometimes embarassingly bad dialog exchanges could be unnoticed by Korean pre-selection judges in determining the final selection.

While on the subject of 'bad', I have to add the strangely hyperbolic 'psycho' 'horror' flick 'Jelly Dolly' by the U.K.'s Susannah Gent, a film full of incest hints, lousy sex, violent camera povs, a disembodied Freudo-father-head, a really loud horror sound track full of shock fx, and you get the rest of the Women's Studies message.

The good, the interesting, the moving and innovative included films like 'Half-Price', 'Seven Days, Seven Nights', 'Pretend', 'The Friend', 'Navel', 'Christmas' and 'Fade Into You'.

( Here is a page of notes concerning these films - notes taken as reference by me for jury discussions. )

In the judging for cash prizes, I was joined by Dong-Won Kim, a noted film documentarian filmmaker in Korea, and In-sik Kim, a feature film maker from Seoul, Korea. All three of us represented different attitudes towards film and digital cinema and all of us argued for certain titles as preferences. I found it interesting to hear from them how one of my favorite selections 'Fade Into You by Chegy, a Korean film was more 'traditional' or 'derivative' than I could have known. This advice came from my Korean jurors-filmmakers familiar with the history and traditions of Korean cinema. After some discussions, which were joined by the festival organizers and film curator, we made our call as to the 'best' of the fest.

The Grand Prize of Digital Express SeNef 2004 was awarded to the beautifully acted, directed, shot, edited, written and created Seven Days and Seven Nights directed by Joel Cano of Cuba. This film had courage and the flair of Cuban music.

The Special Prize of the Jury was awarded to the beautfiully acted, directed, shot, edited, written and created Half-Price directed by Isild Le Besco of France. An amazing, intimate, dreamlike film that was 'feature experimental'.

Closing night at the Hollywood Theater - I am saying good-bye / with the organizers and staff:



Thank you to Ahn C. Park, the Festival Director, and to Felix Ji-Hoon Kim, film programmer, Jeon Sung-kwon, curator of Media Lounge and installations, Jun Choi my sometimes 'guide', and all the other remarkable staff and volunteers of SeNef 2004 for making my visit a memorable one. 'Best wishes' to all for their continuing success! Behind each festival and presentation there are the tireless contributors whose credits never appear on screen. But without their efforts, film culture would still be only 'in the can'.

XAR