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#1 Michael LaVoie

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Posted 03 April 2016 - 10:31 AM

Yesterday I attended a gallery showing of this video artist:

http://www.jamescoha...tists/omer-fast

 

Then went down the street and caught this:

http://www.theguardi...o-joseph-conrad

 

Video artists are now tackling filmmaking in super exciting ways.  Making pieces with actors, story, dialogue and effects.  Most video art I've seen in galleries over the past few decades was rather cringe-worthy.    Totally avante-garde visual eye candy with no story.  In most cases, the "visual" elements were even lacking in technical proficiency and seemed very amateurish. Hardly "art".

 

However these past shows from Omar and Stan were both stunning.  Omer had 3 films in three different spaces that were beautifully shot and edited and perhaps most importantly, each was directed well.  In Omer's film you'll see incredible practical special FX, car crashes. Helicopter footage.   

 

Both shows have narrative script-writing and standard editing, acting, music etc.  Walking into Omer's piece in each of the 3 screening rooms without knowing where it starts, you just sit back and absorb it till you see the beginning again.  

 

Then comes the gargantuan task of "understanding" it.  Which Omer doesn't make easy.   It's a puzzle but a very cinematic one.  It has a circular narrative, disturbing symbolism and magic realism throughout.

 

Stans piece based on a spy novel, is a little easier to grasp but is he making a parody or not?  Some of the acting is so over the top.  So how do you judge it?  When you don't know the context the artist is working in, can we tell if it's good or bad?  Does that matter? 

 

All those benchmarks we use for movies, do they apply?  These are questions I never had to ask of "video art" because the artists in the video art I've seen never went there.  Now they are most definitely "going for it".  They're making movies.  And the results are impressive.  Perhaps this has been going on for a while and I've been unaware.   I keep up with indie film, art-house film but film as "art", that's something I've kinda forgotten about. 

 

 I'm not exactly a culture vulture but I try to catch up now and then and hit Chelsea every so often for gallery hops.  But seeing these two pieces back to back had me re-evaluating film as art and the more recent ways artists are using the medium.

 

But where does this "art" fit into the film-making landscape?  The world of Cinema has always had experimental artists like Maya Deren, Ken Anger, Matthew Barney etc.  But where do we put filmmakers like Omer and Stan who are using multi-windows, multiple projectors and other "exhibition-dependent" tools to tell there narrative stories? 

 

The art world needs to recoin the term "Video artist".  But what would replace it?  I have met quite a few "video artists" lately in NYC who don't consider themselves "filmmakers".  They're artists.  It's just in my own opinion, "video art" induces an eye roll.

 

As artists, they don't worry about pre-sale contracts, actor LOI's.  It's a whole different world.  Although they share the same "barrier for entry"  in that you must appease the gatekeepers to get your work seen but I think once you're in and you've made a name, at least you don't have to prove yourself over and over again based on the box office gross of your last film.   An enviable position. 

 

Does anyone have any favorite "video artists" making similar pieces?  Anyone worked on such pieces?   I'd love to be able to make art for arts sake.  Though none of it seems easy and these two artists I saw prove it's definitely not "cheap".


Edited by Michael LaVoie, 03 April 2016 - 10:35 AM.

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#2 Wiliam Cardoza

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Posted 03 April 2016 - 12:38 PM

I just saw a "Humira" commercial and it had 3-screens going like an installation piece for a couple brief moments LOL

 

Catherine Sullivan "The Chittendens" at Metro Pictures: about 10 years ago I remember sitting on the floor and being enthralled. 

 

Perhaps some "video art" approaches could find a more mainstream application, most obviously in music videos and commercials and I think your two examples of artist applying more of a traditional "cinematic" treatment shows the application in reverse. I didn't like the voiceover in one of the omer fast pieces: it seemed like a "crutch" for the bland visuals and stilted acting. I didn't see the spy novel piece but I saw some of his other work and I liked it more.

 

Poetry vs a Novel ~ it's just the context of how the ideas are presented and experienced that matters more... 


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#3 Macks Fiiod

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Posted 03 April 2016 - 01:30 PM

 

Sorry but I'm not seeing the difference between video art and experimental film-making. What am I missing?


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#4 Freya Black

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Posted 03 April 2016 - 02:17 PM

 

 

Sorry but I'm not seeing the difference between video art and experimental film-making. What am I missing?

 

 

 

Two different traditions that were historically very different. Experimental film was traditionally shot on film and there is a lot of work that deals with the film material itself such as Stan Brackhage or those films were they leave film in the sea wrapped in sea weed or something.

 

Video art was historically based around the smaller screen, so crt monitors or in more modern times lcd panels, but now video projection is also common. Video art tended to be centered around the idea of the video installation. Typically this might be something like a 2 hour shot of someones foot or something played on a screen. I never liked this stuff much and at one point I started work on a series of video installation cliches. where I tried to make something more interesting within the limitations of whatever the cliche was. There were of course really great Video artists like Nam June Paik and the Vaskulas but it was rare that you would see something even close to anything that good when walking into a gallery.

 

it's true, the changes in technology seem to be really revitalising video art in all kinds of ways.


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#5 Michael LaVoie

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Posted 03 April 2016 - 02:19 PM

 

Sorry but I'm not seeing the difference between video art and experimental film-making. What am I missing?

 

It's kind of a distinction without a difference.  But my point was I recently came across video art that seems like it's crossing over and pushing the genre a bit.  Closer to movies.  A lot of focus on story and character and the use of narrative filmmaking techniques to get across the themes.


Edited by Michael LaVoie, 03 April 2016 - 02:20 PM.

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#6 Macks Fiiod

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Posted 03 April 2016 - 02:52 PM

 

So basically (in today's era) digital filmmaking but not bound to the conventional central storyline and instead uses visual technique or editing dexterity to be the heart of the presentation?


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#7 Michael LaVoie

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Posted 03 April 2016 - 04:44 PM

So basically (in today's era) digital filmmaking but not bound to the conventional central storyline and instead uses visual technique or editing dexterity to be the heart of the presentation?

To say the filmmaking is digital is a bit reductive.  They were both "cinematic".  That's more to the point and I think it's unique for a gallery space.    If it's at the heart of the presentation or not.  The exhibition format with multi windows, projectors etc was more of a gallery trademark. but the image acquisition seemed to be standard cinema.  

 

The flipside would be walking into a regular multiplex and seeing a movie screen on 3 sides of you and watching a movie play out sometimes in 3 angles at once, sometimes to the right or left etc.  Having picture in picture randomly throughout.  It'd be very unexpected.    

 

Walking into a gallery and seeing footage that looked like it was taken from a traditional movie was equally unexpected.  I think it's an exciting development and can only help to elevate cinema's more artistic ambitions.  Perhaps someday the NEA will see fit to reinstate the AFI grant to filmmakers again so we have funding for indie filmmakers and not just film preservation.


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#8 Carl Looper

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Posted 03 April 2016 - 05:00 PM

An art gallery isn't the best venue for narrative art (such as narrative film making).

 

Narrative art plays complex games with the time given to a work. Whereas the work one typically finds in an art gallery tends to avoid any particular way of giving time to the work. There are, of course, exceptions to this, such as performance art, but such works still tend to maintain an affinity with traditional art, such as painting, which operates more in terms of space (architecture) than in terms of time. Art galleries are best for an art of space, more than an art of time. Time in an art gallery becomes more like some sort of timeless time.

 

Narrative art works better in theatres, reading rooms (books, comic books), cinemas, the web.

 

C


Edited by Carl Looper, 03 April 2016 - 05:05 PM.

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#9 Carl Looper

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Posted 03 April 2016 - 11:50 PM

The anti-narrative position of certain art (or experimental) films, of a certain persuasion, grew out of a dissatisfaction with particular narratives (particularly those of conventional cinema), rather than out of any real fundamental argument with narrative as such. However some theorists of this cinema took it to signal a fundamentally anti-narrative position and this had an unfortunate feedback loop on the film makers, who would start promoting the same theory, if not write it themselves.

 

Narrative becomes understood as some sort of sin, or some sort of old fashioned idea going back to Ancient Greece - the incorrect assumption being that anything done yesterday (let alone in Ancient times) must be obsolete. It is very much part of a strident modernism (out-with-the-old-in-with-the-new), with it's emphasis on some sort of notion of the "contemporary". The latest fashion. Or fad. And opposing narrative can be regarded as just such a fad.

 

But if we take a post-modernist position on this then historical fads (such as anti-narrative) become just as important as contemporary fads (whatever the powers that be nominate as contemporary), and so an anti-narrative theory, while an "historical fad" becomes worth looking into. But what's required is to put such into context. And this means reconnecting such with the narrative it otherwise opposes or recontextualising it with another narrative. Otherwise one is just perpetuating the same theory - that narrative is some sort of sin, and that anti-narratives live in some sort of fundamentally pure and untouchable isolation from everything else.

 

What is really required is not anti-narrative work, but narratives of an entirely different order.

 

But as mentioned the best place for such is not the art gallery. It's the music hall (music and narrative have a lot in common) or the theatre, or the reading room, or the cinema, or DIY versions of such. An art cinema but one designed for something other than the art gallery.

 

C


Edited by Carl Looper, 03 April 2016 - 11:57 PM.

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#10 Carl Looper

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Posted 04 April 2016 - 12:31 AM

Filmmakers such as Peter Greenaway tried to work it the other way - to turn films back into something belonging in an art gallery. Or to transform the cinema into an art gallery. Eventually he gave up and moved back to the art gallery, from whence he began. And he seems a lot happier there.

 

Narrative artists could try the same thing but the reverse - see if they can transform an art gallery into a cinema. But it never quite works. Narratives require attention. The order of the work is important. And various details, if missed, can disrupt what is going on. Some theorise that the cinema is some sort of escape from the real world - and that such requires a venue blocking out the real world in order to facilitate such an escape. And that narrative is part of this escapism. But the cinema can also be regarded as a way of blocking out distractions - in order to appreciate the narrative more clearly (without some bozo tripping over you in the dark looking for a seat, cushion or bean bag).

 

Its like reading a book. You could display the pages of a book on an art gallery wall, but it would be impossible to read such a book off such a wall. It's just so much easier to read (and appreciate) a book in the conventional way - in your hands, turning the page at your own leisure, and becoming immersed in the words - digesting such in one's own private imagination, away from prying eyes treating you like some sort of guinea pig in some sort of experiment.

 

Old ideas are not inherently bad ideas. For example, the wheel is a very old idea (indeed Ancient) but it is just as good today as it was thousands of years ago.

 

C


Edited by Carl Looper, 04 April 2016 - 12:45 AM.

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#11 Michael LaVoie

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Posted 04 April 2016 - 12:31 PM

I'd be surprised if Oren and Stan didn't take into consideration, viewers walking in and out at random times.  I think anyone doing a narrative work in a gallery space has to plan around that and design a looser approach to the presentation that doesn't depend on the traditional linear structure.  It definitely presents a challenge.

 

Tradition cinema relies on a filmmaker contracting with the audience within the first 5 minutes and establishing tone, characters, story and genre.  With a gallery work you get no such contract.  Everything is up for grabs and the audience can feel free to make what they will out of it.  So perhaps showing up at the very beginning isn't as critical.  Just my take though.


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#12 John E Clark

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Posted 04 April 2016 - 02:05 PM

I never liked this stuff much and at one point I started work on a series of video installation cliches. where I tried to make something more interesting within the limitations of whatever the cliche was. There were of course really great Video artists like Nam June Paik and the Vaskulas but it was rare that you would see something even close to anything that good when walking into a gallery.

 

it's true, the changes in technology seem to be really revitalising video art in all kinds of ways.

 

 

I'd have to excavate material from some 3/4 Beta tapes of the Wife's 'video' installations... but she tried to have some sort of 'story', or at least concept statement for a work, rather than just 'pretty... shiny... my precious'... oh, wait... wrong tape...

 

There was the time I reused a VHS tape for her material, but didn't erase that tape completely so the museum visitor was confronted with some portion of a porn movie, which I had apparently copied... purely for academic review mind you... The accident I of course thought was rather avant garde.. but the Wife did not view that mishap with the same humor...

 

Anyway, every thing that I had taken hours to program hardware for the simple video effects that I put into her projects, could be done today with using just Photoshop's 'video' features, limited thought they may be... in a few minutes... the biggest amount of time would be taken finding the photos on the archive disk... or disks... or finding the disks in the closet...


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#13 Carl Looper

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Posted 04 April 2016 - 03:57 PM

I'd be surprised if Oren and Stan didn't take into consideration, viewers walking in and out at random times.  I think anyone doing a narrative work in a gallery space has to plan around that and design a looser approach to the presentation that doesn't depend on the traditional linear structure.  It definitely presents a challenge.

 

Tradition cinema relies on a filmmaker contracting with the audience within the first 5 minutes and establishing tone, characters, story and genre.  With a gallery work you get no such contract.  Everything is up for grabs and the audience can feel free to make what they will out of it.  So perhaps showing up at the very beginning isn't as critical.  Just my take though.

 

Although art galleries are designed around space more than time, there's certainly nothing wrong with that. Space is certainly something very worthwhile in it's own right. And it's certainly not necessary for art of any kind to be creative in terms of time.

 

But if and when a work is involved with time, it's hardly an improvement to redesign the work with a "looser approach" in terms of such. Better to create a different work where such is not the focus in the first place.

 

This has nothing to do with any dependencies on "traditional linear structure". Quite complex non-linear narratives will be just as much short changed by the art gallery context as any traditional narrative might be.

 

All parts of a narrative are inter-related. It's not just between one shot and the next, but between every part of the narrative and every other part. One can certainly design work in such a way that it doesn't matter in what order you show shots, scenes or even frames, or at what time one enters and exits a work, but then such a work is no longer one involved (or capable of being involved) in any complex narrative.  It gets designed out of the work, or one doesn't bother with it in the first place.

 

This is not about the freedom of the audience to come and go as they please. While more awkward in a theatre/cinema/auditorium one can certainly enter and exit such a space anytime one likes. The issue is that a work which is being creative with the particular time it asks of it's audience is simply harder to appreciate if you are not giving the work this time.

 

C


Edited by Carl Looper, 04 April 2016 - 04:06 PM.

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#14 Carl Looper

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Posted 04 April 2016 - 05:57 PM

I should just add that I work quite a bit in an art gallery context, and have no issue working in such a context at all. There is a lot about space, and the sort of timeless time that an art gallery provides, that can be explored in great detail. And indeed it's quite refreshing to put narrative to the side and work directly with visual space. And there are certainly many aspects of time one can exploit there as well.

 

Indeed those contexts in which narrative works best can be quite limited in terms of what one can do in terms of space. One's space is reduced to that of a rectangle. So the art gallery (or extended cinema) becomes a good antidote to such limitations.

 

VR provides an interesting alternative and it will be interesting to see how narrative art might work with such - no doubt drawing on ideas in theatre and cinema as much as computer gaming.

 

Narrative is an art of time. And deserves more attention than the sledging it tends to get from time to time.

 

C


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#15 Freya Black

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Posted 05 April 2016 - 05:01 AM

The anti-narrative position of certain art (or experimental) films, of a certain persuasion, grew out of a dissatisfaction with particular narratives (particularly those of conventional cinema), rather than out of any real fundamental argument with narrative as such. However some theorists of this cinema took it to signal a fundamentally anti-narrative position and this had an unfortunate feedback loop on the film makers, who would start promoting the same theory, if not write it themselves.

 

This really isn't true. I don't have time enough to get into this right now as I'm on 3G and have a bunch of end of year tax stuff to attend to but....

 

There are fundamental arguments against narrative cinema itself that were especially popular during the 70's.

The London Co-Op filmmaker Peter Gidal wrote quite a bit about this if you can get hold of his books. I think "Materialism" is one of his books that talks about this. There are issues with narrative cinema and anything with a narrative basis for that matter.

 

I also wouldn't describe the opposition to narrative as a fad. It very much wasn't and still isn't and is something that has run through the history of experimental film to some extent. I have an issue with the hostility that is given to narrative work in the context of experimental film however as there has always been some work such as Maya Deren or even Kenneth Anger that was  quite far into the narrative camp and it saddens me that narrative is used as such a dirty word in that context and approached with such hostility.

 

Freya


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#16 Dom Jaeger

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Posted 05 April 2016 - 08:02 AM

I quite like some of Bill Viola's stuff, hardly narrative, but there is often a transformation playing out that leads from one state to another, and the visuals can be stunning.

 

Also Christian Marclay, who I first discovered through a wonderful exhibit at the Tate Modern where he had cut a montage of hundreds of musical moments in cinema into a sort of symphony over 4 screens. The music included instruments and voices as well as smashing plates and slamming doors, etc. He's done other works sampling gunshots aimed at the viewer, or telephone conversations, all taken from the history of cinema. Not so much creating new imagery as creating new meaning from the vast database of already created images, but always there is a sort of narrative, or at least a progression of mood.

 

In the age of art-as-distraction the evolving idea of narrative fiction played out on multiple screens seems quite natural.. but who the hell has the time to figure out what it means, you just tweet about it and move on, right?   :ph34r:   

 


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#17 Carl Looper

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Posted 05 April 2016 - 06:05 PM

 

This really isn't true. I don't have time enough to get into this right now as I'm on 3G and have a bunch of end of year tax stuff to attend to but....

 

There are fundamental arguments against narrative cinema itself that were especially popular during the 70's.

The London Co-Op filmmaker Peter Gidal wrote quite a bit about this if you can get hold of his books. I think "Materialism" is one of his books that talks about this. There are issues with narrative cinema and anything with a narrative basis for that matter.

 

I also wouldn't describe the opposition to narrative as a fad. It very much wasn't and still isn't and is something that has run through the history of experimental film to some extent. I have an issue with the hostility that is given to narrative work in the context of experimental film however as there has always been some work such as Maya Deren or even Kenneth Anger that was  quite far into the narrative camp and it saddens me that narrative is used as such a dirty word in that context and approached with such hostility.

 

Freya

 

Theorists such as Peter Gidal are the theorists about which I'm speaking. Of the so called stucturalist/materialist tradition. It is not against Gidal's films, or any other films of this persuasion, that I would have any argument with at all. On the contrary. The argument is with the writing (the theory) around such films, of which Gidal and others will be quite eloquent, but also (in my books at least) quite wrong.

 

Out of this theoretical work (not the film making) emerges an anti-narrative position. It's based on the misguided idea that a film image is some sort of illusion - that the essence is to be found in the materials, and the art in a "stucturalist" position with respect to such materials. Narrative becomes understood (or misunderstood) as part of the illusory side of film.

 

But this emphasis on the essence of film assumes an equation to be understood between such an essence (or fundamentals) and that of art.

 

It's not that difficult to understand. When working with film one becomes intimately involved in it's physical nature. Or material nature. The image component strikes us as some sort of apparition. And any narrative component, even more so. Its easy to treat these apparitions as illusory, or at best, a so called "representation" of something.

 

This is how images and narrative will be treated - as "representations" of something else. But what is this something else? The structuralist/materialist theory tends to suggest this something else is typically some sort of propaganda or at best, a convention. And the structuralist/materialist filmmaker will seek to disrupt this propaganda/convention through redirecting our appreciation to that of the materials otherwise involved. And indeed it does work. The material structure of film (or of any art) provides a wealth of alternatives to propaganda/convention.

 

andre_2464398b.jpg

 

Carl Andre invites us to appreciate his work in terms of the materials. In this case: wood. We can't appreciate here in a photograph because it's all about being there in front of the work. Andre is called a "minimalist". The minimalism refers to the very minimal way in which the materials are arranged - that which we can see in a photograph. But this is not the most important part. For Andre it is not the arrangement of the materials that constitutes the essence of the art but the materials themselves. But the so called "minimalist" structuring of such does help us to appreciate what he means by the "materials in themselves".

 

And his work is really quite beautiful in this way. And his structuring isn't really that minimal at all, but in comparison to other works it acquires this term "minimalist".

 

 

Now it is not against this kind of work, or this kind of theory, that I'd ever what to suggest anything inherently misguided. It's not at all. It is against the sledging of images and narrative, that can otherwise emerge out of this kind of work, that is an unfortunate byproduct.

 

Images are not a representation of something else. Nor is narrative. It is precisely when we we start reading images, as representations of something else, that we can end up assigning reality to that something else. But images are a reality in their own right, no less physical than the physical materials out of which an image is otherwise composed. And the same goes for narrative.

 

While Gidal might argue for a fundamental position against narrative (and other filmmakers of the same persuasion might be similarly persuaded) it is only this argument which is the problem. Not the films, the film making or the film makers.

 

C


Edited by Carl Looper, 05 April 2016 - 06:18 PM.

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#18 Carl Looper

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Posted 05 April 2016 - 06:57 PM

Here is a good starting point for getting inside the head of the theoretical work that emerged in the 70s with respect to what was called experimental film making. It starts with a definition of Structural/Materialist film

 

http://monoskop.org/...m_Anthology.pdf

 

The first line reads:

 

Structural/Materialist film attempts to be non-illusionist.

 

Now Gidal will argue (like me) that a materialist film doesn't represent anything. But the completely faulty assumption here is that other films do.

 

Now films are certainly quite capable of representing something. Indeed, even a candidate for a materialist film can end up representing something. And indeed Gidal will elaborate guards against this. The idea is to remove from the process any act of representation. And indeed this is quite a good idea.

 

The problem is the assumption that representation (reproduction etc) is there in the first place. And that only a materialist film is capable of removing it.

 

Gidal will speak of some sort of "representational reality" that one is otherwise aiming a camera at. And he will speak of being "seduced" by this "representational reality" and that one must work against this seduction.

 

The real issue for filmmakers such as Gidal is simply dominant cinema, and the rubbish it is capable of manufacturing. Gidal is convinced (like others) that this rubbish is a function of narrative (fullstop) and is looking for an alternative - but in the process he is throwing out the baby with the bath water - closing off alternatives, that do explore narrative and that need not be rubbish.

 

C


Edited by Carl Looper, 05 April 2016 - 06:59 PM.

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#19 Carl Looper

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Posted 05 April 2016 - 07:48 PM

What is at the heart of the issue is this equation formulated between narrative and ideological structure. While it is certainly the case that ideological structures will use narrative as a vehicle for their reproduction, that doesn't mean that narrative therefore belongs to ideological structures.

 

Or if we're convinced that narrative does belong to ideological structures, the task is simply to take it back. To take back ownership of it. Or to put it another way: why should ideological structures be the owner of narrative? Or who/what gave narrative to such in the first place? Or how did it steal it off us in the first place?

 

C


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#20 Freya Black

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Posted 06 April 2016 - 07:45 AM

What is at the heart of the issue is this equation formulated between narrative and ideological structure. While it is certainly the case that ideological structures will use narrative as a vehicle for their reproduction, that doesn't mean that narrative therefore belongs to ideological structures.

 

Or if we're convinced that narrative does belong to ideological structures, the task is simply to take it back. To take back ownership of it. Or to put it another way: why should ideological structures be the owner of narrative? Or who/what gave narrative to such in the first place? Or how did it steal it off us in the first place?

 

C

 

 

Lots of questions there Carl!

 

Setting aside Peters view on things and the whole structuralist outlook on these things for that matter, lets look at narrative film itself and ideology. Can you name any narrative films, any at all that don't have a particular outlook or ideology behind them? It seems to me that it would be impossible to produce such a work.

 

I think Kenneth Anger put it best when he suggested that film was inherently evil.

I actually much prefer movies because there is something of an honesty about them in the sense that they are up front that they are going to lie to you for a couple of hours or something. This is nicer than documentaries and so called "reality" programmes that have the pretence that they are showing you the way things really are or something.

 

Narrative film is obviously representational I would say. This is kind of the point of it. The only obvious way to escape from this representational aspect would be to make films that are abstract. Once you have representational film then the temptation is there to tell stories with it. Once you have established a narrative then it will carry the ideology of those people making it.

I don't see a way to escape this, and in the past people have gone to great lengths to try and minimise this aspect without too much success. It's fundamental to the way it is. It's far better to be more honest and to say up front that you are going to lie to people in the way that narrative cinema and television does.

 

Carl I find your questions hard to answer because you put the agency behind all this in some strange outside force. Something that is taking control of narrative film. A strange force that has stolen narrative film from the people but it is those involved in the creation of the work and the narrative that put all those ideas into it. Those ideas come from their minds and the ideas in their minds probably in turn come from the world outside and the society they grew up in.

 

Your questions are really strange and the nearest I can make sense of them would be something like "how do you free your mind from ideology?"

 

You stop thinking maybe?

 

I think the basic answer is "you don't" which is at the heart of the problem.

 

Freya


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