Arthur Lipsett Soundtracks

I was just having fun with sound at first. One day I joined two scraps of sound together and they sounded interesting. I began collecting scraps of sound from the wastage…. It was initially a sound experiment – purely for the loving of placing one sound after another.
–Arthur Lipsett on ’very nice, very nice’

The soundtracks of some of the films of the legendary Canadian filmmaker Arthur Lipsett have just been remastered and released on Vinyl. Although Lipsett (who committed suicide in 1986) has been categorised as a “found foutage” filmmaker, the vision of his work is pretty much based on the juxtaposition of (found) sound and image (”I cannot tell whether I am seeing or hearing – I feel taste, and smell sound – it’s all one – I myself am the tone.”, he wrote). In his collages, in which he evokes his “complex, tragic-comic view of the world” (William C. Wees), sound becomes a subversive agent of the image, allowing a critical reflection on what is being shown. This juxtapostion creates after-images which carry over as sonic bridges to other sequences.
The importance of the sound, as instructions for observing and critiquing the images, is highlighted by this LP, which illustrates Lipsett’s highly structured system of field recordings, loops, speech and music. It proves all the more that Lipsett was really a postmodern bricoleur avant la lettre, rearranging the debris of the cultural past. (fragments are available here. The LP is published by Global A, the label owned by archivist Johannes Auvinen, better known – for those into Acid/House – as Tin man)

At the moment we’re composing some programs for the upcoming Courtisane festival in Ghent, which will probably feature some of Lipsett’s work.

Michael Baker wrote a nice piece on the sound-image relationship in Lipsett’s film ‘Very, very nice’. btw: If the video posted here (21-87) rings a bell: it was referenced several time in George Lucas’ ‘Star Wars’ films (also in ‘THX 1138:4EB’ and ‘THX 1138′). (For freaks only: Princess Leia’s cell aboard the Death Star is number 2187. THX 1138 took place in the year 2187, and Maggie McOmie’s character in it dies on the coded date “21/87.” Also, as the legend goes, one of the sound samples in Lipsett’s film, a conversation between Warren S. McCulloch, a pioneer of artificial intelligence, and Roman Kroitor, a cinematographer and director who helped develop the IMAX film format (”Many people feel that in the contemplation of nature and in communication with other living things, they become aware of some kind of force, or something, behind this apparent mask which we see in front of us…”) helped shape Lucas’ ideas about ‘The Force’. How about that, huh). Stanley Kubrick was also a big fan, and asked him to make the trailer of ‘Dr. Strangelove’. Lipsett declined, but his influence is clearly visible in Pablo Ferro’s brilliant trailer:

share – it’s fair!

The European Green party has just launched the site in response to the media industry’s lobbying efforts on sharing media. It has a funny video in which they make fun of the ridiculous clips (you see them when you rent a DVD) in which copying, dowloading and sharing (of copyrighted material) is compared with stealing. On the site it says: “The media industry has failed to offer viable legal alternatives and they will fail to convince consumers that sharing equals stealing. Unfortunately, they have succeeded in another area – lobbying to adapt laws to criminalize sharing, turning consumers into criminals. They argue that their laws are necessary to support artists but in reality all they’re protecting is their own profits.”

Also download the inspiring video Steal This Film – Part II has been released a month ago. Boing Boing writes: “Part II is even better than part one — it covers the technological and enforcement end of the copyright wars, and on the way that using the internet makes you a copier, and how copying puts you in legal jeopardy. Starting with Mark Getty’s (Chairman of Getty Images) infamous statement that “Intellectual Property is the oil of the 21st century,” the filmmakers note that oil always leads to oil-wars, and that these are vicious, ill-conceived and never end well. This leads them to explore the war on copying — which ultimately becomes a war on the Internet and those of us who use it.”

Apparently, Part 2 is already a great success with over 150,000 downloads in the first 4 days. Interestingly, people are being very generous with their donations, which have already passed $5000.

Jamie King, producer of the film gives the following explanation on his blog: “Over 90% of people donating are deciding to go over the artificial $15 threshold we set. But I don’t think people literally ‘want that gift’; I think they want an excuse to be generous!”

Media & Memory / Article


Isn’t it strange how history has been replaced by technology…?

From ‘Eloge de l’amour’, Jean-Luc Godard (2001)

I just finished an article on media and memory for a forthcoming publication on media culture in Flanders and Belgium, partly based on talks I heard and had during the ‘Media, Memory and the Archive’ conference we organised at Argos (October 6 2007, see elsewhere on this blog). It’s based on the paradox between the idea of the prosthetic, networked memory, promised to us by the ubiquitous surveillance and sousveillance technologies (including the ‘life-logging’ trend that we can see coming up in projects like ‘what was I thinking’ (MIT), Lifeblog (Nokia), MyLifeBits (Microsoft), questioned in artists’ projects like Lucy Kimbell’s ‘I measure therefore I am’ or Ellie Harrison‘s ‘Eat 22’ and ‘Gold Card Adventures’) and the inherent variability and instability of these technologies. The essay is basically a exploration of the way these new memory and communication technologies have changed our relation to the world and the past, and the way social memory is constructed. It argues that variability and flux are the new norm and perhaps even, for a whole new generation out there, the main condition of creativity. Memory institutions have to learn to cope with these new paradigms, and try to combine formal (institutionalised) with informal strategies (as in oral media, or the way games are kept alive via communities such as MAME). Like John Sobol recently wrote on the iDC mailinglist: “Loss is only real if you feel you that you have something to lose.”…

The article will be published on this blog

Caouette’s All Tomorrow’s Parties

Just found out that Jonathan Caouette, the guy who made the extraordinary ‘Tarnation’ – a touching autobiographic, home-made (edited with iMovie actually) account based on his own Super-8 home footage, photographs, audio recordings, and various pop-culture snippets (Cocteau Twins, Low a.o.), post-produced and released with the help of Gus Van Sant and Jonathan Cameron Mitchell – is working on a documentary on the music festival All Tomorrow’s Parties. The film is commissioned bu ATP and Warp films, and will future lots of “found” footage, that Caouette is assembling via the internet. On the movie Myspace page it says: ” we need your footage! We are after all kinds of material from camcorder footage through to mobile phone video. We are as interested in off stage footage as concert material. It is a low-budget film, and because of the volume of material involved, we can’t pay for footage but anyone whose material is used in the final film will be credited on the movie, be invited to the launch screening/event, get a package of Warp DVD goodies and ATP guest list to future shows”. The film will not be the result of a real (intended) collaborative effort, but the internet-mediated-assemblage idea will probably get some following – something that happened with the Beastie Boys’ concert film ‘Awesome: I ——‘ Shot That!’ (using footage shot by fans) as well (in Belgium Daan Stuyven did a similar thing).

Anyway, let’s hope some footage of the bands and songs posted here (and many others) turns up in the movie:

Video Vortex Amsterdam / Report

The second installment of the Video Vortex conference took place in Amsterdam and was hosted by the Institute of Network Cultures and the project instigator, Geert Lovink. The programme was quite varied, and there were a few very interesting perspectives on the internetvideo movement. I particularly liked the ideas of Stefaan Decostere and Thomas Elsaesser. Decostere refered to Keith Sanborn’s presentation in Brussels and introduced the concept of ‘impactology’, as a way to grasp the grasp the dynamics of the YouTube Culture, a dynamics of user driven impact, not ‘content’. Impact, not only as an object, but as a tool for analysis. He refered to ideas of Octavia PAz (“Life in the impact is a futurism”), Paul Virilio (esthetics of disasters), Flusser (information is the expression of what the user does with the image) as well as Klimov’s war movie ‘Come and Se’. Decostere propagated a distantiation form impact, creating contexts for reflection and intervention, something he want to do with his installation Warum 2.0 (a sort of ‘update’ of his ‘Warum wir Männer die Technik so Lieben’ from 1985, in which he explored the ways technology organises reality, based on interviews with Paul Virilio, Klaus vom Bruch, Jack Goldstein and Chris Dercon). In that tape Virilio analyses the close relation between war & technology. The artists – Klaus vom Bruch in video, and Jack Goldstein in paint & sound – propose their personal artistic versions of it. “Since then”, Decostere writes “no radical change occurred in the relation between war and technology. It just became more intensified, excessive that is. Technology brings the logic and reality of war ever closer into our daily lives and habitats. If a difference WARUM makes, it is 2.0, as today, not only artists, but most of us have access to parts. We all are very actively involved with media nowadays, adding value all the time. Digitization, virtualization and automation are the major massively enacted actions with technology. They guideline the basic moves possible in the playing field here.”

Warum 2.0 will be premiered at the ARTEFACT festival in Leuven in February. “The changed attitude towards documentary images is the main theme of WARUM 2.0. A 360° panorama amidst transparent screens and multiple interactive access points turn the installation into an arena where visitors can interfere with and add value to the images.Late 2007 a new conversation was recorded with Paul Virilio. Both at the installation and online, new tools by Christian Decker, Edwin Uytenbroek, Chris Devriese, Jonas Hielscher and Sander Korebrits are available. The footage used is shot in Haiti, Iraq, Gaza, Darfur, Kosovo and Afghanistan by freelance cameraman Daniel Demoustier.”
More info.

Another talk I liked a lot was Thomas Elsaesser’s “Constructive Instability’, or The Life of Things as the Cinema’s Afterlife?”. He drew on the potential relationship between cinema and biopolitics (something that was explored during a research project at Van Eyck, instigated, I think, by Stefan Geene of BBookks) and borrowed the notion of “constructive instability” (the neocons in the States use it to describe their strategy in the Middle East, especially after the Israeli bombings in Lebanon, backed by the US of course. The Bush administration also uses the expression “You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs”, or in Rumsfeld’s words “Hey, Shit Happens”) to describe the dynamics of serendipity and volatility at work in networkcultures. It’s all about the potential, productive performativity of faillure. To make his point he started a trail through YouTube content, starting with the idea of collapse as bipolar : from the Honda log ad and remixes, to Fischli & Weiss ‘Der Lauf der Dinge’, to various Rube Goldberg machines and domino Toppling videos. As in a picaresque novel, the YouTube user is always trapped between the joy of epiphanies and a constant threat of entropy – a bit like cellgrowth: cells die, repenish and rework themselves constantly.

Also picked up: Florian Schneider’s idea of “imaginary property”, as something to chew on, and Dominick’s Chen‘s idea of ‘Prochronism’ – Bateson’s concept applied to “digital content or to any agent, entity or organisation to evaluate and share the embryological processes as creatively valuable information”, with reference to the Japanese videosharing site Nico Nico douga where comments are “becoming constituents of the original work, affecting both authorship and spectatorship. On Nico Nico Douga, a movement has emerged that uses original material and builds upon it by using, for example, the VOCALOID sound plugin.

I also liked Sarah Cook’s projects: the Broadcast Yourself exhbition @ the AV festival, in which she researches the different ways artists have related to televison in the past (Ant Farm, Bill Viola, etc.) and how the internet has opened up this potential in exciting ways. She also mentioned Star and Shadow Cinema , a grassroots and community project that deserves following (also here in Brussels, athough we already have Cinema Nova).

I also remember a quote of Godard (of course) mentioned by Geert, that has a lot of truth to it: “Die Ziet: Do you concern yourself with new media and technology? Godard: I try to keep up. But people make films on the Internet in order to show that they exist, not in order to look at things.”

More reports on the site of Masters of Media

Images on Flickr