Video documentation of the ‘Video Vortex: Responses to YouTube’ Conference, 5 october 2007, Argos Brussels. Co-production with Institute of Network Cultures.
Over the past years the moving image has claimed an increasingly prominent place on the Internet. Thanks to a wide range of technologies and web applications it has become possible, not only to record and distribute video, but to edit and remix it on-line as well. With this world of possibilities within reach of a multitude of social actors, the potential of video as a personal means of expression has arrived at a totally new dimension. How is this potential being used? How do artists and activists react to the popularity of YouTube and other ‘usergenerated-content’ websites? What is the impact of the availability of massive on-line images and sound databases on aesthetics and narrativity? How is Cinema, as an art form and experience, influenced by the development of widely spreading Internet practices? What does YouTube tell us about the state of art in visual culture? And how does the participation culture of video-sharing and vlogging reach some degree of autonomy and diversity, escaping the laws of the mass media and the strong grip of media conglomerates?
This Video Vortex conference is the first in a series of international events, aimed at critical research and reflection surrounding the production and distribution of on-line video content, at the instigation of the Institute of Network Cultures (INC).
introduction by Geert Lovink + Lev Manovich
Lev Manovich (RU, 1960) is a Visual Arts Professor at the University of California, where he lectures on media art and theory. His theoretical work, which includes the seminal book The Language of New Media (2003), is considered to be hugely influential in the transitional zone between old and new media, between audiovisual art and digital culture. In his own art practice he focuses, among other things, on the potential of digital cinema, such as in Little Movies (1997), one of the first video projects for the web, and the DVD Soft Cinema (2005), an exploration of the “database-cinema” concept.
Adrian Miles (AU, 1960) lectures on the theory and practice of hypermedia and interactive video at RMIT University, Melbourne. His research and applied work surrounding hypermedia, networked interactive video and Deleuzian philosophy in the context of digital poetry hes been published and presented all over the world. His current projects focus on the idea of ‘Softvideo’: video, which does not merely preserve its granular and fragmentary nature in a digital networked environment, but which is also completed with a link architecture, offering new perspectives on narrativity.
“Video as a form has retained its formal and material ‘wholeness’ as it has migrated to digital and more recently networked environments. This conservativeness at the material level has not hindered the use and appropriation of the network by emerging and potentially novel forms of video practice, but it remains an essentially backwards looking form as it confuses access, distribution and equity with the new.
Softvideo provides a framework for the reconsideration of digital networked video whereby the granularity and fragmentary nature of video and film is preserved after publication. With the addition of a link architecture softvideography becomes crystalline in structure where any moment, or point, in a softvideo work becomes a possible point of connection with any other.
This crystalline structure, when taken literally, provides a productive theoretical and applied framework to conceive of a softvideographic practice. In traditional editing (hard video) an edit is a decision point. In principle this moment is infinitely divisible, and can be connected to any other subsequent sequence, however in hard video once determined this moment and point is single, fixed, absolute and linear.
When conceived of as a crystalline structure a shot or a sequence in a softvideo work now offers multiple facets or faces of connection. Some may be to other sequences in the one work, others might be to other objects, yet others could be to other parts of other videos.
In this manner the crystalline structure of softvideo produces not only a porous multiplicity of pathways, and so in turn a different sort of video object, but it also productively problematises the basic tenets of film and video narrative. In hard video each edit becomes the fixing of a duration as a particular path through the footage. In softvideo as a crystalline structure editing becomes an actualised series of virtual pathways through the footage.
This presentation intends to explore this idea, and to provide an example of such a video work. ”
Tomas Rawlings & Ana Kronschnabl
Plugincinema.com is a platform which supports the creation and on-line distribution of on-line cinema projects. Its instigators are filmmaker Ana Kronschnabl (UK, 1969) and game designer Tomas Rawlings (UK, 1974 ). Together they wrote the book Plug In & Turn On: A Guide to Internet Filmmaking (2004) and are both involved in the media company FluffyLogic. Plugincinema, originally part of Kronschnabl’s doctoral research, has become an international reference in the world of web video.
The pluginmanifesto: presaging the rise of YouTube?
“New films for new machines; how has the definition of a film been challenged by the new platforms and distribution methods made available since the advent of the internet? Since the inception of the Internet we have seen it emerge from a simple, largely technical, text-based exchange medium into a truly multimedia platform. Its pace of change seemingly mixed up with Moore’s Law, doubling and re-doubling as millions of people contribute to the grand media and information project that is the Internet. It is hard to escape the conclusions of the short film by Wesch: “…the machine is using us…”. The mechanics or medium is shaping what we do; have content and medium become so inextricably linked that the delivery mechanisms themselves now delineate our behaviour?
Artist Peter Horvath (CA, 1961) has experimented with photo montages for years, and in the domain of web technology he is essentially investigates how to enhance the qualities of his photo work beyond the two-dimensional context. In his current work he develops a web of fragmentary story lines, a framework of multi-coloured mosaics from which a ‘spectator’ can draw his own history by navigating. According to Horvath the web reflects the ongoing process of making choices, through which we appropriate the world around us, and as such it is the ideal medium to investigate the notions of identity, subjectivity and consciousness
“In the world of video and web technology, I have found mediums that encompass and expand the lush, pluralistic and multi-layered qualities of my previous dada-inspired photomontage work. Freed from the restricting two-dimensional context by technological advances, I engage in fragmented narratives and sub-narratives that form and reform as multiple windows open and close. I orchestrate layers of history, including journal entries, sketches, written records, video, photographs, music, voice and general sound loops, resulting in atmospheric investigations into states of being.
I will discuss the Internet as medium for narrative based and abstract video work or “Web Cinema” (using his work as examples); the use of fragmented approaches to narrative structure within the multi-windowed browser environment; his interest in the relational aspects of the medium (one to one x 50,000); and the web’s capacity to facilitate a direct relationship with an individual viewer on his or her own terms.”
Video maker Simon Ruschmeyer (DE, 1980) explores, in theory as well as practice, the borderline areas between classical audiovisual narration and the new possibilities proferred by interactivity and networked communication. Ruschmeyer has realised countless video projects and has recently completed his paper The Moving Web – Forms and Functions of Moving Images on the Internet. His research into new types of artistic production and distribution on the net can be visited on movingweb.org.
ARTISTS MOVING (THROUGH) THE WEB – New forms of artist’s production and distribution on the Internet.
“The Internet is going through two major transitions right now. First, increasing bandwidth accelerates the convergence of the net with moving media like Film, Video & Television. As a result, classical linear structures of narration hit the decentralist logic of hypertext.Simultaneously, the social and communicational mechanism, known as web 2.0, change the routines of production and reception of the medium. At this point many opportunities originate for the ‘connected’ artist – whether it’s new ways of production or distribution.
First Part : The Moving Web – Narration vs. InteractionOriginating from the traditional cultural dichotomy image vs. text I’ll draw a line to two contrary media paradigms of the current World Wide Web: Narration vs. Interaction. The old hypertext-concept and the new temptations of the second generation of web services promise the release of the user from the chains of one-to-many distribution of the old media. But on the other hand, the convergence of old&new brings linear modes of narration back into the new medium. Especially the advertising industry has a strong interest in telling dramatic stories which attract the viewer emotionally and keep him away from leaving their website. A scenario can be drawn with the traditional media supporting linear forms of media structures on the one side and the idea of open networks which empower the users on the other. Is their a conflict on the rise?
Second Part: The Artist 2.0 So what are the phenomena of the moving web which artists focus their attention to? How do they use the Internet to produce and distribute their work? How do they reflect the tension between the commercial and the noncommercial aspects of the medium.
Production: the commercial web industry has discovered the power of ‘user generated content’ and tries to make profit out of it. Artists comment on this trend by acquiring the floods of video content on the web for their on remixes. To illustrate the idea of the artistic remix, I’ll introduce some artworks out of the field of database narration and digital found data.
Distribution: how can artists use the web to self-distribute their art? Just uploading your work on YouTube does not take you any further. Artists with a strong affinity to the web already understand the power of communities and use the net as their 24-hour-stage to promote themselves. ”
Peter Westenberg (NL, 1968) is an artist, film and video maker and a member of the Brussels’ media collective Constant. He examines, among others, the requirements and conditions for collaboration and exchange in the – existing or non-existing – public space of the web. How does image shaping work in a network environment? What are the means, conditional to the creation of a joint image? Are affinity and familiarity reliable codecs? Collective video is investigated as the sum total of exchange processes – an amalgam of social, technical and legal protocols.
“How do you create an image in a network environment? Which means can be deployed to produce a common image? Are affinity and kinship reliable codecs? Collective video as the sum total of processes of exchange – an amalgam of social, technical and legal protocols. Passing through compatibility, edit decision lists, licenses and agreements, source codes, longings and limitations we travel along the various stage of on-line video production. ”
One of the major principles in the work of media artist and theoretician Keith Sanborn (US, 1952) is the investigation of public images and private perceptions. In his recent work he re-contextualizes web footage, partly as commentary on the current exploitation of user-generated content on such platforms as ‘YouTube’. Sanborn feels this “new” spectacle is less based on a collection of images, than on inter human relations, mediated through images. Resistance requires bringing forward the background to the foreground. “Don’t pay attention to the tiny man behind the curtain” – indeed: pay attention to the curtain.
“Since it has existed, the net has displayed a dialectic of potlatch and recuperation, followed by detournement. Intelligence and generosity are exploited for fantastic profits, but the exploited can be hijacked as well. My work intersects the current phase of exploitation of user-supplied content on Youtube.com, etc., where 15 nano-seconds of fame are exchanged for consigning the aura of individual subjectivity to the ads framing it; in becoming part of a network of interchangeable, equivalent elements, selfhood is sold as commodity. In a necessary irony, my work functions by translating the offerings of Youtube to other contexts, repurposing them as commentary upon that context. Since this violates the principle of “host” ownership, they may not be, nor do I necessarily wish them to return directly to the scene of the crime. In place of one-way broadcast communication, the “new” spectacle offers inter-passivity, pseudo-agency. Creating resistance requires bringing forward the background. “Pay no attention to the little man behind the curtain,” indeed; pay attention to the curtain.”
In his work, which includes the seminal DIAL H-I-S-T-O-R-Y (1997), Johan Grimonprez (BE, 1962) mainly investigates the use of mass media as a political instrument and the construction of realities in an era of infotainment and media saturation. The overall focus is on the idea of ‘zaptitude’ – the surreal poetry of the ‘channel hopping’, which enables the TV spectator to write his/her own story. In the ambulant video library project Beware! In Playing the Phantom, you become one (1994–1998) Grimonprez also questioned the image of the spectator as a passive consumer. Recently he created Manipulators (2005-2007), along with curator Charlotte Léouzon, a “You-Tube library” variant.
“Manipulators is a TV genre in which the programme is improvised by the curators. With Podcasts,online TV, mobile phones, video Ipods, blogs and YouTube, the digital age allows an infinite number of images and sounds to travel the world in no time. It is the era of home made productions, which expresses the chaotic nature of the human condition today as well as the cynicism of power.This video compilation, which can be understood both as the joyful affirmation of a superb global disengagement and the catalyst of effervescent criticism, is best described as a platform for temporary disobedience.”