Video Vortex video documentation

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
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.

Faceted Video
“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?

Peter Horvath
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.”

Simon Ruschmeyer
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
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.

Affinity Video
“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. ”

Keith Sanborn
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.”

Johan Grimonprez
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.”

Tony Conrad performance video

14 October 2007, Bozar Brussels. Co-production Argos and Bozar.

Tony Conrad with MV Carbon & guests (Jürgen De Blonde, Dominica Eyckmans, Julia Eckhardt, Stefaan Quix, Stefaan Smaaghe, Timo van Luijk, Els van Riel)/ “Forty-five Years on the Infinite Plain” (1972-2007) / live at the Bozar-Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels – Argos Open Archive festival / Oct 13, 2007

hangin’ out with Tony, part 2

The concert of Tony Conrad & guests at Bozar was excellent, and so was his presentation at Argos. Here are some pics of the days and nights before, including the rehearsals with the musicians and the Brussels nightlife excursions.

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MV Carbon practicing
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tony with Sofie
with Sofie
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Vincent Meessen
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MV Carbon rehearsing
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rehearsing with Julia Eckhardt and Stefaan Smagghe
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Stefaan Smagghe and Jurgen Deblonde
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Dominica Eyckmans, Timo van Luyck and Stefaan Quix
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The group
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Carbon and Stefaan
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with Jurgen
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with Julia
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with Stefaan

Ken Jacobs in Brussels!

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“you want to pose questions to your viewer. Cinema creates an experience for its viewers and many people come to depend on the experiences provided them by the movies. Most movies are coherent. They are fairy tales that lead to something. Movies have resolutions. Many people live at the movies and tolerate fumbling through their real lives. Life is different; it does not seem to lead to anything. It’s diffuse, yet infinitely penetrable. So, the difference is between a cinema that is a cooked, or organized experience, and one that encourages viewers to reflect and have their own experiences. The difference is between living through the movies and using the movies to enrich your critical engagement with life and the real world. One is an experience that dominates while the other condemns you to be free.”

We’re very happy and proud to have Ken and Flo Jacobs over this weekend. For more than 40 years, drawing on his skills as an imaginative illusionist, a workman-like tinkerer, and a worshipper of film frame by frame, film artist Ken Jacobs, together with his wife and collaborator Flo, has confronted reality and unmasked established powers. He creates, through his art, disorienting experiences which strangely empower the viewer. Combining elements of comedy, tragedy, history and mystery, his artistry connects the viewers with their feelings, their visual faculties, and most importantly, with experience.

You can find an interesting video interview with Ken here

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At Argos, on Saturday, we’re showing his Magnus Opus, Star Spangled to Death. With a running time of 6 hours and 42 minutes, it’s a truly amazing piece of art, that won the Los Angeles Film Critics Association’s Douglas Edwards Experimental/Independent
Film/Video Award 2004, amongst other things. Ken writes about it:

“STAR SPANGLED TO DEATH is an epic film shot for hundreds of dollars! combining found-films with my own more-or-less staged filming, it pictures a stolen and dangerously sold-out America, allowing examples of popular culture to self-indict. Racial and religious insanity, monopolization of wealth and the purposeful dumbing down of citizens and addiction to war oppose a Beat playfulness.

A handful of artists costumed and performing unconvincingly appeal to audience imagination and understanding to complete the picture. Jack Smith’s pre-FLAMING CREATURES performance as The Spirit Not Of Life But Of Living (the movie has raggedly cosmic pretensions), celebrating Suffering (rattled impoverished artist Jerry Sims) at the crux of sentient existence, is a visitation of the divine.”

He talks about this film in an interview for Logos Journal
You can find some short clips on his site

Before the screening, Mark Webber (an independent curator of avant-garde / experimental / artists’ film and video (he used to play guitar with the band Pulp as well), who has compiled and organised some amazing programmes th elast couple oy years) will interview Ken Jacobs about his life and work.

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“Spectacular spaces orbit through unthinkable transformations as seen from changing angles of view. A path of cinema never before traveled, deep 3-D without spectacles or special screens, available even to the one-eyed. Performed by way of a down-to-the-bones projection device, light source, and cooling fan, lens and spinning shutter, it is hands-on projection with the morphing, the equivalent of a Jackson Pollock and then some, that could have been made to happen before the invention of film and film transport devices. That could have happened before Muybridge, had minds been ready.”

On Sunday, Ken will perform one of his Nervous Magic Lantern performances. We have seen a couple of them, and believe us, the experience is really unique. Watch a few examples here, but keep in mind that the resolution, when screened, is really out of this world. Note: This performance (with a live soundtrack by John Zorn and Ikue Mori) is available on DVD on the Tzadik label.

For the Brussels performance we asked Aki Onda to do the performance, as we think there are a lot of similarities in the way they work. Aki will perform one of his Cassette Memories (buy, rip or download his amazing albums Ancient & Modern and Bon Voyage!) – a sort of site-specific performance or ritual that “conjures up the general essence of memory as I play my own personal memories. It is an event that is partly visible, but seen mostly in one’s imagination.” A perfect match, if you ask us.

read more about Aki on his homepage, and watch (or rather listen to) a part of one of his Cassette Memories performances here:

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hangin’ out with Tony

Tony Conrad arrived yesterday, together with MV Carbon ( a member of Metalux, amongst other projects), who’s going to play the cello tomorrow. He lost one of his instruments on the way, so we keep our fingers crossed. Hopefully it will turn up.
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Tony Conrad and Charlemagne Palestine
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Tony and Charlemagne’s hat
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Maria and MV Carbon
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