What was experimental film, and why did it matter?  I think there are
several names now associated with this list, names that for me would be
used to edit a volume of selected frameworks posts for publication.
Lawrence Brose and *De Profundis*, for example.  Dominic Angerame and
Canyon Cinema.  I don't have a name for the transition at the Ann Arbor
Film Festival, but Vicki Honeyman, the director of it back when I was
attending it, posted here to defend its changes.  But this wasn't all it
was about.  For me it was also unschooled, a history that took its models
from a pre-professional film (and video) culture.  I attended a single
program at CUFF, which opened with the Video Data Bank logo and a work that
is hard to imagine in their collection.  But then I also visited the space
and saw a video by Coco Fusco that would also have been inconceivable to me
a year or so ago.  She does a Ted Talk (which I have never seen, so we're
guessing) in dialogue with the television series (1970s?), Planet of the
Apes.  It's interesting that you first see Donna Haraway address the camera
is some kind of television plug for the upcoming show, but Fusco is at some
academic institution now and that's what you have to do if you're going to
be taken seriously there.  So what was experimental film?  Last year at
CUFF there was a program of Tony Conrad's video and it looked so out of
place.  There was The Flicker, which I hadn't seen but made me think about
music, but there was the rest of the program, and I thought this is crazy
crap, it's incredible that it's being shown.  (Just compare that with the
latest VDB acquisition that opened that CUFF program!)  But it's like the
strange experience of seeing glitch culture presented as academic research
(more specifically, the discourse this research into glitch requires, with
all the questions it raises about avant-garde or experimental film
culture), but has more to do with what it was at the Video Data Bank that
made it belong within a film culture that would cite Brakhage or Snow.
I've recently had the experience of uploading again, and of those images
that you have to select (all the boxes of a car, of a sign, or a road) in
order to prove you're not a robot.  It went on and on, clicking these boxes
until finally I could submit.  We have arrived at some kind of end.  In
Scotland you can have someone who cranks out magnificent shots in
long-running, spectacular films that would be inconceivable as an upload.
Of course, they will screen where ever there are potential students and
employed academics (like any good film studies program showing Hitchcock
and Truffaut), but it's over for experimental film.  It's career time, and
I have to admit my closest satisfying experience of late has been visiting
the exhibition at the Block Art Museum yesterday (Northwestern University):
"Everything is Fine," the MFA exhibition of Art Theory and Practice
students (until June 18).  Last winter I saw a whole lot of online
submissions, and then the programmed work this spring, and it made me think
about good business practices more than any kind of questions of diversity
or creative ambition.  For starters, there was one very uncompromising film
I happened to have in my pre-screener file that was a crime to be
evaluating on the basis of this crummy little digital system (full screen
is worse, if it's coming from film).  That brief experience was an
announcement, the wrong for festivals, and who would know it?  How could
you know it, assuming you are spending your time making film?  Anyway, the
"Everything is fine" exhibition has this piece in it, a standard sort of
plasma screen on the back wall, the kind of object that will be trashed as
obsolete in a couple years.  And there's this video on it of the exhibition
space itself, its white walls and corners, and there's this stupid cable
that is used to direct a line of people approaching the ticket counter,
that ribbon stretching between those metal hollow stands.  It runs along
the wall we are facing and across the plasma screen horizontally.  A guy
steps into the picture who we've seen appear in gallery exhibits where the
security guard is of interest.  He's younger, probably a student, and he
cautiously moves along the wall, acrossing the screen, a black man who also
faces the camera and periodically checks for permission with humble glances
at the camera.  That's experimental film in the context of our lives today,
or "film culture," film art when it goes beyond tape.  For me experimental
film is (or was) an art of underachievers in the academic and professional
sense, the work of someone who is not applying for anything, at least, but
an art of immeasurable ambition outside the politics of constituents, media
calculations, and opportunism.  The artist is studying, and here's his
video.  It cuts to a new corner of the exhibition space, where he enters
the frame edging along the wall.  What do you expect?  Let's have a
conversation with this guy.  Well this morning I got an email with the
recent issue of the Journal of Artist Research, and there's this
contribution by someone reading Pasolini and who is, it appears to me
anyway, also studying design.  Why would I assume that?  It's a bit like
returning to uploading, and the whole online format is a hint of where this
is heading.  The journal's submission process invites you to build a page
and you are basically in a designer environment when you do.  I think of my
wonderfully crummy designer skills and wonder whether crummy could be an
aesthetic criterion.  But I am reading this brief text online by the artist
reading Pasolini and seeing whether it is the Pasolini I remember reading,
but all of this online stuff is just trying to make connections between
practices that would seem to be very different (digital design and
narrative cinema, for example).

Bernie
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