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).
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