Posts Tagged ‘De Balie’
Anyone who has visited archive.org has probably seen his name: Rick Prelinger from the renowned Prelinger Archives. For the Economies of the Commons conference, Virtueel Platform invited Prelinger to give a presentation of his work. The Prelinger archives was founded in 1983 and in 2002, the collection of nearly 60.000 ephemeral (advertising, educational, industrial, and amateur) films was acquired by the Library of Congress, Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division.
Before starting his presentation, Prelinger notes that many of the remarks in his presentation are ‘self-critical from an American standpoint.’ In Europe, some of the issues addressed have already been dealt with, or are currently being worked on. According to Prelinger ‘history has always been contesting territory and is not a warm and fuzzy place. Historical documents are kitschy and often loaded with meaning.’
Consequently, Prelinger has learned that ‘if you ask historical questions you should not request simple answers. And if you ask who controls history, don’t expect a simple answer either.’ You can start by asking questions such as ‘who were our ancestors?’ and ‘what were people doing at certain events?’ To preserve this, the role of the archiver is an important one: ‘A great deal of history belongs to individual collectors, and countless objects would not have existed if they had not been saved by archivers. The big question is: should traces of history live in private hands?’
Before going into this question, Prelinger first looks at the role of the archiver. There are different ways of collecting and archiving, but why are archives so important? According to Prelinger, ‘historical evidence is fragile’, ‘archives are vague and not based on reality’ and ‘people expect to be able to access archives when they need them (just like a garbage collector).’ In a classic approach towards the archive, they ‘no longer belong to larger organizations; for the large part they are not public institutions. They can make their own rules and they can choose to open their collections.’
Prelinger continues: ‘In some ways it might be revealing to think of archives as gate keepers; they can arbitrate, they can let certain histories pass, they can be institutes of denial as well as remembering. So, a quiet, dusty collection might be able to preserve a particular consciousness.’ Again, should the private gatekeeper be able to control history? Perhaps the recent discovery of a 16mm tape with questionable material of Marylin Monroe is an example of this. The archiver has decided not to publish it, to retain a certain public image of Monroe. However, according to Prelinger, ‘most secrets ultimately get out. Culture that is not secret, that is under copyright, will never escape the archive. There is an emerging promise of access to the past.’ But should the archiver release everything? Prelinger: ‘Sometimes we need to applaud guardianship.’
Digitization and archives
If we fast forward to our current (digital) situation, the role of the archive is undergoing change, and faces resistance. Firstly, Prelinger notes that ‘people aren’t given big money to collect online games now.’ But perhaps to greater challenge, from an American perspective, lies in the digitization of film: ‘Many archivists (in the States) are very disturbed by digitalizing films to broaden access. I speak as an archivist and we as a group are differential to copyright holders. We hear about crackdowns on pirates and think, are we next?’ Consequently, ‘most moving images remain very difficult to access and re-use. And because of the unavailability of archives, people have done many things to get their hands on things they need.’
According to Prelinger, ‘we have taken babysteps.’ But already YouTube functions as the default image of what a moving image archive should be. People get their hands on the things they need through the popular video website. As Prelinger notes: ‘We are having a hard time catching up. How do we make something with the ease of YouTube?’ He continues: ‘Until a few years ago, archival access was going downstream. But that production began to move from institution to individual. The current phenomenon is that people are doing archiving by themselves. People feel entitled to make archives, they find demands that are hard to realize.’ People also remix their personal archives, but people will continue to want the original document.
The goal of the Prelinger Archives remains to ‘collect, preserve, and facilitate access to films of historic significance that haven’t been collected elsewhere. Included are films produced by and for many hundreds of important US corporations, nonprofit organizations, trade associations, community and interest groups, and educational institutions. As a whole, the collection currently contains over 10% of the total production of ephemeral films between 1927 and 1987, and it may be the most complete and varied collection in existence of films from these poorly preserved genres.’
In the age of digitization, the Prelinger Archives was one of the first to use the Creative Commons license. Prelinger notes that this idea of the Creative Commons is still hard to comprehend: ‘How do you give away something and sell it at the same time?’ According to Prelinger, these is a two level system: Free and Fee. At the free level, you can download everything you want; complete films and more. But use is at your own risk and there is no detailed grant of rights. At the fee level, you can get physical materials and written license agreements with your name at the top.
The best archives make historical interventions
So, at the fee level, there is still no openness of physical materials. Prelinger: ‘We may want to immerse ourselves in digital objects, look at YouTube, or look at a book page, but that isn’t really openness yet.’ Continuing: ‘The kind of use that we are trying to encourage, is already happening. People already take things as being free. Our best archives make historical interventions. History as a means of intervening in the present. Archives are cultural producers too, most archives in the United States wait for people to intervene. Archives will live or die by the level that their archives are accessible.’
Still, it is important to regard our own time as being part of a flow. Prelinger: ‘The most disturbing question about “free” is: Is free culture just a fad? Remixing and sharing are deeply cultural practices, going back a thousand years. Will it devolve into a style which comes and goes? I hope we can build a commons that is more than a brand. Users are our allies and the people that can help us get funding. Engagement is up to us!’
Crossposted at Virtueel Platform
Some photography used from Kennisland (Creative Commons) www.flickr.com/photos/kl/
The drone. An unmanned aircraft, flying over enemy territory by itself. Secretly photographing enemy targets. Session moderator Mike Harding vividly explains to the audience at De Balie, during Sonic Acts XII, the properties of the drone, which is, in the first place, this information based weapon system. The drone now has numerous references in modern culture, of which drone music is one.
Harding pours out a hard to find drone of the midshipman fish, courtesy of BBC, which finds its source in the animal kingdom. It is what Harding calls a ‘true drone from the animal kingdom’. It is a continuous sound that doesn’t change much, but Harding is ‘not content with that definition. A sound can change radically but still retain drone qualities. There are no temporal limits on a drone, how short can a drone be? A starting point for a drone could perhaps be, that it is longer than your natural breath.’But drones are not just that. The role of the drone can also be to ‘underpin, or underscore, a composition an an essential part of the orchestra’. A drone can also be a part of a musical instrument in itself, as is evident in Leif Elggren’s Royal Organ.
Definitions of drone music are still fluid, a member of the audience for example pointed that throat singers can not be forgotten in the discourse. But what is drone music according to its musicians? Carl Michael von Hausswolff says: ‘It is silent and beautiful, it can make you stop skiing in the middle of a forest and in that moment you achieve a certain kind of rest. A state that you would like to be in for a long time. You lose a lot of the separation that can stand between yourself as human being and nature. There are no cars rushing by and its a personal dialogue. if you want to use it as a tool for practical living: It helps me understand the processes of life and being alive’.
Von Hausswollf also mentions a connection with Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari: ‘There is no start, no end. A kind of eternity. You become aware of a flood in your life. It is really stimulating and perhaps a positive way of trying to… well… live’. According to Von Hausswollf, this even applies to a live performance situation, where faders tend to remind you of time. Harding responds by asking if it is perhaps a kind of metastate. Von Hausswollf: ‘If you look at a concept such as transcendental meditation. Perhaps I could do it too, but I’m too western… And I’m too f*cked up to be able to list myself. I try to find other methods to achieve this kind of calm, or… whatever’.
Joachim Nordwall tends to touch upon the other side of the drone music spectrum. Nordwall: ‘How do you make drone? The drone is an illusion of safety for mankind, I like to recreate a certain feeling I had when growing up. The only fun thing of growing up for me was: cheap drugs and some place me and my friend could experiment with analogue synthesizers. There was this mix of drugs and analogue drones. In my work I have realized that I wanted to recreate that room where we grew up. Yesterday (during the Paradiso performance, ed.), I wanted to fill the room with the sound. A drone is convenient to fill up the room, and filling up the room creates a kind of safety. And moreover, that specific room where life was in front of me’.
During live shows, according to Nordwall, a ‘loud volume is important and the physical aspect of the drone is very interesting. To physically feel a change can be more interesting than the mental change. You get a feeling in the stomach. You can feel some parts of the body that sometimes do not exist’. Nordwall mentions Sunn as an example of a band that is enormously loud: ‘It has an effect that will get stuck in your bones for days after’.
In the discussion afterwards, volume levels at live performances sparked an interesting discussion. Is the artist responsible for exposing people to that kind of volume? Undoubtedly, there are physical consequences of sound. However, these consequences are largely unknown to the artist. The Pitch Police says: RESPECT THE HERTZ!
Erkki Huhtamo’s recent work deals with media archeology, an emerging approach he, according to his website, ‘has pioneered (together with others, like Siegfried Zielinski) since the early 1990’s’. At this edition of Sonic Acts, Huhtamo, together with the audience, revisited the concept of the Diorama. The keynote proved to be a valuable trip down memory lane with Huhtamo showing many examples and elaborating on their cultural context.
The Diorama was invented by Jacques Louis Mande Daguerre and Charles Marie Bouton and consisted of fast paintings, which were ‘slightly larger than an iMac screen’. Moreover, paintings were made in such a way that parts were translucent. In the early days, these diorama’s had to be visited and therefore it became a new element of urban landscape. Huhtamo mentions the Paris Diorama in this regard.
But why would the diorama be interesting for us, now, Huhtamo asks himself. Bruce Sterling mentioned the concept of “dead media”, Huhtamo however does not believe media is capable of dying: ‘I believe that it is more a transformation and adaptation. My research deals with understanding the materiality, discursive manifestations and how these layers coexist in culture, as the culture changes and evolves’. One of Huhtamo’s big inspirations to venture into the realm of media archeology, is the fact that artists sometimes seem to be aware of the traditions, go back to these ideas and draw inspiration from them.
In its purely mechanical form, The Diorama is a large viewing machine, an actorless optical illusion theatre, comprised of two main features, being firstly giant translucent and transforming paintings and secondly a mechnically rotating auditorium. Culturally the Diorama provided the world with a new word, a neologism, that many of these new spectacles had. The Diorama is no different, combining “dio” (transparent/through) and “rama” (view). Because it is actorless, Huhtamo sees a valuable connection between the rise of CGI possibilities and the Diorama: ‘Actors are more in the scenery’.
Continuing on the linguistics of the Diorama, Huhtamo mentions Balzac, who picked up a linguistic pattern from the hair salons and the cafes of Paris. Balzac provided his own list of “ramas”, including health-o-rama, frozenrama, soupe-au-rama and the goriorama. Images shown by Huhtamo of various Diorama’s and Daguerre’s paintings are available at R. D. Wood’s MIDLEY essays on the History of early Photography. An interesting development is the portable diorama, like the “desktop” version of the computer, the ‘huge and gigantic’ is eventually brought to the desktop.
Now, Huhtamo continues, ‘we are in the beginning of this dioramic transformation I’m trying to sketch’. Most important for this transformation is that ‘reality is not conceived as given, but as a construct. Reality as a product of new spectacles such as the diorama, panorama, wax museums, paris morgue, etc. This is the culture from which the diorama appears. In turn, Diorama’s themselves start to appear in painting’.
New Spaces and Urban Mobility
The Diorama in an urban context is ‘not like a home, but also not like the city screen outside. It is a place for the flaneur and movement in new spectacles’. Huhtamo mentions various examples of these flaneur-like places, such as the cosmorama. All share that they are about a mobile mode of spectatorship. Huhtamo: ‘The only way of viewing the panorama is to keep on walking / moving. Being physically in motion was taken over by cinema, however, the motion becomes virtual.
The audience is virtually moving with the scenes seen in the cinema’. Huhtamo sees a return to physical movement in the advent of portable devices. Interesting in the mixture of Diorama and movement is also the the idea of the “trottoir roulant”, the moving walkway, which was presented as a novelty in that time at the Paris world fair.It turned Paris into panoramic scene, the platform is enough to define the surroundings and change the identity of the surroundings
The Diorama even shaped its own popstar. Albert Smith travelled around with the moving diorama. His “hit” was ‘The Ascent of Mont Blanc’ which was shown an astonishing 2000 times. Objects used to create a reality effect include dogs and a Swiss chalet. In later years, various people played with the idea of the diorama. Examples of these include the 1939 Futurama by General Motors, which exhibited GM’s utopian vision of the world with streamlined buildings and, of course, as Huhtamo mentions, GM cars. In the futurama, the audience is traveling through the show. It is not static, like the diorama by Daguerre. The Diorama has been revisited.