Re: steal this message

From: Kevin Hamilton (email suppressed)
Date: Tue Feb 07 2006 - 14:34:54 PST

Though there are some familiar divisions forming in this
thread, I want to point to one place I think David is pushing
us farther.

David's proposition that we look at the viewer's intent is a
good one. Quickly, I could think of a lot of ways of looking
at this. To ask "What is the viewer's intent?" might be
similar to asking "What is the viewing/screening attempting to

By asking these questions, we might end up with different
attitudes toward the artist's intent, and toward the ethics of
duplication formats, every time. (I do, anyway.)

For example, I could imagine someone screening/viewing a work
for the purposes of:

-writing an analysis of a particular work for a class
-writing an analysis of a particular work for publication
-as a teacher or colleague, introducing someone to a
particular work
-as a teacher or colleague, introducing someone to a body of work
-familiarization with the context and precedent for one's own work
-as an institution, offering a public representation of an
individual work
-as an institution, offering a public representation of a body
of work

or, in any of these contexts,

-examination of the content of a work
-examination of the form of a work
-examination of the relationship of form to content
-examination of the context of the production of a work
-examination of the context of the reception of a work

In each of these scenarios, isn't the role of the medium going
to vary in importance and relevance? Even if you argue for the
inseparability of form and content, we still look at different
things for different reasons.

For example, isn't viewing a bad VHS dub for the purposes of a
scholarly publication going to result in a different (worse)
product than viewing a bad VHS dub for the purposes of
familiarizing oneself with the precedent for one's work? A
paper written based on a bad reproduction will suffer in
scholarship, impacting the author's quality of work. If the
scholar is already established, it may even negatively affect
the public perception of the artwork. But a viewing by an
artist for purposes of familiarizing herself with the
precedent and context of her own work will not have the same
result. It may make her less informed than she should be, but
I would argue that she and the original work are still
bettered - she for having seen something of it, and the work
for having gained a new audience.

In most cases, even the author of a published paper is hurting
herself more than the work to base exhaustive study on a

Similarly, if an author is writing about a particular work for
purposes of writing about how that work was received during
its time, then won't she be looking at different aspects of
the work than if she is looking explicitly at the
investigation of medium/form and content? There are different
angles of focus in any analysis, and not all require direct
contact. For example, some scholars of law need to travel to
view the original founding documents of a legal system -
others can simply study an online facsimile, or even a modern
transcription. I believe the same variety of intent can exist
for the viewer of a work of art in film, or paint or whatever.

Importantly, these various intents have very different impacts
on the public reception or perception of a work. I wish there
was more recognition of this in some of the Frameworks
discussions. We can urge viewers to pursue exposure to
original works where we think a better product will result,
but I don't think its our ethical duty to pursue it in all
cases, or even most of the time.

Like Tetzlaff (I presume), my wish for more leniency and less
protection is based not on a desire for all my contemporaries
to be, well, "contemporary" - this is not about fashion or
theory. My wish for more attention to the intent of viewers,
even at the expense of control of the artwork, is for a
broader audience for this work, and for a more informed
audience for new work. I also find that value for the act of
watching, in all its complexity, is connected to the value
placed on production, on making. That is, I try to look more
closely at reception as a way of supporting why I care about
art-making in the first place.

Incidently (but not central to my argument) if concerns me to
see how closely the argument for tightening control around
screenings resembles current legislative efforts to tighten
control around technological reception - fair use,
duplication, reverse-engineering, and the like. Look back to
the ubuweb posts for more of that, I suppose.

One more thing - as a state university instructor, I have to
echo others' comments in this thread that the answer to all of
this cannot be to simply "try harder." Resources are extremely
tight, and mainstream values clearly aligned with interests
counter to those of anyone who ever aligned themselves with
something called "avant garde." Most of my colleagues are
pushing as hard as they can to keep their areas alive. As is
obvious from this thread and others, the Avant-garde did not
produce any sort of sustainable economic model for its own
continuation. The situation we are left with is one of
promising pastiche but also dry cupboards. We're all working
to make creative ways of supporting the artists and artwork
and institutions we care about, but don't underestimate the
challenge of starting from scratch.

Kevin Hamilton
Champaign, Illinois, USA, Earth, etc. - and about 2 blocks
from the home of the "Fighting Illini" basketball and football

For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.