Re: film ecology

From: David Tetzlaff (email suppressed)
Date: Fri Mar 03 2006 - 22:08:24 PST

> To see digital technology as a benign
> entity is also naive because it is of course wrapped up in
> consumerism...The idea that digital is a free, bodiless medium is a myth
> that cannot sustain itself forever.

That's a jim dandy straw-man argument you've got there, Steven, taking
exception to things I did not claim and seeming to miss the point of my
post. Which was, to reprise, NOT that digital is free and bodiless (I only
referred to the process of image-making -- recording videotape, operating
a desktop computer -- as RELATIVELY benign in comparison with the
processing of filmstock), but that is is equally naive to romanticize film
technology. Yes, we now have in almost every way (not just media making),
a disposable culture driven by runaway consumerism, and it's a very bad
thing -- makes me sick actually -- and it in many ways better when things
were made to last, like that Bolex. But film has never been anything
other than a heavy-duty industrial proposition, so it's hardly innocent in
terms of the general sins of modernity.

And about that Bolex, yeah it will run forever, as long as you have Dieter
overhaul it every few years to the tune of many hundreds of dollars, until
he retires, that is. Your assertion that projectors are 'easy enough to
fix' is patently absurd. I probably have more mechanical skills than 99.9%
of the population. I wonder how many people on this list have taken a
16mm camera apart and put it back together. I have, several times (not a
Bolex, they're tricky, but a Filmo and several K100s). But I can't fix a
projector. Even if I could, it would be something I don't have time to do,
and do the rest of my job. Our college has about 9 16mm projectors. Two
work. Maybe. The AV department has tried to do maintenance on the
malfunctioning projectors, but it's outside their skillset. They have sent
several of them out to the company that has a monopoly on the AV business
in this state, and they come back still f-ed up. We thought we had found a
competent (if expensive) repair guy two states away, but it turns out he
only works on one model (not one make, one model of that make) and that's
not what we have...

Whether we like our historical conditions or not, we have to live in them.
I happen to NOT like them, and I'm talking about a hell of a lot more than
moving image technolgies. But in that little sliver of experience: If I
had a choice, on even terms, I would take film over any electronic I have
yet to see every time. But to me 'film' means new clean prints and good
working projectors. Oops. There are no more print stocks. It takes heroic
measures to maintain 16mm projection in an institutional environment. It
won't be 100 years before we have to scroll our scratched, tape spliced
vinegar prints over a light table with a lupe. Try ten years, or for all
practical purposes, for a lot of people, now.

But then it's clear that a number of particpants on this list don't care
much for people. I hold the elitism of the 'to all things an end' attitude
in absolute contempt. How do we reconcile this with an argument against
electronic technology on the basis of its being disposable? Only, I think,
via a chic nihilism that would posit 'well, since the larger culture has
gone to pot with its corrupt technolgu, lets just let everything that was
good croak. Why do I think the art deserves better?

Granted that the post might not be from the same authors, but why is it
that this list constantly features demands that the broad public can and
should be educated about the distinction between 'film' and 'video' but
the idea that people can and should be enlightened to appreciate the
visions collected in the experimental film corpus seems to be just as
frequently pooh-poohed?

Who needs experimental film? Only just about everyone in this soul-dead,
consumerist happy society -- exactly for a lot of the reasons Steven has
referenced. Sure, the majority will reject it, and then fine, to hell with
them, but most people don't even know it exists, much less being gently
prodded into taking a serious look at it before making a final evaluation.
This prodding by the way, is what a lot of teachers do for a living, and
without it, serious art of any kind would have a drastically diinished
audience from whatever pitifully small audience it may now have.

Su Freidrich may well feel more comfortable in a small group that gets her
work than in a large group that is clueless. Who of us would not? But I
can tell you that it a true thing of beauty to introduce Su's work to an
audience of young people, knowing that most of them will NOT get it, not
right away, but that some of them will get it after it sinks it, and it
will change their lives. I would bet that Su knows this too, from her own
work in teaching, which may be one reason she tries to make her work
readily available for library purchase in electronic form.

Thus, to repeat. My point is not that digital will save us. It will do
nothing. We have to save ourselves. We have to MAKE technologies do
things, often against the 'will' inherent in their designs. But we must
work within the tools at hand. The 'golden age' of experimental film
existed as an itty bitty parasite feeding off the big beast of the very
wide commercial use of 16mm for educational films, industrials, TV... In
1970 every public school had a battery of perfectly functional 16mm
projectors, and most high schools owned at least one Bolex for use by the
football team. This existing infrastructure was one of the things that
made experimental filmmaking a viable form for reaching (select)
audiences. That beast is dead. So life for the parasites may never be as
good. Better than death. Yeah, I happen to agree that digital can't match
film light (among other things). But, take all of those things and
amputate them - say they are gone forever. What is the value of what is
left, even in hand-painted Brakhage though I'm thinking more of Maclaine,
Frampton, Kuchar, Smith (Jack, Harry... Tom, Dick...). Enormous, I say. Of
crucial importance, I say. Should be spread as far as possible by any
means necessary, I say.

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