Re: The Politics of the Bootleg

From: Jonathan Walley (email suppressed)
Date: Wed Jun 11 2008 - 09:19:20 PDT

Dear Lisa,

Your emails - in response to mine and Tony's - raise lots of
interesting points. First, it's interesting to me that you're talking
about editions, galleries, collectors, etc. These entities are part of
the gallery art world, but not of the experimental film world; they are
part of a system of circulation that has been created to (ideally)
benefit artists and operates with the artists' blessings (e.g. preview
copies or sample jpegs sent from galleries to collectors/potential
buyers). These things are not really part of the practices of
experimental cinema, which has a different machinery in place by which
work is distributed, exhibited, and paid for. Ubu is operating entirely
outside of this system, which is one reason I don't agree with the
analogy you make between what Ubu does and the practice of making
preview copies available, etc.

I think Sam is right on when he says "The difference [between Jonas
Mekas showing work on the web and Ubu doing the same] is Jonas has also
proactively helped build institutions to exhibit the work properly &
preserve it." After all, Ubu isn't a) working with the artists whose
films it shows, b) taking care to see that those works are of a high
quality, or c) working - as a gallery might - to see that the
"represented" artists are getting some kind of benefit from having
their work on Ubu (Ubu CLAIMS that the artists benefit from this
because the work gets out there and the notoriety of its makers
increases, but I'm not at all convinced that the mere presence of work
on Ubu, especially given the poor quality of the video, automatically
equates to more notoriety - and as others here have pointed out,
artists might want more than just exposure).

What's more, I think Ubu is overstating - at least to a degree - the
difficulties that these institutions "impose" on the masses being able
to see avant-garde films, and is doing so to its benefit. The scarcity
of avant-garde film is a real problem, but some of what turns up on Ubu
is commercially available in legit forms - some of it can even be found
at decent rental stores and on Netflix.

That being said, I would be interested to hear from folks in the know
as to whether or not Ubu is indeed stimulating film rentals from places
like FMC, Canyon, Lux, ReVoir, etc. I'm not sure it can be proven
absolutely, but what about it folks? Are the films that appear on Ubu
seeing any increase in rentals?

Of course, that wouldn't vindicate Ubu, for all the reasons that have
already been raised in this discussion. And this brings me to my/your
last point. In all honesty, Lisa, I think you're giving Ubu too much
credit - and yourself, as a teacher, not enough - for your students'
increased interest in and demand for experimental film holdings at
SUNY-B. Ubu may have been a helpful resource for you, but you're the
one who made the resource effective, placing it in an educational
context that must have included all manner of other materials
(readings, screenings, discussions, lectures, other online resources,
and so on). And I'm sure you could have generated the same amount of
interest and passion among your students without Ubu.

Best regards,


p.s. I realize that many filmmakers make preview copies of their work
available and allow images of said work to appear on the web, but,
again, they are working within a system by their own choice, in a way
that directly benefits them, and that preserves the visual quality of
their work.

Jonathan Walley
Assistant Professor, Cinema Department
Denison University
Granville, Ohio 43023

On Jun 11, 2008, at 8:22 AM, Lisa Oppenheim wrote:

> Hi Tony-
>   But there still is a difference between when you or I sell a work
> and something that is obviously a 'preview copy'. Which exists outside
> the edition and is not rented or sold. It is a DVD and it has the
> movie on it, but is not the work. Similarly, I would still argue that
> no one is going to confuse a tiny low res quicktime file on their
> desktop with the flickr with the 'work.' People are with it enough to
> know that they are not looking at the actual piece, only a cruddy
> crude copy for reference, as with a preview copy.
>     Your gallery might send jpegs of your work to collectors, but no
> one thinks those are the actual works. No one buys a jpeg, they buy
> the work. I think therefore it is not a stretch to say that a
> quicktime clip of one of your or my films is not the work.
> Anyway, not sure if you want to deal with this stuff in the days
> before the big thing at the Tate. But good luck! I wish I was there to
> see it an everyone in London should definitely go!
> Lisa
>> -------- Original Message --------
>> Subject: Re: The Politics of the Bootleg
>> From: Tony Conrad <email suppressed>
>> Date: Wed, June 11, 2008 10:25 am
>> To: email suppressed
>> Hi Lisa---------
>> You're getting into a mixed terrain here: we are not talking about
>> citation, or appropriation, or
>> brief quotations, as your remarks suggest, when you give as examples
>> "youtube clip(s)" or "video
>> taped off a monitor." That is, this is not about "representations"
>> of the work, but the work
>> itself, in its various forms. When a feature film is sold on DVD,
>> that's not called
>> a "representation" of the work; it is called the work.
>> ---------t0ny
>> On Wed Jun 11 1:31 , Lisa Oppenheim <email suppressed> sent:
>> >Tony- I love your work. And I have enormous respect for you and
>> your practice. Hell, you named
>> the Velvet fucking Underground. But on this point I think you have
>> it wrong. It is not about your
>> work or the way it disseminated, it is about representations of the
>> work. Who owns a youtube clip
>> of a video taped off a monitor? Is that the work? That's like saying
>> a postcard of the Mona Lisa
>> is the intellectual property of Leonardo.
>> >Much respect,
>> >Lisa
>> >

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