From: Anna Biller (email suppressed)
Date: Fri Oct 15 2010 - 10:46:42 PDT
Thank you for your lecture about what "active viewing" means. I was
responding to a statement that was made in seriousness (not as
hyperbole). While it may be a fact that viewership *can* be creative
and active and perhaps often is, the statement I was responding to was
just another way of taking rights away from the makers of works: "You
not only don't own this, you didn't even create it - I created it
through my act of viewing it, therefore, I own it just as much as you."
On Oct 15, 2010, at 3:57 AM, David Tetzlaff wrote:
> Anna Biller wrote:
>> The internet creates a sense of flattened relativism in which
>> everything loses its context and sense of scale and history.
> As an example she cites:
>> the way [people] use YouTube and Facebook to select works and share
>> them, almost as if their selection of the work is the same as making
>> the work.
> This is the sort of critique of postmodern culture that comes out of
> Fred Jameson's 'Culture of Late Capitalism' essay, or Baudrillard's
> 'Ecstacy of Communication.' I think this does occur, and I do find it
> worrisome. I have seen video blogs consisting of nothing but
> selections of other clips from around the web that I think qualify as
> works of art because of the genuine creativity, amount of work, and
> the effective aesthetic results of the choices made in pulling clips
> together and establishing connections/collisions between them. But
> such examples are rare and I do see a lot of the Jamesonian flattening
> Anna notes.
> This is not what people mean when they say 'viewing a work is as
> creative as making one.' First of all, that's phrased as hyperbole.
> The 'is' is too definitive and universal, and 'as creative as'
> indicates a false equality. It would be more accurate to say 'Viewing
> is usually an act that involves a significant exercise of creativity
> on the part of the viewer.' This is basically the 'active audience'
> thesis that drives Cultural Studies. My own conclusion is that this
> sort of active engagement, the affectless pomo reflecting screen, and
> a more Frankfurt School ideological transmission all occur in our
> culture side by side.
> The active audience thesis stems from basic principles of semiotics.
> The work of art is an object, with elements that act as symbols. These
> symbols have no intrinsic meaning. They must be assembled, interpreted
> and engaged by whoever perceives them. There is a lot of wiggle-room
> in this process. So the mute object only becomes a meaningful work of
> art once someone 'reads' it, and invests meaning into it, which is
> inevitably a sort of indirect dialogic process. Academic studies like
> Henry Jenkins' 'Textual Poachers' may overstate the case, but there's
> too much evidence for the basic thesis to dismiss it entirely.
> And certainly, experimental film is a form that engenders active
> engagements. I'd guess for most folks on this list, early encounters
> with experimental work yielded a good share of 'WTF?' reactions,
> followed by struggles to parse the text, leading to a variety of
> interpretations rooted in part in each viewer's unique life
> Perhaps some UbuWeb users wind up engaging the clips there in the
> worst sort of YouTube reflecting-screen pomo fascination. But that's
> hardly Ubu's fault. Ubu has clearly been a portal by which a
> significant number of people who would not otherwise been exposed to
> avant garde work have found their way to some knowledge/interest/
> appreciation. As Jeanne Liotta noted, in the long run that benefits
> our 'community' as a whole, and we all can benefit individually from
> the health in that community.
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