[Frameworks] Santa's Complaint

From: Bernard Roddy (email suppressed)
Date: Sun Dec 26 2010 - 18:51:47 PST


There are clearly a variety of people contending for the use of this list, with
varying degrees of awareness about the implications of their role. It is never
my intention to simply demean or insult, nor does just any "joke" strike me as
constructive. If I am not mistaken, there are a large number of artists here,
many of whom work in various media and who are in the process of sorting through
their options for exhibition. To a large degree this process involves taking
ownership of the criteria that will determine the nature of what one makes.
Tony Conrad's posting of his holiday video struck me not simply as worthy of
watching or as an opportunity to fool people. The video offered up a sample of
a highly developed practice that struck me as particularly unlikely to draw the
attention of a festival today. By inserting various formulations of rejection
notices into the Frameworkers discussion list, and imagining Tony receiving
them, I hoped to highlight several dimensions of the context in which we work,
and by "we" I mean avant-garde and experimental filmmakers. But the ensuing
exchange seems to have dramatized several of my motivations in a rather dramatic
way. Normally, I am not particularly inclined to ask readers on this list to
devote much thought to what I post, and I myself am certainly very selective
about which posts I read, as I would assume most careful users of the list art.
But it has long struck me that the rules of inclusion and exclusion within
exhibition opportunities are really quite arbitrary, including, I would argue,
the scholarly propensity to classify works as modernist. And yet these rules
are not easily recognized as arbitrary, and what's more, there is often a
certain hostility toward drawing our attention to means by which they are
enforced. What for me seemed to be quite transparently a ploy (as transparent
as Tony's get-up) turns out to have actually been quite believable, and for that
reason, some might say, objectionable. A collection of rejection notices that I
thought could not possibly be joined in a single letter, that is posted on a
public list and addressed to an individual artist, is in fact liable to be
accepted as part of a perfectly legitimate sifting process, one that we are to
assume sorts works in some coherent way, leaving only the really "good" ones for
a festival program. In addition, the credibility gained by simply attaching a
generic title like "Festival Organizer," a mere afterthought, can apparently
draw the policing tendencies of list members who view this as duplicitous and
worthy of censure. The power of that title survived into posts even after the
ploy was acknowledged. And the hostility toward me very likely remains. I
would like to say, however, that I make films and submit them to festivals, I
propose art projects and receive rejection notices. I am fully aware of the
pressures artists are under to compromise their vision in order to satisfy the
expectations of a particular kind of decision-maker. I am also fully aware that
the avant-garde has sustained itself, at least in part, on its unruliness toward
the professionalization of art and the codification of reigning notions of
excellence. In this respect Tony and I are, I believe, in passionate
agreement. Furthermore, it is my understanding that a list made up of
practitioners and programmers, critics and students, teachers and archivists,
all representing several generations of interested parties remains susceptible
to a certain exercize of authority on the part of some members who take it to be
their responsibility to monitor the whole array of discussions and enforce a
particular notion of propriety that they view as objective and disinterested.
The most effective means of frustrating these practices in list discussions, and
a means that can be adopted without insulting any particular members or
impugning anyone's reputation, is to use humor and artifice. It is my hope that
puncturing the pretensions of self-appointed authorities does not a involve a
degree of violence greater than the kind I am likely to receive as a result.



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