On Slogans

August 31, 2007

1. “It will be the art of the direct cinema of a slogan. Of communication that is just as unobstructed and immediate as the communication of an idea through a qualified word.”
(Sergei Eisenstein, “Our October, Beyond the Played and the Non-Played”)

This “slogan” written by eminent revolutionary filmmaker/theorist, Sergei Eisenstein in 1928, is the first of eleven I will offer over the next two weeks by way of incendiary introduction to my current thinking about Media Praxis.

Using said slogans—pithy quotes taken from longer works of media theory—I will mark eleven radical possibilities and responsibilities presented by the contemporary phenomena of documentary on YouTube, but as heralded by political media producers writing in the past about the radical possibilities for the various technologies of their distinct times and places. Over the next two weeks, we’ll enjoy on the pretty pages of this blog the rousing watchwords of eleven wonderful writers engaged in political movements before our time. Sadly, it seems that at many, but not all of the media duties our authors lay down, YouTube is failing even as it is built upon technical opportunities desired but unattainable for our sloganeers of the past.

2. “The epoch of the direct materialization of a slogan takes over from the epoch of a slogan about material.” Eisenstein

I am convinced that certain critical components of the hundred-year project of MEDIA PRAXIS are lost in YouTube’s stellar realization of “the art of the direct cinema of the slogan.” What couldn’t Eisenstein foresee? For it seems both prescient, and also naïve of this distinguished communist to harken the slogan for his developing medium, cinema. The slogan is a form that seems so much more apt for our 80-year later use of contemporary technological developments, particularly as displayed on YouTube: cinema-via-the-internet. The slogan, in its several denotations, conceptually links activism and commerce—the simplistic selling of ideas to move people to fight or buy, no matter—in a manner perfected by and definitive of our era, and its definitive medium, the internet. The slogan—a pithy, precise, rousing call to action or consumption, or action as consumption—seems a remarkably astute descriptor of at very least the form of YouTube media, especially in the slogan’s dependence upon brevity and clarity.

Over the next two weeks, I will briefly establish, through slogans, how Eisenstein’s hopes for the slogan are structurally impossible given the architecture, ownership, and advertisements on YouTube. On YouTube, our epoch of the slogan forecloses conversation, community, and complexity. I ask you to think of the following slogans, penned by committed artists from long past revolutions, times, and places, and then followed by my own slogan-responses, as a call to arms for how we might better muster today’s technology to contribute to an ongoing project of improving the possibilities for presentation, interpretation, and abstract social evaluation, human interaction, perception, and epistemology, through media praxis.

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