I am having digi-fun writing “The Me & the WE”
July 3, 2008
What’s great about the job (when you’re lucky), is that you have to write something (an adaptation of my MP:me Manifesto and the “talk” I gave about it a few months ago at SCMS for a book on First Person Media), and it irritates the peripheral vision. I have to do that, when?! I play scrabulous. Read a little Vertov. It seems scary. Undoable. Unfindable. Mine, but lost in the background. Covered with the stuff I put in its way. Then, some coffee, an email, a few days of this, then, I make myself sit down…and…type…and…whoosh. Out it flows. It’s fun. It might be weird. I don’t care. So much of this strange job is caught in the private pleasure of the flow and work of the making, speaking, and thinking. Most of what I’ve published was always obscure, and is getting more dated by the year, arguing a point in a debate that’s long settled. But what satisfies is the zip of the now. On the blog, people get to it faster, as I write. And it’s a bit less private and personal, I suppose, in the sharing of it. But a lot of the satisfaction of writing is in the spilling out of it.
So, I’ve been writing weird poetry—an homage to Vertov and Esfir Shub—as a way out of the trap of trying to write about YouTube video off the internet, on paper. Very rough, but loads of fun. Here’s the beginning:
The Me & the WE: Variants of a Manifesto Concerning First Person Media History as seen through a poetic attempt to represent a “Playlist” of 14 YouTube Videos, organized by me, SCALEthedoc (also known as Mp:me) and Paying Homage to the films and writing of Dziga Vertov (and his lesser-known contemporary, Esfir Shub)
1. I Call Myself Mp:me
From: SCALEthedoc. Added: February 28, 2008. 29 seconds.
Description: I call myself MP:me—as opposed to “cinematographer,” one of a herd of machomen doing rather well peddling slick clean wares. (After “WE: Variant of a Mainfesto,” Dziga Vertov, 1922). Category: Film & Animation. Tags: MPme Alexandra Juhasz Dziga Vertov Manifesto video camcorder feminist media documentary experimental theory politics
In a bedroom, on a bureau. A round mirror.
Feminine space. Cluttered with photos, knick-knacks, papers.
The stuff of women and family. Privacy.
We hear: “I call myself MP:me (MediaPraxis:AlexandraJuhasz)…”
(We remember Vertov’s: “WE call ourselves Cine-Eyes as distinct from ‘cinematographer’—that flock of junk dealers who do rather well peddling their rags.” )
Slow (but shaky) zoom into circular mirror. The first of many (circles, mirrors).
The female videomaker’s reflection, holding camcorder, centered, comes into focus, sort of.
She is all women filmmakers. She is Mp:me, not WE.
At home with technology. Alone with her consumer camera. On her bed.
She’s already dressed (none of this prurient eye-blinking-bra-on shit).
Her seated figure slowly fills the frame while she speaks her manifesto in a strangely off-putting and deep voice register. The language is stilted. Poorly performed. She’s no actress.
But he didn’t use actors either. Although the we he caught was usually unaware, and she is so aware, even hyper-aware, that she’s quoting nearly hundred year old film theory from a script penned by her own hand, onto a computer, taped to her mirror.
“THE MOST UNPROFITABLE, THE MOST UNECONOMIC WAY OF COMMUNICATING A SCENE IS THROUGH THEATRICAL COMMUNICATION.” (Vertov)
Different reals. New truths.
She reads: “…as opposed to ‘cinematographer,’ one of a herd of machomen doing rather well peddling slick clean wares.”
And she’s no cinematographer either. No machoman.
Just a modern feminist inserting her words into the Manifesto Vertov left behind. Repeating. Ripping. Fan-girl. He invented a world seen newly.
As the camera zooms, the exposure keeps shifting. Smears on the mirror disrupt visual clarity (Have you seen his images!)
Some might find her’s beautiful. They’re certainly self-referential. And dirty.
Calling attention to a mediated seeing. A female framing.
Still zooming: the eye of the camera finally fills the frame. It’s gone beyond self-referential.
YouTube cuts to:
2. Euganea Movie Movement 2006 Sigla
From: euganeamoviemovement. Added: February 16, 2007. 1:17 seconds.
Description: Promotional video for the fifth edition of Euganea Movie Movement film festival (Monselice – Padua – Italy 2006) http://www.euganeamoviemovement.it. A small tribute to Vertov’s cinema 😉 Category: Film & Animation. Tags: emm euganeamoviemovement festival cortometraggio monselice dziga vertov
Jazzy but slightly electronic. Old but new. Zippy.
Railroad gate closes.
Cut to: An ancient box on a tripod, a movie camera. Its lens is being changed by the hands of an otherwise unpictured male. The camera is subject, and it is clean and square.
A recognizable, signature shot, Vertov.
A machine. A man.
Man with a movie camera.
A beret set atop a contemporary video-camcorder on a tripod in a modern room.
Machine’s still subject with a comparable yet slight male touch. Nod to an earlier time.
Fragmentary cut to extreme close-up on eye of camera with eye inside. Vertov’s.
Everything’s moving fast. Cut to the jazzy score.
Long shot of Vertov’s cameraman leaving apartment building lobby. Camera and tripod on shoulder, framed by elaborate doorway: an arch of graceful windows. He’s all action. Very modern.
Now, contemporary cameraman leaves rectangular hallway, slimmed technology on his shoulder. Things change, they stay the same.
Guys on cars, with cameras, in long shot. Moving fast.
Shot from high above and down below.
Framed by the elegant, complex, arch of a railway bridge.
We see from their machomen’s moving vantage.
A city. The countryside.
Now and then, intercut. Film and video. Film looks better. Cleaner. Darker. Chiarascuro.
The real world but artfully rendered.
A bench. A train station. Mountain. Silo. Gear. Fence. Parts of a train’s machinery.
“MAKE WAY FOR THE MACHINE!” (Vertov)
Modern cinematographer stands on a train track.
A locked fence. His access is difficult, poor guy.
Vertov’s train tracks. His cameraman sets up daring shot as train approaches from distance.
“I, a machine, am showing you a world the likes of which only I can see.” (Vertov)
Modern adventurer giving it up for the project of seeing.
Cut to signature camera eye in extreme closeup.
“The Eye, disputing the visual concept of the world by the human eye and offering its own ‘I see.’” (Vertov)
Cut to colorful poster advertising Euganea Movie Movement Festival, 2006.
It’s all been an ad. Hmm.