Slogan Ten

October 1, 2007

“The boundaries between the subject, if not the body, and the ‘rest of the world’ are undergoing a radical refiguration, brought about in part through the mediation of technology. ”
Allucquere Rosanne Stone

On-line documentary presentation on YouTube disturbs the public/private binary, like that of the self/other, opening things up to produce combinations inconceivable without the technology. Yet YouTube forecloses the construction of coherent communities and returns production, consumption, and meaning-making to the individual, re-establishing the reign of the self.

Slogan Nine

September 28, 2007

“The more we assert our own identities as historically marginalized groups, the more we expose the tyranny of a so-called center.”
Pratibha Parmar

YouTube serves the de-centering mandate of post-identity politics by creating a logic of dispersal and network. Yet it fails to re-link these fragments in any rational or sustaining way. There is no possibility to make collectives through its architecture. Information can not become knowledge without a map, a structure, and an ethics.

Slogan Eight

September 24, 2007

“What is in question is not the expression of some lost origin or some uncontaminated essence in black film-language but the adoption of a critical voice that promotes consciousness of the collision of cultures and histories that constitute our very conditions of existence.”
Isaac Julien and Kobena Mercer

On-line media presentation should promote critical reading practices as well as liberated voices explicating the conditions, including media practices, that are necessary to engender this freedom. YouTube is defined by empty and endless collisions unlinked from culture, history, context, author, or intention. Collision without consciousness.

Slogan Seven

September 20, 2007

“By empowering ordinary people to speak as experts, they question a basic assumption of dominant ideology, that only those already in power, those who have a stake in defending the status quo, are entitled to speak as if they know something.”
Barbara Halpern Martineau

YouTube allows everyone and anyone (with access to the technologies) to speak about everything and anything they please. Alone in a room, caught at a lectern, the much-maligned (confessional) talking-head proves to be the entitlement devise of choice. I speak, you listen, but without context, so who cares, and more critically, then what?

Slogan Six

September 15, 2007

“The real crime of representation is representation itself.”
David MacDougall, ethnographic filmmaker

Media presentation on YouTube must be attentive to the ethics and power inherent in all acts of representation. Given the bounded terms of YouTube’s corporate ownership, and highly structured platform, communal authoring is possible but rarely taken advantage of while communal consumption is almost absent, by definition. Without community, there is no need or possibility for ethics, which are central to media praxis.

Slogan Five

September 10, 2007

“The cinema of revolution is at the same time one of destruction and construction: destruction of the image that neo-colonialization has created of itself and us, and construction of a throbbing, living reality which recaptures truth in its expression.”Octavio Getino and Fernando Solanas

If presented with paltry, ludicrous, distracting uses of a medium as its norm, we must model its life-affirming, idea-stimulating, community-enabling applications. YouTube documentaries primarily replay, refer to, de-construct and re-construct mainstream media or other distractions or parentheses from daily life: kittens, comedians, clips-already-aired. YouTube registers a state of media post-colonialization where many of technology’s new makers won’t think past the society’s quieting confections. “Just as they are not masters of the land upon which they walk, the neo-colonized people are not masters of the ideas that envelop them,” Getino and Solanas theorize about Third Cinema in terms of haunting similarity to those which might describe the images of our place and time.

Slogan Four

September 5, 2007

“Q: How do you explain the camera as a gun? A: Well, ideas are guns. A lot of people are dying from ideas and dying for ideas. A gun is a practical idea.
An idea is a theoretical gun.” Jean Luc Godard

The construction and dissemination of ideas, even “theory,” are critical to a project of cultural transformation. Non-specialists must contribute theory for transformation to be tenable. The comments application on YouTube radically opens access for the sharing of words but currently limits theorizing’s gun-potential through downsizing and dumbing-down, i.e. “hahahahaha.” An idea is a ludicrous pun.

Slogan three

September 3, 2007

“I will give you my definition of art: art is ‘making.'”
Jean Renoir

YouTube creates a platform for non-professional, democratic media production. Open the floodgates, and it’s true, everyone is an artist, people make in numbers unprecedented in cinema’s history.

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.

(After “WE: Variant of a Manifesto,” Dziga Vertov, 1922)

I call myself MP:me (Media Praxis : Alexandra Juhasz)—as opposed to “cinematographer,” one of a herd of machomen doing rather well peddling slick clean wares.
I see no connection between true femi-digi-praxis (the integration of media theory, digital practice, and feminist politics in an historical context) and the cunning and calculation of the profiteers.
I consider expensive corporate reality television—weighed down with music and narrative and childhood games—an absurdity.
To the American victim documentary with its shown dynamism and power disparities and to YouTube’s direct-to-camera dramatizations of so many individuals’ personal pain or pleasure this femi-digi-practioner says thanks for the return to real people, the hand-held look, and the close-ups. Good…but disorderly, not based on a precise study of Media Praxis (the hundred year history of theoretical writing and related political media production). A cut above the psychological drama, but still lacking in foundation. A Cliché. A copy of a copy.
I proclaim the stuff of YouTube, all based on the slogan (pithy, precise, rousing calls to action or consumption, or action as consumption), to be leprous.
–Keep your mouse from them!
–Keep your eyes off those bite-sized wonders!
–They’re morally dangerous!
–Contagious!
I affirm the future of digital art by denying its present and learning from its past.

I am MP:me. I build connections to history and theory and inter-relations between individuals and committed communities. With my small cheap camcorder, my laptop, and internet connection, I make messy, irregular feminist video committed to depth and complexity.
“Cinematography, ” the earliest male tradition of sizeable machines, stylish form, and solo cine-adventures must die so that the communal art of femi-digi-praxis may live. I call for its death to be hastened.
I protest against the smooth operator and call for a rough synthesis of history, politics, theory, real people and their chaotic, mundane desires and knowledge.
I invite you:
—to flee—
the sweet embrace of America’s Next Top Model,
the poison of the commercial send-up,
the clutches of technophilia, the allure of boy-toys,
to turn your back on music, effects, gizmos,
—to flee—
out into the open with camcorder in hand, into four dimensions (history, politics, theory + practice), in search of our own material, from our experiences, relationships and commitments to social justice.
Mp:me is made visible through a camcorder femi-digi-praxis: a small, hand-held, retro video aesthetic connected to a lengthy history of communal, low-budget, political and theoretical media production, Media Praxis, begun by truly great cinematographers, men with movie cameras, politics and big ideas. Mp:me simply (post)-modernizes and feminizes We’s foundational praxis.