scarcity is no longer an option
May 11, 2011 10:52 PM   Subscribe

Instant Cinema is a comprehensive platform for experimental film, video and computer art, making the best audio-visual work of artists of all generations available to a worldwide audience. Not a tonne in the archive just yet--it's still in rough beta--but still some nice viewing. For instance: Balance Study, or Trying.
posted by dobbs (5 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Instant Cinema aims to compensate for half a century of under-exposure of film/video

Check your f-stop settings, film students!
posted by ShutterBun at 12:52 AM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

This is pretty exciting and it'll be interesting to see how well received this is in the art community. Meanwhile, there's still ubuweb.
posted by artof.mulata at 1:01 AM on May 12, 2011

I'm intrigued, and very excited to see more.

If you love this stuff (and I love it very much) you must see Pip Chodorov's documentary Free Radicals. (trailer)

I think I might have only vaguely disturbed the rest of the audience - I tried to keep my sqeees of delight as inaudible as possible, but then he started talking about Stan Vanderbeek and I - I restrained myself, I swear. But I totally did the "cheese hands*."

*cheese hands demonstrated
posted by louche mustachio at 8:06 AM on May 12, 2011

Thank you for posting! Have been looking for something like this since Sound of Eye mysteriously stopped updating.
posted by PBR at 2:22 PM on May 12, 2011

I love the part of this project that's focused on new art (and their model for getting new content is cool - submissions are by invitation, and each submitting artist can invite five other artists, ad infinitum).

The part of the project that's interested in putting "classic" art films online seems less thought out, though. For one thing, I'm not sure their argument RE artificial scarcity and monetization (on the about page) works well for works that aren't natively digital.

The fact is that original film prints are scarce. You might think of the existing prints of Stan Brakhage's films as something like Andy Warhol's screenprints - original (even if reproduced) works of art that must be taken care of under special conditions because they are works of art, and our society cares about that kind of thing. (And as with a Warhol screenprint, a digital reproduction is great for increasing public awareness of art and great for certain scholarly uses - but is fundamentally different from seeing an original in person, even if it's a "reproduced" original).

(Here's a good, if old, essay from experimental film critic Fred Camper that gets into some of the sorts of things that get lost in translation with film-to-video transfer. Not everything he says translates to the film-to-digital conversation, but it sheds some, er, light on the subject).

If you buy the argument that preserving original film prints is just as important as creating access to digital reproductions (not everyone does - see the bit about art museums at the bottom of this screed) - some degree of monetization is required. You need to think about how much it will cost to store a film properly, how much you will charge to rent a film out to an exhibitor (because what's the point of having reels of film around if you're not going to screen them?), how much you'll pay to have new negatives struck if you're getting into true preservation (as opposed to just conservation). And these days, you have to worry about the economic viability of the entire industrial infrastructure that allows you to, say, strike a new print of something from old negatives (if it was originally Kodachrome, you're out of luck for now). Maybe all the hacker kids will figure it out someday, but in the meantime us film archivists are sweating.

Basically, projects like this one make me think that the magic of (celluloid) cinema is just going to defeat itself in the end.

People love to watch films, and they don't seem to see the difference between seeing it on film and seeing it on a small screen. Audiences don't see the physical media that films dwell on - they're not really like screen prints or paintings or even photographic prints. They're probably not conscious of the subtle perceptual tricks of film as they watch (even though some filmmakers try to make them aware of these effects). And as they all sit there falling in love with movies, film archivists sit around freaking out about how they might have to shut down their archives.

(A part of the problem, especially for experimental film, is that art museums don't seem to get a lot of this either. Most of the films I see in museums are either natively video - great - or are crappy video transfers of 16mm prints projected onto some dingy wall - not so great. Fortunately, there are some great venues for this kind of thing outside of the museum world, but it would change a lot if museums also stepped up and paid attention to the precarious position a substantial portion of 20th century art is in at the moment (because what is film-on-celluloid if not the ultimate 20th century artform?) And that will require more of an appreciation of the scarcity of film, not less).

Sorry for the rant. These topics have been heavy on my mind lately and I thought it might interest people to get a perspective on the FPP that isn't just "Oh boy! Free movies to watch on the internet!"
posted by bubukaba at 3:54 PM on May 12, 2011 [3 favorites]

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