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Archive of the category 'Film'

Summary of A Modular Framework, Part 4, curated by Eduardo Navas

The following are videos from a performance that took place on November 11, 2010 at the Cultural Center of Spain in El Salvador, for the Exhibition, A Modular Framework.

Brian Mackern performs his remix of the film, the Stalker by Tarkovsky

Arcangel Constantini remixes noises and video games live for the audience

Antonio Mendoza remixes pop media image and sound

Film Analysis: The shortcomings of representing the unpresentable in Inception

Image source: The First Post

Note: Below is an excerpt of a film analysis of Inception I wrote for Vodule, a new collaboration that focuses on the concept of volume and modularity in emerging media.

Spoiler alert: this is a film analysis, meaning an in-depth review that gives away key  moments of the film.

Written by Eduardo Navas

Inception is defined as “The establishment or starting point of an institution or activity.”  In the film Inception, the term means “the introduction of an idea in someone’s mind.”  Dominic Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a master at manipulating people’s dreams.  He is able to introduce an idea deep into a person’s unconscious.  The idea will take over the individual’s reality and perhaps even push him or her to the edge of sanity. The individual may question actual reality and consider the dreamworld real, not the material world.

Inception was written and directed by Christopher Nolan, who consistently plays with the concept of time in multiple parallels of reality.  He did this with Memento, Batman Begins, and The Dark Knight.  But Inception, as original as it may appear, in effect, is far from being itself an introduction of a new concept that may take over film form and ask that film as a medium be redefined.  Nolan by no means may be claiming to do this with Inception, but serious filmmaking is at its best when it becomes that which it proposes.  This is known in the arts as the sublime: to present the unpresentable–to present the possibility of comprehending the incomprehensible.  This is the ultimate space of exploration in aesthetics.  Inception, as respectable as it may appear, falls short in this important aspect.  Why this may be so is worth considering.

Read the complete text at Vodule

Butler on Sherman

Image source: YouTube

An interesting discussion on the work of Cindy Sherman takes place between Judith Butler and a gallery host. Butler discusses the representation and questioning of vulnerability of women in Sherman’s work, and also shares the formal pleasures she finds in the works of art.  The subtitles are in French, and the discussion is in German; most of the documentary is in English with French subtitles. The segment on Sherman begins around 3:10 and carries over to later segments.  I find this documentary excerpt worth noting because it offers a rare moment when a philosopher discusses works of art casually, yet with careful analysis.

I find some of Butler’s premises on performativity to run parallel with the development of Remix, and to be potentially useful to evaluate current concepts on cultural mixing.  I say this without claiming that her work could be directly linked to Remix as discourse, but rather that a paradigmatic reflection on her ideas can be helpful in understanding the cultural variables in which remix culture plays out. Not sure how long the documentary may stay on YouTube, but here are the links for future convenient access:

Judith Butler, Philosopher of Gender:

Part 1 of 6:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q50nQUGiI3s
2 of 6: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTz-_YeUIUg&NR=1
3 of 6: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ALx1MEW2P3U&NR=1
4 of 6: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ALx1MEW2P3U&NR=1
5 of 6: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sHVugezilG8&NR=1
6 of 6: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yv2aCF2Okz8&NR=1

Notes on Cultural Analytics Seminar, December 16-17, 2009, Calit2, San Diego, by Eduardo Navas

Jeremy Douglass (left) and Lev Manovich (far right) demonstrate how to analyze data on the Hyper Wall at Calit2.

The Cultural Analytics seminar took place at Calit2 on December 16 and 17 of 2009.  The event brought together researchers and students from Bergen University and University of California San Diego.  The two day event consisted of research presentations and demos of software tools.

Part One of Hyper Wall Demonstration during Cultural Analytics Seminar at Calit2, San Diego, December 16-17, 2009.  Introduction to principles of Cultural Analytics.

I will not spend much time in this entry defining Cultural Analytics.  This subject has been well covered by excellent blogs such as Open Reflections.  For this reason, at the end of this entry I include a number of links to resources that focus on Cultural Analytics.  Instead, I will briefly share what I believe Cultural Analytics offers to researchers in the humanities.

Part Two of Hyper Wall Demonstration during Cultural Analytics Seminar at Calit2, San Diego, December 16-17, 2009.  Analysis of Vertov’s motion in scenes from Man with a Movie Camera.

This emerging field can be defined as a hybrid practice that utilizes tools of quantitative analysis often found in the hard sciences for the enhancing of qualitative analysis in the humanities.  The official definition of the term follows:

Cultural analytics refers to a range of quantitive and analytical methodologies drawn from the natural and social sciences for the study of aesthetics, cultural artifacts and cultural change. The methods include data visualization techniques, the statistical analysis of large data sets, the use of image processing software to extract data from still and moving video, and so forth. Despite its use of empirical methodologies, the goals of cultural analytics generally align with those of the humanities.

One thing that separates the humanities from the hard sciences is the emphasis of qualitative over quantitative analysis.  In very general terms qualitative analysis is often used to evaluate the how and why of particular case studies, while quantitative analysis focuses on patterns and trends, that may not always be concerned with social or political implications.

Part Three of Hyper Wall Demonstration during Cultural Analytics Seminar at Calit2, San Diego, December 16-17, 2009. Jeremy Douglass analyzes comic books.

What Cultural Analytics is doing, in my view, is bringing together qualitative and quantitative analysis for the interests of the humanities.  In a way Cultural Analytics could be seen as a bridge between specialized fields that in the past have not always communicated well.

Consequently, when new ground is being explored, questions of purpose are bound to emerge, which is exactly what happened during seminar conversations.  As the videos that accompany this brief entry will demonstrate, the real challenge is for researchers in the humanities to engage not only with Cultural Analytics tools and envision how such tools can enhance their practice, but to actually embrace new philosophical approaches that blur the lines between the hard sciences and the humanities.

Part Four of Hyper Wall Demonstration during Cultural Analytics Seminar at Calit2, San Diego, December 16-17, 2009. Cicero Da Silva explains his collaborative project, Macro.

To be specific on the possibilities that Cultural Analytics offers to the humanities, I will cite two demonstrations by Lev Manovich and Jeremy Douglass.

Lev Manovich at one point presented Hamlet by William Shakespeare in its entirety on Calit2’s Hyper Wall, which consists of several screens that enable users to navigate data at a very high resolution.

When seeing the entire text at once, one is likely to realize that this methodology is more like mapping.  To this effect, soon after, we were shown a version of the text in which Manovich had isolated the repetition of certain words throughout the literary work.

This approach could be used by a literature scholar to study certain linguistic strategies, such as sentence structure, by an author.  Let’s take this a step further and say that it has been agreed that a contemporary author is influenced by a canonical writer.  How this supposed influence takes effect can be evaluated by studying certain patterns of sentences from both authors by isolating parts of literary texts for direct comparison. One could then evaluate if the supposed influence is formal, conceptual or both: perhaps the contemporary author might make ideological references that are clearly linked to the canonical author, but which are not necessarily influenced at a formal level; or it could be the other way around, or both.  In this case, quantitative and qualitative analysis are combined to evaluate a case study.  In other words, pattern comparison is used to understand the similarities and differences between two or more works of literature.

To this effect, Jeremy Douglass’s presentation of a comic book is important.  He explained how by seeing an entire publication of a comic book story one can study how certain patterns in the narrative come to define the aesthetics for the reader.

While the reader may be able to experience the story in time, by actually reading it,  the visualization of the comic book in grid-like fashion–as a structural map–allows the researcher to apply analysis of patterns and trends that may be more common in flows of networks to an actual narrative.  Again, in this case we find quantitative and qualitative analysis complementing each other.

As noted at the end of the article “Culture is Data” (also provided below) from Open Reflections, it appears that Manovich is at times understood to argue that one should privilege quantitative over qualitative analysis.  This proposition implies an either or mentality by certain researchers that needs to be reevaluated.  Janneke Adema explains his answer better than I ever could:

But, on the other hand, won’t we loose a sense of meaning if we analyze culture like a thing? Manovich argues that this is of course a complementary method, we should not throw away our other ways of establishing meaning. It is a way of expanding them. And it is also an important expansion, for how is one going to ask about the meaning of large datasets? We need to combine the traditionally [sic]humanities approach of interpretation with digital techniques to find out more. And again, meaning is not the only thing to look at. It is also about creating an experience. Patterns are the new real of our society.

The most important thing to understand when evaluating the videos available with this entry is that one need not have a hyper wall to do research with Cultural Analytics methodologies; many of the tools can run on a personal computer.  It’s more about adopting an attitude and willingness to do research by way of combining quantitative and qualitative analysis.  At the moment I am evaluating the implementation of Cultural Analytics in my research on Remix.

References worth perusing:

Cultural Analytics Seminar Schedule: http://lab.softwarestudies.com/2009/11/cultural-analytics-seminar-software.html

Software Studies, Website: http://lab.softwarestudies.com/2008/09/cultural-analytics.html

“Culture is Data,” article: http://openreflections.wordpress.com/2009/05/23/culture-is-data/

Culture Vis, Website: http://culturevis.com/cultural_analytics.html

“Cultural Analytics,” Wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_analytics

“The Next Big Thing in Humanities, Arts and Social Science Computing: Cultural Analytics,” article: http://www.hpcwire.com/features/The_Next_Big_Thing_in_Humanities_Arts_and_Social_Science_Computing_Cultural_Analytics.html

“Lev Manovich: Studying Culture With Search Algorithms,” article: http://networkcultures.org/wpmu/query/tag/cultural-analytics/

“Cultural Analytics: a new field that combines arts, media and IT,” article: http://knowledge.smu.edu.sg/article.cfm?articleid=1201

Curatorial Selection at Transitio_MX 03, by Eduardo Navas

Image: Paul Ramirez-Jonas, Another Day 2003
Jonas’s project is one of five selections made for Transitio_MX 03.

I am very excited to share information about a curatorial selection I made for Transitio_MX. This year’s event appears to be just as ambitious as its predecessors, if not more.  I’m on my way to Mexico City, to participate in the opening events and symposium.  The next days will be overwhelming.  I will write about things as they develop, and post them here for future reference.  Some information about my selections below:

First Disagreement: *Dissidence. Non places & Device art*

Curators: Eduardo Navas / Machiko Kusahara


This curatorship deals with techno-artistic praxes. In it, disagreement revolves around the artists’ usage and reshaping of devices and how the latter lead critically towards a stance different from that in which they originated.

Form Follows Information, by Eduardo Navas

Image source: Mashable

In January of 2009 I wrote two brief entries, “On Content and Form: 2009 Forecast” and “Further Reflections on Content and Form in 2009,” which evaluated the difficulty that developers are encountering with the constant change of delivery devices.  Since then, there appears to be more interest in having constant access to information than on the devices themselves. I also noted the possibility that consumers may develop fetishes for hybrid devices like the iPhone.

Yet, as we move on to the second half of 2009, the actual subject of analysis is becoming more apparent: the screen.  It is the aesthetics of the screen, a vessel of simulation, of make believe, of simulacra proper that is turning out to be the recurring device in all media.  From the early days of film on to television, and currently the computer and its supplementary devices, including GPS systems, text readers such as the kindle, portable DVD players, and of course the iPhone, the screen has played a defining role in the ongoing expansion of global communication.

The screen’s never-ending evolution, then, is what needs to be considered carefully in order to understand how media is changing with the growth of network culture.  The challenge in this acknowledgment is that our familiar window for entertainment and communication, while always a comfortable rectangular format of malleable dimensions, has no actual stable material form; it keeps shifting at an ever increasing speed; and because of media’s dependency on the screen, developers need to change their approach to product development.  This also means that content providers need to rethink their relation to media delivery, whether this be print, or online.

Benjamin Button and Forest Gump Similarities

Image source: The Blemish

The above image is from a link that is no longer available. It was a mashup video of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Forest Gump. Friends who have seen Benjamin Button said that the film reminded them of Forest Gump. After viewing the movie, myself, and doing some research, I learned that the screenplay was written by Eric Roth and Robin Swicord. Eric Roth also wrote Forest Gump. And here is when things began to fall into place.

I realized that Roth was very much following his own Gump template to develop Benjamin Button. Both main characters in the films are different from average people. Forest is just a little bit off in his relation to the world (he is close to being mentally retarded), while Benjamin is aging backwards. Their “disabilities” make them special and allows both characters to turn ordinary moments into extraordinary events.

The similarities are numerous. For instance, both characters cannot walk in their early years, but eventually learn, and decide to go out and experience the world. Both characters have a love interest that somehow never is fully realized except for a brief moment in life. For Benjamin this is possible when he is able to live a somewhat normal life with the love of his life, but he has to leave her because he is aging backwards. For Forest the reason is move elusive. The film takes place in the sixties, and Forest’s love interest, while she was intimate with him, was not ready for a long term commitment. The list of similarities goes on.

When I received the link to the mashup of Forest Gump and Benjamin Button, titled “The Curious Case of Forest Gump and Time Wasters,” all of the similarities described above and many more were mentioned. The video mashup presented Forest Gump on the top half of the screen and Benjamin Button on the bottom. The editing made the remix feel as though, if one were to watch both films simultaneously, they would almost match frame by frame. This, of course, was a deliberate trick in the mashup editing, but nevertheless it showed the limited originality of Benjamin Button.

After viewing “The Curious Case of Forest Gump and Time Wasters” I quickly realized that it was Eric Roth who was in fact remixing himself. But then I realized that Benjamin Button does not even qualify as a remix because in a remix one must know that it is a remix. Roth blatantly presents Benjammin Button as something new, and thereby shortchanges his own merit as a content producer.

NOTE: The day after I wrote the above commentary, I found the site, gigglesugar, which links to the video under a different title: “The Curious Case of Forest Gump/Benjamin Button.”

Scalable City: Interview with Sheldon Brown, by Eduardo Navas

Image and text source: gallery@calit2

The following interview with Sheldon Brown was commissioned by gallery@calit2 for the exhibition “Scalable City”. Exhibition dates: Thursday, Oct. 23, 2008 – Monday, Dec. 15, 2008

Sheldon Brown is an artist who works in new forms of culture that arise out of developments in computing technology. He is Director of the Center for Research in Computing and the Arts (CRCA) at UC San Diego, where he is a Professor of Visual Arts and an academic participant in the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2). During his early career, Brown experimented with emerging technologies to develop works that explore the possible meaning of “virtual reality.” His installations were often designed for immersive audience participation. Many of these works have been developed for the gallery, such as “MetaStasis” (1990), an art installation consisting of a room that visitors enter to experience what appears to be, as Brown himself has called it, a “zoetrope of TV images.” Brown took his interest in mediated reality to the public sphere in installations such as “Video Wind Chimes” (1994), which projects broadcast TV images on the street sidewalk – images selected according to how the wind blows. In both of these projects, as well as many others, Brown emphasizes how metaphysical experience is contingent upon our increasing dependency in immersive media of all forms. Brown’s longstanding interest in mediation is further explored in “Scalable City.” In the following interview, the artist reflects on how Scalable City connects his interests in emerging technologies as well as longstanding traditions of art practice.

[Eduardo Navas] Unlike many artists who claim to be interested primarily in expressing their ideas and not being bound to a specific medium, you have chosen to focus on the development of art that is involved with computing technology. Having said this, the computer makes possible metamedia – meaning it simulates other media, and in this sense it allows artists to focus on idea development. It appears, then, that you share the interest of exploring ideas in the tradition of modern art practice with artists who might play down their preference for a particular medium. With this in mind, could you reflect on the shifts that art practice may be taking based on the increasing role of computers in all aspects of our lives? How do you see your art practice in relation to previous practices which may have downplayed their preference for a particular medium?

[Sheldon Brown] It seems you attribute conflicting claims for my relationship to “medium”, but I don’t see computing as a medium in the 20th century sense. Probably even the idea of it as a meta-medium does not capture its character. It may be more useful to think about computing as creating certain cultural conditions, and I’m doing work which utilizes and responds to those conditions. It might then be more like the interest in speed as a condition for the futurists, but I wouldn’t want to make too much of any analogies to previous art movements and their concerns. The impact of computing on culture comes after the modernist, conceptualist and post-modernist engagements, and just as I have called it a meta-medium, I could also call it a meta-ism – it is able to simulate any and all of these previous attitudes. Not that my interests in this begin and end at simulation of previous forms; this is but one of the gestures possible in this condition, but when it performs any of these simulations, they become rapidly engaged in a new dynamic which doesn’t stop at borders of previous operations.

‘Wild Style’ at 25: A Film That Envisioned the Future of Hip-Hop Culture, by David Gonzalez

In a scene from the 1983 movie “Wild Style,” the Rock Steady Crew gave much of the world its first glimpse of break dancing.

Image and text source: NYTimes

First published on November 11, 2008

In the 25 years since “Wild Style” was first shown, in Times Square, more than a few viewers were convinced that the movie was a documentary. Granted, its stars were real-life graffiti artists like Lee Quiñones, hip-hop groups like the Cold Crush Brothers and break dancers like the Rock Steady Crew. But the story — such as it was — was less a reflection of real life than a hope for the future.

Read the entire article at NYTimes

“On Distributed Social Cinema and the Nano Market”, by Eduardo Navas

Adriene Jenik installation at the SDMA

Images and text source: gallery@calit2

Note: This text was written for the exhibition SPECFLIC 2.6 and Particles of Interest: Installations by Adriene Jenik and *particle group*, at gallery@calit2, from August 6 to October 3, 2008. The text outlines how dematerialization is at play ideologically and materially in contemporary life, and how it might be at play in the not so far future.

The installations “SPECFLIC 2.6” by Adriene Jenik, and “Particles of Interest” by *particle group*, on view at the gallery@calit2 from August 6 to October 2, 2008, ask the viewer to consider a not-so-distant future in which we will be intimately connected in networks not only through our computers, but also via nanoparticles in and on our very own bodies. Both projects respond to the pervasive mediation of information that is redefining human understanding of the self, as well as the concept of history, knowledge, and the politics of culture.

Information access to networked archives of books and other forms of publication previously only available in print is becoming the main form of research as well as entertainment. Access to music and video via one’s computer and phone as well as other hybrid devices has come to redefine human experience of media. From the iPhone to the Kindle, visual interfaces are making information access not only efficient in terms of time and money, but also in terms of spectacle. Accessibility usually consists of a combination of animation, video, image and text, informed in large part by the language of film and the literary novel.


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