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Hypertext and the new ways of reading

Development of information theories in the early 1950’s led to emergence of cybernetic theory (with Wiener and others) on the one side, and Transformative theory of 1960’s with McLuhan, Ong and Havelock on the other. McLuhan, in the spirit of the prophet, analyzed and predicted many of modern electronic ways of doing and thinking. In his time, radio, telephone and television represented the paramount of “thinking globally”. But, reading his “Understanding Media” (1964) today, one will found almost the same “symptoms” in our modern-day life as in his, 40 years old.

The same thing is with cinematography. With some variations, almost the same problem exist from the beginnings of cinema until today.

Bunuel tried to, in his surrealist perspective bring some of these issues on the screen with his widely acclaimed Un chien andalou (1929). The issue is the need for juxtaposing the mainstream with something new. While Hollywood was making genre movies and big budget movies like Intolerance (Griffith, 1916) and many others, with famous 180° ramp and rather linear narrative, french surrealists experimented with narrative flow, dream-capturing and something Derrida would call “out of joint-ness”.  To be out of joint in these movies meant to offer something that mainstream had only in small traces.  Logic was replaced by the absence of logic, time was removed, focalisation was constantly reconfigured.

It would be wrong to assume that there exists a clear gap between mainstream and unconventional art. The main example is classical Hollywood film noir. It incorporates a little of German expressionism, surrealism and classical Hollywood film-making.

Nevertheless, I think that the main difference between those two is the avant-garde use of technology. While mainstream can copy, sometimes better than the original, a truly unconventional mode of production incorporates new modes and uses of technology. For Soviets, it was montage, editing. For television (over cinema), it was multi-program continuous flow (Williams, Programming as Sequence or Flow).

For hypertext it was new way of using computers for the creation of new type of literature. And finally, for the Soft Cinema, it is going to be the use of computers and user generated software for the creation of independent and contingent narration and discourse in general.

In next post, I will shed some light on the history of hypertext, and how it relates to Lev Manovich project Soft Cinema.

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March 31, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Introduction

History of cinema, especially Hollywood cinema is often seen as linear.  Somewhere in the 1820’s Joseph Nicéphore Niépce took a first photograph. Then, the Lumiere Brothers shot the first “movie” in 1895. Then Hollywood appeared.  Fordistic style of production began. Creating movies like on assembly line, it created genres, rules of the game.

Today we go to the cinema, watch action movies, melodramas, romantic comedies like there’s nothing more to cinema than Armageddon or Titanic.

Those who are really passionate about the history of cinema will know that the most commonly used and mentioned history is not the only history.

The existence of movements such as Soviet Montage or French Avant-garde (Surrealism most notably) in the post WWI Europe proves the inherently ambiguous structure of any work of art. One cannot judge art by the number of “art history” books that he read, nor can he judge film production and diversity by the number of mediocre (at best) movies that end up in our local multiplexes.

Artistic diversity’s modus operandi is the constant re-shifting between the mainstream and the “obscure”, unpopular and popular.  In that sense, experimental faze of Man Ray or Bunuel will help me detect the way we talk about art.

My aim is to look at Lev Manovich’s project “Soft Cinema” today, and to compare it to other movements in the history of art. Thesis is that, despite the new technology and it’s advances, the aim of the artist remains pretty much the same. The only thing that changes is means of representation.

March 30, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment