3 voor 2021

Ik denk nog steeds aan het besluit, zoveel jaren geleden genomen, bij de opkomst van de sociale media, om mijn online mijn mond te houden – en alleen verslag uit te brengen over mijn fietstochtjes. Misschien is het langzaam, eindelijk, tijd om daarop terug te komen. Ik ben er al op teruggekomen. De videolog waarmee ik in 2021 begon, die grotendeels tot stilstand kwam in de zomer, is er een voorbeeld van. Het besluit was ook niet strikt. Het besluit heeft betrekking op temporaliteit (moment van publicatie, frequentie), en plek. Het gold niet mijn website, zelfs niet voor mijn blog: ik publiceer bijvoorbeeld mijn leesdagboeken met een vertraging van twee of zelfs drie jaar, en dan alles in 1 bestand. Zoekmachines vinden het feilloos, mensen met interesse ook, ze spelen geen rol in het netwerk van hashtags en likes (al is er geen technisch beletsel). Beter zo. Soms heb ik zin om wat vaker stukjes te schrijven en te publiceren, om op deze blog laten weten wat me bezighoudt en waarmee ik me bezighoud. Er zitten zoveel korte stukjes in mijn hoofd die ik besluit niet te schrijven, en als ik ze wel schrijf, besluit niet te publiceren.

Zoals heel banaal, 3 top 3’s voor 2021. (Omdat ik me zelf afvroeg: waren er ‘hoogtepunten’ in 2021?) (Ah, het werden geen top 3’s, maar een top 5, top 10 en top 3).

De vijf beste ritjes:
Het hele Westelijk Havengebied
Utrechtse Heuvelrug en Veluwe
Pier van IJmuiden

Tien boeken die ik in 2021 las en indruk maakten (van de 100 of, nee, 190 die ik helemaal of deels las):
Dominique de Groen: Offerlam
Maud Vanhauwaert: Het stad in mij
Diane di Prima: Revolutionary Letters
Tonnus Oosterhof: Op de rok van het universum
Hermann Broch: Die Schlafwandler
Erik Lindner: 51 manieren om de liefde uit te stellen
François J. Bonnet: The Music to Come
Bruno Latour: Waar ben ik? Lockdownlessen voor aardbewoners
Willem Schinkel: Pandemocratie
Eindelijk uitgelezen
Karl Marx: Het kapitaal

Drie films die ik in 2021 zag en om verschillende redenen interessant vond:
Mostafa Derkaoui: De quelques événements sans signification
Agnes Varda: Documenteur
Marc Bauder: Der Banker, Master of the Universe

blogging,nl,ubiscribe | January 9, 2022 | 14:03 | Comments Off on 3 voor 2021 |

0911 / 36 / 50 / 1.20 / 1.50

Idem. Prachtig weer. Zon. Heenweg met noordenwind. Gouden licht van laagstaande zon. Terugweg met Weinig wind. Ondergaande zon net voor Woerden. Heerlijk gereden. Beide keren in de verleiding om het hele stuk te rijden.



art,blogging,cycling,nl | September 12, 2014 | 0:06 | Comments Off on 0911 / 36 / 50 / 1.20 / 1.50 |

Off the Press, Day II

[Report of the Off the Press Conference – a more tidied version can be found at http://digitalpublishingtoolkit.org/2014/05/off-the-press-report-day-ii/]

Tools and Workshops

The second day of Off the Press starts with workshops. I decide to go to the workshop about pandoc first, as it promises to be about a way of working with text that I am not used to, but have started to like. When I started to use computers, in 1991 there was already Word and that is what I used for writing. At the same time I still sometimes had to use command line tools and learned about 20 Unix-commands. Through the years I’ve met people who championed the use of emacs, LaTEX, Multimarkdown or pandoc. But I have never really figured out how to work in that ‘paradigm’. First thing to understand is that pandoc is basically a very powerful converting tool. Pandoc is not an environment, but a step in a chain, a step in the workflow. It just converts. And it won’t solve the problems of converting visual design to a digital format. It is based on using Markdown, a simple markup language that uses asterisks, square brackets, underscores. I have always found it easier to write HTML markup, than this type of markup, but it is even simpler than writing HMTL-tags. The idea is that the plain text file shows the structure in a human readable format but is ready for computer consumption at the same time. What you see is what you get – but in a different way. An interesting remark is made – I forget who made it: ‘Word and InDesign are not basic tools of the trade – though most people now have grown up thinking they are. They are very specific tools.’ And it’s true that especially editors can take advantage of the knowledge of markup languages to create better, cleaner source texts… There’s some panic and chaos in the workshop, as the difference in competence is really big. Some participants use the terminal mode all the time, others have never seen a command line interface before, let alone worked with it. There is also a bit of a clash between those who think that people should be empowered to use tools themselves and acquire what they think is necessary basic knowledge, versus people who do not have such ‘basic knowledge’, consider such knowledge to be ‘technical’, and who, let’s face it, will probably never use these tools themselves anyway. In the middle is a majority who at least would like to get a taste of the ‘basic knowledge’.

After the lunch break I have a look at the other two workshops. Two groups of each 20 participants (the maximum) are working concentrated. In the SuperGlue workshop (http://superglue.it/) all have just installed, or tried to install, the SuperGlue package, thus creating a local network of mini servers. (The SuperGlue website states: ‘SuperGlue’s mini-server provides full control of your personal data by enabling you to run and maintain your server at home. This means you can better protect and share important information, directly with those whom you want to share it with. So your privacy is in your hands.’) Danja Vasiliev, one of the workshop tutors and creators of SuperGlue asks: ‘who has got it working?’ About everybody has it working. When I check my Airport it sees six SuperGlue networks. Again, I realise I should finally learn how to set up my own server, that I should learn this little bit of command line tweaking, so I can run WordPress on my own machine, and have all the other useful tools at my fingertips. It really is basic knowledge. A lot of it is hardly ‘technical’ – but it’s in a different computer paradigm, that feels very far removed from the shiny ‘intuitive’ interfaces.

Megan Hoogenboom leads the workshop in which the participants try to make an epub form a work of visual poetry. About everyone is playing around with what I call good old-fashioned HTML: writing tags. It looks like they are having good fun with HTML and CSS.

Both the SuperGlue workshop and the visual poetry workshop show that it’s fun to work with tools that empower you as user, that give you the feeling of being in control and creating something – instead of consuming nice interfaces that mostly control you. (I would say that working, well playing, with an iPad mostly give the user the feeling of being controlled by the interface, not of being in control. Using an iPad certainly does not enhance the feeling that one can make something oneself, apart from using services that offer heavily pre-formatted ways of creation. Sure, the touch screen can be great to control sound output, and it can be nice for gaming, but that is another thing). It’s an old point, but it stays relevant.

Back in the days – roughly 1997 to 2000 – I taught basic HTML (and writing to the web and so forth) at Mediamatic. At the time it was still considered ‘handy’ for editors and designers – who actually already were working in Dreamweaver and were doing Flash – to know some HTML. (Of course the question was always raised: why should we know these tags, when you can do the same visually in a WISYWIG editor?) Who, apart from the ‘nerds’, maintained their websites doing HTML in the 21st century? Maybe some artists who liked the simplicity of HTML. Some academics. The great thing is that a website made with simple HTML in 1995 still displays fine in any browser. I think there is a basic, simple fun in creating something with one’s own hands. Maybe the result doesn’t look as slick as other websites, but it will work fine, and you have control over almost every step.

Also in the visual poetry workshop I mostly see smiling faces. They generate an epub in the end – using a command line tool. And that’s great. There is fun in making epubs. (Michael Murtaugh told me that the pandoc workshop, which started quite chaotic, also ended with a great feeling of relief from the side of the participants, when they create an epub-output with pandoc with a simple command.)


‘Mp3 was not made big by the music industry, it was made big by file sharing, started by hackers. Netflix makes it decisions about programming by analysing Pirate Bay downloads. Maybe,’ Florian Cramer says, because he’s doing the introduction again, ‘we should have started the conference with this last panel on underground publishing.’ The underground file sharing of books is, at least in Europe, much larger than the retail market of e-books. Artists have been very active in this scene from the beginning according to Florian Cramer. It also exists much longer than the retail market. Some of it is illegal ‘sharing’ of books, but not all of it. Here at the conference Bibliothecha is running on a little local file server. It appears as an open wireless device on one’s computer and allows you to download books that people have put there. There’s also a website and a public repository – at http://bibliotecha.info.

Sebastian Lütgert, the next speaker, ran a repository of philosophical and activist and underground texts ‘back in the days’. (I still should have a lot of those files somewhere on a harddisk, the start of my digital library together with downloads from Project Gutenberg). His talk is about ‘what do you do with your books’. What do you do with the gigantic amounts of unsorted PDFs and epubs that you have on your hard disk, often not properly named. He assumes we all have such collections – do we? He does not like Calibre as a management tool and reader. Calibre (http://calibre-ebook.com/) – in the first place a converter for epubs and comparable formats – seems to be the tool of choice of many. Though I wonder how many users in the iPad/iPhone/Adobe universe know of it. Sebastian Lütgert main question is: how should library-software function, what is a good ebook-management tool? With support from Constant vzw (http://www.constantvzw.org/site/) in Brussels such software is developed: openmedialibrary (http://openmedialibrary.com/#about). He shows how it works in a web browser. It allows browsing the library of peers, and transferring books from there to one’s own computer.

We’re in ‘the underground’ here so we’re assuming that we’re dealing with free content and books that people have bought and like to share with friends… But the topic now is not how the digital is or should be changing society, culture and the economy. We’re looking at how the tools work in practice. Tools like this one are important, they are an activist ‘cog’ in the ‘machinery’. They change the function of the public library too – and public libraries, at least in Europe, are thinking about these transformations. Here we get into an endless and endlessly interesting discussion, which is a topic for another conference. It is self-evident that this is about sharing knowledge, which is a basis of our civilization. If I sound a bit ironic, this is unintentional. I agree with the philosophy to build these tools – it is an active and activist impetus to change society.

Calibre by the way also has a function to set up a content server, and can connect to other users. I think Calibre is a decent viewer, it’s great for conversion (Mobi to epub…), and can be used to produce ebooks. The main downside to Calibre, for me, – except for the fact that it adds its own code to your converted epubs – is that its interface is not attractive at all.

After Sebastian Lütgert it’s over to the Marcell Mars – hacker, activist, researcher. He is expert in book sharing and book hacking, and is, or was, actively involved in creating code for Calibre. (Actually he has just been banned from the developer forum). He wrote a sharing tool for Calibre: memoryoftheworld.org/public-library). He says: aesthetics and usability are less important than social interaction. Calibre might be ugly – he says it’s ugly – and not the easiest tool, but it has thousands of users. He wants to make Calibre a political project. He mentions the property regime and intellectual property are a huge problem. They sure are. He also rants against the technological problems – the asymmetry in the network, laptops that send requests for data, but never send data, though they could. He is so right in that. The internet we have created is a far cry to what it could have been in the dreams of 30, 20 or even 10 years ago. But most importantly Mars wants to connect again to the idea of the public library. The public library as the democratic dream of access to knowledge. He’s from Croatia where in 1991 books were burned because they were in Cyrillic, in Serbian, and/or communist. And the book scanning project at MAMA in Zagreb was a way of resurrecting that burned library. He’s passionate about the idea of the public library, and a passionate speaker with his Karl Marx-beard, using the word struggle quite a bit. I think he is very right in his passionate plea for the public library, and his plea against the development of electronic reading as ‘streaming’, licensing temporary access to a file, where the whole reading behaviour is controlled. In between he advises us to read Paper Machines, Markus Krajewski’s book on the card catalogue. The issue he raises is that of having power in the control over access to knowledge, control over the index to knowledge. He pleads to not let Google take over a total control over this index, that we need to retain the index of the public library. He also pleas for retaining the function of a librarian – as a person, a human being – and not hand over the control over the index to computer engineers and algorithms. There are many points in his presentation that deserve a detailed think-through and discussion.

Dusan Barok of monoskop (http://monoskop.org) is the last speaker. He delves into the history of reading and publishing, going back to manuscripts and scrolls. While he talks an image of one of the earliest Greek manuscripts of Plato’s Phaedrus is shown, with the title ‘Communing Texts’. Referencing is his main topic. How to refer to passages in an ebook? Pagination – a historical, ‘technological’ invention that came about through the development of the codex – is hardly ever mentioned in the discussion of ebooks. Dusan compares two traditions of referencing: the academic one (pointing to a specific passage in a text) and hyperlinking between sections of a website (through using anchors). He would like to see the possibility to digitally augment references in scanned printed books, as well as the possibility to link to any passage in a digital text – regardless of whether there is an anchor in the HTML. He says that this means looking at digital text as a continuous line of data (which is the materiality of digital text anyway). Enabling referencing between texts is important, as in such a way a community of texts can arise.

During the discussion Joost Kircz repeats that we indeed need referencing inside texts – and that this still does not exist. Interestingly Sebastian Lütgert says that it is probably easy to make such references inside electronic publications – and sketches the concept how it could work. Sounds simple. Joost Kircz says: well let’s make it, because this does not exist, and we have been wanting it for over 30 years now. (I think: doesn’t this go back to Ted Nelson’s ideas on transclusion – and that was very problematic?) Marcel Mars thinks that any computer student could solve it. But it’s another question if such a standard would be used. (And making sure it becomes a standard is difficult).

Marcell Mars ends one of his answers with that he hates the idea of the underground in the American and UK sense – ‘I’m not underground, fuck you’. He is very right – when you would consider all our book sharing (which in the current technical implementation means downloading) as being the new implementation of the public library. (And not as building a private library).


So, is there a toolkit? There is no finished toolkit yet. There is the repository with tools http://digitalpublishingtoolkit.org/github/. There is also by now a good insight in the various workflows used by small publishers, artists, writers, self-publishers and organizations. There is an overview of the pro’s and con’s of different tools. There is an overview of how all of this relates to the larger context of publishing, and to reading and sharing behaviours in online and offline culture. There is probably no perfect toolkit that fits every need. What I personally learned, is that pretty much everybody has been trying out different ways of making epubs that are good enough to bring into the world, and that there’s almost always something that has to be done ‘by hand’ as well, some tweaking and correction. Every method has advantages and disadvantages, and what fits a certain project depends on a variety of factors: the source text, the editorial process, the goal of the publication, the envisioned market or reading group, the available time… I think a progression has been made thanks to this project and the three conferences. There is also progression in knowing that a lot concerns really very basic stuff – very basic stuff.

The attraction of epubs for me lies in the fun of making something which is simple, which you can do yourself (just as well as any large institution). It’s in the joy of making – and also there is a parallel with web design of the middle 1990s. In that respect I have gone from amazement over the fact that such a fuss was being made of ‘e-books’, to a joy of making epubs.

(For pictures see: https://www.flickr.com/photos/networkcultures/)

art,blogging,en,research,ubiscribe,writing | May 25, 2014 | 14:45 | Comments Off on Off the Press, Day II |

Amsterdam municipality revives Irish (Gaeilge)

Today a letter arrives from the municipality of Amsterdam. It starts:

‘A Dhuine Uasail,
Mar saoránal on Eioraip atá i do chonal san….

The letter is monolingual. (Usually they send out letters in two or three languages).

It’s addressed to F. She learnt a bit of Irish in school – as all Irish do. Ireland is officially bilingual. But, as most people know, Irish is only used in some Western parts of Ireland (Gaeltach). Irish speak English. Most Irish never use Irish (Gaeilge). The Irish in Amsterdam will sort of get the meaning of the letter (I see words like ‘Phalrlaimint na hEoropa’), and get that it’s about the European election…

I think someone will have to send these letters again… Or it’s a filter, to make sure people will not react. Or… the computer program did not allow a bilingual letter to be sent out. So the choice had to be made: either a letter in only English – which would not be correct for an official letter concerning Irish matters – or a letter in only Irish…

Just speculating.

blogging,en,free publicity | February 22, 2014 | 14:46 | Comments Off on Amsterdam municipality revives Irish (Gaeilge) |

Those were the days…

So great to see this is still online – all the info on the first Doors of Perception CD-Rom, in full HTML1.0-glory. I worked on it – on that CD-Rom. (Did the hypertext-network together with Jules Marshall). One of the pivotal moments of my, well, ‘career’: http://www.mediamatic.nl/Doors/Doors1Rom/Doors1Rom.html.

art,blogging,history,research,software | April 27, 2012 | 13:30 | Comments Off on Those were the days… |


Twee weken geleden was ik bezig om in 600 woorden uit te leggen wat Speculative Realism is – voor Metropolis M (komt in het volgende nummer). De context weet ik niet heel precies, (het was een kortetermijnklus) – er was een kunstenaar in dat nummer voor of volgens wie het heel belangrijk was.

Een beetje laat (?) ontdek ik nu dat er sinds een week of 2 een discussie woedt over New Aesthetics, en via new-aesthetic.tumblr.com, en Bruce Sterling (o.a. www.wired.com/beyond_the_beyond/2012/04/generation-generator-new-aesthetic/, en thecreatorsproject.com/in-response-to-bruce-sterlings-essay-on-the-new-aesthetic, blijkt Ian Bogost dat te verbinden met Object Oriented Ontology: www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/04/the-new-aesthetic-needs-to-get-weirder/255838/. Mij herinnert die nieuwe esthetische sensibiliteit erg aan ‘post internet art’.

De ‘post’ waar het om begon is overigens van bijna een jaar geleden: www.riglondon.com/2011/05/06/the-new-aesthetic/. Enz.

Ik moet eerst meer denken voor ik er echt iets zinnigs over kan zeggen. Nu kom ik niet verder dan het voordehandliggende – dat het een voordehandliggende ‘aesthetics’ is voor de digital native die vergroeid is geraakt met youtube, ipod, iphone, facebook, googlemaps en computergames. Enz.


(Of: het werd tijd).

((Of: voeg dit toe – thequietus.com/articles/07838-the-new-bleak)

art,blogging,research,software | April 20, 2012 | 20:39 | comments (1) |

Boek uit de Band-blog

Hier, by request, links naar mijn in 3 stukken geknipte best-wel-lange verslag van de Boek uit de Band-conferentie van 23 maart, zoals gepubliceerd op de blog van The Unbound Book.

Boek uit de Band I

Boek uit de Band II

Boek uit de Band III

blogging,nl,reading matter,research,ubiscribe | April 5, 2012 | 15:53 | Comments Off on Boek uit de Band-blog |

Imagine an Audience Day 2, 01022011, a semi-live report

This text is the rough version of the second part of a live-blog written during the conference Imagine an Audience at the Piet Zwart Institute in Rotterdam: Imagine an Audience. An edited and cleaned-up version will be published in due time on the website of the Piet Zwart.

The second day focusses more on filmmaking in the fine arts, and the strings attached to that… The first panel is moderated by Edwin Carels – who worked on preparing the conference and came up with the title: Imagine an Audience. As many in the audience were not present the first day and Florian kicks off with a short recap of the first day.

On the panel are John Smith, Luke Fowler and Michel Chevalier. Each one does a short presentation of 10 minutes, and “the real discussion and fighting” can be done afterwards.

Luke Fowler

Luke Fowler speaks with a beautiful Scottish voice and gives a brief introduction of his life as an artist. He has been quite fortunate to have his work shown both in art galleries and at film festivals. He always resisted the new media – the internet – as a way of distributing work.

One of his ‘seminal’ moments as an artist was a friend giving him a videotape of Wavelength by Michael Snow, and watching that in his flat in Dundee and feeling alienated – not knowing what to think of it, knowing nothing about it and feeling out of context. (VHS also not being the right format for the film). To him community is important to get to understand new ways of dealing with audiovisual content. Public British television in the ‘80s and ‘90s was also an influence, the documentaries shown there – a time before television programming declined. He saw the work of Douglas Gordon in Glasgow. At that time he was not involved in the discourse of video-art, not part of that community and he found much of the video art self-indulgent – he was looking for a way of making film that was less solipsistic, and would relate more to life. At that point he made his film What You See is What you’re at about a psychiatric experiment, a film constructed mainly from interviews, using materials available. He wasn’t too self-conscious of the form. Because there was no coherent narrative to it, it can be seen as challenging dogmatic ideas of documentary filmmaking.

Then his 10 minutes are over. He hasn’t even said a word about his later films.

Fowler says that seeing a film in the right format, showing in the intended way is very important for the experience. That is why he refrains from digital distribution. He is totally right in that. Speaking for myself, I would go to a good screening of his films, as I know the experience (especially in sound…) will be better than watching that digital copy of his A Grammar for Listening that I saw thanks to some Internet magic and human intelligence.

John Smith

John Smith starts by showing a 1 minute movie. The London Filmmakers Coop was where he started in the seventies, a time when many avant-garde artists were into making multi-screen works. Most of his work is made with a screening context in mind, intended to be seen from beginning to end, not from middle to middle – which is was often happens in art galleries. His first experience of having his work shown in a museum context in the seventies were not positive: bright lit rooms, shown as a loop on a video monitor, making it impossible for a viewer to follow the unfolding of the film, and the depth of it.

When he got the possibilities to show his work as an installation, his first impulse was to replicate a cinema black box in the gallery. It was a necessary inconvenience to show his work like that – instead of in a cinema. It was only in 2004, when 15 of his films were shown in Magdeburg as one exhibition, when his ideas changed. He was concerned about the 15 films playing as a loop and the soundtracks blending. When the exhibition was set up, he was pleasantly surprised about the effects (calling it ‘stereophonic recomposition’), and actually like the blending. It was made into a new experience. His films until then were very precisely constructed and had to be viewed from beginning to end, or else the experience suffered. Since then his films are more open ended.

He also went back to older films, and tells how he came to show one of his early strictly materialistic, structural films again, not as a 30 minute film, but as a two screen installation at the RCA in London – it becomes a spatial work, instead of a linear one.

Carels ask: isn’t it that you are now structuring installations and exhibitions, in the way how your early films were structural, and haven’t you become also a curator of your own exhibitions? Smith answers that yes, and he wants to stay in control.

Michel Chevalier

The third presentation is by Michel Chevalier, from Hamburg. He takes a meta-perspective he says, and will complement some of the historical things John Smith mentioned. Just like Smith he has written a text for the presentation, and he will kick some ass.

He criticizes the art world and the liberal market condition it is in and is depended on – the fact that contemporary art leaves itself at the mercy of a capitalist market. Okay, so he mentions Fluxus and video collectives from the sixties and seventies, which tried to change the situation of art being a bourgeois thing for bourgeois people. In the nineties we got Bourriaud’s rhetoric which rebranded (critical) art as relational art, which actually as another critic said translates as “micro-utopias for the happy few”. Emerging trends of filmmaking in the art field are, in his words, the theater of the sensibility (Barney), the Duchampian remix strategy and the Good Conscience Generators. None of which are ever stepping on the toes of curators, never are really critical, are never political, and always safely coopted in neoliberalism. He mentions lots of well-known big artists, artists who are actually part of what I would call the art market scene (Steve McQueen, Matthew Barney, Hito Steyerl). He criticizes the fact that art exhibitions often act as if they are critical, but are actually complicit of a political the economical system they claim to criticize. He fiercely criticizes the big curators and the empty, false curator speak (right on!), and curators acting as meta-artists, hardly paying attention to local and political contexts, and hardly being respectful toward the artists work by exhibiting work in way that soundtracks of videoworks are blending in such a way that one cannot even hear what it is about. (He’s a bit unfair here, there are curators who are pretentious meta-artists, there are also other examples).

Join the art world he says, when you want to combine your technological art with traditional crafts; are ready to follow the galleries outlines and economical models; can stomach denaturing your work by meta-artist curators; will toe the ideological line and support the critical retrenchment that banks and millionaires want; and will produce works that will pleasantly integrate in the domestic interiors of art collectors.

Carels: so nothing has changed since the 18th century.

Michel Chevalier: yes.

I’d say Chevalier is right on a lot of things, but hey, the world is not one-dimensional. And also, he is mainly talking about the contemporary visual art gallery world which is or hopes to be part of the art market system. That system does exist, it’s the star system, and it’s only such a small part of art…

No fighting?

John Smith reacts: he almost completely agrees with Chevalier, and it is a real worry for him. The question for him is: as someome who makes films, he wants people to see it, and that is why he shows it also in the arts world. People do come to see. It can open the eyes of some of the audience. Television (channel four in Britain) used to have such a role: opening the eyes.

Luke Fowler: sadly enough what Chevalier is saying is very familiar to me. He enjoyed his talk, though he thinks it is a bit forced rant. He is well familiar with the sociological work of Bourdieu – whose ideas on ‘cultural distinction’ Chevalier’s rant was based on. His critique is that it basically repeating the structure of art, and is homogenizing the art world, and does not go into all the other strands that exist. Later he adds that Chevalier’s picture is very bleak and not representative, there are better practices, and he has had better experiences.

Chevalier responds that there is indeed another art world, and that he also sells dvds. He does not see the art world as a solution for film funding. Not at all. In the arts scene everything is about fashion, and so film funding from the arts world is just another flavor of the month. And yes, the real problem he is addressing is capitalism. (He is right. And what he is really after is making a case for an art that makes us see the world in a fundamental different way, with other eyes, and not art which plays along the rules of the powers of neoliberalism).

More discussion

Someone (Pip) from the Film Gallery in Paris asks if the filmprint could ever function as a commodity, and how much they should be worth.

John Smith answers that some of his films (shot on celluloid) have to be shown as film, but there are many of his old films that he now prefers to show in a digital format. He is, as an artists, not too interested in selling limited editions, but when a gallery does want to make an edition, he approaches it actually as an archiving thing: let the Tate have a negative print, so it is also there (and not only in his house).

Luke Fowler responds: there are no co-ops of artists, there are no regulations about how much a print should be paid for, there are at the moment sadly no alternatives to the way galleries deal with this. It is a harsh world. It is not that there are no alternatives possible, but at the moment they do not exist.

Carels, after Cramer summarizes the history of media and distribution from movable type till now, mentions that the art world is the only world that still uses 16mm celluloid and slide projectors. And he mentions how for artists nowadays the use of media is hybrid, fluid.

From the audience, it is stressed that we have to talk about rights – and the arts world has to become smarter in that. There is a difference between the license of showing a film, or of selling it. There is celebrity culture in the art market that complicates this. So not the material aspect is important, (for the economical issues( but the immaterial side of it. She is right I would say.

Then there is talk about crowdfunding. A young filmmaker thinks that it can work, and mentions the example of two photographers who released already 2 books on Sotchi using crowdfunding. (I think he means Rob Hornstra) The panel gives several other examples of artists asking for money to produce works: Brakhage (who was very poor) and Jean Renoir. Luke Fowler is sceptical about it too, especially because it will not favor critical, exciting and different ways of art. Cramer also voices his scepticism: these uses of the Internet tend toward a mainstreamy consensus.

The conventional funding of film is a world past

The last panel and round discussion is moderated by Simon Pummell. The panel has two speakers from the television and film world who first do a short presentation. Pummell introduces Michel Reilhac of Arte and as producers who have an interest in new and innovative forms.

Michel Reilhac

Reilhac starts by mentioning that there is according to many people in the media world, there is no economy for independent filmmaking anymore. It is dead, or a hobby culture. It is particularly true in the USA. He thinks that telling a story through moving images will not die, as it is what makes us human. So the problem is not there, but is in the ‘interface’. There is no economy to independent filmmaking, it only survives in Europe thanks to sophisticated public funding. Europe can pretend there is a viable economical environment for it, but it is an artificial system, this type of independent filmmaking takes place in a bubble, and independent filmmaking in the world – except Europe – operates in a vacuüm.

Festivals are successful, because films are still best seen at a big screen, and there is enough of an audience for it. (And a festival is often the only chance to see a movie in this optimal way). But economically it’s not viable.

At Arte he sees a drastic decline in funding film as well. The same films get twice as little money as a few years earlier.

He is a great fan of transmedia storytelling, not only because of the new aesthetic possibilities. (Transmedia takes the making of the film or narrative for various platforms at conceptual level – not, as in crossmedia, the same narrative or film, only presented in different formats and forms, and distributed in various formats). He likes the transmedia approach also as a solution to funding, as you are able to tap into different funding possibilities and especially branding (devising branding strategies with industry without making it into an advertising campaign). As a producer he sees great possibilities for using transmedia to publicize a linear feature film.

Problem with this is, I think, apart from the talk about advertising and branding: any real transmedia production is more complex and larger than just a feature film… What we are talking about, I am afraid, is really crossmedia, where the story of the game is also made into a feature film, or a television show, or actually just a sophisticated marketing approach, making sure the merchandise is as good as the movie, or is integrated with it.

But of course, it is an interesting approach, Arte France will set up a funding scheme for it. Reilhac sees it as a necessity, as the standard model is ‘dead’. The transmedia approach needs other partners, and different ways. As the internet is the major interface for the public to get to know independent film.

Keith Griffiths

Keith Griffiths runs a company with Simon Field – former director of IFFR. He produced for instance most films by the Brothers Quay. He starts with saying that he wanted Reilhac to talk first, as Reilhac is an utopian, whereas he is rather old fashioned and misanthropic. He comes out of a television generation, and he still has the television on the whole day… he says humourously. He heard someone on television distinghuising 5 types of cinema: blockbuster (economical viable); commercial feature films (under threat); the minefield; the real dangerzone, and then low budget. At low budget end there are still millions of possibilities….

He gives the example of how he went about producing the film of Apichatpong Weerasethakul: they made sure that a book was published at the same time, that a short film was published on the internet and an installation in an arts gallerly. Various worlds were involved into the making of the film. The budget was small, 600.000 euros – and through how they did it, it did bring in money in the international world.

Also for later projects he used this approach, by bringing in different worlds – having Time Out as a partner, getting a book published, have events at museums with audience participation et cetera. He does it for the Museum of Loneliness – which is using all low budget strategies. The installation is partnered by the art world, flip camera’s for an audience participation internet project are the only real costs of it.

His last word: the conventional funding of film is a world past.

Reilhac reminds us of the fact that theater owners still have the power in the cinema world. A film, we still seem to think, does not exist till it has been shown in cinema. And it is 3 or 4 months after a theatrical release we can offer it to pay per view services on the internet. It is wise not to approach film in this way anymore and doing it differently. It is possible, but it comes at the cost of getting out of the old cinema world, which is still a risky thing to do.

Griffiths agrees that it is a fragile situation. The US release of the Apichatpong Weerasethakul production will come 9 months after the first release, and the US is flooded with pirated Korean dvds of the film.


The discussion is then opened up also for Davanzo and Lisa Marr of Echo Park Film and Mervin Espina. Marr tunes in with saying that it is interesting times for film but in the first place because film equipment and also distribution can be in the hands of the people.

Griffiths speculates if festivals should not become smaller, dissassemble themselves (as the Edinburgh festival does under Tilda Swinton), and bring film closer to people, away from the few cities where festivals take place.

Reilhac: filmmaking is now a process, not a product. We now have to see how each film is a step in the process of developing a vision, it does not stop with the ‘product’. This is particularly true of activist documentary makers. He also states that the filmworld has to embrace the computergame world. (Hmm, true, but hasn’t it done that already, if it hasn’t, then that’s really funny.)

There is more talk of crowd financing. Funny, after two days it begins to seem as if the world is full of crowd financing successes. as different people refer to a successful project – but how many successful attempts is that on a whole?

Florian Cramer mentions the problems of the term transmedia, as it is used here in quite a different way than at the Transmediale-festival which runs at the same time as the IFFR and has pretty much no overlap at all with what is said at this conference. Also unfortunate is, according to him, the grafting of the word storytelling to transmedia, as it takes away the fact that most transmedia-works are not narrative. (He has an important point there – one which is heavily discussed for instance in the whole narratology versus ludology-debate, and goes down to the question what the limits of narrative are. Some people like to call any type of sequence narrative.)

Pummell tunes in, and – rightly? – says that that’s a different conference.

From the audience we get an account from South East Asia. It is interesting to hear that in China, as internet downloading is shut down, there are more and more cinema’s built.

Michel Chevalier is disquieted by the presentations – as they ask the film world to adapt to the economy, whereas he believes film makers should go and have their voices be heard. Do not conform to the market but fight for public funding, for a democratic agenda for cultural policy. He wants film to have critical independence and all of what we heard earlier in this conference is going against that, he says. (And most transmedia, he adds, – especially when it concerns branding – is infantilization.)

Michel Reilhac responds that he is right in principle and that this is characteristic of the tensions of our time. Also in Arte, neoliberalism is very strong, and he himself might be over-pragmatic in dealing with it, but he disagrees that filmmakers therefore should go into lobbying for public funding. It is on a different time span. Embracing the game culture is not infantilization per se. And the younger generation relate to storytelling via games rather. He just wants to take the reality into account. He cannot afford to stay in his cinephile bubble. At Arte almost no-one is watching the experimental film slot, which is under constant threat.

(By the way: I do want to watch the experimental film slot of Arte, but there is no podcast nor downloads for it that I, in the Netherlands, can watch. I have no satellite dish nor cable television and no intention to get one of those, as they offer hardly any interesting content, and in the world of online content I find other stuff).

Pummell states that the discussion of transmedia is about the possibilities of new forms, but also about new possibilities for branding and advertising. The way the film world approaches transmedia, I’m afraid, mainly sounds as a marketing strategy which heavily influences the form and content of the audiovisual narrative.

Cramer reacts that from what he hears from this panel is that the story is bad for traditional film makers (and students of film academies) who are used to work with budget of higher than 100.000, whereas microcinema thrives. The problem is that this traditional old film world, a film industry – which in Europe still thinks it has to compete with Hollywood – is still in place, which makes it difficult to ‘see’ that the situation has changed enormously.

Lisa Marr says that there are many different kind of cinema, and it’s up to us to find our own voices in film making, show films, and celebrate the community of watching film.

Which is, in the end, what it’s about.

Pummell says that this panel was in fact about a middle ground of film making – not overtly commercial, and also not just for a community of filmmakers, and also not part of the crudest forms of global capitalism.

Here the discussion should have been wrapped up, but it went on, discussing mostly matters of finance. Reilhac reminded us of the fact that half of the film producers does not make a living from producing films. For him the question of the panel was: how to develop a film culture that allow people to make a living of making film, low budget film as well. And not going to a situation where film making is a hobby. (Well, most writers do not live from their writing, and certainly not from their books – many artists do not live from their art, et cetera. What’s new?)

Maybe the last panel was a bit too removed from the other three. It might have tried to go into subjects as transmedia production, but in that respect it sounded like a voice from the past, desperate to catch up with a world which has already changed. Like Pummel, I also respect the ‘middle ground’, the ‘quality programming’ for larger audiences, and I certainly find the decline of it deplorable, but I am afraid that this middle ground now hardly reaches the public it could reach, or thinks it is producing for. People see other stuff – some of it is microcinema, and what is not microcinema, often comes from a torrent. The middle ground seems to lacks cultural dynamics – it is caught in a prison of the past. There’s enough initiatives and makers that have adapted years ago. Sure Griffiths approaches the production of film skilfully and creatively, using all the means possible. Problems of how to fund the content creation, how to fund art will always exist… In the end, there was too much talk about funding, maybe if the last panel would have approached the issues from the content and artistic side, it would have less sounded like a voice from a declining culture, struggling to adapt to a changed world and a transformed film culture.

blogging,en | February 3, 2011 | 13:57 | Comments Off on Imagine an Audience Day 2, 01022011, a semi-live report |

Imagine an Audience Day 1, 31012011, a semi-live report

This text is the rough version of a live-blog written during the conference Imagine an Audience at the Piet Zwart Institute in Rotterdam: http://pzwart.wdka.nl/communication-in-a-digital-age/2011/01/17/conference-imagine-an-audience/. An edited and cleaned-up version will be published in due time on the website of the Piet Zwart. The text is written en conceived of as a live report – though it was not published immediately.

At noon, on monday the 31st of January 20011 Florian Cramer starts off the conference Imagine an Audience. He states the general idea of the conference: looking at cinema in a post-television and post-cinema world. What has changed for cinema in a world in which television and cinema are not anymore the only and not even anymore the most important ways of distribution for audiovisual content? Cinema has to imagine its own audience, how is it doing that? During the conference, he says, we will speak about micro-cinema, about using Youtube for cinema, about filmmaking for art spaces and the future of low budget filmmaking. The idea is to look at what the future of filmmaking is in an artistic sense – and not speak about funding, money and economy too much, as economist can do this much better.

Simon Pummel, who co-organized the conference with Florian Cramer relates a story about bicycles, as a second introduction. With the ‘advent’ of the bicycle the space in which people traveled grew in size, and they came into contact with more different people. As a result the general genetic health of the people went up. The question is would what was true for genes, also be true for memes, for cultural ideas, for cinema? Is such a Darwinian perspective valuable or true for the field of filmmaking?

Microcinema I

The first panel is about micro-cinemas and alternative ways of distribution for cinema . The first short presentation is by Paolo Davanza who tells his story of working with cinema, mainly in the context of activist filmmaking at the Echo Park Film Center in Los Angeles. It now has a space which can fit up to 200 people, and he runs it together with Lisa Marr. It shows films, organizes also a variety of cinema-events, and importantly, they offer a large number of workshops and classes in filmmaking for a variety of groups. The center is located in an area with a lot of cinema history, as many of the early silent movies were shot around the corner. They are into analogue and handmade filmmaking, working in the honourable tradition of avant-garde and activist film: from scratching celluloid to making film for and with marginalized people. They do this in the context of a ‘film’ world which is increasingly focussed on digital film. They also have a bus – the filmmobile, (filmmobile.org), which is a traveling filmschool and traveling cinema – actually going back to another honourable tradition of traveling cinema’s. They try to do all this in an ecological sustainable way. Theirs is in many sense a classic ‘alternative’ film center, dedicated to all forms of alternative film culture.

Microcinema II

The next presentation is by members of the Kino-climates group, a network of alternative cinema, who have their fourth meeting at the IFFR 2011. Their goals is to create a platform for alternative cinema, and it is still a work in progress. They start from the assumption (fact) that more and more films are made, but there are less and less permanent venues for showing film. Cinema functions in three seperate distribution circuits: multiplexes, art house and the festivals, whereas as in reality there are many more alternative spaces and alternative modes of showing film which are in operation. The Kino-climates network would like to make this network more visible, and they hope that they can put pressure on festivals to make sure that the life cycle of a film shown at a festival does not end at the festival, as well as putting pressure to distributors of film. In a sense they hope to set up a ‘voice’ for all the independent cinema venues, many of which are quite small.

The cinema venues that are part of the network, all have a social space, a cafe – (the question is how special that is, I don’t think that I have ever been in a cinema that lacked a cafe). They stress the importance of watching film as a social event, and they hope to enable the audience to discover a wider array of cinema. Therefore they put effort into contextualizing film. (Meanwhile they show pictures of different cinemas, one of them I recognize as the cinema of the Smart Project Space in Amsterdam, a center for contemporary (visual) arts, I know that cinema personally as a concert space).

Everything they tell sounds like a sympathetic effort to bundle the activities of various smaller, alternative cinema’s which show both features film and probably some avant-garde stuff and which function as social spaces for people who are into cinema (mostly artists and art students I suspect). The network mostly sounds organizational, and hardly editorial. In their presentation I do not hear of any specific idea or perspective on the future of cinema, not specific ideas on programming, and hardly how such small cinema venues relate to our viewing habits – though I suspect they have very defined ideas about this. I would have rather heard them speak about such things.

The question remains if these places – how nice and important they might be – do not cater to a very specific audience. I have nothing against this, but it seems as if they assume they operate in a culture of ‘cinema’s’, they talk about festivals and multiplexes and cinema venues, and nobody on this panel until now mentions the various ways in which the public actually gets their content to different home and mobile screens, nobody seems to mention any real change in film culture. Probably for film buffs nothing has changed, they still go to cinemas and revere that experience. And they are right. But that’s not where cinema at large ‘lives’ today. I hardly go to a cinema, yet I see quite a few avant-garde movies, most of which come to me through digital wizardry of some sort. I have hardly seen any art house stuff lately, and no blockbusters at all… So the question according to me is – how to programme a cinema venue in a way that it makes sense in contemporary film culture, or contemporary viewing habits? In a way that it becomes a valuable experience (for the public), or simply important for the artistic ‘health’ of cinema culture?

True, in the last part of their totally improvised presentation they do talk about the importance of programming.

Vassily Bourkas of the Thessaloniki film festival stresses that in Eastern and South-eastern Europe such venues as they exist in Western Europe do not exist – except a festival. He stresses that it is very important for these (often political more instable) countries to have a network like Kino-climates. For him Kino-climates is valuable, and he stresses that it is important to have a variety of voices in any type of platform, so it will not become just another ‘big’ platform.

Microcinema III

The third presentation is by Marvin Espina, who works in Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines and who is involved in the long running human rights film festival Cinema Veritas. He gives an overview of micro-cinema initiatives in South East Asia. (So we cover Europe, North America and South East Asia). He shows how the ‘education’ of filmmakers in this area started in the shops brimful of pirated dvds. After 2000 filmmaking increased, thanks to DV + pirated software, and pirated dvds. This is an economical issue. Cinema culture in SE Asia – both as grassroots and experimental cinema and cinema at large – is a digital thing. But where are these films shown? There is a lack of institutional support, outdated laws on video, censorship, the predominance of Hollywood fare in multiplexes. The general popularity of social networking and media sharing sites has helped film communities to flourish. These are factors that lead to a felt need for alternative venues for cinema.

Galleries like Mag:net Katipunan (later a bar) have started to show films – monday to friday – but show also cinema- and video installations. This caused a fuss, and in the case of Mag:net Katipunan lead to a police raid in 2007. Other initiatives learned from that experience, like Mogwai, Cubao X in the Philippines, which is a bar with a theater. Because they are both bar, theater and cinema they are left alone by the government. Other cinema spaces are basically run in the living room of an artist – sometimes also under harassment of the government. Future Shorts Vietnam is a festival which is also functioning mostly underground, and under scrutiny. It used different venues – often places of ex-pats, who run less risks. Because of the censorship in Vietnam it is difficult to show film. Therefore YxineFF runs as an online festival. It has become quite popular, an premieres films online.

Peer-to-peer distribution plays a role, people share cinema amongst themselves, and organize sometimes a screening with the maker present. Most of the (alternative) cinema-culture in South East Asia revolves around digital filmmaking and digital distribution. Discussion and the liveliness of cinema culture is largely played out through online means. Censorship is avoided by uploading online, instead of showing film in a public venue.

More on seaconference.wordpress.comand criticine.com.

This presentation for me was the healthy antidote to the talks by Kino-climate-network members, who might have had too much an IFFR-audience in mind – instead of the actually mixed audience of new media artists, visual artists and filmmakers. At least now the real situation of film use is acknowledged.

Micro-cinema IV, discussion

Florian Cramer asks an immediate question concerning the disappearance of the large Philippine film industry, which existed until the eighties. Did these directors go into television, or could the Philippines actually have had a shift to microcinema at a much earlier stage? The answer by Espina is that many filmmakers from that era shifted to art cinema, but not necessarily as microcinema, as some of these directors received European grants to produce their work. At the moment there is some financial funding for cinema in the Philippines, but not yet in a way as it exists in Europe.

Simon Pummell asks if there is a power in synchronizing events for alternative cinema, to combat Hollywood.

The answer by Kino-climates to Pummell’s question is that the urgency is to get together (around a film) and put the importance of screening a film in a public cinema at the center. Katia Rossini of Cinema Nova in Brussels stresses that the experience of watching film runs the risk nowadays of becoming ephemeral, taking place at home, instead of at a public cinema.

Pummell indeed meant to raise a more PR-related issue, like deciding to show certain alternative, art or avant-garde film at different venues at the same time to capitalize on the attention of the public, as he rephrases his question. Kino-climates would like to criticize such an approach, as it is basically creating hype after hype.

Paolo Davanza tunes in here, also emphasizing the importance – for film culture – to watch film together. Lisa Marr reacts as well, saying that for her it is about the process, about the moment, and not about getting a movie into the canon. (Pummell mentioned the word ‘canon’ in his question).

Florian Cramer raises the question if it is not more important that the venues that are gathered under the banner of Kino-climates actually combine watching cinema with making and producing film, and thus bring filmmaking closer to people?

Vassily Bourkas agrees with that, but he is adamant that what is most important for him is showing film – not about getting together in a social way. So he agrees with Simon Pummell that synchronicity is important. There is an urgency to show movies, and also for films that are socially important.

Florian Cramer then challenges the panel to reflect on the hidden conflict in the panel: the European and Americans on the panel are into film as analogue film, and hope to preserve some of the old cinema culture, whereas the Asian experience totally revolves around digital film. Davanza nuances that: they actually mostly work with digital means in their workshop, they revere that power just as much as they revere the old film culture.

Microcinema V, discussion with audience

Then it’s up to questions from the audience. Which starts with questions about urban development and culture. Lisa Marr relates how they operate as itinerant cinema, PR through Twitter, no permissions asked, using a generator for electricity, show the movie in a temporary space, have an drink and go. Mostly they’ve not had problems and they’ve encountered an enthusiastic audience. That’s important for neighborhoods.

Someone from Jakarta relates the situation of independent filmmaking in Indonesia. She quotes also “we’re living in the heaven of piracy”, the film culture fares well thanks to piracy – aquiring rights is too expensive. They also translate ‘good films’ in Bahasia Indonesian, of course only for educational purposes. Mervin Espina states the Indonesia actually is the model for South East Asian cinema culture.

Renee Turner asks how can you build a community which is sustainable? – with which she means cultural sustainability. Bourikas responds that there should not be too much complicity, alternative spaces should not become venues that show mainly the stuff that is produced there. He argues as a curator who emphasizes the importance of independent programming. Also the idealism involved in keeping the spaces running is mentioned.

Florian Cramer mentions that film culture now is either 3D multiplexes, micro-cinemas, or the homescreen. He wonders if we are moving into a situation in which films are made especially for one of these spaces? Josephine Bosma responds by saying that Florian Cramer probably paints too bleak a picture, mentioning that there are many more modalities, like beamers for mobile phones or the Palm Top Theater shown currently at V2_. She wonders also about how to sustain a culture, and the importance of educating an audience. Florian takes the criticism to heart, saying that the line between filmmaker and audience is becoming blurry and that this is what is really interesting.

At these questions – which according to me address the real interesting issues – the panel falls pretty much silent. They go back to the importance of venues, mention the issue of formats (cinemas which are now only equipped to run dvds), and how the cinema as a venue is changing. A venue could become with its editorial line something like a magazine, because with programming you set out a discourse. (I would say, yes, that is what a good cinema should be doing. But it is something which for instance the Filmmuseum in Amsterdam is doing, as well as many small cinemas).

Pummell does follow Cramer up by asking if the panel would go for cross- or transmedia publication of films, a question which also goes into the question: on which screen will you be showing the film, on what screen does the audience actually see the film? Answer: it’s not an issue yet for Kino-climates.

Luke Fowler then raises his hand, and says that it is ironic that we’re in an arts school discussing these things. He says: we as a generation grown up with cinema as celluloid, want to pass this on to the next generation. But we should not force this unto the new generation, they might not want it. In Scotland – where he is from there was no alternative cinema. He says: we should not create a false distinction between filmmakers and artists making film. There are many more art schools than film schools, and film has such a big presence in the art world, that this should not be ignored as part of cinema culture.

Bourikas responds, and argues that the contemporary arts circuit in his opinion is actually quite different – culturally – from the film circuit. He is interested in preserving the culture of cinema-watching in a cinema.

This being the topic for the next day, the discussion is wrapped up. There’s a break.

15.00 – 17.30

No budget video on the Internet is the focus for the second part of the afternoon. On purpose the ‘internet’-thing is presented in isolation to the ‘cinema-thing’. This panel wants to show what the Internet has to offer for filmmakers, but in the first place it wants to get rid of the myth that if you’re a film maker on the internet you’re low budget. The panel starts with Skype-talks with Bregtje van der Haak and Tommy Pallotta.

Originally Igor Vamos of The Yes Men would have been speaking about his experiences with their film. Their first film – which was quite a big success internationally – managed to enter the independent cinema circuit and made the tour through the cinema’s in the USA. This turned out to mean touring with the film, because cinema’s only wanted the film to be shown if the makers were present. Such is the dire state of culture in the USA. They lost money on it. Their second movie was co-produced by Arte, which meant signing a 100 page contract in French, an spending money on lawyers to understand the contract and finally signing a contract for a much smaller budget. (Was the problem that, as one of the Yes Men speaks French very well, they actually read the contract?) For the third movie they decided to offer it free for download on the Internet. Now the Yes Men are quite famous, what do these examples imply for an independent filmmaker who is not so famous…? Their experiences were for Florian Cramer one of the key reasons to organize this conference.

Tommy Pallotta

Tommy Pallotta speaks from Skype, because he has to baby-sit his kid, who we can hear in the background. His experiences as a filmmaker started before the digital revolution – and he decided afterwards to never make a movie like that again. He went into computer animation, and made Waking Life. At a certain point he found out that people knew his movie not from cinemas but from Bittorrent. People all around the world got to see his movie. The same became true for A Scanner Darkly. He tells about a screening of that movie in South Korea, were everybody in the audience had already seen the movie, downloaded through torrents. The same sort of things happend for American Prince – much more a low budget movie. As a filmmaker he’s not worried about this at all, although there is no business model to it, people get to see his movie.

The talk, through a question by Simon Pummell then goes to the idea of transmedia, and the question if a certain content needs a certain form, or can be translated amongst forms. For Pallotta a specific content needs a specific form.

Florian Cramer again asks the question if we are moving to a two model kind of cinema, either blockbusters for multiplexes, or low budget for the Internet. Pallotta agrees, sees it as a capitalist problem: the riches get richer, the poor get poorer – but also sees the current systems as very dynamic, and cites the influence of computergames and mobile media. He is also positive about the possibilities to find a middle ground, and find ways of getting people to see your stuff.

A question from the audience: would you allow your work to be remixed? The answer: yes. He loves the idea of remixes, is influenced by game- and DJ-culture, and actually his work was remixed several times. “Yeah, remix”.

Bregtje van der Haak

Then it’s off to Bregtje van der Haak, a Dutch documentary film maker, who is speaking from Hong Kong. She’s showing a presentation “new distribution for public television”, looking at a couple of recent experiments. According to her the Internet has made her job of getting a film out to the audience a lot easier. (See for instance: http://www.hollanddoc.nl/…). She released several documentaries with a CC-license as a free download, which were also published as a DVD box and were offered for TV sales and in the online archive of the project – this was her transmedia project on urbanisation from 2009. There were 45.262 downloads (from 183 countries), and after a year and a half there are still 5 downloads per day. It was featured several days on the first page of Mininova, which is responsible for the high amount of downloads. It means 45.000 + extra viewers which are reached without spending any money on distribution. The second movie Gurgaon was downloaded less often, but is still downloaded more that 20 times a day. (It has just 4 or 5 seeds when I check, whereas the other mentioned documentary has over 30 seeds).

The bittorrent distribution is very successful, and it is truly global distribution. Interestingly there is no negative effect on TV or DVD-sales (which shows that the audiences for these media are simply not the same as those on Bittorrent, I guess). There is an astounding activity of users who add subtitles and do translation. There are rights issues though – as for instance the Bittorrent version of the third movie California Dreaming is not using the famous song with the same title, as it’s not licensed for that. The real problem with using Bittorrent for legal distribution lies in these copyright issues.

Getting the audience to see the stuff

Florian Cramer plays devil’s advocate: Van der Haak is in a comfortable situation, as her documentaries are financed by public television. She counters this by stating that it is her obligation to get the movie out to as many people as possible as it is made with public money. Which is arguing from the – realistic – point of view that this public money is given to create good content, and not, as it once was for ‘public distribution on the public television channel’. She is right – the question is of course how long politics are still willing to put money into these kind of productions. Hopefully politics nowadays understands that financing public content does not translate as producing content to be shown on an old fashioned public television channel.

Pummell stresses that when you’re funded by public money the obligation is not to monetize your production, but to make sure that the content gets out there. It is true though that torrents are largely an invisible and anonymous thing, you upload your documentary, do nothing and months later it’s downloaded 45.000 times, or just 5.000. So the question is how to play these environments (torrent sites etc.) as well as possible.


It’s off then to Paul Keller’s presentation, who’s a amongst others a key person in the Netherlands for the Creative Commons project. (And not mentioned here, has unlimited street cred as he used to be a bike messenger and one of the first in Amsterdam to use a track bike for the job, aka brakeless fixie).

He starts with showing the splash page of the Net Congestion conference of almost 10 years ago: http://net.congestion.org/ — still online). The panel was crucial for him, at that time. The audience did not matter, just the fact that it was finally possible to stream moving images. Only 10 years ago, it was unimaginable to have an audience for online streaming content.

The rest of his presentation concerns crowd financing. Which was for instance used for financing Elephants Dream, Sintel and Bick Buck Bunny made by blender – animation movies of which the production was closely integrated with software development. Blender is a great software, and the movies are fine animations, but they’re hardly the peak of contemporary filmmaking. Yet they are pioneers in using Bittorrent for distribution, Creative Commons for licensing, open source software and crowd-financing. Another example is , by Jamie King, who afterward started vodo.net, another torrent-platform. Keller gives several examples of “pledging”, as it is used successfully by Nine Inch Nails, and how it’s functioning on sites like http://www.kickstarter.com. All interesting and valuable strategies for financing. There are many sites copying this idea, even the Amsterdam Fonds voor de kunst who have started http://www.voordekunst.nl. Keller goes on with examples of funding, shows flattr.com, a micro-payment service which until now only caught on in Germany where its used by blog-platforms and the paper TAZ.

He also shows how a service like mubi.com is not functioning, as most of the films in their impressive catalogue are impossible to watch from Europe. Which simply lead one to try and find the movie in let’s say semi-legitimate underground channels. (It stays interesting how there still is no legitimate ‘library’ of online movies one can watch, though most of the stuff is easily downloadable through somewhat shadier channels.) He ends with showing a new service by the vpro, who have made an app for the apple store.

What this leaves me with, together with the presentations of this morning is: how to foster a film culture around all these services? I know where to download what, but how does it become a valuable culture beyond swapping movies?

Pummell asks if the financing models that Keller showed are scalable to bigger productions, as most crowd-financing enterprises are in the range of 5.000 till max 20.000 euros, which is small for cinema. Keller thinks it won’t be suitable for blockbuster production, but it is possible to get into the low end of big film production. The model of crowd financing is: get your financing first, then produce. (Just like books in the seventeenth century: a subscription model).

Florian asks the question that so many blender-fans hate to hear: the fact that it successfully uses the Linux model, but produces a copy of commercial blockbusters… Keller adds that for blender this is because they measure themselves to that world, they want to show that their animations can be as good as Pixar.

(Keller mentions also that he thinks public funding is important and necessary, and this is why he is not so happy that the AFK has started a website to do crowd-financing.)

Turns out that kickstarter do some curation themselves, not any project can be up there. Which is a wise thing probably, otherwise it will just be a long list of failed projects… Now it is about 1/3 one the list which are successful. (Which I think is quite high.) Josephine Bosma reminds that it was actually rtmark (the Yes Men before the Yes Men), who were amongst the first to set up a model like that and used it for activism, and emphasizes that unless you have a community ‘behind’ you, your project will not be crowd-financed.

Wrapping up the first day

To wrap up, Cramer tries to connect the two panels of the day. His question is: would we have to scrap the two panels and make it one panel in one year from now… Someone from the audience responds raising the question if using the internet as distribution through the internet changes the form and aesthetics of film, if it has changed it for instance for a filmmaker like Bregtje van der Haak. He also wonders how much filmmaking has become an individual enterprise, as using the internet emphasizes individual approaches. Should we find new aesthetics?

Paul Keller at the end relates the characteristic frustration of the internet user: picking up the programme of Cinema Nova in Brussels – part of the Kino-climate network – and, and seeing what he misses, loving the programme and wishing it would be available online, so he could be part of that part of culture. Being irritated it is not available online. Putting up those programmes online – and taking care of the rights issues – is something that has to happen soon… I agree. Curation and good programming are (still) crucial.

blogging,en | February 3, 2011 | 13:46 | Comments Off on Imagine an Audience Day 1, 31012011, a semi-live report |

Uitgelezen leesvoer 2011

In 2009 en 2010 heb ik een lijst bijgehouden van uitgelezen boeken. Aanvankelijk alleen literatuur en verwant leesvoer, later ook theorie. Ik schreef een paar zinnen over het boek, niet meer dan een impressie. Ik vermeldde ook welke boeken ik niet had uitgelezen of die ik deels had herlezen, en mengde vrijelijk Engels met Nederlands.

Met opzet hield ik de lijst bij op een aparte pagina, een beetje verborgen op deze site. Die paar zinnen commentaar waren pretentieloos, als ik er een blogpost van zou maken, dan zou ik ze al te veel gewicht geven – vond ik. Als ik het volledig voor mezelf zou doen – en niet zou publiceren – dan zou ik na een paar maanden stoppen. (Publiceren om jezelf te disciplineren).

Zo half in het verborgene: ook omdat ik een steeds grotere weerzin kreeg tegen de ‘gepre-formatteerde formats’ op het internet. Facebook en het “thumbs up I like” voorop, maar evengoed tegen de LibraryThing en andere services waar je je bibliotheek of lijsten gelezen boeken kunt bijhouden, inclusief uiterst handige ‘goodies’ en communicatiemogelijkheden. Als ik in zulke omgevingen iets doe (ik heb er accounts, ik heb ze geprobeerd), heb ik altijd het gevoel dat ik voor iemand anders zit te werken – en dan bedoel ik niet mijn vrienden, maar ‘THEY’, of ter meerdere eer en glorie van de datamining. Het doet niets af aan die services, ze zijn handig, maar ik hou er niet van. Daarom maak ik ‘met de hand’ kaartjes van mijn fietstochtjes, en doe ik niet aan het uploaden van GPS-coordinaten naar een account in een service die ze meteen mapt, er hoogteprofieletjes bij genereert enzovoorts.

Nu ben ik toch begonnen om een blogpost per uitgelezen of voor mij significant boek te maken. Het voelt te zwaar, zo’n blogpost per boek. Ik zal (hier) geen recensies schrijven, geen discussies voeren; ik zal enkel een kort commentaar tikken. Soms niet meer dan twee of drie woorden. (Ik heb gemerkt dat ik anders met een paar zinnen beschrijving aankom die ook elders makkelijk te vinden zijn). Het commentaar van mij heeft in de regel weinig om het lijf.

Waarom dan toch een blogpost? Ik wilde zeggen: omdat ik zin heb om weer te bloggen. Ik wilde zeggen: omdat ik zin heb om in het Nederlands te schrijven. Ik wilde zeggen: om het schrijven van Nederlands te oefenen – het is immers zo lastig om goede zinnen te maken…

Maar nu ik het neertik, ben ik niet zo zeker meer.

blogging,leesvoer,nl,ubiscribe | January 13, 2011 | 0:44 | Comments (3) |
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License. | Arie Altena