Notes for a New Documentary

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Tony Conrad, Yellow Movie 12/17/72

If, as Tony Conrad might have us suppose, a Movie is light and any marking of the passage of time, what is Documentary Cinema as a category? In fact, the Minimalist structural filmmaking practices of Conrad and others share concerns with documentary's base impulse, namely the transmission of a "factual record or report." 

As screen culture settles into its well-earned ubiquity, we must revisit old questions about the where and the what of cinema as an object and what constitutes something separately known as the "cinematic." All cinema is, on some level, depictive, not necessarily by choice, but rather by inevitability. As fictional as any narrative may assert itself to be, it is also a real event. Every book is a record of someone and something somewhere writing and printing it in real time, and so too every image on screen. Regardless of visual effects and editing, the moving image is, at its root, depictive, depicting its own movement as a bare minimum.

With this in mind, is a digital clock cinema? Is any screen producing light at any time—picaresque and episodic as devices are woken up, sleep, wake up, sleep, screens within screens are opened and closed, sleep—also cinema? Regardless of any durational claims made by an individual work, it appears to me that a movie or television show begins when you turn the screen on and ends when you turn it off.

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Constructions of Truth In A Drone Age: "Forensis" at HKW, Berlin

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“Threshhold of Detectibility” Top: the roof of a building in Miranshah, Pakistan, that has been hit by a drone-fired missile. the form of destruction is masked in the photo’s pixelation. Source: Digitalglobe, inc., March 31, 2012 Bottom: Still from footage broadcast on MSNBC of the aftermath of a March 30, 2012 drone strike in miranshah, pakistan, showing the entry hole of a missile through the ceiling of a room. Visualization: Forensic Architecture. Page from Forensis program.

Any act of looking or being looked at is mediated by technology. This is true of any scientific process too, where each tool or method of looking is developed with a purpose in mind which influences the data that it produces. This is precisely what forensic investigation reveals: not only the reality of an event, but also the intention of a viewing mechanism and the political weight of that intention once made visible. Representations of warfare illustrate this as successfully as any art object.

As part of the exhibition Forensis, now on view at Haus der Kulteren der Welt in Berlin, Forensic Architecture and SITU Research investigate drone strikes in situations where state-mandated degradation and pixelation of publicly available surveillance footage is a legal regulation rather than a visual constraint, and drones are designed to evade the digital image. Missiles are developed that burrow through targeted buildings, leaving holes that are smaller than a low resolution pixel. Attacking at "the threshold of visibility," the legal, political, and technical conditions equally attempt to remain invisible. The job of forensics is then to recover them.

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Incognito Mode for the 21st-Century Flâneur

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 Gustave Caillebotte, Paris Street; Rainy Day (1877).

If it's just a matter of avoiding "that guy" or helping its co-creator avoid his ex, then the new "anti-social" app Cloak—which sources your contacts' locations based on their check-ins on Foursquare and Instagram, so that you can avoid them—is just another coddling mechanism that allows us to construct miniature worlds from our "likes," excluding anything that causes us discomfort. This ends, of course, in a boring, predictable, and ultimately doomed utopia, when suddenly everyone is too "Nearby" on Cloak's green-on-black world map, and no one can be "Far enough."

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Shana Moulton and Nick Hallett's 'Whispering Pines 10' on Art21

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Wake up, sleepyhead. Art21 just posted their profile of Shana Moulton and Nick Hallett's opera, Whispering Pines 10, presented by Rhizome at the New Museum in 2011. Not only do Moulton and Hallett come off as the sweetest performance artist/composer collaborative duo ever, but the documentation of the projection-oriented opera isn't bad either.

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DNS Politics: Citizen journalism after the Twitter ban

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Photograph posted to Twitter by Engin Onder on March 20, 2014, with the caption: "‪#twitter‬ blocked in ‪#turkey‬ tonight. folks are painting ‪#google‬ dns numbers onto the posters of the governing party." The poster shows the AKP candidate for Eskişehir.

Last Friday, DNS-themed graffiti and memes began to appear in Turkish streets and on the web, bringing the normally unnoticed architecture of the internet into public discourse.

The sudden focus on DNS, the system that translates a URL into its corresponding numerical IP address, was prompted by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's decision on March 20 to ban Twitter. Court orders were issued to Turkish internet service providers, who apparently implemented DNS redirects, meaning that requests for "twitter.com" would be routed to a different IP address and shown a warning page.

This kind of block is not particularly effective; users can easily circumvent it by using a public DNS server. Instead of sending the request for twitter.com to a Turkish ISP, users could simply change their computer's network settings and send the request to Google or OpenDNS, or any number of international, publicly available DNS servers. While this is easy to do, it's perhaps not widely understood, and so fans of internet freedom took to the web and the streets to spread the word about the DNS workaround. 

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An Email Interview with Jeremy Blake

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4 Apr 2006

Hello Chris. Thanks for taking an interest in my work, and Jayson's as well. Below are my answers in blue.

Sincerely,
JB

1. How integral was Jayson Whitmore's involvement with you on the Winchester series? I noticed that you thanked him first in the introduction to the book of the exhibit. Did he do a majority of the animating and compositing of your imagery/drawings/abstractions, etc? Or was his role more to provide technical experience when you needed it and had questions?

Jayson Whitmore is the total motion graphics pro. He makes life easier on me because I can describe something to him and he can help me do it without much trouble. That said, its not the main reason I choose to collaborate with Jayson, because there are many people trained the way Jayson is trained, just as there are many people trained to draw and paint like I was trained. My work is also very technically simple, so technically Jayson is holding back some of his skills when he does my stuff. The reason why I always try to work with Jayson Whitmore first is because he's got a GREAT musical ear. He's got a sense for the timing of the movement and the content of the art that qualifies him as an artist in his in right. Its always an honor to work with people as outstanding and insightful as he is. The same can be said for a man named Jonathan Karp who helps us with sound, Brendan Canty from the band Fugazi who's done music with us in the past, and all the other great people I've been lucky enough to work with. I've been very fortunate to have such good people around me. Jayson is an unbeatable talent and has spent years learning the techniques he knows, and he frees up the time I need to perfect my imagery.

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Locative Media Revisited

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Molly Dilworth, 547 West 27th Street (2009). From the series "Paintings for Satellites."

In the early 2000s, as location-aware devices first became commonplace, there was a lot of hype surrounding their potential creative use by artists. However, over time, this initial enthusiasm for "locative media"--projects that respond to data or communications technologies that refer to particular sites--leveled off, even dissipated. Regardless of this drought, geospatial technologies are widely used, and play an important and often unnoticed role in conditioning many aspects of our existence. Responding to this condition of ubiquity, artists have continued to use locative technologies critically, opening up closed systems, making their effects visible, and reconfiguring our relationship with such systems.  

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Trolling Anal (Or, recent performance in LA)

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Thursday, 2:30 am, four drinks deep, at the old Night Gallery Space, some schmoe is coming around the crowd with a lockbox and deck of cards, telling us to hand over our cell phones. "None of this can be recorded, you guys." I get a pat down, give up nothing, phone tucked safely in my coat. Most get snagged with a grunt or a whine. The process is endless. My traveling companion is on his third cigarette. (If there is one redeeming quality of this VIP-themed performance series / curatorial-themed party called Top 40 that has smeared across my last few weeks, it's that you can smoke inside.)

We're recovering or repressing. We just watched Vishwam Velandy leave a series of messages for women he claimed to have slept with, informing them, between "uhhs.." and chuckles, that he had seen a doctor and they'd better too, because he'd just been diagnosed with HIV. Then, after endless minutes, I'm getting squashed with elbows and shoulders, alternately averting my eyes and craning for a view of the floor in front of the DJ booth, where, with frat party fanfare, Eugene Kotlyarenko's girlfriend is inserting a zucchini into his ass, and a curious, deeply unpleasant combination of boredom and offense is flowering in my insides like Giardia.

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