The Web on Film

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Tomorrow night, erstwhile Rhizome contributor Tom McCormack will present an illustrated lecture at Brooklyn's Spectacle Theater. Titled Netsploitation: The Internet Through Movies, the talk will explicate the history of the Internet as depicted in big-screen Hollywood fare.

The inspiration for the talk came from McCormack's realization that many of biggest movies of his childhood — movies like War Games and Hackers— were thrillers that toed the line between ominous, ridiculous, and realistic anxieties about the Internet. He added that presenting an illustrated lecture now seems relevant and not forced: "With YouTube, a lot of my hanging out time is spent interspersing segments of whatever's being talked about throughout a conversation." Netsploitation will try to mimic that feeling while providing moments of revelation between humor and analysis.

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Analog Film in a Digital World

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Tacita Dean's FILM at Tate Turbine Hall

Joanne McNeil, editor of Rhizome, writes about Tacita Dean's work with and activism for analog film for the Paris Review Daily. An exhibition of Dean's work is currently on view at the New Museum.

As her very craft faces extinction, it fittingly became one of her subjects. Last year, Soho Film Laboratory, where she was a longtime customer, abruptly ended new orders of 16mm film prints due to new management. She was at the time preparing an installation for the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall, as The New Yorker explained in a profile of Dean last autumn...

Nostalgia is not quite the right word to describe how Tacita Dean relates to celluloid film. She is firmly rooted in the present while considering what might pass. There’s no vaseline on the lens or sepia tone here. Her nostalgia is not for film itself, but film’s way to relate the experience time. A film projector measures out minutes and seconds relating to the speed that the footage was shot.

"Film is time made manifest: time as physical length - 24 frames per second, 16 frames in a 35mm foot,” she wrote in the accompanying wall text. “It is still images beguiled into movement by movement and is eternally magical. The time in my films is the time of film itself.”

 

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Diegetic Cinematography

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Dane DeHaan, playing Andrew, the film Chronicle's diegetic cinematographer; the sort of boom arm invisible to film characters.

Diegetic sound is the part of a film's score that the characters can hear. We understand scary music that accompanies a blond babysitter as she checks on a clamour in the basement is something we the audience can hear, but that she cannot. That sort of mood music is non-diegetic sound. If we see her dancing to a song on the radio on the other hand, we understand that the music is embedded within the fictional narrative. The film Chronicle is the latest Hollywood film to explore "diegetic cinematography."

In most films we the audience understand that everything we are seeing is non-diegetic vision. That the perspective we are shown is from an invisible point within the fictional universe we are watching....

 

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General Web Content: Cinematic FUIs

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[The Net, 1995]

Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs) are the primary means through which most users interact with computers; but while GUIs help us make sense of complex computational data and allow average users to navigate and manipulate computer systems, human-computer interaction does not easily translate to other visual media such as film and television. It is difficult to dramatize database queries or the kind of intensive and prolonged engagement many describe when programming and writing code. These actions exists on a different scale and in a different time frame, and when dramatized they seem awkward at best, if not simply dull and uninteresting.

Perhaps it is for this reason that film has invented its own form of computer visualization, a kind of visual language of computation that speaks to the language of film. This often involves a very particular set of visual tropes that are intended to signify computation: login screens, chat rooms, loading bars, criminal or business profiles, copying data (often clandestinely), large legible typefaces, 3D interfaces, wireframe models, maps and floor plans, voice interaction, etc. On film the failures of interface design are almost always absent, as protagonists are capable of using almost any UI, data can be transferred and read across multiple systems with ease, and intuition is often enough to accomplish the most elaborate tasks.

In some cases films will use existing GUIs and operating systems, particularly when funding is available through product placement. Often, however, movies will invent entirely new GUIs that accomplish the simple goals of filmic computation, or which appear sufficiently futuristic and foreign from the types of graphical interfaces we are accustomed to. In fact there is an entire sub-field of the graphic and interface design industry that produces Fake User Interfaces or FUIs, both for software mock ups and for the film industry. Below we've collected a series of images taken from the site Access Main Computer File, "a visual study of computer GUI in cinema" run by Steven Huynh. Spanning over four decades, these images not only point to this cinematic visualization of computation, they also serve as the promise of and inspiration for future technologies.

 

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Black by Distribution: A Conversation with Martine Syms

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Although she identifies as an artist and “conceptual entrepreneur,” Martine Syms is a seasoned essayist. Her combination of personal anecdotes, expository investigation, and academic analysis is enigmatic, drawing the reader into the purpose of her writing and the rich storytelling of her written voice. 

Born in Los Angeles and based in Chicago, Syms received an MFA in Film, Video, and New Media at the School of the Art Institute in 2007.  Syms is the founder and co-director of Golden Age, an artist-run project space, performance venue, and bookshop. Rather than merely sell zines, books, art, and other ephemera from visual artists and critics, Syms – along with her co-director Marco Kane Braunschweiler – uses the space to engage a diverse community of design and art fans and practitioners.

Focusing on race, context, and form in Black cinema, Implications and Distinctions: Format, Content and Context in Contemporary Race Film works in large part due to the simplicity of its words and the depth of its subject matter. Syms’ idea — that race film is both constantly evolving and utilizing methods of exposure implemented decades earlier — is complex, but the clarity in her thesis makes her work digestible.

"My family, my background ... it just parallels really nicely with a lot of social and cultural movements," Syms said during a recent interview. Her writing reflects this connection, using personal anecdotes to highlight the evolution of "race" film from its earliest producers to the more homegrown, independent, and online efforts of emerging filmmakers. 

Implications and Distinctions is one of five recent releases from Future Plan and Program, artist Steffani Jemison’s new project incubated by Project Row Houses that publishes the literary works of emerging visual artists. The clean layout and production of the book only slightly masks its purpose to present one-of-a-kind ideas and experiments combining the written word and emerging artistic practices.

Recently, I met with Martine Syms to talk about some of the points she makes in the book...

 

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Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Science Fiction TV Film World on a Wire

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Released shortly before Ali: Fear Eats Soul Rainer Werner Fassbinder's 1973 sci-fi tv movie World on a Wire is newly restored and playing around the country:

A dystopic science-fiction epic, World on a Wire is German wunderkind Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s gloriously cracked, boundlessly inventive take on future paranoia. With dashes of Kubrick, Vonnegut, and Dick, but a flavor entirely his own, Fassbinder tells the noir-spiked tale of reluctant action hero Fred Stiller (Klaus Lowitsch), a cybernetics engineer who uncovers a massive corporate and governmental conspiracy. At risk? Our entire (virtual) reality as we know it. This long unseen three-and-a-half-hour labyrinth is a satiric and surreal look at the weird world of tomorrow from one of cinema’s kinkiest geniuses.

 

 


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In Praise of the Sci-Fi Corridor

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Corridors make science-fiction believable, because they're so utilitarian by nature - really they're just a conduit to get from one (often overblown) set to another. So if any thought or love is put into one, if the production designer is smart enough to realise that corridors are the foundation on which larger sets are 'sold' to viewers - Martin Anderson





via Autodespair

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Popular Unrest (2010) - Melanie Gilligan

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This past Migrating Forms festival opened with a screening of Melanie Gilligan's feature-length film Popular Unrest, which is also available as five episodes on Gilligan's website. Set in a fictional future London, not unlike the present, Popular Unrest seizes upon the modern preoccupation with systems, data, and constant technological improvement. The story revolves around the influence of the "World Spirit," a technological system that controls all transactions and social interactions with the aim of boosting productivity and increasing profitability. The world of the Spirit is a rational existence where everything is monitored, quantified, and rationally controlled.

At the film's opening a mysterious disembodied knife brutally commits murder, while the 24 hour media cycle, punctuated by television advertisements for the spirit drones on in the background. Equally mysterious as the violent murders, people around the world are being inexplicably drawn together into what have been termed "groupings." The plot of Popular Unrest centers on one such grouping, comprised of twelve individuals, from diverse backgrounds with nothing in common other than their overwhelming desire to come together. While the closeness the group feels towards each other is inconceivable in the rational terms of system transactions that govern their reality, they find comfort in their connection.

When a group of scientists approach them to conduct a study of their group and hopefully provide a scientific explanation for the phenomenon, they agree to participate. The biological causes of their behavior and the dehumanized and technological control of the spirit that approaches the world in terms of data and profit margins are pitted against the humanity of the grouping and the irrationality of life. They are, as the scientists tell them, like a snapshot taken by the system, a frozen moment of social exchange. They represent the Spirit's reflexivity.
Ultimately, however, Gilligan is uncertain in the power of our humanity to resist the faith, comfort and often overwhelming power we invest in the quantifiable, data driven systems we ourselves have created.

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General Web Content: Netflix's Three Wolf Moon, "Example Short 23.976"

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Youtube rip of Example Short 23.976

In May of 2010 Netflix posted what appeared to be two internal test movies shot around the Netflix headquarters in Los Gatos, CA. Titled Example Short 23.976 and Example Short 24, the films could not be found by simply browsing the Netflix site, but were instead picked up by users of unofficial twitter feeds and websites that update with each new streaming title. At slightly over 11 minutes long, the film features a kind of in-house stock footage intended to demonstrate a variety of audio-visual effects, such as time-lapse and looping. The short film also includes a series of strange, non sequitur scenes featuring a hand running through a fountain, a toy train set running on a loop, a man moonwalking while holding a laptop, the same man running erratically between trees, and finally the man reciting Marullus' speech from Act I, Scene I of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar before shifting to a series of popping and clicking mouth noises. The film ends with a blinking white dot and a series of gridded test patterns.

The films can be difficult to find using the Netflix site, but each version of the movie has its own page and is open to view and review. Much as with the Three Wolf Moon "power animal" t-shirt that gained massive popularity on Amazon.com in 2009, users began rating and reviewing the films sarcastically as artistic works rather than technical footage, praising the symbolism of hand-in-fountain or critiquing the film's "blatant liberal agenda." Other reviewers seem to have missed the punchline, rating the film poorly and demanding an explanation for the film's otherwise glowing reviews. Netflix has subsequently released the short in a variety of forms and at various lengths, in one case looping ...

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Third Annual Migrating Forms Festival

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Migrating Forms returns this week with its third annual festival, running Friday, May 20th through Sunday, May 29th at Anthology Film Archives in New York. Nellie Killian and Kevin McGarry have selected new work by more than 48 artists representing a broad spectrum of contemporary film and video practices, retrospective screenings, and special guest curated programs. Here are a few highlights to look forward to:


Friday, May 20, 2011 at 8:30 PM
Popular Unrest (60 min., Canada/UK/USA 2010) dir. Melanie Gilligan

Saturday, May 21, 2011 at 3:45 PM
Group Program 1
The Yellow Bank (30 min., USA/China, 2010) dir. J.P. Sniadecki
Tokyo-Ebisu (5 min., Japan, 2010) dir. Tomonari Nishikawa
Track One (2 min., Taiwan/USA, 2011) dir. eteam
In the Absence of Light, Darkness Prevails (14 min., USA/Brazil, 2010) dir. Fern Silva

Saturday, May 21, 2011 at 8:30 PM
Holidays in the Sun: Cynthia Maughan (70 min.) dir. Cynthia Maughan

Sunday, May 22, 2011 at 9:15 PM
Group Program 4
The Writer in Residence (3 min., UK, 2010) dir. Stephen Sutcliffe
Art Tape: Live With / Think About (3 min., USA, 2011) dir. Michael Bell-Smith
I, Popeye (6 min., USA, 2010) dir. Takeshi Murata
Your Life/Your Language (7 min., USA, 2010) dir. Jacob Ciocci
The Galactic Pot Healer (9 min., USA, 2010) dir. Shana Moulton
The Artist (10 min., UK, 2010) dir. Laure Prouvost
Versions (9 min., Germany, 2011) dir. Oliver Laric

Thursday, May 26, 2011 at 9:15 PM
The Art of the Supercut (40 min., video)
Re-edit master and pop culture parser Rich Juzwiak (fourfour.typepad.com, VH1) presents a program of his influences and favorites. Followed by a screening of Curt Hanks epic Star Wars: Chewbacca Supercut

Friday, May 27, 2011 at 9:30 PM
Tube Time
Tube ...

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