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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Endless War: On the database structure of armed conflict

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Republished with permission from VVVNT.

Image courtesy of Graham Harwood.

How does the way war is thought relate to how it is fought?

As the Afghan war unfolds, it produces vast quantities of information that are encoded into database entries and can, in turn, be analyzed by software looking for repeated patterns of events, spatial information, kinds of actors, timings, and other factors. These analyses go on to inform military decision-making and alter the course of events in the air and on the ground.

On July 25, 2010, WikiLeaks released a large amount of this normally classified information as the Afghan War Diary, comprising over 91,000 (15,000 withheld) reports covering the war in Afghanistan from 2004 to 2010. The reports were written by soldiers and intelligence officers and calculated by clocks, computers, and satellites. The primary source of the Afghan War Diary is the Combined Information Data Network Exchange (CIDNE), a database created by the US Department of Defense (DoD).

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You Know We're Living in the Computer Age? Computer History According to Law & Order

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Artist Jeff Thompson received a Rhizome commission in 2012 for his project Computers on Law & Order, for which he watched every episode of the long-running television series and took screenshots of all the computers. Thompson will present an illustrated lecture based on the project  this Saturday, Feb 1 at 4pm at the Museum of the Moving Image, followed by a discussion with Law & Order graphic designer Kevin Raper. In this article, he shares some of his findings. 

In the fall of 1990, a television program about crime, police investigation, and criminal trials named Law & Order aired for the first time. The show eventually ended in 2010, tied with Gunsmoke for the longest-running live-action television show at 20 seasons and 456 episodes.[1] With its unique (and consistent) style and trademark "dun-dun!" sound, Law & Order has generated several spin-offs and can likely be found playing at any hour of the day somewhere on cable.[2]

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Google Glass, The Corporate Gaze and Mine

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Molly Crabapple via Instagram

When you buy Google Glass, you are not a consumer. You are an Explorer.

Everything about Glass affirms your specialness. The Swedish modern showroom, where a hot guy tweaks Glass’s nose grips just for your face. The card that comes with Glass, calling you an "adventurer," a "founder." The fact that you must be invited to purchase your pair, since there are only 8,000 Google Glasses in the world.

When you wear Glass, you and Google are a team.

But explorers are not neutral. They are the shock troops of empire. The lands explorers traverse are later conquered by armies, their sacred objects melted down for gold. Glass Explorers continue the corporation's conquest of reality.

In December I did an art project called Glass Gaze. Wearing a pair of Google Glass that had been hacked by the journalist Tim Pool to live-stream, I drew my friend the porn star and aerialist Stoya. The interwebs could see what I saw as I made art. The model. The paper. The ink. The whole 19th-century practice of life drawing commodified and separated from me. I once tweeted, "Google Glass lets the government see the world from my perspective." With Glass Gaze, I was giving the network the same opportunity.

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The Mundane Afrofuturist Manifesto

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Martine Syms, film still produced for the cover of Most Days (2014). LP. Mixed Media Recordings, Brooklyn.

The undersigned, being alternately pissed off and bored, need a means of speculation and asserting a different set of values with which to re-imagine the future. In looking for a new framework for black diasporic artistic production, we are temporarily united in the following actions.

***The Mundane Afrofuturists recognize that:***

We did not originate in the cosmos.

The connection between Middle Passage and space travel is tenuous at best.

Out of five hundred thirty-four space travelers, fourteen have been black. An all-black crew is unlikely.

Magic interstellar travel and/or the wondrous communication grid can lead to an illusion of outer space and cyberspace as egalitarian.

This dream of utopia can encourage us to forget that outer space will not save us from injustice and that cyberspace was prefigured upon a "master/slave" relationship.

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