Theory, moving images
I was a bit surprised about the theoretical focus of the conference and had expected to see more visual works and examples. But I am also a very visual person and in general find it hard to listen to people talking especially if what they say is rather abstract – I like to get something concrete out of it, results, consequences of the analysis, maybe what it now all means for my own work. I think this is what I missed (or maybe did not get) from some of the theoretical presentations, as interesting as they were.
Old school word
I never liked the word “amateur”, I always thought that it sounded too old fashioned and, depending on who is using it, either has a submissive or insulting meaning attached to it.
There was a time before MiniDV when the best/cheapest option a low-budget indie video production had was to shoot on Hi8. Once the movie was cut a copy for a potential buyer was made onto Betacam SP and if you were lucky a smaller TV station would buy it. But most of the time you were told that your tape was not up to a certain technical standard (since it had been shot with “amateur” equipment). The “amateur” video argument was of course only a pretext to get rid of the indie competition, TV stations never had a problem with their own shows that featured funny cats and cute babies home videos.
There were a couple of instances at the conference where I thought that “amateur” was used in similar ways as TV stations had once used it – the arguments are always the same and it is the attempt to defend an exclusive position or monopoly.
Money was never good at measuring the quality of a product – the best things in life are free and some of what the online indie/experimental/art film and video scene offers is so much more inspired than what the so called professional content media industry delivers on TV and sadly also to the cinemas.
Differences between DRM and exclusivity?
Another thing that quite surprised me at the conference was to hear that there seem to be artists who don’t want to share their works online, specially on YouTube, because they feel this would misrepresent them, kind of take away an aura of exclusivity.
But why feel threatened by being on the same platform with thousands of other creative minds? Why limit access to your work (via passwords etc.) if it is available for free anyway?
How different is this position from the mainstream entertainment industry that out of fear of loosing control is limiting the distribution of their media with DRM?
If you have been a successful video artist you can still be a successful online video artist! The avant-garde is called that way because it is forward thinking. But wanting to limit access to your work, wanting to retain exclusivity is so backwards thinking that it hurts. Why not let the world see what you have to offer? Why fear the YouTube competition…? What can you really loose…?
YouTube as a movie
I see YouTube as a huge, interactive movie. Like a mixture of a Wikipedia for moving images (licensing issues and the YouTube TOS aside) and a free on demand video library: there seems to be no moment that a human can go through in the course of life that is not in some way represented on YouTube. As a viewer you can combine these moments and generate your own feature length movie – if you feel something is missing or think you have a better version of a moment you can always upload it. And of course there are the prebuilt movies (short movies or longer ones posted in multiple parts).
YouTube is a unique, collective visual oeuvre created by its millions of users and the community features (comments, playlists, subscribers) empower the users to communicate on all kinds of levels, in all kinds of ways.
Did I hear people say at the conference that cinema was this collective experience and that online video is something for lonely people…? How often do you actually talk to the other people in the audience when you go to the cinema…? Yes, it is special to sit in a big theatre with a large audience, but the “lonely argument” is not true at all for online video – it is however true for TV.
YouTube is everything you want it to be. If you want to prove that there is “only” pirated content on YouTube you can quickly come up with a series of examples. But you could also prove that there are “only” funny cat videos. Or artistically remarkable works.
Also I can’t share the view that video artists don’t use YouTube. Some of the best works I have seen in recent years I have seen on YouTube.
My YouTube “favourites”
Since none of the three videos that I submitted as a favourite made it to the selection we saw on the last day of the conference here those videos – all remix works that would not exist if their makers had taken copyright laws seriously:
Make sure to watch the Zidane Headbutt Remix! I think this one is close to genius and should keep even the most hardcore film/media/culture theorist entertained…
The Video Vortex Conference 2008 was a bit different from what I had expected but I still found it quite informative, inspiring and enjoyed meeting and talking to a couple of very interesting people.
Last but not least: a big thank you to all the organisers of the conference and Seth Keen who moderated the panel that I had the opportunity to be a part of.