The official history says that the coaxial super 8 cartridge was an innovative design by Kodak Research Laboratories from 1965, but the Czech company Meopta had already produced in 1956 a strikingly similar coaxial cartridge for its camera Somet 8.
Meopta 1956 (photo by Jürgen Lossau)
Kodak 1965 (Photo by Rachel Ryans)
“Mass-media monopolies control people by their control of information… Who can deny that we are a nation addicted to television and the constant flow of media? Now I ask you, my fellow Americans, haven’t you ever wanted to put your foot through your television screen?”
En el espectáculo de la sociedad europea de comienzos del s.XX el papel principal le correspondía a las masas. Monarquías, aristocracias, burguesías, proletariados todas estas clases y agrupaciones sociales eran variaciones de un mismo fenómeno que habría de transformar primero a Europa y luego al todo el mundo. Este hecho advertido por José Ortega y Gasset es el tema se su libro La Rebelión de las Masas, 1937. Escrito al borde de la segunda guerra mundial, el argumento del libro es que un nuevo tipo de hombre, sin moral, había copado todos los espacios éticos, estéticos, políticos y técnicos de la vida europea. Este nuevo hombre era el hombre-masa, una especie de aglomeración sin forma y ni rostro producida durante el s.XIX. Ortega y Gasset identificó varios síntomas de la presencia de este hombre-masa, la vulgaridad, la serialización del progreso, la naturalización de la cultura (ignorancia) y la violencia con que el hombre- masa intervenía en todo. Las fatales consecuencias de esta ocupación serían causadas por la falta sentimiento de sumisión a algo, por la falta de conciencia de servicio y por la falta de obligación con que este nuevo hombre actuaba. El hombre-masa es inmoral concluyó Ortega y Gasset.
El avance de los medios técnicos del s.XIX y del s.XX no tiene parangón en la historia. Esto es así porque la base de este avance es científica y esta base a su vez lo convierte en un avance permanente. Aún no nos hemos recuperado de la traumática realización de varias máquinas y aparatos que de forma automática y masiva se tomaron por asalto la vida en Europa y Estados Unidos. Hoy este trauma se ha extendido por todas partes. La masificación que Ortega y Gasset identifica es consecuencia de la maquinización del hombre y la ausencia de control que sobre este proceso tenemos, quizá por falta de interés o quizá porque la complejidad del proceso nos supera. La máquinización del hombre ha popularizado a este hombre-masa. La incapacidad para percibir este proceso, la permanente anestesia colectiva y la incesante oferta infinita de posibilidades son síntomas que a través de las máquinas nos hemos abandonado al hombre-masa.
Ideas improve. The meaning of words participates in the improvement. Plagiarism is necessary. Progress implies it. It embraces an author’s phrase, makes use of his expressions, erases a false idea, and replaces it with the right idea.
Two weeks ago I presented my (self-)portrait in the general meeting of DAAD scholarship holders in Lübeck. After the presentation several issues generated a vividly discussion. I’ve grouped those issues under two fragmentations: of the frame and of the author. The first, evident in the visual outcome, is the fragmentation of the space within the frame. The second refers to the crowd-sourcing strategy I use for the production of the portrait.
Video is a medium primarily concerned with time. This medium fixates time into a series of independent recordings that we watch in rectangular frames. Almost always the space of the frame is filled with one image that represents one time and one space. Although video fragments time, the visual frame keeps in each recording a unified time and space. The camera can only record a sequential flow of time; it cannot record several, non-sequential moments of time simultaneously. The simultaneous assemblage of different times within the frame occurs always in the montage. In my work this is not different. I record each time one minute of video of myself but in the final composition, a real-time montage, all these recordings are agglomerated and played simultaneously within the same frame. Each recording is cropped to a few pixels width and placed next to another recording. This procedure produces a moving image that is composed by several other moving images. The frame is thus fragmented into several columns and each of these columns is filled with a different video. The fragmentation of time that video generates is carried to the very frame. The manipulation I propose has a spatial character. Such a procedure, I would claim, it is only possible in digital video because the digital allows the complete programming of the image and each pixel is susceptible to manipulation.
This fragmentation is taken to the production too. Each video recording is made by a different person using a camera phone. I’ve established a general set-up to control the visual aspect of the image and each person should comply with it. In this form of production the final outcome is made by the work of a crowd. In my (self-)portrait there are authors and I act as a catalyst for the making of the video portrait. My role as an artist is to create the conditions for the production, nothing remarkably new since all post-industrial production functions in such a way. But this work is about the production of a portrait, something intimate and full with authorship. Expressed mathematically, each column of one pixel in my portrait is a function of one independent variable: you multiplied by a constant: me (γ).
Everyone who carries a mobile phone in their pockets can produce video. These days, the video camera is fully integrated into the mobile phone, and at the hand of them, this type of camera has become ubiquitous. Although camera phones have made more popular than ever, the production of home movies, the history of amateur film equipment reaches far back and can be traced back to the early years in the film history. At the beginning of the 1920s a French company developed what was the first portable film camera intended for amateur production. Portability, the most remarkable feature of that camera, has since become the driving force behind the amateur production of moving images.
The history of the portable camera begins when the French firm Pathé developed and successfully commercialised the 9.5 mm format in 1922. The system composed of film stock, movie camera, and projector was purposely designed to attend to the amateur market. Other formats were previously developed but none enjoyed the popularity the Pathé had, basically because of its cost and size. The narrow 9.5 mm film stock was reversal-processed which means that it could be directly developed as positive, thus sparing the negative printing process. This feature lowered the costs of production and made possible for the amateur to afford the production of films on a home-based scale. The Pathé-baby format put in the hands of everyone, with no experience, the power to film short sequences on a non-professional scale.
The portability of the camera was the most salient characteristic of Pathé’s system. The camera, known as Pathé-baby, was a simplification of the cumbersome 35 mm movie camera. The Pathé-baby kept the basic elements: a lens, a shutter, an internal sprocket to move the film along the film guides, and an external hand crank to operate the camera. The camera was 10 cm height, 10 cm wide, and 0.4 cm breadth; and it weighted slightly more than 0.6 kg. These dimensions and weight made easier for amateurs to carry the camera in a handbag and to shoot a Sunday picnic or a horse race. The Pathé-baby could be easily brought and used everywhere at any moment.
The Pathé-baby made portable, in a reduced scale, the production of moving images. The firsts movie cameras were mobile but not portable. They could be moved to any location where the filming would occur. But the size and length of the industry standard 35 mm film stock made those cameras big, heavy, and expensive. Filming in 35 mm was not, and still isn’t , an easy matter. The Pathé-baby was, in contrast, light enough to be always ready to go and shoot; it didn’t even need a tripod. Its portability allowed it to be an spontaneous media. In that sense, the camera phone is similar. Both cameras are small and both represent different instances of the portable media; which is to say that the tools for media production live in our pockets.
‘Ah’ said the old lady, ‘painters always make ladies out prettier than they are, or they wouldn’t get any custom, child. The man that invented the machine for taking likenesses might have know that would never succeed; it’s a deal too honest, –a deal,’ said the old lady, laughing very heartily at her own acuteness. [1. p.90]
Dickens, Charles. Oliver Twist. London, England: Penguin Books. (1837) 2009.
‘Become mediocre’ is the only morality that makes sense. [qtd. 1, p.22]
Become spectacular is the only morality that makes sense
Become consumed is the only morality that makes sense
Become pictured is the only morality that makes sense
Become green is the only morality that makes sense
Become transparent is the only morality that makes sense
How could then be described the morality of our days?
It is said that a healthy and progressive modern society is that one with a large middle class to produce consumption. The middle class is a vast collection of people whose social relations are mediated by consumption. These mediations are materialized in different kind of objects like images, products, and trends. Today we have a mediation of second order. The digital media have first co-opted all other channels to be informed of new trends; second they have challenged the products as mediators of social status; finally in the digital media are produced all the images of the spectacle we live in. The morality of today is shaped in the digital media. But still, how could it be described?
Berman, Marshall. All that is solid melts into air: the experience of modernity. London, UK: Verso. 1983.
After a long time considering different topics to celebrate my 101 post, I decided to write something about art and poverty. Coming from a country with a myriad of social problems, questions about the role of art in such a society strike me very often. Social problems as poverty, inequality, and injustice are often taken as topic by many artists. Many art works exploit the pauper conditions in which many lived as means to touch the sensible fibres of sponsors, critics, spectators, and the media. Such art doesn’t seek for getting better conditions for those depicted in the art work. It rather exposes poverty to excite us, but not to reflect nor to take any action. The excitement is enough to make us regard the artist as engaged in social changes.
This particular kind of exposure of poverty usually combines famished, dirty, and slavish aesthetics. This cunning combination produces in the spectator a saturation similar to the experience of watching a pornographic film. S/he is delighted to be confronted with the uncivilized poor for s/he gets the impression of a critical and denouncing insight. Nothing farther from reality because the artist has used the poor merely as a commodity. The image of poverty in such expert hands produces a piece to be consumed, enjoyed, and disposed as soon as possible, not to be understood.
The voracious artist has hunted the poor, captured his image, ripped out his dignity, and served it us in a neat frame. The naked prey stands in front of us to be scrutinized, commented, and dismissed. The purpose of the spectacle is to spot the compromise of either artist and spectator with social issues. The poor clean us out.
The Vampires of Poverty (Agarrando Pueblo), shot in 1978, in Cali and Bogotá, by Luis Ospina and Carlos Mayolo, is a false documentary that satirises this artistic practice.
Today the production and distribution tools for media have to be free and open. Free and open software have brought a new perception towards these tools. Steadily, we leave pyramidal and individual forms of ownership and production in media to openly share materials, ideas, and procedures in social surfaces without centres. To embrace collaborative forms of production is a breakthrough in media (art, design, and production). Free software allows collective knowledge and aesthetic to surface. These expressions have been largely, neglected by close and feudal tools because they are thought as poor quality. We’ve been conveniently convinced that only the industrial and formal knowledge in media production is proper. This idea has pervaded the media arts and the designs as they remain mainly focused on spectacle and effects.
Knowledge has to run free across the very media. People have to remember how to collaborate if we are to change our world. But digital media are meant to fragment and to be used by mere machine bureaucrats in a state of frenzy consumption. Artists and designers! WE have the duty to denounce and expose this. WE need to defranchise the production of images, narratives, experiences, and objects. WE have to believe it is possible to overcome to supremacy of the bureaucrat system with single ideas and single tasks. WE ought to appropriate these tools before they appropriate us. WE need to fight the self-referential trend of the open media, if WE are to see the variety of the possible. WE need to open art and design and a first step to free art and design.