Thursday, 10 September 2015

Intermedia in Interactive Art

Traditionalist cinema is still very much the methodology used by filmmakers looking to be part of what they understand to be an industry of which being included in requires the participant to make something for others to watch. On the amateur level, it seems mostly that this type of filmmaking has gone by the way of poetry readings, where poets read their poems to other poets waiting their turn to read their poems. Since having disbanded from the idea that making films included me in some kind of filmmaking industry, and that making media was indeed something I felt instinctively I just had to do, I have stepped out of that particular revolving circle, but still I receive many promotional briefs from filmmakers wanting me to share links to trailers of their short films or pass on information about their latest screening - and it is all still the same format of filmmaking. Linear, short and mostly consisting of more detail about the filmmaker than what the film is about, why they've chosen to represent that story, or what the film is attempting to show. I find it kind of disappointing that the use of interactive content such as used to promote this material isn't reflected in the work itself, and feel that there is a whole world of television many filmmakers really ought to be targeting, and not the web community. Working within the landscape of digital genres and not using that as the sounding board to new work scarcely presents anything suitable for the medium I am using to view this kind of cinema.

Defined by content, form, and functionality. Digital genres can be developed via a novel constitutive intertexuality which means they create a new genre form through extant genres and media types or through its own medium can create new emergent genres which relates back to the idea of veering away from analogous models and into non-presupposed designs. Set patterns that define genre are less apparent by the ability to implement a transgeneric structure using hypermedia, links, and open-source behaviour into multimedia interfaces. Therefore, I don't make the type of 'short film' I used to because I no longer go to the cinema or attend short film nights. I am much more interested in television on a linear level, and I am much more interested in web content on an interactive level. It's nothing that hasn't been said over the last ten years of creating content on this platform, only the theory has undermined the practice.

When replicating an extant genre it is important to not only factor in the visual design but also the conceptual context of the genre. What ideas preempted the design, the functionality and the process, just a few questions filmmakers should be asking themselves when presenting content on the web. In my opinion there are several ways of doing this. Through an historical context or social context, a functional/visual context and an ideological context. For instance, if you were asked to design a multimedia interface based on  a story set behind the backdrop of Portuguese baroque architecture you may wish to employ the ideological context of the period in order to establish how people may interact with the interface. Portuguese baroque would be a relatively appropriate style upon which to cater for open-source and user-generated content as designs from the Portuguese baroque were built simply in the Jesuit style but with the purpose of later having complicated patterns and designs incorporated when economic times allowed for it. Thus opening up a piece of creative media to become 'participatory cinema'; one of the struggling, but emergent forms of contemporary cinema practice. This is just an example of how to think about cinema as web content, not just getting as many 'likes' on Facebook, or thumbs up on Youtube. Or one of my recent bug bears, short films with their own websites with addresses like 'shortfilmthemovie', and the minor content to be found on these websites is inevitably a trailer for the short. A trailer for a short film? It's a short film, it doesn't need a trailer, that in itself is taking the piss out of the magnitude of what a short film is. In the same vent, the trailer for the short film does not need a teaser. Anyway, if a short film needs a website, that is when I feel ideas should be flossed out in respect to the architecture of the webpage hosting the information regarding the short film that is being for lack of a better word, promoted, not just a few pages dedicated to the potential genius of the filmmaker and the unnecessary accompanying trailer endeavouring to prove that one day this filmmaker will be reviewed on Rotten Tomatoes or flaunting a champagne flute at a cinema awards afterparty. I still hold true that the reason cinema suffers so much to allow the sediment at the bottom to rise to the head of public attention is because no matter what content creators at that level say about passion for wanting to tell stories or the need to create, many are just doing it for erroneous and often pithy reasons.

So back to introducing functionality to content and form, it will no doubt change the genre but working within ideas perpetrated by concepts such as high Maniera (Post-Mannerism) or difference engines (Steampunk) as an example, can transform relatively linear concepts into media of an entirely other beast, one of which is appropriate to the loci in which it exists. There will always be room to stay faithful to your form and content even if the pattern of genre goes unseen. Even when setting out to make a simple cops & robbers flick, the net as a platform offers much more than buffering from a to b. The form should enable the users to get more out of the film than just the thrill of the car chase, and all it takes is a bit of research, design and deeper thought into the process of showing.

One of the last projects I participated in was How Long is Now, a project of the kind that used connected convergence and ideas on locative technology as well as what I call movarium; small media for portable spaces. Subjects record 3 seconds of their life, upload it onto the site where it will stream. The next stage was an exhibition in Munich where the works were mixed and presented in a presence gallery. From there spectators were able to view a rotating projection every 3 seconds. I captured 3 seconds of my morning routine of coffee, cigarettes and cyberspace. That's 3 activities in 3 seconds! I really wanted to do a screen capture but because of the rules relating to third party media, I wondered even if I was say using open office, or Chrome (Although only part of the Chrome code is Open Source) would all the icons on my Dashboard and the fact that it would be clearly obvious I am using a Mac infringe on copyright issues if my video (screencapture) were to be projected elsewhere. I would be interested in hearing people's thoughts on this matter as I am sure fair use would protect that but if the festival states no 3rd party media, then possibly it might not even make it through to selection. That's all beside the point, and I'm digressing. The situation exists that a project like How Long is Now is somehow put into the category of experimental cinema, but it's only because the content is non-linear, that the form is given the same label. The form is not, the form could be used with any linear idea, and should be. Short filmmakers should be thinking on this level when distributing their ideas on locative platforms. Rather than have that webpage with the trailer, why not consider having your audience review the short film and then have an installation trailer at a gallery or public space of some sort.

The painting by Hieronymus Bosch called The Conjurer. In it we see a street magician performing an illusion called Cups and Balls, on the other side we see a thief performing the deed of pick-pocketing. In the middle of these two is a gentleman being 'conned' out of his senses and cents. What interests me is the use of performance and illusion within the illusion of representation. The performance of painting, the performance of Cups and Balls; the representation and illusion of both.

Digital Media that at once shows us a performance and asks us to perform, therefore breaking through that fourth wall into interactivity, is one deviation into the illusion, when it becomes intramedia and asks us to not only perform with it's content but itself as the message, the illusion becomes locative, a landscape connexion is bridged between ourselves and the performance. Creatives, artists, makers, call them what you will, have always explored these concepts no matter how linear or literal the form of their work took.

A poem by Dorothy Parker.


Little things that no one needs --
Little things to joke about --
Little landscapes, done in beads.
Little morals, woven out,
Little wreaths of gilded grass,
Little brigs of whittled oak
Bottled painfully in glass;
These are made by lonely folk.

Lonely folk have lines of days
Long and faltering and thin;
Therefore -- little wax bouquets,
Prayers cut upon a pin,
Little maps of pinkish lands,
Little charts of curly seas,
Little plats of linen strands,
Little verses, such as these.

Dorothy Parker

Parker's poem uses the theme of Bric-a-Brac to express the past-time of lonely people. The poem in itself "Little verses, such as these", becomes the object of the subject of the poem. We therefore have what the poem is written about, and become the subject of the poem. So once again we are performing with the message itself, the illusion is locative, another landscape connexion is bridged.

The digital world of interactive illusion begins with what Rod Sims (Which is a totally appropriate surname for virtual worlds), describes as "Object Interactivity" in his research paper he described "Object Interactivity" in the same way that we may view the object-orientated programming language that has established such spaces as the MOO and 3D Virtual Online World. When a mouse clicks on an object, something can be done with it, and aligned with that action is some kind of previous, forward or current context determining its response. In a three dimensional world this is the steering proxy between us, the four limbed sapiens with inquisitive sensory driven minds on top and an "Immersive Virtual Interactivity".

Rod also writes about three dimensions: the first is engagement, being the way we navigate around an interactive space or instructional, where we are learning from an environment set in a particular context as to be intended instructional.

The second dimension he mentions is control, user or program control.

The third being the interactive concept. What type of interaction is being defined by the model?

So, extending the close-reading of the inspiration (poem, painting, song), we begin to think about how interactivity encourages us to be part of the performance. Not only because transmedia being the norm in distribution strategies will require us to begin thinking in this way but also because we should understand how our staged environment works. The Interactivity in the virtual world has differences from the physical world.  In the physical world you can sit on any chair, in the virtual world, some chairs may be able to be sat on and some may not. Our performance is altered by the scripting of the objects, and not the subjects.

If you fancy reading the research paper on Interactivity by Rod Sims from the Faculty of Education, University of Technology, Sydney, It is called Interactivity: A forgotten Art? and you can find it at the link I just put in twelve, now seventeen words back. I link to it because it is worthwhile foundation thinking for considering the action we perform from a physical to a sensory and psyche sense. Digital narratives and art use these conventions in order to assist navigate us through the content, however returning to the objects and subjects themselves as previously thought about in Bosch's painting and Parker's poem, what role we have with interactive art depends on what illusion is being represented, and what performance we should give in order to experience it. The thing in itself, the message here, or the interactivity itself plays a part in the object of the art, it is not just about adding interactivity to a non-linear space. A connexion is required to be made with the subject and our performance.

Filmmakers Tweeting a link to their film on YouTube does not suffice do justice to the platform they are using. There's nothing fundamentally useless about using the platform in this way but it would make more sense if filmmakers wish to distribute and create content in this traditional fashion that they consider sticking to the traditional platforms only, or having a crack at television.

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