A Closer Look: Hidden Histories
Seven authors look back at some of the “hidden histories” of the media arts movement over the last thirty years: reevaluating the role ofartists, collaborations, organizations and intentional media communities.
a closer look / hidden histories NAMAC 2005 2005 NATIONAL ALLIANCE FOR MEDIA ARTS & CULTURE The NaTioNal alliaNce for Media arTs aNd culTure (NaMac) is The NaTioNal service orgaNizaTioN for The Media arTs field. our MissioN is To: � strengthen the influence of media arts organizations, making them an integral part of their communities; � facilitate the support of independent media artists from all cultural communities and geographic regions; � ntegrate media into all levels of education and advocate for media literacy as an i educational goal; � promote socially responsible uses of and individual access to current and future media technologies; � encourage media arts that are rooted in local communities, as well as those that are global in outlook. NaMac fulfills the fundamental purpose of building and strengthening the field's infrastructure by providing services in the areas of organizational and leadership development, convening the field, research and policy, and encouraging public awareness of independent media. our programs include leadership institute training for media organization leaders; capacitybuilding grant assistance for organizational development; a biennial national conference and quarterly regional convenings which bring together independent media producing participants to share information, identify issues, and initiate projects aimed at advancing the field; current research and information sharing through our website, publications, quarterly reports and weekly electronic bulletins; and collaborative efforts with peer organizations to advocate for the interests of the media arts field in cultural and telecommunications policymaking. The Youth Media initiative gathers and disseminates research about youth media programs and practices nationwide. collectively, NaMac's members provide a wide range of services in support of independent media, including education, production, exhibition, distribution, collection-building, preservation, criticism, and general advocacy. our members include media arts centers, production facilities, university-based programs, community technology centers, museums, film festivals, media distributors, film archives, after-school programs, community access Tv stations, and individuals working in the field. combined, these organizations serve approximately 400,000 artists and other media professionals nationwide. The field's independent producers, who work outside the commercial telecommunications industry, offer americans a vital alternative to the mainstream media. NaMac's member organizations help them overcome tremendous barriers in order to bring personal visions and community-based perspectives to the media-watching public. NATIONAL ALLIANCE FOR MEDIA ARTS AND CULTURE 145 Ninth Street, Suite 250 San Francisco, California 94103 T. 415 431 1391 F. 415 431 1392 E. email@example.com W. www.namac.org Series Editor HELENDEMICHIEL Hidden Histories Co-Editor KATHYHIGH Supported by The WilliaM aNd flora heWleTT fouNdaTioN aNd The JohN d. aNd caTheriNe T. MacarThur fouNdaTioN This publication may not be reproduced without prior permission from NATIONAL ALLIANCE FOR MEDIA ARTS AND CULTURE 145 Ninth street, suite 250 san francisco, ca 94103 T. 415 431 1391 f. 415 431 1392 firstname.lastname@example.org � 2005 NaTioNal alliaNce for Media arTs aNd culTure isBN 0-9763403-0-5 A CLOSER LOOK annual media arts anthology series is supported by The William and flora hewlett foundation and The John d. and catherine T. Macarthur foundation. To order NaMac publications visit www.namac.org email email@example.com call 415.431.1391 Designed by NOON: www.designatnoon.com hiddeN hisTories CONTENTS 6 (RE)CONSIDER (RE)MIX (RE)FLOW Introduction helen de Michiel, series editor 12 A CYCLICAL MODEL OF HISTORY Introduction Kathy high, co-editor 18 LIvE! Reconnecting the Histories of Live Multimedia Performance Patricia r. zimmermann 32 FILM HISTORY AND "FILM HISTORY": Exhibition and American Academe--One Academic's Story scott Macdonald 42 SWAMP ROOTS: The Origins of Southwest Alternate Media Project and the Development of a Texas Film Community Mary M. lampe 54 SECRETS IN THE ARCHIvES: Hidden Stories, Necessary Releases Melinda stone, in conversation with andrew lampert and rick Prelinger 64 vISIONS AND HINDSIgHTS: Seattle's and/or Alternative Art Space 1974-1984 robin oppenheimer 74 RADICAL LEARNINg, RADICAL PERCEPTION: The History of the Experimental Television Center Kathy high, ralph hocking, and sherry Miller hocking 86 ELECTROCULTURES erika dalya Muhammad NAMAC | a closer looK 2005 (RE) INTRODUCTION CONSIDER MIX FLOW HELEN DE MICHIEL 1. WHEN I sit in meetings concerned with national media policy, global media reorganization, media reform, or intellectual property and copyright issues, or in briefings on technologies that promise to drive new terms of innovation, an expert will usually refer in passing to "content" and "content providers"--as if the creators of film, video, television, games, the Internet, or whatever motion media platform is being discussed can be neatly contained in a box and brought out only when needed to fill up the pipelines. People who create or support the work at the point closest to the ground and who give public meaning to its shapes are usually absent from these particular discussions, little known, less understood, and generally avoided in the context of these larger systemic issues. The language of the imagination and the articulation of how different groups of media creators (including artists, curators, programmers, funders, technologists, and writers) actively participate in shaping the media landscape are challenging to insert into dialogues where the task is to engineer a contingent yet useful sense of order around these large and unruly issues. NAMAC | a closer looK 2005 it is often at this point in a particular meeting that i start daydreaming about how i got there--why i was invited and what i have to offer--because i am a practitioner shaped by the media arts landscape both intimately on an experiential level and panoramically, on a social scale. i look through a lens that scans a field layered with new and old structures constantly being built from scratch and obsessively rebuilt by artists and tinkerers enthralled by the visual arts, sculpture, art criticism, political activism, cultural theory, music, performance, or theater and who carry their passions to the moving-image medium. i think about what i want to bring to these discussions--questions and examples about how creators, and the strategies they discover to reach audiences and sustain their work in public, are central to the biggest and seemingly most intractable questions of media change and upheaval we are now facing. The questions stem from a simple belief that change and innovation come from the margins, and in ways that are utterly unpredictable yet profoundly transformative, especially when they are reconsidered, remixed, and reflowed throughout new contexts of understanding. i recall what i know of the scattered histories of this outer "arts" region of the media world and its ephemeral, fleeting nature--almost invisible in our zeal to see what may come up in the next fifteen minutes of technological seduction. i always want to learn more and to know it from those who lived it, thought about it, and worked it, because from my point of view, the panorama of american media arts practice over the last thirty years is not yet understood fully or deeply. The effort to frame and connect this work--which can often feel both remote yet still contemporary-- into the larger picture of social- and cultural-change movements of the late twentieth century is only beginning to find new interest. i don't think we have yet begun to figure out the significance of the media arts in the greater movements for self-determination and access to tools and distribution systems. Many of these histories are still hidden or temporarily forgotten, with documents and media materials stashed in boxes, closets, and a warren of facilities or archives to which they have migrated. The actual media works may be trapped in co-dependency with aging viewing technologies that are getting harder and more costly to maintain. depending on your generation--even if you have cared to pay attention, excavate the archives, or talk with the artists whose work may be difficult to find for viewing--you may know mostly only little bits and pieces of these histories. how does this past still speak to us today? 2. When i asked Kathy high, artist, writer, teacher, and publisher of the video art journal Felix, to join me in co-organizing the 2005 edition of A Closer Look, we had been talking about clearing a space in which to reconsider artistic exploration as it unfolded among clusters of media makers who were (and still are) developing organizations and public spaces to facilitate the emergence of an alternative language of motion media, a language that would prove to have a quickly evolving array of dialects and idioms, forms and approaches. it would be a process of reconsideration that seemed right for this moment as media breaks out from its traditional presentation formats and moves into iPods, mobile phones, and other emerging technologies and screening venues. for this issue, which marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of NaMac as a national organization serving the media arts field, we put out a call to our members and supporters to write about collectives, communities, and collaborations that embody the spirit of a movement that has gained energy from--and always existed in a key dialogue with--issues of race and identity, marks of regionality, processes of tool exploration and the forms these tools trigger, and the artifacts of mediated communication scattered throughout the environments we inhabit. historically, the spirit of the media arts has been to push back, to question, to ask the tough questions, to chip away at the rules that say something can't be done, and to make work or hiddeN hisTories construct processes while the critical investigation is going on. although it comes at a great price, that is why independents choose to be independents, working alone or in small collaboratives, in nonprofits, or in academic environments where they can be free to succeed or fail on their own terms. The media arts flourish and gain traction where there has been hospitality from an enthusiastic base of funders and audiences. These two important vectors of the scene are by no means stable and have been coming and going since the field acquired a name for itself in the 1970s. With generous (by today's standards) local, state, and national funding, along with foundations willing to commit resources to advance media organizations that were incubating new works and new programs, a burgeoning energy magnetized in the 1970s and 80s around nonprofit media arts centers, community exhibition programs, and distribution entities. Boundaries between groups, institutions, and venues were permeable as they were in the process of being defined, and experiments in organizational structures as well as media-making practices exploded. With more funding available, artists were able to tour, present their work on a rapidly developing circuit, and create new pieces in multiple locations, both nationally and internationally. it was not always necessary for adventurous artists to confine themselves to one genre. in the 1980s, Bill viola's single-channel video works were distributed through electronic arts intermix to non-theatrical buyers, his work was broadcast on the PBs series Alive From Off Center, and he was creating site-specific video installations in museums. Today, platforms, niches, and defining disciplines are solidifying, and compartments are neatly erected. since the traditional sources of arts funding, beginning in the 1990s, have turned elsewhere, the nonprofit media arts sector is in the midst of a period of broad redefinition and restructuring. and as technologies, viewing platforms, and virtual networks evolve at ridiculous speeds, and generational, political, and cultural identities churn in categoric flux, media makers, too, are being forced to choose to work in specific genres: are you a documentarian or an indie narrative filmmaker? are you positioning yourself in the rarified world of the museum's white cube to be an installation video artist? does you work exist only online, or in digital conference presentations? are you okay with a small but devoted influential audience, or are you still hoping for a large public to see your work exhibited on a big screen, or broadcast and in eternal dvd release? and how will you be able to support your media-related activities and make work over the long term? The articles we have chosen to include here cannot, by any means, represent a comprehensive view of the range of histories of the media arts field. They are simply what we have today--an eclectic grouping of voices, passions, and concerns. The authors open up a field of inquiry for a new generation that may know very little about the organizations, times, and artists profiled, and they delve into perspectives about these subjects that only the long view backward can offer. By mapping these activities from a twenty-first-century perspective, they point toward the work that still needs to be done on other histories and chronicles that are missing from our collective body of knowledge. We realized that the histories of the media arts are not easily explained in linear fashion. They are slippery, ephemeral, messy, multicultural, hybrid, and three-dimensional--layers upon layers that may touch one another at moments but that also remain discretely separate or related to other creative or technological disciplines. What makes this collection unusual is that the essays are written by individuals who, as artists, organizational directors, scholars, and programmers, are directly participating in the field as it is developing today, and who have a stake in seeing it expand its centrality in the culture at large. it is thinking from the inside out, rather than the other way around. NAMAC | a closer looK 2005 3. Reconsider, remix, reflow from the past into the future. The thread that runs through the subjects of all these essays is that of creating dynamic communities and making welcoming places where the artist can be emboldened to try out new ideas or new processes and to break out of the rigid patterns of conventional media storytelling structures. reconsider, remix, reflow from the past into the future. The thread that runs through the subjects of all these essays is that of creating dynamic communities and making welcoming places where the artist can be emboldened to try out new ideas or new processes and to break out of the rigid patterns of conventional media storytelling structures. from explorations in self-expression to political message-making in these stories, we see the beginnings of participatory media interactivity. Whenever tools have become available, artists have flocked to try them out, creating a back-and-forth or give-and-take in which the artist refines the tool and, in turn, the medium opens up an increasing range of expressive or storytelling possibilities. The past is full of materials and questions still unresolved, especially as relates to older practices that shade the work of today. from an alternative perspective, these histories set the stage for thinking about how media can open up a liberating dialogue: for the individual artist herself, with the tools and artifacts of creation, and for the community of creators and the public seeing and responding to the work. ultimately, these histories open onto the question of how the whole process transforms society and culture in a larger way. When Patricia zimmermann looks at the wide historical range of multimedia performance, she takes us from the beginnings of cinema to the farthest new frontiers of locative media experiments, tracing how programmers and artists are continually mining the archives to break down the barriers erected by participants, by tools, and by the screens that either isolate us or bring us together in shared communal experience. scott Macdonald considers his cinematic coming-of-age in a memoir that confronts the challenges of the present. What is the role of the film historian in developing new publics for the classic works of "critical cinema," and how can that work be kept alive for new generations? The role of regional media organizations as mediators and incubators between artists and the public is explored by Mary lampe in her chronicle of the unusual history of the southwest alternate Media Project in houston, its visionary founders, and the exchanges that occurred as cinephilia took root and opened out into the Texas landscape. robin oppenheimer brings back to life seattle's multidisciplinary art space and/or (1974�84), a fluid and influential environment that reveled in experimentation and ephemerality and that still offers a vital legacy for current alternative multimedia arts practices. ralph hocking, sherry hocking, and Kathy high reconsider the history of the experimental Television center in owego, New York. eTc nurtured the beginnings of video art and should be considered one of the original `open source' environments in which artists, technologists, engineers, and researchers were able to come together to explore, share, and learn about tools and processes in a friendly, laboratory-like space dedicated to freedom of artistic expression and unswervingly committed to "processing and processes." in a roundtable e-mail discussion, Melinda stone, andrew lampert, and rick Prelinger investigate the role of the secret archive in encouraging the ongoing public relevance of works and in sparking the rediscovery of hidden materials by new viewers. What power does "lost film" have? "access is our highest calling as archivists," says rick Prelinger. But what are the tensions and balancing acts that arise between hiding films for preservation and collection purposes, on the one hand, and opening them up to access for the public to rediscover and enjoy or for media makers to use for remix? erika dalya Muhammad opens up vast new terrains of inquiry when she traces "electrocultures," the underecognized lineages of artists of color who continue to reshape digital culture and ideas of race, gender, and multiculturism as they converge in hip-hop practice and cut-and-mix culture. 10 hiddeN hisTories it is an expansive landscape that moves freely and expressively from new digital exhibition and performance spaces to virtual online worlds that touch and play with the tropes of current popular culture, reasserting, again, for a new generation the idea of visual media as a process rather than an object or product. These histories are strong reminders that uncertainty and unpredictability are part of the effort of making media that communicates to others while often mysteriously harnessing moments of collective expression and consciousness. The force fields surrounding the subjects these authors tackle may have changed over the years, but the questions they amplify re-emerge in new ways as the generations overlap and eventually overcome one another. in organizing this issue of A Closer Look, we hope to trigger a multi-generational transmission of ideas, to examine the exchange of lineages and patterns of practice that, when re-interpreted, have newfound significance for the concerns we face now, both as makers and as organizations. and we want these transmissions to continue, deepening back and forth as we try to help the multiple histories of this field to be told, debated, and reconsidered. NAMAC | a closer looK 2005 11 INTRODUCTION ACYCLICALMODELOFHISTORY KATHY HIgH 12 hiddeN hisTories LIBERTATIA was a (possibly fictional) pirate community formed in the late 1600s by a Captain Mission, in Madagascar. There the pirates constructed "a purely socialist society in which private property is abolished and all wealth held in a common treasury." There was even a new language, "a m�lange of French, English, Dutch, Portuguese." This renegade culture, developed as a haven for "outlaws," included a mix of races, both exiles and natives, creating a cross-cultural community that was non-hierarchical, egalitarian, and idealist--as Peter Lamborn Wilson described it, "a pirate utopia."1 In introducing the texts of Hidden Histories, I would like to embrace this utopian idea of pirate renegades creating intentional communities and controlling the conditions by which they live and extend it to those revolutionary moments in our own media arts histories as models of what Hakim Bey has called "temporary autonomous zones"-- places and moments in which radical actions and creation occur outside of the constrictions of societal norms and cultural controls.2 These are zones in which pirate media renegades can create, invent, and incubate in the space of a generative moment. NAMAC | a closer looK 2005 13 i don't think things happen by accident. i settled in New York state and have lived here for thirty-four years, since i was seventeen years old. i thought i was following the money--New York has been one of the only states that has actively funded the arts since the beginning of the sixties. in 1961, the New York state legislature created the New York state council on the arts. in 1969, the NYsca film Program became the film and Television Program and began accepting applications for electronic media projects. But there was something else that attracted me to the state: upstate New York has a rich history of intentional communities, utopian pursuits of collective effort that have risen and fallen over time and given birth to many remarkable instances of creativity. in the nineteenth century utopian moments occurred in oneida with the Perfectionist community, in New lebanon and albany with the shakers, near Buffalo with the lilydale assembly spiritualist community. There was also the first major women's rights conference, held at the seneca falls convention in 1848. There, elizabeth cady stanton and lucretia Mott presented the declaration of sentiments and resolutions (modeled after the american declaration of independence), proclaiming the need for the equality of women with men and calling for the first time for women's right to vote. fast forward about one hundred years, where in upstate New York the first museum program of video art was established at the everson Museum, in syracuse (begun by david ross in 1971 and continued by richard simmons), one of the first video synthesizer design sites was launched at the experimental Television center (run by ralph hocking with dave Jones), the first university program devoted to combined practice and theory of media arts was initiated at the center for Media study and Media study/Buffalo, and radical video collectives began to operate in the state, like the videofreex. These energetic, temporary autonomous zones also have been marked by a rich history and by the rise and fall of bursts of creative energy emerging from utopian ideals. The reader will forgive my musings and meanderings here, for i am sure similar historical tracings can be found in many other places throughout the country. But these New York communities serve as a useful example of the kinds of historical connections that exist among the various experimental utopian moments the united states has seen: during middle of the nineteenth century, during the great depression in the 1930s, and during the 1960s and 1970s. i am interested here in the generative moments that lie behind these communities, the similarities between "mediums," and their ultimate goals. i mention energy as one of the hallmarks of these moments since we are dealing with electronic media and sound waves, and with transmissions between periods in history and among generations. oneida `s Perfectionist community was founded by John humphrey Noyes in 1848. Noyes believed that "man [was] able to live without sin in his life if he [was] in the perfect environment," and he tried to establish that perfect environment in one of the most successful utopian communes in history. for approximately thirty years, the Perfectionists lived in a gigantic group union--what Noyes called a "complex marriage"--in which all men were to be married to all women. This form of free love (which included more than two hundred people at the end) was intended to promote love and loyalty to the group and the sharing of property, exchanging the small home, nuclear family, and individual possessions in favor of the larger unit of group-family life.3 in 1879 the community abandoned its original ideals and Noyes fled to canada. it was in 1848 as well that the spritualism movement was founded in rochester, where the fox sisters were in communication with spirits. The lilydale assembly, a separatist spiritualist community, was founded in 1879 near elmira, just south of Buffalo. This intentional community, formed as a radical branch of the Quakers, is known for communicating with the dead, acting as mediums, and channeling such things as medical diagnoses, political speeches, and diatribes against slavery while in a hypnotic trance. spiritualists were often criticized for practicing "free love" and supporting both progressive women's rights and abolitionist teachings. in the close connection between mysticism and social idealism, they explored radical religious and social reform. The 1 hiddeN hisTories first woman who ran for u.s. President was in fact a spritualist; victoria Woodhull declared her candidacy in 1871, forming a new political party, the "People's convention," and was nominated in Troy, New York, by suffragists, socialists, and spritualists. (Many women at that time spoke publicly for the first time by channeling male historic figures.) 4 historian robert hine defined a utopian colony as consisting of: "... a group of people who are attempting to establish a new social pattern based upon a vision of the ideal society and who have withdrawn themselves from the community at large to embody which vision in experimental form. The purpose is usually to create a model that other colonies and eventually mankind in general will follow." 5 from Perfectionist communities to video collectives, these groups emerge, as hakim Bey wrote, as separated revolutionary clusters, which are temporary. That is to say, they come and go. There is a flaring of energy, a power surge, and then they fizzle out. during these revolutionary moments, when uprisings occur and new alliances are formed, new extended families are created. and when people come together because of similar psychic needs and interests there is also the creation of a place where productive learning occurs, invention is encouraged, and new languages arise. Many such examples of media arts groups existed in this upstate area--perhaps feeding off the energies and histories of these radical intentional communities. Media study/Buffalo was founded in 1972 by gerald o'grady, coexisting with its educational counterpart, the center for Media study at the state university of New York at Buffalo. here, media artists practiced their art and theory together, sharing resources, crossing disciplines, trading media skills. o'grady embraced the need for what he called "mediacy," or a form of media literacy. "it's a political issue: one cannot participate in society unless one can use the channels or codes of communication that are current in the time that one lives."6 o'grady brought together some of the leading media practitioners of his time, including filmmakers hollis frampton, Paul sharits, Tony conrad, and James Blue, and video artists Woody and steina vasulka. There were also various New York city video collectives that fled upstate in New York to create a more utopian situation. Paul ryan of the raindance corporation moved to New Paltz in 1971, and in 1973 conceived of a utopian community of ecological videomakers called earthscore: The idea was to configure an intentional community of thirty-six videomakers. each videomaker was to be part of three different triads. The first triad was to care for its members, the second to take care of the business of supporting a community, and the third to produce video interpretations of ecological systems. My intuition was that if self-correcting teams of three people could be stabilized, a leaderless, thriving community could be stabilized. ...i wanted to start a non-celibate, aesthetic order capable of interpreting ecological systems with video that would be as sturdy and long lasting as 7 the ascetic order of the monastic tradition i had experienced. The videofreex likewise moved from New York city to lanesville, New York, in the catskills, to form a video community in 1971.8 This group was involved with shooting videotapes of countercultural events, teaching technology, and creating video tools. They published The Spaghetti City Video Manual, which served as a training guide and illustrated the workings of the guts of vcr equipment. They operated an editing room for the use of artists and video producers and founded a tiny pirate broadcast Tv station, lanesville Tv. This group of radical activists, who documented events such as the antiwar movement, Woodstock, the chicago 7, and the Black Panthers, worked together until the late 1970s, when they dispersed. These "intentional media communities" formed in the 1960s and 1970s along with other media arts organizations across New York state. They involved media arts practices that were unstratified and non-hierarchical, and followed nineteenth-century utopian tenets regarding the egalitarian NAMAC | a closer looK 2005 1 It is important for us to explore and share these histories, in tandem with the people who lived them, so that we might understand a bit more about the contexts that give rise to these kinds of creative events. This project with NAMAC is only the beginning. There are histories and stories that need to be collected now that will help to define and diversify the history of media art. distribution of goods and conducting work one enjoys while contributing to the good of the community, emphasizing individualism and creativity and often practicing open sexual expression. all were examples of those synergistic moments that allow for the creation of small groups of people who want to work together to make new communities, new alliances. it is an impulse that has continued to transmute into new projects such as diY, residency programs, communal laboratories, collectives, participatory Web networks, and other utopian media ventures. it is important for us to explore and share these histories, in tandem with the people who lived them, so that we might understand a bit more about the contexts that give rise to these kinds of creative events. This project with NaMac is only the beginning. There are histories and stories that need to be collected now that will help to define and diversify the history of media art. There are many more recent histories that also need to be mined. at a recent conference held at Banff, called Refresh!, it became obvious that the history of new media art has not been a common one: there is no one through-line, no single track. Because of the multiplicity of contributors and technologies (factors that continue to grow) and the broad definition of terms like "new media," no summary has been made at this point. at the end of the 1980s, with the end of the cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall, the bilinear Western history as we know it came crashing down as well. We need to create a new understanding of our histories with many entry points, and with an eye to the renegades and "pirate utopias" that operated within them. i thank helen de Michiel for shepherding through this volume of Hidden Histories and for her vision in leading NaMac, which i hope will continue to expand this kind of historical work in the future. NOTES: 1. Peter Lamborn Wilson, Pirate Utopias: Moorish Corsairs and European Renegadoes (Brooklyn, N.Y.: Autonomedia, 1995). 2. Hakim Bey, T.A.Z: The. Temporary Autonomous Zone, Onotological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism, 2nd ed. (Brooklyn, N.Y.: Autonomedia, 2003). 3. See http://www.rouncefield.homestead.com/files/as_soc_family_27.htm. 4. See Ann Braude, Radical Spirits: Spiritualism and Women's Rights in Nineteenth-Century America (Boston: Beacon Press, 1989). 5. Robert V. Hine (1953), quoted in George L. Hicks, "Utopian Problems and Explanations," http://www.press.uillinois.edu/epub/books/hicks/ch2.html. 6. O'Grady quoted in Karen Mooney, "Gerald O'Grady: The Perspective from Buffalo," Videoscope 1, no. 2 (1977). http://www.experimentaltvcenter.org/history/people/ptext.php3?id=66. 7. Paul Ryan, Video Journey Through Utopia, http://220.127.116.11/videojourneythroughutopa.html 8. The Videofreex consisted of Skip Blumberg, Nancy Cain, David Cort, Bart Friedman, Davidson Gigliotti, Chuck Kennedy, Mary Curtis Ratcliff, Parry Teasdale, Carol Vontobel, and Ann Woodward. See Davidson Gigliotti, "Video History Project," http://18.104.22.168/index.html. 16 hiddeN hisTories NAMAC | a closer looK 2005 1 LIvE! reconnecting the histories of live Multimedia Performance PATRICIA R. ZIMMERMANN Tony Conrad in performance with his violin. Courtesy: Tony Conrad. THE materiality of the archive--texts, artifacts, and documents-- drives film and media history, as evidentiary traces of the past become quilted together to form patterns, connections, explanations. For professional academic historians, archival records are never complete nor totalized. Archival absences--not enough early cinema saved, amateur films waiting to be recovered--often loom larger than the subject of study itself. Lost films, deteriorating images, abandoned records, and silences mark our media arts histories. The political urgency of the archive can be mapped in these gaps and fissures: the structuring out of the marginal and the inchoate, the chaotic and the untameable, practices that refuse the rules and therefore reveal the most about the disruptions of historical processes.1 Over the last twenty years, the history of film and media (often referred to as the "new film history") has moved from the analysis of existing evidence to the recovery of lost archival objects and categories that expand the archive and rethink what it privileges and marginalizes. The past is never inert nor nostalgic but always interacts with the present and the future, looking backward and forward simultaneously in endless recombinations and mutations. The questions we ask of history should not be reduced to what happened when; rather, the past demands questions of how and why: questions of significance, not linear progression and causality. Contemporary historiographic theory rejects the idea of the causal chain and instead has adopted the notion of the collage, where different temporalities and categories of evidence are remixed into new combinations to provoke new explanatory models and new connections.2 NAMAC | a closer looK 2005 1 The image centers all of this historical work, defining the contours and scope of media histories. live multimedia performance, in this context, presents a complex historiographic problem because it is not located solely in the realm of the image. first, it is largely absent from most film and media histories, most likely because it is ephemeral, fleeting, rarely documented--an archival impossibility. second, its multiple artistic and political practices are dispersed across and then folded into histories defined by somewhat more unified fields, such as fine art, theater, performance art, avant-garde cinema, video art, contemporary experimental music, hip hop, digital media. Third, it presents a spatialized and environmental rather than a time-based practice, a different set of historiographic locations and concerns defined more by participant ethnographies and oral histories rather than archival documents, artifacts, and texts. These historiographic conundrums and unified categories have perhaps in some ways contributed to the absence of live multimedia performance from our histories of media. or maybe our histories of media have focused too much on fixed textual practices and documents, thereby overlooking a range of performative political interventions that figure mediation as fluid, moving, malleable interactions with audiences and performers.3 a preliminary excavation into live multimedia performance has the possibility to shift the ground of media histories from the image to constructed, interactive environments and infiltration of different spaces that emphasize not individual artistry but collaboration.4 in a period in which people feel isolated from one another and in which media have become both miniaturized and domesticated in the home, the hidden history of live multimedia performance provides a way to rethink media tactics. as an immersive experience based on conceptual ideas and pleasure, the multiplication of formats, images, music, and interfaces to create new social spaces moves our thinking about media away from the image alone. as the dominant commercialized practices of the digital disembody, isolate, disconnect, and desensitize, the layered histories of live multimedia performance suggest that gatherings of people are still important, that total immersive experiences predate the internet, and that embodied, sensual interaction is part of politics. it is a history that repositions media history from documents and images to spaces and environments. As an immersive experience based on conceptual ideas and pleasure, the multiplication of formats, images, music, and interfaces to create new social spaces moves our thinking about media away from the image alone. CONvERgENCES "When you do live media events, it's all about convergence," explains anne Bray, executive director of l.a. freewaves. "however, this is not convergence defined by technologies but by live bodies in real space. You need three elements for success: food and drink, a live element with media, and programming where people know there will be lots of people to talk to." it's a brave new world where distinctions between production, distribution, exhibition, technologies, performers, and audience are obliterated. so are permanency and old ways of thinking about cinema or media as a fixed, inert object on a flat screen. in the history of live multimedia performance, important figures like laurie anderson and steina vasulka loom as major deities. however, they represent only the tip of the iceberg of a sprawling, historically significant area of media practice that rethinks how to configure relationships between images, music, technologies, spaces, and people. Bray, herself an artist who has organized and curated programs for l.a. freewaves since 1989, is a maverick in an expanding group of curators, media artists, film historians, musicians, festival directors, and archivists who are moving beyond the fixed image on the flat screen with an immobilized audience into live multimedia performances. 20 hiddeN hisTories These multimedia performances with music are mobile, fluid, multiple, interactive, and embodied. and audiences are packing theaters, bars, buses, galleries, concert halls, streets, public spaces, and the internet in numbers that often exceed those that obtain for traditional sit-in-theaterwatch-the-screen exhibition. live multimedia performance has a long, multilayered history that has nonetheless evaded most histories of media art. "There's been a big change in curatorial circles in the 1990s," observes long-time live performance media artist, composer, and violinist Tony conrad, a veteran of both fluxus and happenings in the 1960s and 1970s. "social action and the margins of art practice are infiltrating the galleries, with utopian concepts of networking." live multimedia performance, in fact, has a long legacy of radical political engagement in recharging social spaces. in the 1920s in europe, dada and surrealist artists deployed live performance with film and music to disrupt bourgeois romantic conventions. dadists in the teens explored nonmatrixed performing with lectures, readings, sound poems, and dances, often bringing everyday life onto the stage. surrealists like Bu�uel and dali screened Un Chien Andalou (1929) using a phonograph to play tango recordings--with the needle dropped randomly onto the record. in the last ten years, according to vJ-dJ-digital artist art Jones, a former member of Not channel zero, a collective of african american and latino political media activists, live remixes constitute "perhaps one of the only areas not coopted by the commercial media." for Jones, live remix performances tap into a general cultural malaise of isolation, which fuels a craving for fun and direct, pleasurable social interaction. "live remixes are deployed in the service of topical ideas like the war in iraq and the presidential election, delivering politics to larger social activities and gatherings," Jones says. he further notes that live performance inverts how the field conceptualizes political media: rather than making a topical film and then working to attract an audience to receive the message, artists and collectives instead are taking work to the audiences and responding to them--live. ARCHIvES a Japanese woman benshi enacts vocal contortions in a kimono. a pianist plays loud atonal music mixed with glissandos, then veers into romantic, melodramatic strains. at another microphone on stage, a male narrator with a radio-groomed voice explains the projection and live performances of silent film before the coming of sound. another woman, in a black dress and white face, ventriloquizes all the characters in the film in rapid-fire succession, changing pitch and tone--in spanish. on a screen suspended on stage behind these performers, El Automotival Gris, a 1915 Mexican serial reedited into a disjointed feature in the 1930s, is projected. according to film programmer Jesse lerner, it represents one of the few surviving films from the Mexican silent cinema. Based on a real case during the Mexican revolution, the film portrays how criminals exploited a general state of anarchy and acquired army uniforms. They then posed as officers, tied up civilians, and stole jewels. disruptive subtitles and intertitles presenting the words "meow meow," "woof woof," and "bow wow" in a variety of fonts are superimposed over a fight scene. later, musical notes roll across the bottom of the screen under the action, with live singing from the women at the microphones. during a chicken-fight scene, the three performers vocalize abstract sounds, and the pianist plucks the inside strings of the piano. during the execution scene, a piece of actuality rather than narrative, the performers remain silent. it's the closing night of the 2005 flaherty film seminar. and after a week of watching more traditional documentary fare from around the world on the flat screen, the performance of the Teatro de ciertos habitantes troupe unsettles the flaherty stalwarts. some love the audacity of the performance for its multicultural remix in three languages. others find the performance NAMAC | a closer looK 2005 21 unresolved and at loose ends. at the makeshift bar in the claremont college dorm, most people down Merlot in red plastic beer cups, arguing about the politics of reactivating archival film. internationally, thanks to the labor-intensive work of film historians who are debunking myths about silent film through primary research, silent film has entered into what can only be called a resurgence. film archives doing restorations are getting the work out to the public at festivals and museums. "The job of a film archive is to take old film and make it new," argues Jan-christopher horak, curator at the hollywood entertainment Museum in los angeles. festivals ranging from the famed Pordenone silent film festival in italy to the Telluride film festival to the virginia film festival feature silent film restorations with live music. "This phenomenon of the popularity of silent archival film with live music is related to the fact that the archives have been doing restorations. We now have good quality material. in the 1970s, you would see a bad-looking 35mm or 16mm print. Now with preservation work, the image quality is also very high," explains horak. "What people like about it is the performance aspect--it brings a different quality to a screening. With a full orchestra or a small ensemble or a pianist improvising, every performance is different," horak continues. "The live performance gives viewing the archival film an immediacy you don't get otherwise. so many media experiences are mediated; live performance with archival material makes it much more direct and personal." horak contends that the one-time-only spectacle of silent film with live music provides a direct and unique experience with enormous payoffs for archives, which he sees as the driving forces behind these performances. Through these exhibitions, archives can demonstrate outreach and impact for restoration projects, which helps to secure future funding for lesser-known works. ensembles specializing in live silent film music, like the alloy orchestra, with its new scores for classics such as Man with a Movie Camera, Metropolis, and Keaton films, and club foot orchestra, with its work on Nosferatu, demonstrate how contemporary music can galvanize an audience to interact with archival films from another era, rearticulating the past of the artifact with the contemporary present of the music. alloy orchestra's pounding, loud, and multilayered percussion, for example, augments the relationship between machines and constructivist art in Man with a Movie Camera. however, in the often contentious and volatile circles of academic film history and film archives, contemporary scores frequently generate controversy between those who argue for an authentic past and those who see the present and the past in a dialectic. some scholars and archivists contend live performance should replicate the original performance, using only music from the periods of the films. horak, however, himself a well-known film historian and founding editor of The Moving Image, the journal of the association of Moving image archivists, engages a more generous and heterogeneous position. "To say you have to do it as 1924 is somewhat problematic. We don't live in 1924. You cannot reproduce the act of reception of 1924. The technology is different: we are no longer using a carbon-arc, hand-cranked projection, no longer using nitrate, so there is much less silver. The whole physicality of cinema is no longer 1924, so why not change the music too? film is a living thing, and film reception is living too," he argues. rick altman, one of the visionary and groundbreaking scholars of film sound studies, concurs. he points out that with the new accompaniments of live music, archival film "feels alive." his monumentally detailed and important Silent Film Sound exposes the heterogeneity of early cinema sound practices, which were dependent on the historical time period, technology, region, and venue. after spending nearly a decade researching silent film in obscure trade journals, catalogs, and local newspapers, altman harbors a pet peeve about live musical performances with archival film performances that promote their authenticity: they are often not historically accurate. Pianists frequently use music from the late teens and 1920s to accompany films from an earlier period. spurred by his work in primary sources that are often ignored by film scholars, altman formed his own early cinema performance troupe, The living Nickelodeon, in 1998, with film studies colleagues 22 hiddeN hisTories from the university of iowa. The living Nickelodeon brings pre-feature-film experiences to audiences through live performances. early exhibition extensively used the illustrated song slide, projected lantern slides that used images for each line in a song.5 The film was often not the main attraction and was frequently shown silent. Ballyhoo, the sounds used to lure audiences into theaters, was frequently presented outside the theater or in the back of the house. altman explains that the pianist was often hired to accompany the soprano for the song slides-- not for the film. With shows at the art institute of chicago, the Museum of Modern art in New York, the Bologna film festival, and the louvre in Paris, where audiences robustly sing along, The living Nickelodeon has one purpose according to altman: "We want to show things going on that historians have ignored--the participatory nature of early cinema. our audiences say they never truly understood the period before our performances." The Madcat Women's festival has adopted a strategy somewhat opposite to altman's, opting to reinvigorate neglected works of silent cinema with new music. for the past two years, curator ariella Ben-dov has programmed the work of early women silent film directors like cleo Madison, lois Weber, and alice guy-Blach�--often ignored in film history tomes--with contemporary alternative instrumental music, using bands like The secrets of family happiness. Ben-dov points out that she never uses just a piano or a string quartet but instead hires bands from san francisco who will create scores that propel the viewer to "look at the films in new ways." for Ben-dov, the experiential immediacy of the live music paired with early women's cinema merges two different audiences-- one from film, one from music. A scene from the MadCat Women's Festival. Courtesy: Ariella Ben-Dov. Yet film historians and film archives frame only one side of the story of live performance and archival film. electronic composers like Paul lehrman often drive historical reclamation projects in surprising ways, uncovering lost histories by excavating first through music rather than through the images alone. Bruce Posner, who curated the Unseen Cinema project on early experimental film, approached lerhman about working on the music for fernand l�ger's Ballet m�canique (1924), one of the canonical films of avant-garde film history. george antheil, an american-expat futurist composer living in Paris in the 1920s and influenced by schoenberg, had created a score that was never performed with the original film. according to lehrman, the antheil score is a "relentless piece of visual and aural assault," entailing up to sixteen player pianos, percussion, and piano, with more than 632 time changes. "it's a monstrous noise engine, and very difficult for a conductor to keep under control," he notes. "it's really a large machine piece, using player pianos, xylophones, bass drums for making machine, rather than melodic sounds." lehrman's new score, compiled on a Midi file running the player pianos from standard sequencers, has been performed live with Ballet m�canique nearly a dozen times internationally. even though many wrap their hands over their ears during the performance, NAMAC | a closer looK 2005 23 "the audience always goes nuts," observes lehrman. The performance engulfs the spectator in loud, physicalized percussive sounds that penetrate the body and provoke new readings of the original film as aggressive, pounding montage. FLUXUS, HAPPENINgS, EXPANDED CINEMA, AND LIvE vIDEO "in the 1960s, artists and performers went for what is simple," muses media artist Tony conrad. Two kinds of live media performance co-existed during this period: one broadly defined by the aesthetics of a movement like fluxus, dedicated to a post�John cage demolition of the role of the individual artist and heavily embedded in the principles of what would later become conceptual art, and the other clustered around the aesthetics of multimedia happenings, embracing what conrad calls a "wholistic scene," where style, gay sexuality, exotics, socialist politics, and improvisation created a bawdy heterogeneity. conrad traveled between both poles, participating in fluxus live performance events with minimalist musicians like la Monte Young and collaborating with visually excessive filmmakers like Jack smith. even andy Warhol, although not himself associated with 6 fluxus or happenings, merged both styles of performance in films like Empire and Chelsea Girls. according to conrad, both fluxus and happenings, although they sometimes deployed media with live musical performances, operated outside the media community and were more closely allied to the formal art scene. one was apollonian, the other dionysian. conrad cites underground events that emerged from these movements, such as andy Warhol's "exploding Plastic inevitable" with the velvet underground, and the live multimedia performance light shows in san francisco, which used liquid projections made by pouring oil on projector screens, strobe lights, slides, and a variety of projection techniques at performances and events. in his 1972 live performance piece Ten Years Alive on the Infinite Plain, conrad presented four projections showing six frames of an image--three frames oriented vertically and the next in negative, creating flicker. he played live microtonal music during the performance on his amplified violin, building complexity out of simplicity with sustained, minimal music. Younger curators have been particularly attracted to reviving this piece, drawn to its minimalist aesthetic and improvisational performance style. it will screen in dortmund, germany, and dundee, scotland, this year. Practices of expanded cinema--a term immortalized by gene Youngblood in his 1970 book of the same name-- have also been revived in the last decade. expanded cinema performances, unlike those of fluxus, which typically juxtaposed minimalism with the quotidian, probed the interstitial areas between new technologies, mixing different forms of sound and image together and exploring meta-imagery. as outlined by Youngblood, such intermedia (another term used to describe expanded cinema) engaged a different set of temporal and spatial coordinates than those employed by traditional film on a wall. emerging out of shadow shows, expositions, and experimental theater practices, it foregrounded sensory stimulation, multiple projections, and communal experiences. rather than focusing exclusively on the image, it explored and experimented with creating new environments for images. intermedia also identified interdisciplinary artistic practices that combined art forms and genres, such as film and theater.7 experimental filmmaker Ken Jacobs's various Nervous System projects, produced from the mid-1970s on, for example, revive materials and technologies from the early cinema era and manipulate the image through projection, slowing it down, speeding it up, stalling it, repeating images. The connection between contemporary live vJ remixing (discussed later in this essay) and expanded cinema is more than conjecture: it's a historical trajectory that scholars are only beginning to understand as a complex, fluid environment of media practice. "Younger curators and programmers have a renewed interest in expanded cinema," says conrad. "a whole new generation is interested in what it means to loosen up the relationships between 2 hiddeN hisTories sound and image, to play improvisationally with the image in new ways." The flat-on-the-wall, screening-room form of exhibition, where the image is fixed and immutable, has given way to multiple screens, live manipulation of images and sound, and endless spatial variations in clubs, galleries, plasma screens, lobbies. and the notion of a spectator immobilized in a seat facing the screen has transposed into an embodied spectator who is moving, interacting, and even talking. conrad contends that the hidden histories of live multimedia performance in the 1960s provide models, inspiration, and motivation for a new generation of multimedia performance artists to "blow out the stoppages and differentiations between different media and fields." for conrad, "boundaries are some of the most obvious things to whack away at." in the context of this reemergence of live multimedia performance, whacking away at boundaries has materialized in concrete ways, where new concerns emerge beyond the formal elements of the image: the reinvention of the space of exhibition, the relationship of the spectators to the screens, the embodiment of performer and spectator, and the ephemeral nature of the practice. live multimedia performance was not, however, the exclusive domain of men with machines in the 1960s and early 1970s. filmmaker shirley clarke formed the "Tee Pee video space Troupe," which included dee dee halleck, david cort, Perry Teasdale, skip Blumberg, Wendy clarke, and even agnes varda in the early 1970s at the chelsea hotel, in New York. "it was like a think tank to play with live video as a form of performance," recalls halleck, who asserts that her experience with collaborative live video performances had a direct influence on the formation of Paper Tiger Television in the early 1980s. clarke, known in film history circles for her historically important films The Connection (1961), The Cool World (1963), and Portrait of Jason (1967), is often positioned as a filmmaker who was critical of the supposed transparency of cin�ma v�rit�. her experiments with live performance are less recognized, although they have been influential in video and independent media history. clarke saw in video technology possibilities not offered by film: instant feedback, interactivity, performativity, collective action, and group bonding. "she was trying to push the tech to the edge," remembers halleck. "it never worked, it was always populist, and the ideas were exciting. shirley called it her playpen--video was to be played with like a game." for clarke, video technology functioned as a nodal point around which to create new kinds of artistic communal practices that were embodied and live. clarke experimented with rethinking the means of production through technology, deploying video as a sketchbook, a social activator, and a conjuring device for group interaction. halleck notes that clarke, trained as a dancer, envisioned her group of video performers as merging individual artistic expression (the traditional domain of the fine arts) with social interaction (the domain of performance and social-activist work). This experiment in mixing two different artistic modalities through the interface of live video sometimes worked, sometimes failed, but was always about group dynamics and interaction. for example, one day the troupe shot various images of dawn in New York city: stoplights, birds, gates, stores opening. When they returned from their individual shoots, the participants stacked video monitors on the roof of the chelsea hotel. They played back their various tapes on these monitors, with the sunrise over New York city as the backdrop. clarke created a bonding ritual by connecting the work of individual artists through the multiple monitors. she also supplied mimosas for the group members to drink as they watched their pieces resonate and reverberate with one another. EXPERIMENTAL TELEvISION CENTER: EPICENTER OF LIvE The experimental fusion of new technologies, collaborative work, performance, and real-time mediated imaging form the core of the history of live performance multimedia. The experimental Television center in owego, New York, founded in 1971 by ralph hocking as an outgrowth of his NAMAC | a closer looK 2005 2 Binghamton university�based media access center, has functioned as one of the epicenters for the germination of live video performance. "Performance-based works were some of the earliest media art created at the center with the image-processing tools we made available through the residency Program," explains sherry Miller hocking, assistant director of eTc. Woodstock community video, in upstate New York, presented the first Woodstock video expovision over a five-day period in august 1975. screening tapes by fifty video makers from across New York state, it featured a video synthesizer demonstration, an electronic-media performance with dance, a video environment by Media Bus, and a panel discussion with gerd stern of intermedia systems, Barbara london of the Museum of Modern art, and John godfrey of WNeT's experimental Tv lab. Couple 513 was a live video and dance performance at the everson Museum of art presented May 21�23, 1976. lois Welk and arnie zane of the american dance asylum danced, while Meryl Blackman, Peer Bode, and the experimental Television center performed the live video. Movements for Video Dance and Music, with Peer Bode, Meryl Blackman, Bill Jones, and arnie Neames, performed at the herbert f. Johnson Museum, in ithaca, also occurred in 1976 with support from the experimental Television center. "The tools available at the center as well as the medium amplified the real-time nature of the medium. This first generation of video artists understood that the technology engendered intimacy and immediacy--in the creative actions of the maker and the presentations to the viewer," hocking noted. The technology also promoted interactivity: both performers and artists could affect the image-sound in real time. hocking believes that the first generation of media artists was drawn to live-performance multimedia because of interdisciplinary combustion. Most of these early media artists arrived at video via arts such dance, music, and theater as well as the sciences. as a result, they imported tropes from other disciplines and forms into video. eTc, inaugurating a thirty-year tradition of artist audacity and innovation through pushing the limits of technology, invited these artists to use processing tools to explore the performative aspects of video. in the 1970s these artists experimented with analog synthesizers. By the 1980s image-processing tools migrated to digital technologies. Music collaborations were also extensive. in the last five years, the eTc residency Program has supported the work of new media artists such as lovid, amoeba Technology, and Benton-c Bainbridge and the synaesthesiologists, who investigate digital electronic-imaging tools in live performances. BUSES Public and private foundations have increasingly required their media arts grantees to assess and document outcomes, outreach, and access. as a result of these pressures for accountability to a public that extends beyond the media arts cognoscenti, some curators and archivists have responded not with complaints but with imagination and guts. They've put media on the bus and taken it to the streets. steve davidson, of the florida Moving image archive, established the Magical Movie Bus Tour. With a local historian at the microphone and a large pile of archival films ranging from news footage to home movies, davidson has offered bus tours through Miami history for senior citizens, schools, tourists, Miami film festival patrons, and universities. The archival images on the bus show Miami sites, whether the art deco district of south Beach, the gay nightclub district, the fontainebleau hotel, or the convention center, as they looked in other decades. The juxtaposition of the amateur films and newsreels creates a visual history of development in south florida, one of the fastest growing areas of the country. dvds are inserted on the fly in response to questions from the people on the bus, with only the route through various historical districts mapped out. 26 hiddeN hisTories on the other side of the country, l.a. freewaves has instituted video Bus Tours during its last three festivals. a curator proposes a route and appropriate videos. often, a performance artist takes the mike. of the fifteen bus tours conducted to date, some are serious, others funny. one investigated public housing in los angeles while another probed voyeurism by touring gay cruising streets, porno districts, and movie stars' homes. one particularly powerful bus tour focused on the Native american history of los angeles, before the incursion of whites. it featured artists' videos, Native american storytellers, and a historian. another popular tour focused on a fun topic: food. it took participants on a journey from sites where food is grown to where it is eaten, and even to manure piles--all accompanied by video art and performance. "Bus tours with video art and performance are a great way to exhibit media," notes anne Bray. "With all that multimedia, you can cover more than one medium. it is about bringing the rest of the world to the work." Bray views the sense of presence and volatility of live media as an important new development in the era of multiple screen surrounds. her video art bus tours, which cost ten dollars per person, usually fill. she has also produced Karaoke video open calls, an idea first proposed by artist soo Jin Kim. artists submit karaoke videos from the whole spectrum of music. l.a. freewaves uses existing karaoke clubs during their down time, usually between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. local artists want to produce these pieces because they know they will generate lively audience interaction. LEFT: Still from Bill Morrison's short "Light Is Calling", from his collaboration with composer Michael Gordon. Courtesy: Bill Morrison. RIGHT: a scene from the MadCat Women's Festival. Courtesy: Ariella Ben-Dov. CLUBS reversing media flows and expectations by changing the sites of exhibition marks live multimedia performance conceptually. Not only is the media art programmed; the space itself is reconfigured with media. The backyard of the el rio Bar in san francisco's Mission district has been a popular draw for experimental films by women set to live music in the Madcat film festival, whose mission is to bring avant-garde film to a range of audiences. ariella Ben-dov sees live music performances with archival and experimental film as a powerful and effective way to "make work somewhat more accessible to contemporary audiences who may not have an understanding of it." one of Madcat's innovations, "sshh: silent films to live Music," curates silent avant-garde films around themes, then contacts filmmakers to secure permission for a one-time only ephemeral event. Most filmmakers eagerly agree to have their work included, while some are apprehensive. local musicians create music in dialogue with the images. These shows never have a problem filling the two-hundred-seat venue. "live music is a definite draw," says Ben-dov, who is interested in exhibiting experimental film in alternative spaces. NAMAC | a closer looK 2005 2 in 1994, the female owner of a hip-hop label asked media artist art Jones to do a live remix at New York city's Knitting factory. Jones had been hanging out at the Nuyorican Poets caf�, observing the power of improvisational performance for political discourse. armed with two vcrs, two monitors, and a radio shack aB switcher, Jones performed his first remix with videotapes while a spoken-word performer used a mike. The performance combined media, hip-hop music, and spoken word. it was the same year that artist dJ spooky (Paul d. Miller) did a live remix at Woodstock 94. from there, Jones started mixing in bars and clubs with video decks and then, later, mini-dv decks. he moved into computers for live remixing in 2001. inspired by site-specific happenings from the 1960s and 1970s, Jones saw that remixing held the possibility for media arts to break out to a different audience through combining music, visual artists, and video projectors. Jones points out that robert Whitman's early expanded cinema projects with multiple projectors and sound, Ken Jacobs's projections, Warhol's velvet underground, and psychedelia all served as predecessors to today's laptop remixers in clubs. at Woodstock 94, kids with laptops, whom Jones affectionately dubs "the lost tribe of Macintosh," talked to each other with their computers, generating a communal spirit that he sees as the radical potential of live multimedia performance. for Jones, live remixes, now employing sophisticated software running on paper-thin laptops, constitute a resolutely anticorporate, ephemeral media environment designed to "intervene into the colonization of consciousness." compared to traditional film schools and art schools, which often emphasize a somewhat romanticized view of individual artistry, the live remixing scene requires collaborative engagement as well as a "different way of engaging the spectator." "it's way to intervene into the quiet contemplation of the object," Jones says. The central theoretical problem posed by live remixes revolves around the question of whether the spectator can be engaged in a more compelling, immersive, and embodied way. Jones has done remixes on the war in iraq, cyberwarfare, and empire, either alone or with collaborative teams. however, some vJs simply generate video wallpaper for clubs, creating screen after screen of abstract, beautiful images with no connection to political or social relations, a practice that Jones sees as ignoring dialogue with the audience-participants. With computers, images and sounds can be subdivided, live cameras can be added, more improvisation can erupt, and vJ-dJs can be more responsive, creating a more encompassing environment. Inspired by site-specific Happenings from the 1960s and 1970s, Jones saw that remixing held the possibility for media arts to break out to a different audience through combining music, visual artists, and video projectors. CONCERT HALLS Three layers of scaffolding surround the audience. a film is projected on three different scrims. Musicians are positioned on different levels of the scaffolding. image, live music, and constructed space engulf the spectator. it's Bill Morrison's Decasia, a fifty-five-minute archival film epic exploring spirituality, loss, ineffability, and renewal, with a live score by experimental-music composer Michael gordon, a member of Bang on a can, live at carnegie hall. The film and the complex, multilayered score are a tour-de-force exploration of decomposition and decay. Just out of art school in the late 1980s, Morrison joined the Bridge Theater, an experimental collective, as the group's only filmmaker. in the 1990s he began a series of collaborations with musicians from Bang on the can, the influential contemporary music group. an experimental filmmaker trained as a painter who exorcises the latent forms and meanings submerged in archival 2 hiddeN hisTories fragments, Morrison uses his artistic process to subvert narrativity in film in order to release an emotional drive comparable to that of music. he works closely with the film archive community as he scours for images. But it's the changes in exhibition of the works that excite Morrison, for each new situation opens up different experiences, interpretations, and possibilities. With the increasing difficulty of projecting film properly, especially in ill-equipped concert halls, Morrison has moved into producing films for enhanced cds for musicians like david lang (How to Pray), Julia Wolf, and Michael gordon (Light is Calling); as musicians confront the problem of how to market their work in the era of downloading, experimental films may provide a value-added component to the declining value of the cd. Morrison has also worked on projections for experimental operas such as John adams's The Death of Klinghoffer (2003) for the Brooklyn academy of art and dual-screen installations like Outer Borough, commissioned by the Museum of Modern art, which uses archival footage of the Brooklyn Bridge. INTERFACES one of the new frontiers for live multimedia performance resides beyond the bricks-and-mortar spaces and the environments reconstructed for and by live media performances to encompass interfaces and networks. While "interface" sounds like lingo out of The Matrix Reloaded, it quite simply refers to the junctures at which hardware and software meet users; it's everything from using a mouse to voice activating your cell phone for dialing your mom. for those of us trained to think of the media arts as image based, terms like "networked-based art," "transmission arts," and "locative media" might sound like the result of technogeeks let loose at radio shack doing word shuffles with a thesaurus to trance music. These areas of live performance, however, are deeply political and interventionist forms of public education about technologies. The new practices home in on performance as a way to make technologies that are deliberately rendered invisible by corporate power structures and embedded in our daily life more visible--a tactic that resonates with oppositional media practices from the 1960s and 1970s. only this time, the move from invisibility to visibility is no longer about images and representations but about technological systems almost secretly invading our daily lives-- embedded technologies like the ez Pass scanner, invisible surveillance in stores, and machine-body interfaces like aTMs and nanotechnologies--all in real time, and live. This work poses complicated problems for film and media arts historiography because it is even more ephemeral than dJ-vJ remixes and live music with archival films: it is not about an artifact but about actions and events that expose technologies. Performance artist, activist, and digital-culture agitator ricardo dominguez summons the idea of the "performative matrix" in his work with the technoculture activist group critical art ensemble. for him, the "performative matrix creates a site of confusion for powers that be, a gesture that is a minor simulation outside of dominant core influences." The "performative matrix" is in many ways quite simple, an updating and revitalizing of the intermedia concept. The matrix combines internet actions and embodied performances intended to change how people think about terms like "infowar" and the zapatistas. if intermedia zeroed in on the sensual and the nonlinear, the performative matrix focuses on the semantic, trying to change definitions and concepts. Many of these projects converge science, politics, and art--according to dominguez, to create a provisional zone or space for the marginal by disturbing dominant powers like the u.s. government. in his work with critical art ensemble throughout the 1980s and 1990s, dominguez developed ideas about how to "allow political agency through hallucinatory space," inspired by his activist political work in the anti-nuclear movement in Nevada, Bread and Puppet Theater, Teatro NAMAC | a closer looK 2005 2 campesino, act-up, and the history of agit-prop. critical art ensemble developed these ideas in two groundbreaking books, Electronic Disturbance (2000) and Electronic Civil Disobedience and Other Unpopular Ideas (1998). despite a long term, continuing interest in cyberculture, dominguez insists that the performative matrix does not need to rely on machines but on "machines for engineering concepts." The performative matrix, then, is conceptual theater that uses whatever means are necessary--the internet, live performance, science--to shift ideas about how power operates and infiltrates our culture. co-founder of the electronic disturbance Theater, dominguez has led many virtual sit-ins on Web sites as a gesture to bring attention to the anti-globalization movement. a 1998 project to support the zapatista movement in chiapas, Mexico, deployed the refresh-reload button on computers to flood Web sites of the Pentagon, the federal communications commission, and the school of the americas. The action prompted the Pentagon and the house armed services committee to change the doctrines of infowar to include electronic civil disobedience. later, in 2002, this same virtual sit-in process was deployed during the World economic forum in New York city, using the reamweaver software developed by media pranksters The Yes Men. The free103point9 collective also explores the frontier beyond the image, working with sound and radio frequencies to create different listening environments that encourage spectators to interact with machines in communal ways. Their goal: to develop the artistic and political possibilities of live transmission art with underused technologies like ham radio, walkie talkies, fM/aM radio, cell phones, and light. Transmission art is defined as any work that uses the airwaves creatively. free103point9 emerged out of two audio movements: the microradio (formerly pirate radio) movement for fM low-power radio under 100 watts, which gave rise to radio barnraisings in communities, and radio audio artists interested in restoring experimentation to sound, with pioneers like the audio-collage collective Negativland providing historical precedent. Tom roe, one of the members of the collective, explains that transmission art involves live performance, physical embodiment, and a variety of sound technologies. in a project called Radio 4x4, four musicians each play into their own fM transmitter. "Twenty to sixty radios are spread out through a space and used as a public address system," roe explains. each radio has a different speaker and different sound qualities, encouraging audience movement around the room. free103point9 also does shows through on-line radio Webcasting three to four times a week--live. Wifi, mobile-phone cameras, and rfid are ubiquitious, invisible, and often--at least for the average cable-Tv surfing, iPod-listening person--incomprehensible. Wifi refers to wireless fidelity, the technology that enables you to connect to a local area network at an access point to check your email while on the road. rfid is an acronym for radio frequency identification, tags that track everything from library books to Wal-Mart goods shipments to your car passing through toll booths. The Preemptive Media collective (PM) reengineers thinking about mobile digital technologies embedded in our everyday environment. PM's art practice works not only to help spectators see these invisible technologies that track our lives and our data, but to demystify them. locative media, another newly emerging zone in performative multimedia, constitutes a new global, independent media movement interested in the convergence between digital domains and geographic spaces. it anchors the digital, often viewed as ambling around in a placeless realm, in geographic space. artists marshal portable, networked computing devices like gPs, mobile phones, and rfid as well as wearable technologies to map space and intervene into data streams. locative media practices focus on horizontal, user-led, and collaborative projects to interrupt and interrogate a powerful system of observation and control. in live performances and real-time actions, the Preemptive Media art, technology, and activist collective disturbs, dislodges, and redesigns new media technologies like the bar codes on drivers' licences or radio-frequency information devices used for ez Pass, respositioning these highly 30 hiddeN hisTories specialized technologies within the democratic discourse of amateurism to make them accessible. The emerging locative media movement has gathered steam and attention since 9/11 and the 2001 Patriot act, which authorizes unprecedented data mining, invasions of privacy, wiretapping, and internet surveillance. PM's ZAPPED! (2005) foregrounds radio frequency identification tags, first used by the British military during World War ii and later, in the 1960s, to track wild animals. over the last twenty years it has been used for electronic tolls; tracking pets, prisoners, and kids; and monitoring activity at dance clubs, the department of defense, and Wal-Mart. The spring independent school district in the houston area uses rfid tags on elementary students to track their schoolbus rides. The ZAPPED! project features workshops for kids and adults on altering the remote wireless detection chips. Phrases like "help me! i'm a consumer!" "This is god. You have sinned. Be prepared for eternal damnation!" and "don't hire me-- i'm a felon" are inserted on the chips to pop up on scanners in stores instead of prices. The rfid school Kit consists of a lunchbox and a keychain detector to locate rfid hotspots. roaches with clandestine rfid tags taped to their backs are hidden in the lunchbox and then released in Wal-Mart storage areas by activists sporting the company's blue vests, bought on eBay. our era of empire, infinite war, and massive media consolidation poses enormous obstacles to imagination, freedom, and collectivity. The public spaces for an interventionist, argumentative public media shrink daily. These variegated, diffuse, and hard-to-uncover histories of live performance multimedia--with and without music--may offer a way to reclaim and reinvent exhilarating, if transient, public domains beyond the strangleholds of the corporate media. These multimedia environments are malleable, musical, contingent, and collaborative. They are situated in real spaces. They resolutely intervene into power relations and consciousness. and they are fun. These hidden histories of live multimedia performance can perhaps mobilize the most elusive, but necessary, ingredient of any radical media practice: a hopeful, raucous convergence of likeminded people that dismantles convention, disassembles power, and disturbs the universe. PATRICIAR.ZIMMERMANN is professor of cinema and photography at Ithaca College. She is the author of Reel Families: A Social History of Amateur Film and States of Emergency: Documentaries, Wars, Democracies, and co-editor with Karen Ishizuka of the Mining the Home Movie: Excavations in Histories and Memories (forthcoming). NOTES: 1. For examples of theoretical historiography that question the notion of a meaning that can be fully recovered and argue instead for an idea that the past is created as a text constructed through structures of evidence, see Alun Munslow, Deconstructing History (London: Routledge, 1997); Robert F. Berkhofer, Jr., Beyond the Great Story: History as Text and Discourse (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995); and Howard Marchitello, ed., What Happens to History: The Renewal of Ethics in Contemporary Thought (New York: Routledge, 2001). 2. For analysis of this rejection of causality and linearity in favor of a more polyphonic and heteroglossic historical strategy of explanation, especially in subaltern historiography, see Philip Rosen, Change Mummified: Cinema, Historicity, Theory (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001); Vinayak Chaturvedi, ed., Mapping Subaltern Studies and the Postcolonial (London: Verso, 2000); and Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000). 3. For a brilliant discussion of performance as an art form based on disappearance, with a permeable and fluid set of meanings between the body real and the psychic real, see Peggy Phelan, Unmarked: The Politics of Performance (New York: Routledge, 1993). 4. For an analysis and explanation of what he terms a collaborative, multivocal ethnography, see David MacDougall, Transcultural Cinema (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998). 5. Rick Altman, Silent Film Sound (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004), pp. 181�201. 6. Scott MacDonald has argued that the filmmakers involved with Fluxus and Happenings in the 1960s saw "film art as a performative gesture" rather than as a material object for posterity, and that the expanded cinema was interested in the possibilities for meta-imagery through mixing technologies (interview with the author, 4 September 2005). For more extensive discussions with various artists involved in different forms of exhibition and projection, please see his Critical Cinema book series, especially A Critical Cinema 2 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), Critical Cinema 3 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998), and Critical Cinema 4 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005). 7. For a full historical discussion of these practices, see Gene Youngblood, Expanded Cinema (New York: Dutton: 1970), pp. 70�151 and 300�91. NAMAC | a closer looK 2005 31 FILMHISTORYAND"FILMHISTORY": exhibition and american academe--one academic's story SCOTT MACDONALD "Na feugait wis al