- Re-Writing the History of Media Art:From Personal Cinema to Artistic Collaboration
The author reinterprets the artistic phenomena that composed historical avant-garde art. His method of interpretation is an intertextual strategy that approaches the historical artifacts through recent phenomena. The first case study is of structural film; its most important attributes appear to be artistic strategies questioning the structural/material integrity, durability and permanence of the film work. The second case study is of the avant-garde strategy of collective work, reinterpreted through the open-source work and interactive art of today. The author identifies three steps in the development of the 20th-century concept of joint creative work: avant-garde general strategies of artistic collaboration; avant-garde film works oriented toward creative collectivism; and collaborative artistic practices that manifest themselves in non-hierarchical strategies of contemporary interactive art.
The transformation of modern communication technologies and linear text structures characteristic of film work (along with all time-based arts) into interactive multimedia structures has not only transformed the present state of the art film but has also made us look anew into the history of film—made us understand, categorize and value it differently. Once again it has turned out that no historical narrative is by any means a final version of the past, defined once and forever. History is rather a manifestation of our perception and understanding of the past through the present; it is a product of changing philosophical and methodological approaches, cultural strategies and deconstructive and reconstructive strategies. History is continuously written from scratch. We can easily find examples of such processes of reinterpretation of historical phenomena. In his theoretical writing, Sergey Eisenstein analyzed Pushkin and Dickens's literary works to present his own reading thereof from the perspective of his film-editing and film-construction ideas. In this procedure he followed the Russian Formal School, another exemplar of such a strategy, whose representatives eagerly displayed new methods of analysis of literary work, which they worked out in studying avant-garde poetry, applying Futurism and Constructivism to the literary canon and suggesting new readings, incompatible with the previous ones.
These practices ought not to be confused with the kind of interest in the past defined as archaeology. The archaeology of media and multimedia art looks for the roots of contemporary practices through an analysis of pioneer phenomena: the apparatus, techniques and concepts or poetics that helped to shape the recent appearances. Archaeology aims at better understanding of the present through analysis of its bases and genesis. It is also a manifestation of a desire to discover in the past those structures and processes that remain significant factors today, despite the fact that they often defy our observation and identification. Studies of archaeology serve the present. Nonetheless, one unavoidable, although not necessarily desired, side effect of an archaeological perspective is the transformation of the past itself through new interpretations and emphases of aspects different from those previously privileged. Furthermore, although general frames of perception of past events and structures do not always change, the same events and structures often acquire new shapes and senses. In this sense the archaeological perspective enforces the effect provided with the sort of historical intertextual interpretation that I apply in this essay with the aim of interpreting historical events armored with the knowledge, conventions and beliefs of today, immersed in modern attitudes and approaches, full of desires stirred by recent events and processes.
To make the character of the above study strategies visible, let us have a closer look at the history of avant-garde film in a manner marked by the conceptual and practical development of multimedia art and interactive cinema. Structural film provides an extremely interesting case for our purposes. The concept and practice of avant-garde collective work is another issue to discuss.
The Reinvention of Structural Film
Describing structural film from the perspective of the 1970s, one could say that the artistic and art-theoretical context of structural film, where it is completely in accord with the tendencies of the art of the time, is co-determined by three movements: abstract expressionism, minimal art and conceptualism. The first emphasized the material dimension...