Under the banner, RESPONSE:ABILITY, transmediale 11 attracted works that critique how we live and work with the Internet today. Running its course over six days at Berlin’s Haus der Kulturen der Welt (House of World Cultures), transmediale expanded upon a foundation of art, society and technology, to ask what happens when we break beyond the barriers of social media and networks. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to translate what undulates in that void – is it tangible, definable even? Can it be exemplified through an installation? Tested through a theory? Or rhetorically probed in the dry vernacular so common to PhD-mongering intellects who exhaust terms like transparent, liveness and open source? Of course, out of 200 participants from 30 countries – an amalgamation of artists, media activists and analysts, philosophers, coders and researchers – there were some who made proper, and purposeful, use of such concepts.
Equal parts lecture-workshop-installationpresentation, transmediale offered an experimental laboratory for digital technologies in the spirit of “live” process-based, participatory work which probed the cultures of the Internet and open systems. The Open Zone, located in the foyer of the House of World Cultures, offered guests the chance to interact with artists and their processes, be it creative fundraising & microfunding initiatives – or the mere exchange of ideas around free software and open source movements. As part of the Open Zone, the Berlin-based creative studio, KS12 – which attributes itself to producing original transmedia narratives – shot, edited and screened a participatory documentary during the six days of transmediale that re-purposed social media such as Twitter, Vimeo, Flickr, SoundCloud, etc. as a distributed collaborative storytelling platform, also combining Creative Commons licensed photos and videos.
«Twitter, Vimeo, Flickr, SoundCloud, etc. as a distributed collaborative storytelling»
The result is The Future of Art, a 20-minute “immediated autodocumentary.” It cuts together a series of opinions and viewpoints from artists, both attending transmediale and those connected through social media. This is about the next incarnations of art in a digital culture – from painting to programming, and how webbased processes and tools are changing content, along with the notion of the Great Man Theory, or auteur. New York-based painter Ken Wahl, who was one of many talking heads featured in The Future of Art, says, “Ideas today just get thrown out there and used, and it’s the use that in a way is the art, rather than the person who comes up with the idea.”
Coined by KS12 founder and Berlin based filmmaker, Gabriel Shalom, the term “immediated autodocumentary’, refers to content that can be uploaded into media, narrowing the gap between what is happening and what is mediated. A filmmaker can videotape his subjects, transfer it to his hard drive, edit the material, and then project it for the subjects he’s just interviewed, all within the same period of time. ‘Auto” is as in autodidactic, meaning “autodocumentaries” are made by the people they’re about. And often these people, says Shalom “are making films about themselves making films – this subject matter can be incredibly tedious and narcissistic and vapid, it’s dangerous territory.” Fortunately, Shalom and his team turned their autodidactic film into a collaborative effort: “If part of the film is me talking about my process, but the rest of the film is others talking about their processes, then it’s kind of a collective auto-document, and it starts to move away from this egocentric tendency and become a genuine collective reflection.”
In terms of the traditional documentary form, where a subject matter can be groomed over the course of years, the idea of immediate gratification – screening what is right now – forces the documentation process to accelerate. What is being documented must be of a nature that is ready to “go live” at any minute, without being scrutinized by a producer, director, editor, distributor, sales agent, etc. for months, or even years, on end. In the traditional form, the majority of key personnel involved in a production are often not very close to the subject matter, perpetuating the distance between the filmmaker and what is being filmed, which in some cases can be an advantage to the story, as it allows certain objectivity. Generally speaking, the filmmaker and the subject have different skillsets, and do not come from the same “subculture.” Of course, there are those who make films about themselves, their families, their childhood, but the filmmaker is foremost the director, then the subject.
«The role of the filmmaker is being distributed into the crowd. I look at the work we’re doing as some kind of conductor or facilitator.» Shalom
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