By way of Matthew Clayfield, today I came across the academic blog Digital Poetics, where there was this fascinating recent entry: The Abstract and the Real. This post does something rare and very valuable in both scholarship and online commentary--finding an obscure connection between images, thus throwing the question on the table as to whether this is a 'Zeigeist burp' (a phrase that, after applying it elsewhere, I realize I liked and may have coined) or perhaps a hidden authorial continuity. Who knew that The Ring was so connected to Man Ray's cinema (or maybe the press packet gave this fact a small proud bullet, who knows!?).
I'm not very well versed in digital cinema or interactive/online contributions to the expanding borders of the moving image, although I would like to be, and "support" or "endorse" research and theory on this front. I think that the appropriation of avant-garde techniques, hashed out especially in the comments to the blog entry, are an important 'dulling' factor for a lot of avant-garde cinema. (However: I saw Un Chien andalou probably ten times in NYU classes, and the sliced eye never ceased to draw gasps.) That said, I think that not all avant-garde elements have been appropriated--only those which can lend a hand to the selling of a product (to put it cynically and crudely) are appropriated. What about patience, and looooong slooow chunks of time which encourage contemplation, which insist that we don't pull a nugget of information out of an image or a cut, but instead exist with these things? I don't believe Michael Snow has been "appropriated" in any significant way. What about painstaking recreation which squarely emphasizes some kind of truth content over dramatics--as in the work of the Straubs, but also Francesco Rosi? It seems to me not that the avant-garde gets neutralized but that it gets recontextualized, so to be "truly" cutting edge, formally, yes, one must always try something new. But some effects are not amenable to a commercialist/capitalist ethos and aesthetics, and will not be taken up by it at all. So the avant-garde will--or can--always retain its resonance.
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I am pretty certain I saw Armond White perusing the sale shelves of the Donnell Library today.