[Frameworks] Santa's Complaint

Bernard Roddy roddybp at yahoo.com
Sun Dec 26 20:51:47 CST 2010


There are clearly a variety of people contending for the use of this list, with 
varying degrees of awareness about the implications of their role.  It is never 
my intention to simply demean or insult, nor does just any "joke" strike me as 
constructive.  If I am not mistaken, there are a large number of artists here, 
many of whom work in various media and who are in the process of sorting through 
their options for exhibition.  To a large degree this process involves taking 
ownership of the criteria that will determine the nature of what one makes.  
Tony Conrad's posting of his holiday video struck me not simply as worthy of 
watching or as an opportunity to fool people.  The video offered up a sample of 
a highly developed practice that struck me as particularly unlikely to draw the 
attention of a festival today.  By inserting various formulations of rejection 
notices into the Frameworkers discussion list, and imagining Tony receiving 
them, I hoped to highlight several dimensions of the context in which we work, 
and by "we" I mean avant-garde and experimental filmmakers.  But the ensuing 
exchange seems to have dramatized several of my motivations in a rather dramatic 
way.  Normally, I am not particularly inclined to ask readers on this list to 
devote much thought to what I post, and I myself am certainly very selective 
about which posts I read, as I would assume most careful users of the list art.  
But it has long struck me that the rules of inclusion and exclusion within 
exhibition opportunities are really quite arbitrary, including, I would argue, 
the scholarly propensity to classify works as modernist.  And yet these rules 
are not easily recognized as arbitrary, and what's more, there is often a 
certain hostility toward drawing our attention to means by which they are 
enforced.  What for me seemed to be quite transparently a ploy (as transparent 
as Tony's get-up) turns out to have actually been quite believable, and for that 
reason, some might say, objectionable.  A collection of rejection notices that I 
thought could not possibly be joined in a single letter, that is posted on a 
public list and addressed to an individual artist, is in fact liable to be 
accepted as part of a perfectly legitimate sifting process, one that we are to 
assume sorts works in some coherent way, leaving only the really "good" ones for 
a festival program.  In addition, the credibility gained by simply attaching a 
generic title like "Festival Organizer," a mere afterthought, can apparently 
draw the policing tendencies of list members who view this as duplicitous and 
worthy of censure.  The power of that title survived into posts even after the 
ploy was acknowledged.  And the hostility toward me very likely remains.  I 
would like to say, however, that I make films and submit them to festivals, I 
propose art projects and receive rejection notices.  I am fully aware of the 
pressures artists are under to compromise their vision in order to satisfy the 
expectations of a particular kind of decision-maker.  I am also fully aware that 
the avant-garde has sustained itself, at least in part, on its unruliness toward 
the professionalization of art and the codification of reigning notions of 
excellence.  In this respect Tony and I are, I believe, in passionate 
agreement.  Furthermore, it is my understanding that a list made up of 
practitioners and programmers, critics and students, teachers and archivists, 
all representing several generations of interested parties remains susceptible 
to a certain exercize of authority on the part of some members who take it to be 
their responsibility to monitor the whole array of discussions and enforce a 
particular notion of propriety that they view as objective and disinterested.  
The most effective means of frustrating these practices in list discussions, and 
a means that can be adopted without insulting any particular members or 
impugning anyone's reputation, is to use humor and artifice.  It is my hope that 
puncturing the pretensions of self-appointed authorities does not a involve a 
degree of violence greater than the kind I am likely to receive as a result.


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