[Frameworks] UbuWeb...HACKED!

Matt Helme dcinema2134 at yahoo.com
Fri Oct 15 20:36:58 CDT 2010

People who put in the time and money created and own it. I thought that would go 
without saying.

From: Anna Biller <pbutterfly at earthlink.net>
To: Experimental Film Discussion List <frameworks at jonasmekasfilms.com>
Sent: Fri, October 15, 2010 1:46:42 PM
Subject: Re: [Frameworks] UbuWeb...HACKED!

Thank you for your lecture about what "active viewing" means. I was responding 
to a statement that was made in seriousness (not as hyperbole). While it may be 
a fact that viewership *can* be creative and active and perhaps often is, the 
statement I was responding to was just another way of taking rights away from 
the makers of works: "You not only don't own this, you didn't even create it - I 
created it through my act of viewing it, therefore, I own it just as much as 

On Oct 15, 2010, at 3:57 AM, David Tetzlaff wrote:

Anna Biller wrote:
>The internet creates a sense of flattened relativism in which  
everything loses its context and sense of scale and history.
As an example she cites:

the way [people] use YouTube and Facebook to select works and share  
them, almost as if their selection of the work is the same as making  
the work.
This is the sort of critique of postmodern culture that comes out of  
Fred Jameson's 'Culture of Late Capitalism' essay, or Baudrillard's  
'Ecstacy of Communication.' I think this does occur, and I do find it  
worrisome. I have seen video blogs consisting of nothing but  
selections of other clips from around the web that I think qualify as  
works of art because of the genuine creativity, amount of work, and  
the effective aesthetic results of the choices made in pulling clips  
together and establishing connections/collisions between them. But  
such examples are rare and I do see a lot of the Jamesonian flattening  
Anna notes.


This is not what people mean when they say 'viewing a work is as  
creative as making one.' First of all, that's phrased as hyperbole.  
The 'is' is too definitive and universal, and 'as creative as'  
indicates a false equality. It would be more accurate to say 'Viewing  
is usually an act that involves a significant exercise of creativity  
on the part of the viewer.' This is basically the 'active audience'  
thesis that drives Cultural Studies. My own conclusion is that this  
sort of active engagement, the affectless pomo reflecting screen, and  
a more Frankfurt School ideological transmission all occur in our  
culture side by side.

The active audience thesis stems from basic principles of semiotics.  
The work of art is an object, with elements that act as symbols. These  
symbols have no intrinsic meaning. They must be assembled, interpreted  
and engaged by whoever perceives them. There is a lot of wiggle-room  
in this process. So the mute object only becomes a meaningful work of  
art once someone 'reads' it, and invests meaning into it, which is  
inevitably a sort of indirect dialogic process. Academic studies like  
Henry Jenkins' 'Textual Poachers' may overstate the case, but there's  
too much evidence for the basic thesis to dismiss it entirely.

And certainly, experimental film is a form that engenders active  
engagements. I'd guess for most folks on this list, early encounters  
with experimental work yielded a good share of 'WTF?' reactions,  
followed by struggles to parse the text, leading to a variety of  
interpretations rooted in part in each viewer's unique life experiences.

Perhaps some UbuWeb users wind up engaging the clips there in the  
worst sort of YouTube reflecting-screen pomo fascination. But that's  
hardly Ubu's fault. Ubu has clearly been a portal by which a  
significant number of people who would not otherwise been exposed to  
avant garde work have found their way to some knowledge/interest/ 
appreciation. As Jeanne Liotta noted, in the long run that benefits  
our 'community' as a whole, and we all can benefit individually from  
the health in that community.
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