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by Michael Betancourt
 

This site presents extracts from Michael Betancourt's current research and writing projects, with news about current developments. A portfolio of finished, published writing is available here.

His trilogy of studies on film theory using title sequences as a model uniting avant-garde, documentary and commercial motion pictures were published in the Routledge Studies in Media Theory and Practice series: Semiotics and Title Sequences, Synchronization and Title Sequences, and Title Sequences as Paratexts.

His theory of on-screen juxtaposed and composited imagery, Beyond Spatial Montage: Windowing, or, the Cinematic Displacement of Time, Motion and Space, concerned with the results of a 25-year long studio-based research project was published by Focal Press.

If you are looking for more on agnotology, digital capitalism or automated/immaterial labor, look at The Digital, which presents links to his most recent published articles and other research on the political economy of digital capitalism contained in his book:

The Critique of Digital Capitalism identifies how digital technology has captured contemporary society in a reification of capitalist priorities. The theory proposed in this book is the description of how digital capitalism as an ideologically “invisible” framework is realized in technology.

If you are looking for his movies, you can watch them here.

More articles, reviews, interviews, and translations are posted on MichaelBetancourt.com


 



Going Somewhere - reviewed by David Finkelstein

story ©  | published July 12, 2017 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print



Betancourt

David Finkelstein wrote a review of my movie serial Going Somewhere for Film International called "Recombinant Modification of Sci Fi – Going Somewhere (2015)" that's available online:

Something fascinating and strange is going on in Going Somewhere, an ongoing “movie serial” by Michael Betancourt, with individual episodes which are all 7 minutes long. The source material for these digital mini-epics comes from a variety of science and science fiction materials: old Grade Z Sci Fi epics, civil defense films and WWII documentaries, NASA footage. Betancourt uses sophisticated datamoshing and databending techniques to completely transform these materials. These techniques reach inside of the numbers which store digital video and mess up the data in more or less controlled ways that morph one image into the next. They allow Betancourt to radically change the original colors and forms.

Also available as a [pdf] for download






 

'Glitch Art' as a Movement?

story ©  | published July 10, 2017 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print



Glitch

Recently, I was asked during the Q&A after a talk if I think “glitch art” is a movement. The problem with calling the amorphous collection of people working with “glitch art” a movement is precisely its shapelessness: the things being done and called glitch art have been around and in use by artists since the late 1970s and first started to become prominent during the 1990s, emerging more-or-less independently in places as diverse as London, Chicago, Oslo and Miami—all places also associated with the use of glitches in electronic and avant-garde music. This plurality of origins makes any suggestion of a “movement” highly questionable: there were no manifestos, no proclamations that circulated across all these origin-sites. Instead, the use and embrace of glitches appears to have happened more or less simultaneously, as a result of the faults and failures of digital technology in the 1990s, especially the vagaries and interruptions common to dial-up internet access and the slow speeds of download that would often result in partial and damaged files. The embrace of glitch by this initial collection of artists (whose work from 2003 and earlier was collected in the Glitch: Designing Imperfection book) was highly dispersed geographically and aesthetically, even if they shared formal similarities because of the technologies involved.




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a note on 'The Fantasy of Equivalence'

story ©  | published July 9, 2017 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print



The Digital

The capitalist conception as labor value being wholy dependent on the amount of time required for production, described by Karl Marx as a foundational principle of his critique, depends on an assumption of equivalence between not only differently skilled labor, but on the products of that labor. This fantasy authorizes the valorization of intellectual labor and production regardless of its validity within the database: the precession of agnotology around this apparent relativism depends on the same beliefs in equivalence, a reification of abstract principle as instrumentality. Marx’s analytic reveals this fallacy precisely in setting aside the issues of distinction between labor in order to advance an abstraction of that productive process—his disregard for the material differences between skilled an unskilled labor mirrored the labor-intensive productive processes of the period when he developed his critique: the concern with the productive capabilties of unskilled labor as a constraint on production provides a literal limit on the production work performed, for example, by child labor.






 

My History With Glitching

story ©  | published June 29, 2017 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print



Glitch

This collection of historical notes, collected between 2012 and 2017, about working with and on glitches has been floating in the either/or for a while. Since there's mot much history of any kind about glitches before the late '00s, I'm posting this personal narrative. I just realized I haven't done anything with it, so here it is. These are some general historical notes about my own experiences with glitches and their use in my work starting in the 1990s.


Still from Year (2003)

I am not sure when I first specifically called this kind of work “glitch,” but the concept and the work it produced have been continuous features of my work since 1989. I know I was using the term by 2001, and I did a bit of writing with it in 2003 for the Miami Art Exchange when it was the only publication engaged with Miami Art on a regular basis (this was before Art Basel Miami Beach). The deployment of accident (chance) within carefully prescribed frameworks enabled the uncontrolled, chaotic features of glitch art to develop organically from my technical and technological process focused on using the looping methods learnt from video feedback as the protocol for making all my work: iteration, revision, recursion.




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Cliche Interests, An Artistic Statement

story ©  | published June 29, 2017 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print



Aesthetics

The artist's statement is an exercise focused on a variety of basic ideas, all concerned with the tactical manipulation of their reader's later engagement with the artist's productions. They're about shaping iinterpretations. These statements are an essential part of how an artist creates a context for their work and creates a meaningful relationship to work of the past. These statements are part PR and part polemics. Producing a statement to accompany individual works is an essential part of the exhibition process. Artists use these statements for several overlapping, but discrete purposes:

  • Context: how they want to be seen in relation to current trends
  • “Stage Setting” for specific ways they want to be interpreted
  • Distinguish their work from similar or related works
  • Claim a specific history their work might not be related to otherwise
  • The production of ambiguity and the production of meaning are essentially exclusive procedures: to create a meaningful statement requires a discursive structure where ambiguity is radically reduced; in contrast, while definite meaning emerges from limitations upon ambiguity, the meaningful statements of art are (paradoxically) those where the ambiguity (or, more accurately, multivalence) plays the strongest role. It is through the production of multivalent forms—works where several potential meanings simultaneously emerge in a work, sometimes at differing “levels” of interpretation—where ambuiguity enables an instability of interpretation that require more careful consideration and demand critical insight for their coherence.




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    Synchronization and Title Sequences - Now Available!

    story ©  | published May 17, 2017 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print



    Motion Graphics

    You can now order my new book Synchronization and Title Sequences: Audio-Visual Semiosis in Motion Graphics!

    It's part of the Routledge Studies in Media Theory and Practice series, and proposes a semiotic analysis of the synchronization of image and sound in motion pictures using title sequences as its focus. It is the second volume in Michael Betancourt's study of semiotics and cinema using the title sequence as a critical focus, allowing for a consideration of fundamental theoretical issues apart from both the issues of narrative and realism common to commercial media. Through detailed historical close readings of title designs that use either voice-over, an instrumental opening, or title song to organize their visuals--from Vertigo (1958) to The Player (1990) and X-Men: First Class (2011)--author Michael Betancourt develops a foundational framework for the critique and discussion of motion graphics' use of synchronization and sound, as well as a theoretical description of how sound-image relationships develop on-screen. The resulting study of synchronization is both a critical analysis and a theory of visual music in cinema.






     

    Glitched Video and/as Found Footage

    story ©  | published March 2, 2017 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print



    Glitch

    My article "Glitched Media as Found/Transformed Footage: Post-Digitality in Takeshi Murata’s Monster Movie" on the relationship between glitched videos and found footage is now available in Found Footage Magazine #3.




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    Semiotics and Title Sequences - Now Available!

    story ©  | published January 25, 2017 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print



    Motion Graphics

    My new book, Semiotics and Title Sequences: Text-Image Composites in Motion Graphics is now in print! You can order a copy from the publisher's website today!

    Title sequences are the most obvious place where photography and typography combine on-screen, yet they are also a commonly neglected part of film studies. Semiotics and Title Sequences presents the first theoretical model and historical consideration of how text and image combine to create meaning in title sequences for film and television, before extending its analysis to include subtitles, intertitles, and the narrative role for typography. Detailed close readings of classic films starting with The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, and including To Kill A Mockingbird, Dr. Strangelove, and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, along with designs from television programs such as Magnum P.I., Castle, and Vikings present a critical assessment of title sequences as both an independent art form and an introduction to the film that follows.






     

    Blacklie II includes my abstract photograpy

    story ©  | published January 17, 2017 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print



    My Movies

    I have some abstract photographs in Blacklie II. Now available here






     

    The Statement of Synchronization

    story ©  | published January 1, 2017 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print



    Visual Music

    The designation “synchronized” identifies a particular relationship between the soundtrack and the imagetrack that is apparent to the audience as more than simply the coincidence of simultaneous presentation. The audience makes higher-level interpretations of structure and organization emerging over time from convergent events between sound and image. The identification of direct synchronization originates with its resemblance to phenomenal encounters in our everyday experience: when someone speaks, we see their lips move and we hear their voice as a conjoined encounter; the recreation of these types of synchronized relationship in motion pictures (unlike lived experience) is an artificial construction. In resembling our everyday experiences, the direct synchronization of sound and visual appears as an autonomous conclusion, its immediacy masking its underlying construction and artifice. Which sounds are combined with which elements in the image determines the character and nature of synchronization.




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