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   avant-garde movies, motion graphics, and theory

Kolchak: The Night Stalker

story © Michael Betancourt | published January 16, 2014 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print



Motion Graphics

My article That Uncanny Moment: Jack Coles Design of the Kolchak: The Night Stalker Title Sequence is concerned with how it creates an uncanny effect for the audience.






 

Abstraction and Digital Production

story © Michael Betancourt | published December 8, 2013 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print



Theory

The reductive abstraction common to the twentieth century, from the form is function of reductive formalismboth Adolph Loos and Clement Greenbergmirrors the demands of early capitalism for efficiency and speed of manufacture by unskilled labor. The elimination of features dependent on personal training and their replacement by the industrial assembly line (by Andy Warhol as much as Donald Judd) demonstrates how abstraction embraced the deskilling common to capitalism first noted by historian John Ruskin in the nineteenth century. With the development of digital technology, and the shift from production to replication, the formal protocols of earlier abstraction (especially the geometric formalist work of the 1920s and 1930s) were embedded within the digital itself. The digital automation foregrounded in the more contemporary work of Roxy Paines Painting Manufacture Unit makes the link between contemporary industrial production and abstract art into a subject of the work: instead of challenging capitalist processes and demands, abstract art instead acts to affirm them through the adoption of forms that are deskilled (i.e. not requiring human agency); at the same time, digital technology collapses the assumed distinctions between the abstract and the not-abstract, a factor that becomes apparent in Wade Guytons digitally produced works. This elision of distinctions is a feature of digital capitalismvia the serial generation of commodity formswhere permutation ignores all differences, enabling the valorization of what were historically contradictory domains under the rubric of novelty; the elision of distinctions reflects this protocols dominance. Abstraction is thus simultaneously symptomatic and descriptive when confronting digital technology, a duality that is reflective of how both forms have historically emerged within capitalism. The problem both pose is therefore identical: engaging the contradictory demands of this historical foundation.






 

The Horror of Optical Illusions

story © Michael Betancourt | published November 22, 2013 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print



Motion Graphics

Bright Lights Film Journal no 82 has my new article: The Horror of Origins in Ron Honthaner's The House on Skull Mountain examines the emergent form of a death's head that appears graphically on screen in a way that is both inherently a part of the action (emergent from the composition itself) and a presentation of what is not (cannot be) shown on screen: Lorena's thoughts her fear, signified by the voodoo drums, becoming manifest as the superimposed skull.






 

1935 Review of Oskar Fischinger

story © Michael Betancourt | published November 14, 2013 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print



Visual Music

The Last of the Mohicans: Oskar Fischingers Symphony in Blue

Rough translation of review originally published by FilmLiga, 15 November 1935, pp. 314-315

(314)​That the avant-garde as movement is dead no one will dare to doubt. They broke with confidence that a good-death are venturing with all sides the staff about her, and more or less officially has her first partisans agree with the grave of the filmmaker the deceased commemorated in FilmLiga. For us, that the avant-garde movement very dear have stood, falling from the contradiction of the judgments to ascertaining down two basic facts: first, that the movement within the limits of its experimental nature so useful and invaluable services has proven to aesthetics of the film that we miss only considering her labor at the stage of sound film. Second: that its continued existence, independently, was impossible purely due to reasons of the sound film at least, so it seemed. . . .




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The Kodak Moment (2013)

story © Michael Betancourt | published October 21, 2013 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print



My Movies

The silent film actress Mae Murray, known as the girl with bee-stung lips, appears in fancy dress, pouting and flirting with the audience. Hers is an archetypal image of white feminine beauty from the start of the twentieth century, a form that was already old when the source film was shot in 1922, here glitched and fragmentedyet remaining coherently recognizable throughout this movie. The music is from a vintage 1920 recording of inventor, visual music pioneer, and symphony piano soloist Mary Hallock-Greenewalt playing Chopins Nocturne in G Major.






 

Helios | Divine (2013)

story © Michael Betancourt | published October 9, 2013 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print



My Movies

This movie follows the development of a revelatory experience from a 'parting of the veil' into the emergence of a new landscape where the 'distractions of physicality' are replaced by the 'numinous encounter' and beyond.






 

About Making Dancing Glitch

story © Michael Betancourt | published September 11, 2013 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print



Glitch & Postdigital

OtherZine 25 has my article on making Dancing Glitch where I discuss how recognizing glitches depends on the audience, not what was done to/in making the work.






 

on Lardani's Titles

story © Michael Betancourt | published August 23, 2013 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print



Motion Graphics

My new article discussing the titles for The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly is online today at Bright Lights Film Journal.

The glitch and other details of his first on-screen credit distinguish Lardani's title card from the rest of the sequence in a very dramatic way unlike the other titles, which are immediately obvious as credits, it is possible to miss his credit entirely, a strange distinction to choose given his role and, according to his son, complete freedom in creating the design. It is almost as if his title card is hidden in plain sight.






 

ZXX and Cryptographic Typefaces

story © Michael Betancourt | published July 3, 2013 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print



CultureCrit

ZXX is a computer 'font'--a group of typefaces for digital use--created by artist Sang Mun that currently result in illegible printed material when scanned by OCR technology that existed when it was initially produced. This qualification--when it was produced--is actually very significant to this kind of project because the various letter forms are (as with any typeface) 'set' and so will remain constants even though their size, arrangement and contents will inevitably vary from use to use: because these letter forms are a finite value, and are generally known, it would be relatively easy for a high powered OCR system to have this 'font' simply become one of the things it scans for, then error corrects so the contents become machine readable.




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Autonomous Tools (a fragment)

story © Michael Betancourt | published June 22, 2013 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print



Digital Capitalism

While the "Luddite Fallacy" clearly applies to some kinds of mechanization--the implementation of machine tools and automated processes which amplify and create efficienciesthe creation of autonomous tools raises fundamental questions about the assumption that new technological innovations that eliminate human labor necessarily simply shift it to other sites within the economy. This assumed validity for the Luddite Fallacy remains true if and only if the invention of autonomous tools do not function in a fashion similar to slaverythat the robot (a word derived from the title of Karel Čapeks 1920 play which means in Czech serf labor")does not displace or entirely replace human labor because it is a conscious agent capable of performing the same essential rolethe intellectual component of facturecurrently held exclusively by human labor. This agency is the difference between an automated process and an autonomous one: the automated process requires the oversight provided by human agency, an autonomous one, by definition, does not (autonomy means there is no required oversight).