Utopian Tendencies on #ds106radio

Lauren Heywood and I did a show this past Wednesday on ds106radio. We’ve been having fairly regular discussions about all kinds of things for a while now, and this experiment has been born of those chats into a sonic collaboration that we hope will have life beyond the first episode. We were thinking we would try and imagine some utopian scenarios as a welcome alternative to our current moment.

Lauren shared a couple of essays, namely Jonas Staal’s “Comrades in Deep Future,”

and Hito Steyerl’s “In Defense of the Poor Image.”

I loved discussing these two pieces, Lauren can really pick ’em. The way Staal frames the way the logic of colonization of outer space a la Elon Musk’s Space-X reproduces all the evils of colonialism we’ve supposedly “learned from” on Earth is dead-on. And it brought to mind more than a few Philip K. Dick scenario for me, Total Recall being the lowest hanging fruit. And from there the discussion took off, we talked about all kinds of things, including the Utopian impulse of 60s and 70s architecture that resulted in the open, warehouse/box-store spaces of surveillance that dominated the consumerist turn of the 80s and 90s. I was lifting from this review of Douglas Murphy’s Last Spaces that I still need to read.

We talked about film, literature, tech, and returned to Hito Steyerl’s “In Defense of the Poor Image” which is a really powerful reflection on the role of low-resolution images in defining and reflecting our cultural moment. I found Steyerl’s work so compelling I went digging for more. In particular, the following bit from “In Defense of the Poor Image:”

This obviously also affects film archives—in many cases, a whole heritage of film prints is left without its supporting framework of national culture. As I once observed in the case of a film museum in Sarajevo, the national archive can find its next life in the form of a video-rental store.? Pirate copies seep out of such archives through disorganized privatization. On the other hand, even the British Library sells off its contents online at astronomical prices. 

This idea of an archive finding its next life as a video store was interesting to me given I think of Reclaim Video as a kind of archive, so it is almost the same logic, but in reverse. Anyway, following the footnote in the text brought me to her essay on The Politics of the Archive wherein she discusses an image from the film The Battle of Neretva, a Yugoslav partisan movie, and through this image discusses the means through which the various reproductions of these films through various formats creates a complex textual history that makes our discussions of two different versions of Mario Bava’s The Girl Who Knew Too Much seem quaint. In fact, these compressions, rips, and re-contextualized pieces of the film she examines were really compelling to me, in fact I tend to regularly particpate in such transgressions against the archive that she’s exploring here. In some ways it ‘s a form of resistance, and one many of us know all too well given the way commercial video platforms deal with copyright. But the idea of an alternative archive of small files is really interesting to me, and ties into my conceptual vision of Reclaim Video and VHS more generally.  And, as it happens, Tanya Elias linked us to the Smile File Media Festival happening in Vancouver this Summer dedicated entirely to small files, how crazy is that?!

As you might be able to tell from this post, the readings and the conversation really worked for me. It’s all part of a re-connecting with people and ideas during this moment that is akin to a bava renaissance, and it could not come soon enough. We are dreaming up another episode, so hopefully that will be a thing next week. And, luckily, no one’s listening so there is no pressure, it’s simply about pushing ourselves to read, watch, think, and connect. I dig it!

The discussions clocks in at about an hour, and there are a few moments where I cough over the stream (I thought I was muted, but alas) so it is worth noting it is not yet perfect production-wise, and arguably never will be given I am the producer 🙂

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One Response to Utopian Tendencies on #ds106radio

  1. Pingback: Utopian Tendencies on #ds106radio – lauren heywood

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