Monthly Archives: March 2009

what we can do with a virtual archive / Is this sonic collage?

So our class has been thinking about issues of archiving in the digital realm, what it means to collect and deposit ethnographic data virtually: who has access? who can interact? Does the virtual realm make for the possibility of a more dialogic ethnography – built on open commentary? We read Johannes Fabian’s Ethnography as Commentary which theorizes the potential promise of a virtual archive as a space to make ethnography more of a collaborative, communal enterprise. While Fabian’s ideas are solid, there’s a lapse between the potential of this archive & what Fabian’s archive manifested as – (basically) transcribed interviews/conversations supplemented with a self-reflexive commentary. (So, helpful yes as a model in making ethnographic process/practice more transparent but not really a radical step for imagining a more dialogic ethnographic practice… but his toes do scratch the surface)

The examples below from Kutiman’s Thru-You project are far more visceral illustrations of a virtual archive’s potential to be dialogic. These “sonic texts” are made from everyday video responses. They are performative. They have an active, visceral, kinetic presence. The sonicscapes exemplify not only Kutiman’s individual creativity at a careful sampling-sewing (how did he mix this stuff down?), but also bring attention to the multitude of authors he draws from (check how he “cites” them by videolink in his sidebar notes) and to the digital community’s responses back to his work, debating its merits as art or as a product of poaching because of its use of sampling. Fascinating stuff…

So, check this pastiche cut-n-mix from various youtube clips to see how a digital depository can be reconfigured as creative material:

Kutiman explains how he did it:

Here’s some discussion of what Kutiman’s work means in light of contemporary issues of copyright, entitlement, appropriation of online material, etc: “Kutiman, Big Media, and the Future of Creative Entrepreneurship”

And: “Kutiman Killed the Video Star”

Here’s a video response from one of the “authors” whose video material was clipped and used in Kutiman’s sonic-collages…We might think of this as an example of commentary within the realm of YouTube. Check the comments…

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We need new stories

(from Dec 2008)

For about two months now I’ve had City of Men, a Brazilian film I rented from Netflix. Every weekend I’ve said to myself I’m going to sit down and watch it – and then I don’t. Tonight I did and I’m so glad that I let myself press play. I realize that what has been holding me back is that I’m tired of seeing black stories that are associated with destruction, no outlet, no other options. I know this story. Seen it, breathed it – Have seen young black boys in my family fall/fail – living and dying this story. Have seen it in my proximity walking through the Westside of Chicago or riding through Cabrini-Green, seen it from a distance in Trinidad’s Laventille fortress. It’s not that I want to will this structural poverty and violence and dehumanization away by shutting those stories out. But where is our range of possibilities…Why are we still stuck on black life as only being associable with violence. We need new stories, new testimonies, new potentialities, new visions.

I was so afraid that City of Men would perpetuate the trope of black masculinity as dead-end violence. But it didn’t. That reality of no choice was there, but there was also nurturance, humanity, love, tenderness, and the privileging of relationships, of relating to other human beings, other beautiful black stories.

It climaxes with a scene of potential betrayal. One friend holds a gun to the other’s face. Between them a question, “Are you my friend?” And then a statement, “You don’t want your son to grow up fatherless like us.” It ends with both friends holding the hand of the child – the next generation. The last shot is the two bigger boys walking with the child in between them and together they are thinking about their next move, their next possibility. To the filmmakers I say thank you for offering an other kind of cinematic representation of black masculinities. We so badly need it.

My son woke up half way through and watched it with me.

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