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Open Spaces

Speculations on Openings, Closings, and Thresholds in International Public Media

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Posted by Patricia Zimmermann at 5:45PM   |  5 comments
A Riparian Zone Preserved in the Mountains of Utah. Photo by Helen De Michiel



Blog post by Helen De Michiel, filmmaker and co-director, National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture and Patricia Zimmermann, codirector of FLEFF and professor of cinema, Ithaca College

In the old world order, writing entered  public space like a piece of fine artisanal pottery, all the edges smoothed, the colors subtle, the shape pleasing and proportioned, the surface  carefully etched with perfectly balanced markings.  Precious, perfect, poised.

In the new world of “open space,” writing, we think, enters other worlds as an incomplete text inviting context and collaboration. It’s a space where ideas need other people and their insights to breathe, expand, get pushed.  It’s a process of letting go, in order to go somewhere else.

So we’d like to invite you to comment and respond to some of our arguments about Open Space Documentary below. We need you.  And we need to put these ideas into a larger conversation.

We’ll be presenting our ongoing research project, “The Open Space Project: Towards a Collaborative and Relational Documentary Practice” as one of the keynotes at the Sepancine 5th International Conference on Film Theory and Analysis in Morelia, Mexico, October 1-3, 2009. Sponsored by the Mexican Society of Film Theory and Analysis of the Metropolitan Autonomous University-Cuajimalpa (UAM-C), the conference is also part of the Morelia International Film Festival, one of the premiere film festivals in Mexico and Latin America. The festival runs October 3-11, 2009.

Oh…almost forgot…if you are a reader of and Variety, you might be wondering what a film theory conference has to do with major world class film festival. The answer is simple: in the exciting, explosive, and expanding space that is Mexican film, video and new media at the moment, practice needs theory and theory needs practice because the stakes are high, the politics intense, and the questions large.

We hope you will comment on some of our opening arguments, posted below.


1.  It can restore social, human-scaled and local agency in new and unimagined ways. It invites new conversations and behaviors while connecting people.  It fights fear with pleasure and fun.

2.  It can convene people intentionally around and in real community spaces, offering an experience that reclaims patches of the social media environment from global corporatism.

3. It lives in and evolves through expansive networks, communities and clusters beyond traditional media distribution channels by experimenting with multiple versions and reaching out to contributors across disciplines and generations.

4.   It invites media makers and exhibitors to become “context providers” rather than “content providers,” reframing the more fluid movement and interconnections across disciplinary, epistemological and political boundaries.

5. It encourages attention to micro-territorial media ecologies where different discourses, practices and dynamically shifting elements will engage both convener and participants in unanticipated ways.

6. It acknowledges and works within a permeable space in which collaboration, contingency, horizontality, adaptability, decentralization and the migration across media platforms occurs frequently and with force.





Hey Patty and Helen

pleasure yes. fun yes.

but what about anger?
This article makes me very angry.

Pittsburgh police use sub-lethal weapons against protestors
tags: accoustic weapons, G20. Pittsburgh, less-lethal weapons, police, sonic weapons, sub-lethal weapons
by David

LRAD being used by the US Navy (ATC)

Mega-events are often the time for some surveillance / control / security innovation and experimentation by states. In what seems to be a rather unwelcome first, the Pittsburgh police have used a military sonic canon to clear protestors off the streets at the G20 summit. These devices are among many so-called ’sub-lethal weapons’ (see the article by Steve Wright here) that have been gradually migrating from military to civilian use for a number of years – see for example the ongoing debate over the use in the UK of the ultrasonic ‘Mosquito’ device, which is supposed to target young people; its makers rather cynically advertise it as ’so effective that they tried to ban it’.

The particular weapon used by the Pittsburgh police is the Long Range Accoustic Device (LRAD) made by the American Technology Corporation, which generates a piercing noise that is not only extremely unpleasant, it can damage eardrums and cause heart problems. It was rather eeriely appropriate to see them being used (as you can on The Guardian’s website) on the same day that TNI / Statewatch released their report on the security-industrial complex and a reminder that this is a global phenomenon.

Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)

Time for an international convention on robotic weapons
Clampdown: Independent Media on G-20 Protests
Has the ‘assault weapons’ ban been reinstated, and no one told me?
from → USA, mega-events, military, policing, security

Patty, thank you so much for everything you did with The Cove, it was a truly eye-opening experience! It really inspired me to be an activist and reminded me of what I really set out to do in film and why I came to this school. I've been telling everyone I talk to about the film and how amazing it is, spreading the story and trying to get everyone to go see it! I might go again to take some of my other friends. Thank you so much for bringing it into our lives!

I just wanted to say thank you for working to bring The Cove to Ithaca. It was such a powerful movie and unlike any documentary I have ever seen. I can't get over the irony of it all. This poor man sets out to unvail dolphin captures for dolphinariums and ends up exposing the slaughters. The dolphins that are 'saved' from slaughter end up living terrible lives of being overstimulated and stressed out. My heart breaks for the people involved as well as for the dolphins. Someone was commenting that it must have been such a depressing film and that they wouldn't want to see it. I did find it overwhelming and unbelievably sad, but I also found it to be so inspirational to think of people being that determined and that passionate. Rick O'Beary has given me a lot to think about. I have already filled in the request form on The Cove website to see if I could bring the movie here. I have also begun some real soul searching to come up with my own plan for becoming more of an activist, as opposed to being an 'inactivist'. If the producer and the crew of this project were trying to inpire people and help their cause, they've succeeded with Devan and I. I plan to share this story in class tomorrow with my students. Thanks again. FLEFF fills so many roles, doesn't it.

Just some comments on the comments:

First, it's really great to see dialogue about documentary happening here. So thanks to Dee Dee, Devan and Suzanne for opening up the conversation.

To Dee Dee: What we are proposing is not the ONLY way to consider documentary practice. It is one approach among many to take. Our work in this area is to expand the palette for documentary and ponder what happens when some different models expand what we consider to be documentary practice. Anger, rage, and fighting power are important--and vital. They can be used strategically to accomplish goals. We are simply working to expand our thinking about documentary in light of some different models. Thanks for your provocative comment, and for sharing a great story about the demonstrations in Pittsburgh.

For Devan and Suzanne: I'm delighted that you were able to make THE COVE, and that it proved to be so powerful for you both. It is certainly a film that sticks in one's head. I'm glad FLEFF "fills so many roles"--for me, the reason to put works out there is to see how audiences engage the work and the ideas. So your comments remind me that its sometimes not about the films at all, but about the comments and thinking and actions they galvanize.

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