research

Medium practices

Abstract

In this essay I develop a topic addressed in my book, Film Art Phenomena: the question of medium specificity. Rosalind Krauss's essay 'Art In the Age of the Post-Medium Condition' has catalysed a move away from medium specificity to hybridity. I propose that questions of medium cannot be ignored, since they carry their own history and give rise to specific formal traits and possibilities. The research involves close critical analysis of four moving image works that have not previously been written about: two made with film, and one each with computer and mobile phone. The analyses are conducted by reference to my ideas about how technological peculiarities inform and inflect practice: I see the work's material composition, its form and final meaning as intricately bound up with each other. Film, video and the computer give rise to specific forms of moving image, partly because artists exploit a medium’s peculiarities, and because certain media lend themselves to some methodologies and not others. I do not seek hard distinctions between these media, but discuss them in terms of predispositions. For example, I discuss a 16mm cine film in which the shifting visibility of grain raises ideas around movement and stillness. The aim is to develop a definition of medium specificity, in relation to the moving image, that is not essentialist in the way previous versions were criticised for being, that is, based on ideas of "material substrate" (Wollen). I argue that film is a medium of stages, in contrast to the modern tapeless camcorder, in which all functions of recording, storage, playback and even editing are contained in a single device. Supported by a travel grant, I presented a version of this essay at the International Conference of Experimental Media Congress, Toronto, in April 2011, along with a selection of works: http://www.experimentalcongress.org/full-schedule

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