Monday, 29 November 2010

A corporate video shot by aliens

Well worth checking out if you're in or near Bristol: showing at Spike Island at the moment are Charlie Tweed's genuinely unsettling, unheimlich films, the images for which were salvagepunk-scavenged from found footage from YouTube and the like. The effect is like a corporate video made by aliens. As Marie-Anne McQuay explains:

    The voices that narrate each episode are computer generated, calm, authoritative, and accompanied by melodic music. Even though they stutter and glitch in places, repeating or mispronouncing words as if struggling to process information, the effect is still hypnotic. In a world at the edge of an unknown civil and environmental disaster, ‘they’, or rather, ‘we’ have a plan and the seductions of a certainty of purpose override any concerns about the logic of these actions.

    The scripts, which are the origins of each of the Notes episodes, resonate with the present moment, in part because of their non-fictional origins. Tweed, for example, incorporates the contemporary phenomenon of 'rewilding'[4], taking its theories to extremes and the end of civilisation, whilst also hypothesising on the outcomes of the predicted scenarios in which we arrive at the moment of ultimate technological advancement (Singularity). The final transmission, (Zappisale), in which all networks are to be “disrupted”, is guided by the writings of a real-world, anonymous collective ‘The Invisible Committee’ who predicted the imminent collapse of neoliberal capitalism in their anarchist handbook The Coming Insurrection[5]. This video ends in abstraction, with broken down, overexposed images, identifiable only as colours and shapes, as if following the logic of a narrative bent on disruption, by destroying itself frame by frame.

    The collaging of real world schemas into scripts is mirrored by the montaging of clips from freely circulating digital sources to form the visuals of Tweed’s ‘worst of all possible worlds’. Extracts from broadcast documentaries, YouTube clips, instructional videos and amateur news footage are stripped of what remains of their original context. These contemporary ‘poor images’, a term coined by Hito Steyerl to describe the particular quality and status of the low saturation by-products of digital distribution[6], are generically but not specifically recognisable as mountains and sea, power stations and mobile homes, climbing walls and medical procedures, floods and storms. Further distorted with effects, such as additional pixelation or analogue noise, they are almost impossible to place in terms of a specific time or geographical location, other than being ‘of the world’.

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