Passive-aggressive (Frieze)

Yet another response, by Frieze's chief editor Dan Fox (24 May 2010)
There are more CCC discussions outside than on this blog here in the past 2 years!

"spat", "lobbing handfuls of organic flapjack at each other", "critical storm-in-a-teacup", "now, don’t get me wrong or nuffink…", "upset", "fervent fan and vociferous defender", "lambasts", "hits back", "scalds"... i'll just skip the passive-aggressive attempt to escalate the animosity of impressionist journalists.

"‘Real film critics giving up on art … Who is going to defend real culture then?’ he asks, ignoring the question here of who gets to say what ‘real culture’ is."
If you're not born this morning, you probably know what culture is and what state it is in. Culture is not decided by the free market, culture is not what the mercantile industry chooses to greenlight, culture is not what the media are infatuated with for a good 3 minutes before moving on to something more populist, culture is not limited exclusively to what multiplexes make profits from, culture is not what the Box Office ranks... Culture is only boring to those who can't talk about it. If you bring up the word "boring" in a cultural debate, the positive alternative implied is "not-boring", i.e. entertainment.
Pop culture and entertainment is part of culture de facto, but it isn't the brightest part of it, nor is it the largest proportion. I'm sorry, but we can't engage in a cultural debate with such prejudice. You don't teach students what culture is based on whatever isn't boring to them. In what society on Earth does "boring" come into play in deciding what part of culture deserves visibility and accessibility from this subjective and demagogic criterion? If you ignore what the masses find "boring" in culture, you're not really teaching culture, are you?

"If we’re talking about that which is not represented, Tuttle’s spat with James, Rizov, Shaviro et al is an interesting one partly because of another area of filmmaking that the row itself ignores. Ideas of duration, non-representation, anti-narrative, and such like, have been in circulation in film and video art and shown in galleries and museums since at least the 1960s. Much as I admire Tuttle’s spirited engagement with his favoured genre of contemporary cinema, nowhere on his timeline of CCC/Slow Cinema is there anything that represents, for instance, the achievements of Structural cinema."
This is an excellent point, and I wish it didn't take such a long stretch of your demonstration... The inflammatory rebuttal [sic] you've discovered in the headlines this week couldn't reveal the iceberg hiding beneath the tip unless you were familiar with this blog for the past 4 years it has been actively contextualizing this trend. To the myope everyone is myopic, of course...

Let's start in 2007, when the boundaries of Contemplative Cinema were much more inclusive (here), and most specifically, a tentative genealogy throughout cinema history searching to thread the evolution of its various influences. Which doesn't forget Warhol, Snow, Barney and more than you could namedrop in your article off the top of your head. But thanks for the suggestions.
I'll have to check out what look like the films of Tacita Dean, recommendations are always welcome. The short list of CCC is not exclusive, it's just a way to get to the core of this trend in a simpler way, beyond the particularism of each auteur's individual signature. It's the contemplative approach in filmmaking that is the main subject of this trend.

Sharon Lockhart? Her films (even though I haven't had the chance to see any yet myself) were listed on the extensive chronology assembled collectively by the visitors of this blog over the years (which was in the sidebar until last month; but now i'm tired of people perceiving CCC as an endless list of multiform films).

You want Matthew Barney? This was 2006 on my separate blog Screenville (1-2-3-4), before the opening of Unspoken Cinema.

Do you really think we rushed the contextualisation? I'm over my head with the inclusion of all films remotely slow and contemplative. And when I see what professional critics throw in the mix-bag called "slow cinema", I'm content I don't have to deal with that nebula.
I had to draw the line (the narrower chronology you've found), an arbitrary line alright, but necessary to give a stronger coherence to the chosen few. The intention was never to come up with a grand theory spanning History from day one. Yes there are familiarities and evident marks of influences with notable precursors. This is how the language of an art evolves, within the mainstream format or in the experimental fringes.
Now with a much less ambitious scope, this very precise and circonscribed "trend" makes a lot more sense, to me at least. And we can work on the unique contemplative perspective evidenced in these particular films, and nowhere else.
If people want to go for the totalizing theory of "slowness" from 1895 till now, I'm not going to stop your efforts. If you so wish, we could talk about my choices to delimit the trend from 1970 on and exclude certain obvious contenders who, according to me, develop a distinct kind of "contemplation" that is less related to the family I've formed so far. Or I could point to other articles we've written in the past on this blog addressing these issues.

"It reminds me of anxieties one hears people voicing about contemporary art: the fear – instilled in them for whatever reasons of education, background or personal insecurity – that if they say they don’t like something, they’ll be thought of as culturally ignorant. The flipside of this is, of course, the fear of being branded pretentious.
[..] Framing the discussion along this axis of philistinism and pretension is frustratingly unhelpful, as it keeps discussion mired in very basic terms of class and taste, and elitism versus populism, pushing into the background any other possible forms of analysis of why you think the way a director has put images and sound together is engaging or not. It foregrounds insecurity; the critic or viewer’s anxieties over what other people will think of them and their opinion."
The ignorant/pretentious dichotomy you draw from contemporary art isn't far from what happens in cinema, the cinema considered art, not the spectacle side of it. Critics are now as fearful to speak their mind, even in specialized revues dedicated to ART CINEMA. They are afraid to be perceived as elitist by the average movie goer... as if this should be of their concerns!
We cannot talk about culture in this demagogic climate. I'm sorry, I'm not going to let Hollywood level the playing field from the lowest common denominator! Either you want to talk about CULTURE, or you don't. But we shall not let the ignorants dictate what culture should be, what is pretentious and what is ignorance.

"Yet Tuttle’s approach doesn’t help either. It [sic] interesting to note how at least two of his definitions of CCC/Slow Cinema are formed in opposition to conventional formulations of cinema – ‘plotlessness’ as opposed to plot, ‘wordlessness’ as opposed to dialogue. Why not ‘silence’ rather than ‘wordlessness’ – that is to say, why not foreground what does exist rather than what it lacks? The danger with binaries formulated around the absence of something is that, just like the philistine/pretentious axis, they can hobble the terms of discussion."
I'm glad to hear that. And once again, we've covered this ground. I clearly dissociate myself from the Slow/Hollywood opposition in this article (before S&S's editorial!) and as soon as 2008, about the "negative" wording in CCC mainstream reviews.

"The idea that if you criticize some of these CCC/Slow Cinema films you must therefore be craving all-action blockbuster movies is a little like saying just because you don’t like pasta you must therefore love dim sum"
I don't remember ever saying such thing. If you've read this interpretation in the articles that commented my reaction, it doesn't mean I said it myself.
"Anti-intellectual banter", yes, I said it, and I maintain it. I didn't say that S&S was a lost cause, or that they were in bed with Hollywood all the way. I said that the mentality induced by THIS particular editorial was the evidence of an anti-cultural agenda, whether it is a new proposal for a change of the magazine's policy or a rampent anti-intellectual pose by its chief editor. The curator of an Andy Warhol's, Peter Kubelka's or Ernie Gehr's film retrospective wouldn't imagine to open its catalog with apologetic words to the public who might get bored and might find the event "pretentious".

There are people who consider culture as an artist-centric event where the public makes the effort to connect with an œuvre, and there are people who consider "culture" as a consumer-centric commodity which ought to satisfy or be refunded! I know on which side I stand.

see other posts on this debate : 1 (Flanagan) - 2 (James) - 3 (Shaviro 1) - 4 (Shaviro 2) - 5 (Thoret) - 6 (Guardian) - 7 (Boring is not an argument) - 8 (Lavallée) - 9 (Frieze) - 10 (James 2) - 11 (Romney)


rd said…
HarryTuttle said…
Thanks. Great article! I guess Danny Leigh doesn't read his own newspaper.