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Is Stan Brakhage (and "similar" experimental artists) filmmakers or artists?

Sarah J. Bean

about 2 years ago

Or both!

My opinion here isn’t important, I am just curious if there is some kind of consensus that I am unaware of.

Matt Parks

about 2 years ago

Filmmakers aren’t artists?

Sarah J. Bean

about 2 years ago

The definition of artists is extremely ambiguous. Because film is such a modern medium, not everyone considers it traditional art. But that is the argument, technically.

Brakhage, for example, with a work that consists only of him painting on celluloid (The Dante Quartet), do we call him an artist or a filmmaker? They are separate definitions and I don’t believe filmmaker is a subgenre of artists. It’s many arguments, come to think of it, but I just wanted to hear others’ opinions on the matter.

Polaris​DiB

about 2 years ago

“What constitutes a film, what constitutes art, and using those definitions, could experimental films be considered film art?”

—PolarisDiB

Matt Parks

about 2 years ago

To me a better question would are we willing to consider Brakage and others filmmakers like him who are painting directly on celluloid painters?

“They are separate definitions and I don’t believe filmmaker is a subgenre of artists”

Other than newness, what about filmmaking indicates “not art”?.

odilonvert

about 2 years ago

I’m confused as to why there is a distinction being made here too. Just as there are novelists who write different kinds of novels, why can’t filmmakers make different kinds of films?

A filmmaker is a filmmaker. A filmmaker is also an artist — in that he/she makes art. No matter what kinds of films they make.

Sarah J. Bean

about 2 years ago

There isn’t anything to be confused about. I am simply wondering if you have a distinction between the two (which you apparently do not) and how artists like Stan Brakhage apply to your opinion.

Matt Parks

about 2 years ago

Yeah, I mean I understand that every medium has to prove itself. People used to think only poetry, not prose, was art, for goodness sakes, only painting, not photography. It takes people a while to get their minds around new things, but I think that after a hundred years or so, the matter is pretty much settled.

odilonvert

about 2 years ago

Nope. No distinction. Just a very different kind of filmmaking, the kind that the public is not used to experiencing.

Someone here with a good knowledge of film history (complete) might be able to address why these kinds of filmmakers have been historically separated from the kind whose work people are used to seeing. I think initially, when film first started being shown, there was perhaps a little more experimental stuff going on that was viewed and appreciated by larger numbers of people. But that was a long time ago.

One of my goals as a regular forum poster on Mubi and an experimental filmmaker and member of Garage is to form relationships with filmmakers who do not do experimental film, and have a dialogue that closes that gap. I think it’s a false separation and that we have a lot of interesting viewpoints to exchange. A lover of literature who does not appreciate any poetry (an vice-versa) is not a well-rounded lover of literature.

Polaris​DiB

about 2 years ago

Help us out: where is that distinction and who draws it?

I honestly do not know many people except those uninterested in film in general who finds any distinction between film and art, and experimental film as either film or art or both.

All I can think of is the more historical classist debates when people observing movie theatres as dins of low-class, polyglot immigrants decided this indicated that the form was a baser, lowbrow entertainment medium than the fine arts of theatre and painting and concert music. That meme has wound itself enough into the language of film criticism enough that we still have the Hollywood = lowbrow, entertainment, masses, commercials/art house = highbrow, art, personal, thematic divide, but that divide rarely places experimental film outside of the ‘art film’ category.

Some critics do look into the question of “what makes a film” based on Brakhage’s non-camera filmmaking (but it still requires a projector, so the apparatus remains), but those who do start out with the assumption of film = art before they begin their deconstruction of ‘what makes a film’.

Tying these two heavily diverse discourses into one vague question about what we ‘think’ about these ideas doesn’t really give us clarity as to what you have in mind, what precise question are you asking? That’s the issue we’re struggling with here, trying to figure out what you want to discuss, not the topic of the discussion itself.

—PolarisDiB

—PolarisDiB

Matt Parks

about 2 years ago

There’s more to film than narrative film.

Polaris​DiB

about 2 years ago

“Someone here with a good knowledge of film history (complete) might be able to address why these kinds of filmmakers have been historically separated from the kind whose work people are used to seeing. I think initially, when film first started being shown, there was perhaps a little more experimental stuff going on that was viewed and appreciated by larger numbers of people.”

Well the fact is that the early ‘experimental’ films were not like the later ‘experimental’ films because the early ones were genuine experiments in trying to figure out how to get the medium to work, as well as how to structure ideas into an understandable story. Later experimental works are more deconstructive, in that they attempt to reveal the non-narrative, non-linear possibilities of the medium. The early experimental films are interesting to watch because they show ways in which narrative film language might have developed, had we not chosen to think of continuity in the way it’s currently structured (shot/reverse shot, cut on action, et al). The later experimental films are interesting to watch because they attack that structure.

—PolarisDiB

odilonvert

about 2 years ago

^ nice! thanks for this, DiB. :D

Borges

about 2 years ago

Just to clarify, Brakhage’s work doesn’t consist only of his painted films.

Window Water Moving Baby and The Act of Seeing With One’s Own Eyes, to name a couple.

Sarah J. Bean

about 2 years ago

^ I’m aware, thanks though.

I'm gay and love to crap

about 2 years ago

I’m still not convinced all entertainment is art

Borges

about 2 years ago

Oops, my bad, Sarah. Should have known that you’d know. Didn’t see the topic was under Mothlight. Carry on.

Polaris​DiB

about 2 years ago

“I’m still not convinced all entertainment is art”

Sophistically speaking*, we wouldn’t need different words if the two concepts fully encompassed the same things equally. Otherwise the section in the newspaper labeled ‘Arts & Entertainment’ would be redundant, no? So once again that sort of justifies an exploration of what differentiates the two, and in said exploration could potentially be found a method of understanding where, i.e., experimental camera-less film fits.

However, I’m going to be serious and say that that is one conversation this board has often that I get really bored of quite quickly. The whole ‘what is art?’ question is the abyss-deep playground of natural Sophists. I keep it simple for myself and say art seeks to communicate, entertainment seeks the pleasure, and art can be entertaining and entertainment can be art, and I know that’s not sufficient for others but it doesn’t keep me awake at night and at least helps me focus on whatever next piece of art or entertainment I’m making.

I would say cameraless films are still films and art. In answer to the OP.

—PolarisDiB

*As in Sophism — Sophist — Sophistic, which means I may have stumbled across an interesting entymology…. otherwise I’m using the word sarcastically.

odilonvert

about 2 years ago

Wait — we’re expanding waaaaay too wide when we say " all entertainment" and art.

Let’s try to stick to film…

Matt Parks

about 2 years ago

Heck with the possibilities of digital capture and projection, you don’t even need film for it to be a film any more.

Polaris​DiB

about 2 years ago

More Fun with Semantics Time:

…when I say “cameraless film” I’m referring specifically to the subgenre of experimental cinema Sarah is referring to where filmmakers expose footage to various elements, scratch emulsion, or paint on clear cells to create a moving image that is then projected; it is produced at no point in a camera apparatus. Cameraless ‘movies’ I suppose can exist in various forms dealing with digital animation or something, but isn’t really a genre or subgenre of experimental cinema. Perhaps Nam June Paik could be considered a ‘cameraless video artist’ in that he sometimes builds television sculptures and adds magnetic elements to create warped visual effects that create ‘moving images’ that are otherwise not achieved with a camera.

So in this specific thread, my usage of the word film refers literally to film. I think I have been careful enough to use the terms ‘movies’ and ‘cinema’ where appropriate to differentiate between the overall media of moving images, and the subgenre ‘cameraless film’ specifically. Digital capture is not film, it is digital cinema.

—PolarisDiB

Polaris​DiB

about 2 years ago

^“Brakhage, for example, with a work that consists only of him painting on celluloid (The Dante Quartet), do we call him an artist or a filmmaker?”

This is what took me off in the direction of cameraless filmmaking. The thread itself is questioning experimental film as art, which seems only to be leading to confusion. The more concrete example of cameraless filmmaking has given me more things to think about and respond with.

—DiB

I'm gay and love to crap

about 2 years ago

Polaris- Totally agree

Matt Parks

about 2 years ago

Yeah, yeah. Iimura’s White Calligraphy ( ‘Kojiki’ scratched into frames of 16mm leader), David Gatten’s WHAT THE WATER SAID, NOS. 1-3 and WHAT THE WATER SAID, NOS. 4 – 6 (sound and image produced by unexposed, undeveloped 16mm film dropped into a crab cage and lowered into the Atlantic Ocean).

The tricky thing about language is people take the words used to describe things to be the essences of those things.