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INCITE!: Filling The Void

INCITE! is billed as the Journal of Experimental Media & Radical Aesthetics, so it’s a kindred spirit to the Underground Film Journal. INCITE! exists as an online journal as well as having a actual 147-page printed edition. While I’ve browsed, and enjoyed, the INCITE! website, editor Brett Kashmere was also kind enough to send me a copy of the first paperback version that I recently read every single word of.

The articles for the first issue of INCITE! are on the longish side, so, for me personally, they make for better reading on paper, which is why I was so thrilled to get a copy. (My aching eyes thank me every time I go do something off-line.) My own favorite pieces are the substantial interviews with Canadian experimental filmmaker Karl Lemieux and the San Francisco legend Craig Baldwin. INCITE No. 1 has been out for awhile, but if you haven’t read those pieces, go do so now.

There’s lots of other good articles in INCITE No. 1, including manifestos, histories and theorizing, and the first issue has proved successful enough that issue No. 2 is currently on its way and will include interviews with Michael Robinson, Cory Arcangel and Aleesa Cohene; and pieces by Ryan Tebo, Jenny Perlin, Noam Gonick and more. Exciting stuff.

What I really wanted to draw attention to in this article, though, was the INCITE! introductory piece written by Kashmere, where he bemoans the lack of coverage of modern experimental filmmakers in art and film journals. It’s a situation that I, too, find dispiriting and completely baffling. Kashmere rightly identifies the literal explosion of alternative or — in the parlance of this particular web journal — underground media and how amazingly accessible all of this new work is online and at microcinemas all over the world, yet it exists in an almost total critical, analytical and appreciative vacuum. The most telling bit in Kashmere’s article is this particular sentence:

Those daring spirits who continue to make it new in the artisanal, non-commercial traditions of experimental film and video have been left with fewer instruments of publicity and analysis.

To me, this situation is even more puzzling especially in these days of quick and easy online publishing. When I started to write exclusively about underground film almost four years ago, I — like Kashmere — recognized the need to fill a void of critical study of alternative media. What I wasn’t prepared for was just how vast that void is.

There’s a very appreciative audience for non-commercial media out there just based on my own limited experience of screening attendance and personal on-going dialogues I have with filmmakers and film festival directors. Yet, although there are reports of over a hundred million blogs in existence today, it seems that it’s possible to count the ones devoted to the critical analysis of modern alternative media on one hand — and a hand that’s missing a few fingers at that.

I’ve puzzled over why this situation might be many times over the year, but can’t come up with any answers. The best I can reason begins with what Kashmere discusses about the lack of the major journals covering modern underground filmmakers. In the online world, it’s sort of a reverse trickle-down effect where the big film sites don’t cover or provide seriously limited coverage of modern non-commercial media, so the little sites don’t see the point of covering it either. Why write about a subject that other websites aren’t going to link to you about? Why bother when there’s no public discussion network to plug into to hash about underground media with like-minded writers, critics and theorists?

The pleasures of producing the Underground Film Journal happens almost exclusively off of the site: Exchanging private emails with filmmakers and festival programmers, discussing films via Facebook comments with people I’ve met exclusively through the site, Tweeting replies back-and-forth with underground film folk. Not to mention the great movies I get sent to me or directed towards online. That’s the private joy because the the public discussion is practically non-existent.

So, that’s why I wanted to give a very public shout out and give some enthusiastic support to INCITE!, its editor Brett Kashmere and the journal’s contributors. I could have just sent Kashmere a private email on Facebook thanking and congratulating him, but we need more public discourse on modern avant-garde, experimental and underground media. Brett: Thank you for helping make the void that much smaller.


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