Musings: The political/personal -- Videoblogging is where it's at

The irony of my existence is that it has taken me so long to come to videoblogging. The medium is enthralling because it seems to offer this potential to express yourself (or at least myself, as I don't know about you) with a freedom and verve that isn't accessible by other media means.

If you keep to the bare minimum of time -- one, two, three...ten minutes -- and accept those restraints, then you can format you outlook with as much creative density as you can manage.

Conferencing

The exercise reminds me of the omnipresent political intervention when you are at a conference and the standing orders has set 3 minutes as the length of all contributions from the floor. If you want more time you need to prevail upon the chair or the body of the hall to get an extension.

Nonetheless, a conference -- at least the ones I'm used to -- can be dynamic all-in dialogues as the participants engage with each other to come to a collective agreement.

Despite the restraints the format encourages focus and doesn't suffer much bullshit.

I'm so caught up in trying to master as many techniques to do this as I can -- that I'm for the moment happy to deploy my digital camera to explore my video expressions. Because I'm using a simple and small tool I recognise why mobile phone vlogging is growing as a special medium in its own right with conferences and film festivals dedicated to the genre.

That's access with a capital A.

The other aspect that has struck me is that videoblogging suits political existence almost to a 't'. That may seem strange given that many activists would assume that documentary film making is the lifeblood of didactic creativity and advocacy. What isn't recognised is that the short sharp clip can be very powerful tool with which to make a point.

Our problem -- our collective problem -- is that we're so skewered by pretension that we can miss the everyday utility of the tools that may already be in our possession.

I came to videoblogging after exploring what's often referred to as photojournalism. If you go to a big time rally or protest there's a lot of paparazzi style shutterbugs hovering around the crowd shooting some very standard images of the event. But like an audio representation of the occasion, these images can only tell part of the story.

I used to take my camera and my microphone to these rallies and despite my rig investment was never satisfied with the end result: still photographs and sound files. Nonetheless I get an even worse feeling from the way 6 O'clock TV News journalism reports on these events. In fact inevitably -- even by design I'm sure -- TV journalism skewers the story by chasing headlines and proffering perverse exaggerations as fact.

But what if you were looking back, say, 20 or 30 years hence -- what would you want to take or learn from a record of such an event? If I can offer an answer it is:> that I was there. Not just that they were but you were too.

So I'm talking about grabbing much more than archival film footage -- I'm talking, oral history that isn't so oral at all.

That's the marker for political video (or to be more correct, political videoblogging) I reckon because intervening with a mind to grab footage a certain way, can also represent the essential character of the occasion. It's the long view of history not the show off short view.

Personal : Political

Of course, here in lies the perennial dichotomy and conflict between the "personal" and the "political" because it is so very easy in our cultural outlook to separate the two as though it's about wearing different hats: one for your ideological day out and the other mufti for when you're not. That's the way we're told to think: that being political and thinking politically is foreign to our everyday routine. We're told to "keep your opinions to yourself."

Maybe you are wondering how shooting a thunder storm from my back door can be political? In a setting of global warming that storm certainly has political context -- but I also think a lot of what we do everyday is our political existence as well, as much our sentence as it is our potential. Everyday labour can be harnessed into class struggle -- and despite our seeming apolitical outlook -- is part and parcel of class struggle whether we want it to be or not.

So I guess I'm trying to merge anthropology with activism. Congealed social ecology represented on a very small screen.

Brecht

In this regard I'm still caught up in the theories of Bertolt Brecht which have dominated me all my adult life. Verfremdungseffekt -- the Alienation Effect -- is so easily misunderstood but to give you a warmer sense of his perspective, what he once called Epic Theatre he later came to refer to as Dialectical Theatre. And Verfremdungseffekt is not a technique but an abstraction -- a way of doing / a way of seeing.

By its very nature it has to be political rather than simply technical because you start out with the aim to address an audience a certain way by unleashing a dialectical process that emanates from the experience both of making and watching the creative end result.

And in the case of videoblogging the powerful addendix is that it is episodic -- something like Brecht's view of epic theatre -- and comprises a montage of elements parceled out over time.

Brecht was also very influence by contemporary cinema and Dadaism's penchant to mix (multiply) media. This outlook was developed into the theory of Total Theatre by Erwin Piscator which gave Brecht the seeds for his later theorising.

Some reading for you
[To be continued]


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