Re: [-empyre-] speaking of film.. and global art industry (and cultural nationalism)

Well, yes, to answer that question, it is rugby.  Anything done which
invites one other entity the party is a game of two halves.

But not only that there are so many different ways to write, to
express, for example, enthusiasm.

Last time I was in Delhi I was so thankful that I had got that far on
the Aeroflot vibrator in the sky that I got of the Bangkok Moscow
flight and kissed the wet balckness of the tarmac.

Today, earlier, for lunch with a dear old friend I was discussing
Rajasthan, Dehli was mentioned as the place to get the train.  It must
be more wonderful than that, I'm sure.

As for focusing on Aotearoa / New Zealand, that may be the given or
suggested topic but it cannot be what defines our conversation..

That would be rather like watching the Tsunami on the telly.


On Fri, 14 Jan 2005 17:24:15 +1100, Danny Butt <> wrote:
> [i think this is a bit late on the discussion cause i've been offline - and
> apologies for the incoherence, i'm suffering from some "embodied limits to
> cosmopolitanism" in the form of a stomach bug brought back from delhi]
> Thanks Melinda for raising  NZ film, which I think opens a number of
> productive questions of relevance to new media arts production. This is
> perhaps sharpened from having just left India where Bollywood cinema seems
> to open similar questions about culture, authenticity, anti-colonialism,
> genre and transnational capital. Of course I know next to nothing about
> Bollywood cinema outside of the economics (and even there not much) so I
> won't comment on that, though I'd be very interested to hear from others.
> But it was interesting that on my Singapore Air flights, featuring 60 movies
> "on demand", about *20%* of the screens where watching The Whale Rider,
> which was in the "favourites" category!
> That it should be so successful - I am sure that it will have a longer shelf
> life than Once Were Warriors -  is not surprising. It has a small girl
> individually battling non-Western patriarchy, a staple of cultural
> consumption in Euro-US, ignoring that the Ngati Porou tribe actually have a
> long history of female warriors and a tradition of allowing women to speak
> on the marae. It has the beautiful East Coast landscape. The socio-economic
> struggles of Maori in the film are stripped from the context of
> colonisation, removing from Western consciousness any responsibility for its
> role in creating the conditions in which the individualist narrative is
> played out. There are Animals (though, interestingly, the perspective of the
> whales themselves plays a much stronger role in Ihimaera's book).  Disney
> have with their usual skill compressed the book's complex conflicts into
> recognisable and resolvable vignettes.  This is assisted by having Lisa
> Gerard (Dead Can Dance and now a major auteur figure in Hollywood film
> composition) score the film, a factor in its success that should not be
> underestimated given Maori culture's rich tradition of evocative music that
> *in theory* could have accompanied the film (I would say that if Richard
> Nunns did the music the film would have been dumped on the arthouse circuit
> immediately, while being a lot better). It's a well-made film, even seeing
> it for the third time, it's moving and compelling, and I would probably like
> it even if I didn't have an entirely other set of connections to the story
> and location that raise questions about it as a cultural product.
> But against the simple recognition of "being up there with the best" that
> The Paul Annears raise (what is this, rugby?) there are a number of
> questions that I think would help us understand what allows it to be seen as
> a "quality" product by international film distributors and audiences. They
> are not dissimilar to those raised by films like Tamahori's OWW, or the
> circulation of new media art from India in Euro-US circles. The other day at
> Sarai Mumbai curator Nancy Adajani (who I hope will publish on this)
> described a dynamic of "location" and "extension" that accompanies the
> production, circulation, and reception of artists such as Raqs Media
> Collective and Shilpa Gupta. I wouldn't summarise her complex argument, but
> I would say that I thought this formulation very powerful: with the emphasis
> that these senses of "location" are cultural in nature (not "locative media"
> as GPS in the way it's been used in new media arts circles) and that the
> capacities to "extend" one's own "antennae" toward other locations are
> unevenly distributed. In other words, as usual, it is those marginalised by
> Euro-US hegemony who do the bulk of the labour of extension toward other
> audiences, practitioners, and subject positions. The dialectics of
> recognition and assimilation within this dynamic are well described by
> Fanon.
> The implications of these dynamics have very concrete outcomes. Let's take
> the example of Whangara, the community who allowed their story to extend
> into the field of transnational cinema in the Whale Rider. Concrete outcomes
> have included a whole bunch of people blundering over gates to take
> inappropriate, unauthorised photos of film locations. Such is the public
> circulation of culture. The local real estate agent noted the sharp increase
> in the number of British and South African subjects migrating to the region
> in the last two years, pushing up property values, thus local property
> rates/taxes, a dynamic that will inevitably result in poor local families
> needing to sell and move, is a well-known dynamic in other areas where land
> has been promoted through global media. These stories do not obviously get
> the same level of circulation, yet they are part of the picture. One hopes
> that new media arts in NZ (or new context media as Adajani calls it) can
> address these issues with some reflexivity.
> Films like OWW and Whale Rider allow us to inoculate ourselves against the
> violence of colonisation (Barthes and Sandoval are very good on this).
> Indigeneity is disembedded into a dynamic of failure to become a proper
> economic subject, or romantically appropriated as the loss entailed in
> entering modernity. In both these films, the relationships between the
> directors and indigenous communities were well documented in the press which
> of course obscures the dynamics at work in transnational film productions,
> where everyone knows that the director's involvement in editing is not
> always a given. We could move the discussion then, from a whether Tamahori,
> as a Maori who "looks white" by his own account is adequately Maori; or Niki
> Caro's ability to represent the story of Witi Ihimaera, to the longer
> histories and backgrounds to how these works get made. What kind of
> "extension" from the urban Maoridom depicted in OWW is required by Tamahori
> to make the film? Where is he located in relation to this material? Hint:
> his framing of Maori-ness as "racial" rather than "cultural" should give us
> a clue to his prior success in the commercial media industry. I'd also love
> to see not just a directors cut but a "Whangara remix" of the Whale Rider by
> the people there (of course, Disney's rabid IP protection would prevent
> this, cf. their legal efforts of Dorfman and Mattelart's "How to read Donald
> Duck). To what extent can white culture "extend" to not just incorporating
> the stories as a "product" (whether for films or when curating exhibitions)
> but to begin a lasting process of dialogue where our priorities are able to
> be transformed by the encounter?
> To get an idea of the dynamics at work, I think it's useful to consider the
> muted criticism of the Whale Rider from within NZ. I believe Merata Mita
> subtly raised the question of why a white film maker has to direct it (easy
> answer: the director must focus the story to move the target audience, which
> requires cultural identification), but there has not been the kind of
> critique Pihama raised about the Piano:
> My conversations suggest that for a number of Maori, they are simply
> relieved to have a more positive - however artificial - first impression of
> their people circulating in international media channels, instead of
> Warriors being the dominant image. But that is far from the end of the
> complex dynamics of neocolonialism exemplified by New Zealand's
> participation  in global media culture.
> I relation to whether state funding is required to secure "national
> cultures" in the peripheries: the more I review the history of indigenous
> relations in Australia and NZ, and the more I familiarise myself with the
> practices of indigenous media makers, the more I believe that cultural
> nationalism in all its forms is the main source of disenfranchisement for
> marginalised groups, who fail to achieve status as "unmarked human
> citizens". I imagine from it's history that empyre - like most new media
> gatherings - is dominated by the white middle classes like myself, and there
> is a very strong cultural trope we are taught that positions state-funded
> national cultural development against the evils of globalisation; and that
> supporting the middle classes to make quirky, "culturally specific" forms of
> established genres (that hopefully nevertheless function as
> rehearsals/training for "real global media" i.e. cultural exports) is
> something that those who are "culturally aware" should appreciate. Anyone
> from Australasia should think about what benefit indigenous media
> practitioners have received from the "quota systems" established on
> broadcasting channels, requiring the provision of "local content". The
> answer, of course, is almost zero, with the various, excellent, NZ
> initiatives only stemming from Treaty of Waitangi obligations and political
> pressure. Because if the indigenous is treated as local, suddenly there is
> something "less local" - not good for national "cultural security!". Free
> the airwaves, ditch the madness of spectrum auctions and the commodification
> of the air in the name of the state, and let's really see what constitutes
> the media of our so called "liberal multiculturalism", which is perhaps
> another word for white power.
> So to finish this rant I say, seriously/not-seriously, let's not just open
> up the airwaves, let's open up cultural funding on an "all comers" basis,
> regardless of nationality. Of course we may want to make cultural justice
> one of our criteria. But these are not national issues, and cultural
> nationalism is a bad hangover that's wrecking many areas of public life
> (let's remember that until recently polynesian hip-hop was often lamented as
> Americanisation in white NZ, rather than the expansive, joyful positioning
> of the local into a global black struggle that it has always been for the
> practitioners). I've got to admit a feeling of concern about the topic of
> discussion this month focussing on a nation-state, even one I call my home!
> x.d
> --
> #place: location, cultural politics, and social technologies:
> [ Lilith] laughed bitterly. "I suppose I could think of this as fieldwork -
> but how the hell do I get out of the field ?" (Octavia E. Butler, _Dawn_)
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum

The Paul Annears

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