Collective mentality

A conversation with video artist Kenneth White
By IAN PAIGE  |  June 4, 2008
"THIS SIDE DOWN, DAMN IF I KNOW" By Zack Rockhill, 2:30, color video, sound.

“007: Acts and Actions” with Portland Film + Video Collective | 7:30 pm June 7 | at Zero Station, 222 Anderson St, Portland | 207.347.7000
The latest project of the Portland Film + Video Collective, “007: Acts and Actions,” will be a screening of innovative and thought-provoking experimental works at Zero Station on Saturday. The Portland Phoenix sat down with founding collective member Kenneth White to find out why the night might be a better use of our time than watching Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

Will you tell me about the origins of the portland film and video collective?
The collective began in July 2006. It began for me when I contacted Keith Fitzgerald of Zero Station. I said, “I’m interested in knowing more about the community around film and video, sharing programs with you.” ... We ended up having a meeting with eight or nine people and from that it has become a core group of four people: myself, Betsy Nelson, Ling-Wen Tsai, and Deborah Wing-Sproul. ... There have been others who have participated in the past but in the present it’s the four of us.

The collective’s mission is to advance film and video in our community. We pool our resources as artists and people of diverse interests and present our own work and the work of others to the community. Highlighting experimentation, we hopefully create a balance to the mainstream cineplex.

In what direction does this newest project take you?
It was a worldwide call. Each member has established listservs and various connections in which we participate. ... We also sent the call to the College Art Association as well as personal contacts. So we received 76 tapes from all over the world: Belgium, the UK, Australia, lots from the West Coast. We wanted to expand our reach as wide as possible and from that field create a program of film and videos that explicitly address duration.

What do you mean by duration?
You can see a painting, look at it for a couple seconds or stay with it for an hour, but with single-channel projections you’re asked to sit and watch and listen for a certain time that the creator has predetermined. There’s an attention that’s expected. The show is entitled “Acts and Actions” to make the concept as broad as possible but to bring attention to duration of experience in motion picture media.

Reading the curator’s statement I had something of a knee-jerk luddite response to what could be interpreted as buying into the myth of progress when it comes to society and technology. In what ways does the video presented in this project champion technology or does it subvert the myth?
I think it’s both. I believe that many of the artists we selected, and the members’ own feelings, point to technology in moving image culture advancing at a high rate, increasing in complexity. That complexity is used to deliver something to us, to say “this needs your attention.” This is often at the service of capital, to get you to buy something, to consume. In a hardware sense, if I open the back of my plasma-screen television, I don’t know how to interact with it. That speed of advancement can be exploited. On the other hand, there’s also a way to celebrate that complexity and personal voice, vision and individuality. To exchange ideas among people.
What we are striving to do is to create that dialogue. How can we respond to this technology? It comes back to duration, the centerpiece of that is attention. Time is money; we spend time to watch television and money is spent to make television to tell us to buy other things. "Acts and Actions" is meant to make us focus our attention back to the tools we have at our disposal so we can advance ourselves.

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