Craig Baldwin - Appropriating, Scratching and Decoding
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Craig Baldwin is an appropriationist filmmaker and operator of 'The Other Cinema' in San Francisco's Mission district. His film Sonic Outlaws was the first feature documentary that directly addressed the emerging conflict over copyright in the early 1990s. Here he introduces the logic behind his appropriationist approach, aesthetic, economic and semiotic. His approach challenges proprietary views of cultural objects and he considers the risks in his practice. http://footage.stealthisfilm.com/video/19
This interview was recorded for Steal This Film II
. The project tries to bring new people into the leagues of those now prepared to think 'after intellectual property', and think creatively about the future of distribution, production and creativity. This is a film that has no single author. It makers encourage its 'theft', downloading, distribution and screening, and have made the entire film and its footage available for download in HDV format, on their website and on Pirate Bay.
Interview with Craig Baldwin, filmmaker.
Steal This Film II
So whether or not you know about art povera
my idea of cinema povera
that is to say,
made out of our situation,
which is marginalized
Rather than apply for the grants
or get studio funding,
just work form where we are,
but taking advantage of the fat of the land,
so to speak,
taking advantage of the resources
that we already have,
in other words...
a culture of instant obsolescence,
I call it
"surfing the wave of obsolescence".
All these films here,
that you may or may not see,
are all being thrown away
just because of a format change,
same thing happened
same thing happened to vinyl
to magnetic tape,
and magnetic tape to CDs
and it'll go on and on,
it'll be totally digital next year
and we have of course the scratch DJ
as an art form,
because of the availability of vinyl.
poor people again, in New York
Harlem, or whatever,
would be able to go
and find these old albums
which had no value at all
because they had been made obsolete
by the next generation,
the next media platform,
so they could get two copies of it
So this is just one anecdote
that illustrates my point
a mediocre record perhaps
but something that has some hooks
that they can recognise
and there would be a lot of them because
they're thrown out en masse
and they'd be able to get
two copies of the same record
and they could basically scratch between them
and produce kind of a scratch music.
What I'm trying to do is a scratch film,
which is the same thing,
the film is old,
it deserves to be redeemed
as I say,
if that's not too idealistic,
Certainly I'm not opposed
to shooting my own stuff
most of the stuff you see
that's shot new now,
it's not attractive to me,
maybe that's my problem,
because I'm sure it has redeeming qualities
but generally it looks too...
well you know,
well I'm just not interested in the look.
Personally I like something
that speaks of the history
of our experience,
not only of our media history,
which is folded into it,
there's something a little bit
necrophiliac about it,
there's something about loss.
So I like the older look
and I had access to it,
I could make the film
without studio or foundation backing,
and it allowed me
the pleasure of...
some kind of perverse revenge
on these old films, see,
so for all those reasons
towards what I call collage,
or collage-essay, filmmaking.
I know that there's gatekeepers out there
at every level.
certainly in production, funding,
but don't you see, my whole model
was always outside of all that
in fact my whole project is called
"The Other Cinema".
I don't live in their world
so they can get fucked
as far as I'm concerned.
So I just do what I can
in my own way
and I can't get brought down
by all the other power relations
because it would just weigh too heavily on me.
So this may come up later in the discussion,
but as far as the intellectual property laws,
I know a little bit about them,
but my whole point has always
been about transgression
I made a film called Sonic Outlaws.
So I'm on the side of
the moving outside of the norm.
You know I was talking about appropriation
in Sonic Outlaws,
and culture jamming
So in a way it was a report,
don't you see, on the material
and as it turns out
I do advocate it by the way,
But certainly I, as a journalist,
as you are,
that would be my product, my artistic license,
to talk about that
There's five different ways around it
One is just remaining outside,
and beneath the radar
- that's one strategy.
that's not going to work for people
who are running for president
but again that's not my goal.
There is a huge margin, by the way,
a huge peripherary
it's not to be discounted
remain beneath the radar
and distribute material through
what I call electronic folk culture
it'll get out there,
it always does,
especially now with the new media,
which may be coming up here...
Also the idea of...
I had no money!
This is a legal issue -
why sue me?
I didn't represent a competitor
a lot of that stuff is at the end
Twentieth Century Fox
versus Warner Brothers
and that wasn't the case
the playing field wasn't level.
They would have nothing to get from me,
why honour me with
the distinction of being sued?
That's what happened in Negativeland and U2
by the way,
everyone knows Negativeland now
even though there just a goofy little band,
but because they squared off with U2
they're the good guy.
Yeah, you just win by having
the courage of your conviction
And then again if you take a stance like that,
an ethical stance,
it may be that you're not sued,
because it'll just make the
larger corporation look bad.
I'm at, I guess you could say,
the extreme edge
of the media democracy and
media literacy movement,
which does not tell people didactically
what's wrong with that commercial,
or that advertisement,
or that press conference,
but really through the language of cinema itself
through the rhetoric and the image,
creates a dysfunctional kind of grammar
that allows people to have the insight
and to see the lie
In my movie Sonic outlaws,
Negativeland, one member says
"Intentions are exposed"
and that's really what I'm trying to do
in other words, push the contradictions
within any advertisement
so you can see almost the people
who are writing the script
and kinda see
how they intended to manipulate people
Rather than me explain it to them
if it can be from within the piece itself, see
so you know, the secret of the decoding
is kind of within the message itself.