Monday, October 27, 2008

sundance 2009 news (kinda sad)

just got word that our projectionist extraordinaire, Brad Jones, will not be with us for the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. of course, i hope that this is because he has some fabulous filmmaking and/or editing job that's gotten in the way of his routine presence at the festival as our extremely talented as resourceful projectionist.

one year, Brad and i had to literally kneel down on the floor and hold parts of our then-faltering projector in place during an entire screening. it was a great upper body workout but also exhausting and ridiculous, one of those freakish independent film festival scenarios you hear about. i wouldn't have known what to do, but Brad did. and sure, the solution was makeshift and awkward and physically painful, but it worked.

also, i'll never forget when we were having some Big Time trouble with 1.) 2 angry directors who were not at all pleased with a tiny technical flaw at the start of the screening of their film (no one in the audience noticed, we were later told), and 2.) some patrons who were not going to get in to a screening and made our Theater Managing lives a little bit of hell while we tried to both solve the problem and do some delightful customer service-type-representing-the-Spirit-of-Sundance good works. but so Brad said, calmly but boldly, "[colorful terms] . . . you're the Theater Manager. It's your theater." nice. simple. validating.

also, just after my first little stint doing extra work at the labs (my first work on a film set, ever), Brad came outside and sat down on the grass beside me and asked, "so, how do you like acting in film?" . . . and he seemed to be asking so sincerely, as if to validate my choice rather than to fuel my already existing insecurities about the decision to go there at all (that is, not to question this as something silly and mundane). it was a lovely moment. i will never forget it.

but so this is a lot of homage. it's not like he isn't coming back (he says he is. the absence is just for '09). so but we will miss you in '09, Brad.

reanimating ethos

i'm thinking of using Don Draper's Guide to Picking Up Women as a general template for reshaping my professional ethos. because the academy needs more diva-type behavior (hear that "ping" noise as you visualize me winking directly at camera).

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

hello, method. nice to see you.

sabbatical? fabulous. but i often feel guilty for not writing every day, for not having a more appreciable mass of the book done. and this is odd because it goes against what i have come to discover about my process; it is time-greedy, which is to say that it is organic and that it involves long stretches of not writing, which is not to say that i am not still sort of writing in my mind, or working it out, or rearranging ideas -- some would call this "prewriting," but i think it's all writing. so but the other day i was laying down to take a nap (yes.), and a thing i'd written over a year ago, a term i've borrowed from André Bazin for my working title -- that term "suddenly" welled up into my conscious but sleepy mind with such clarity. like a simple answer ...

"here, bonnie. see? this is why you borrowed that term: it is the lens, the way, if you will allow me the sentimental gesture. you have been following the wrong path. oh, sure, it's a lovely path. useful. may take you places. but here. now. this way."

i KNOW. what a big goofball. but that's how it happened (absent voice of ultra-affected muse). so i have a shift in method. i was always going to go (t)here, but now i know why and how and that it is actually the origin rather than the destination. actually, it's both, which is truly fabulous.

Friday, October 17, 2008

testing (use "full screen" - it's a cell phone film)

metro from bonnie lenore kyburz on Vimeo.

a cell phone film i made in DC on New Years Day (thus, the post-apocalyptic feeling of no bodies). i've just joined vimeo and am working it out. i realize the need to enlarge the frame, so if you really want watch this now, i'd go full screen. i'll continue to use this little film to experiment with sizing things up in the frame. i'm still disappionted at my Kairos publication; it is so tiny! . . . hear Michel Gondry's "tiny", or better yet, watch (the real filmmaker):

(n.b., i love the grainy quality of cell phone films, so it's no accident that my film looks kind of dark and moody and slightly unfocused . . . well, not completely).

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


i'm a little embarrassed to admit it and still trying to figure out why this is happening just now, but i'm just now getting around to watching Ric Burns' Andy Warhol: A Documentary Film. i'm fairly well wrapped up in it, i must say. about 1/2 way through the 4 hour film at this point, i'll probably say things that have already been said. but so.

Burns does a fantastic job of seeing Warhol as an artist with a history that shaped his art (duh), rather than simply a Fab New Thing who pops onto the scene from out of nowhere and is all about The Now and commercial culture.

i'm amazed at how much i have not known about Andy (jeez w/ my ego!). and although some readings of Warhol's personal history reach a bit to get after what his art is about, it's hard to ignore those readings in light of Andy's long history as a commercial artist and his studies of fine(r) art, all combined with his aching desire for fame as a "real" artist. in Burns' portrayal, Andy finally discovers (after many failed attempts at hanging with Jasper Johns, et al; they rejected him because of his commerical past [come on. that's funny] and because of his gayness, although Johns and Rauschenberg were quietly lovers) . . . so but Andy sees that fame isn't always or necessarily manipulated into being (although . . .) but rather evolves organically as an artist (re)cognizes and deploys in the most straightforward manner his self, his personal history, his ways of seeing and the circumstances that shape them, and etc. , etc.

on that last thought: i make so complicated a claim that i can't begin to rewind and replay it in a more detailed manner, here, now. and surely, the art historians have long disputed the meaning of Warhol's work and its emergence. i'm simply giving my quick impressions on Burns' take (screened through the perspectives of family members, friends, and associates), 1/2-way through my home-screening experience.

so but back to my response to the first 1/2 of Burns' film and picking up on Warhol's art as more than merely snarky commentary on commercialism: even if, say, the soup can and the cow trace to Andy's personal history and a time of deep personal difficulty and struggle and the life-altering emergence of shame (over his looks, marred by a childhood case of St. Vitus Dance), we see also that Andy's refinement of the images were about more than personal memory or projecting from within, as the Abstract Expressionists who'd dominated the just-prior art scene had allegedly (i mean, it's the quick-and-dirty reading of Abstract Expressionism) done. we see that Warhol's processes of refining his iconic images were about craft, experience, and a skilled awareness of how to design a page/frame/object in terms of line, proportion, color, and etc., etc.

so but this is an interesting and exhaustively detailed documentary. i do have questions about some of the hindsighted observations, but i'm nevertheless intrigued and pretty much see this film as necessary viewing. because the one thing we keep hearing from the many voices in the film is that Andy is the most important artist of the post-war period, and although later Rothko is my guy, i have to go there re: Andy, as well.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

sundance interludes

as i mentioned a little while back, it's about time to start getting excited about the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. and now, it seems that everyone is tripping over themselves trying to get after the various manifestations of social networking and youtube and whatnot, trying to think about how evolving information flows are affecting election-type political discourses and outcomes and, well, The Future of Life (it's all quite grand). there is a lot of awfully smart stuff out there on such matters, but for my little part, i'm wondering what the festival has in mind for its festival theme as well as its pre-screening Sundance promo films, short clips that carry out the festival theme even as they say things about much more than film (to think about, say, the current political scene. or, actually, i think i'm remembering the year we thought that this is what the short films would do, as Sundance had hired Jib Jab following the success of the Bush/Kerry sing-a-long) and storytelling (although storytelling is high on the list of thematic priorities), and festival life, and etc., etc.

many of us loved the puppets from a few years back; these bits remain among the most popular. here are my 2 favorites from that year (n.b. as a Theater Manager, i always have a question at the ready in the case of what you see in the 2nd clip):

so but i'm looking forward to what they'll design for Sundance 2009.


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

repurposing mccain

jessica yu's protagonist

since my PRE/TEXT review of Sundance 2007 is due out soon (and not a moment too late! i kid. thanks, Victor), i have my favorite film of that year's festival on my mind. read about all the buildup, my anticipatory fears, and my stunning reaction in the P/T review, but for now, see the film however wherever whenever you can, and for right now, enjoy:

and a more detailed trailer . . .

fwiw: the stories that moved me most are, first, Mark Pierpont's (slobbering tears and chest noises. full-on dry-heave-type crying), and Mark Salzman's (i usually don't do this, but, omg).

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

ekphrastic ambition

jeez, but that last post is ambitious. there is way too much going on there. but i want to keep worrying it, so i'll leave it a bit longer. that is, until i take it down again and keep it as a private matter for later use in some other type of publication.

-- bonnie, still working out that public/private persona thing.

Monday, October 6, 2008

ekphrastic affects

it's so obvious it's killing me to watch it. we want to rise above petty campaigning tactics, but they don't. somehow, we need to discover ways of activating affective intensities capable of moving voters without also alientating them or degrading ourselves. because really actually American voters don't simply want their party's winner -- although Burkean identification is proving to be a highly powerful variable (recently, i spoke with a person who claims to be highly rational, a person who has for so long ID'd Republican that he said that he wants to see McCain win, die quickly, and then watch as the world becomes very "exciting." i don't usually do this, but OMG). well, let's say that for many American voters, it's not exclusively about party. not now. but what worries me is that for all her lack of historical, et al knowledge -- which might persuade party-ID'ing Republicans to think carefully about disidentification (at least this time around), Palin proves that she knows what voters desire, and she is giving it to them (ahem).

so i'm thinking about Palin via a theory of desire, which is to say, by way of Spinoza, a theory of joy, which is in a way a theory of affect (i'm playing loose; it's all the rage in politics). that is to say, people want, especially now, to feel that living in America means what it has often wanted to mean, that they can feel their desires and act upon them in ways that seem productive. they want that desiring joy – “the passion one experiences in the transition to an increased power to strive”-- Spinoza’s definition of desire.

what is worrying me is that regardless of the outcome of the election (oboy), all Sarah Palin need do is look like she does (not my version of "pretty" or "sexy," but it's working for many, that iconic sexy librarian thing) -- and so but this is not a great moment for women and power, despite what everyone wants to be saying about this (even my goddess, Christiane Amanpour on The Daily Show wanted to go there and did, a sign that The End is very, very near).
so but i'm thinking that this is about how images argue and how they do so effectively even (especially?) when they radiate their meanings absent contextualizing discourse (despite what the linguists and many rhetoricians say). to be clear and more accurate, let's say that in Governor Palin's case, her image argues absent "rational" contextualizing discourse.

to complicate the question of whether or not images argue absent contextualizing written or verbal discourse, say, an essay that explains their meaning, [or a speech that demonstrates leaderly power-potential] i turn to iconologist WJT Mitchell. Creating distinctions between “pictures” and “images,” Mitchell argues for the somewhat easy comprehension of the rhetoricity of pictures because of how they support or contain images (images relate most essentially, for Mitchell, to icons). with regard to pictures, we might discuss line, angle, lighting, proximity, and other design elements as a way of getting at what an agent is after in the framing of the image(s) within a picture. but, for Mitchell, images are far more dynamic, as they possess the potential to seduce us into consuming and reproducing them; they have the distinctive ability to “go on before us,” (105) [sic] as if they possess some vital force that exceeds an obvious rhetoricity. Mitchell moves us beyond “what can I teach?" and "what do I need to do to prepare myself to teach it?” to wondering about “the question of images and value [that] cannot be settled by arriving at a set of values and then proceeding to the evaluation of images”. Rather, Mitchell argues that “[i]mages are active players in the game of establishing and changing values. They are capable of introducing new values into the world and thus of threatening old ones”(105). images themselves seem to possess agency, for Mitchell, and to divorce that agency from the image by intervening with a verbal rendering of the image’s meaning seems somehow wrong [or at least, ineffective. i mean to recognize that it really doesn't matter what Gov. Palin says or omits or blunders, as long as the image "goes on before us," and this is rather terrifying but also evidence in support of images' rhetorical power]. we might be especially struck by the reductive expectation for an image’s accompanying verbal or written discourse because, here and now, new media technologies (and old ones too, a can of hairspray, a sexy librarian ensemble) enable us to produce not only “pictures” but, with artful or perhaps even chance juxtapositions and playful tensions, “images.”

image pleasure is, to be sure, disorienting and paradoxical. on the one hand, images are impotent because they lay beneath our pedagogical concern -- why worry them at all? so, Sarah Palin's appearance is not worth considering. i'd like to be able to say that this is so, but it is, according to my thinking here, really the only thing that people are considering . . . the image is sufficient. it speaks, in the magical manner of icons that generate cultural worship, ritual, and identification with What Has Been, which is so comforting to so many Americans, especially in the terrifying present. on the other hand, we recognize the widely-resonating power of images -- they are powerful because we place them beneath us, as though to do away with or desacralize them, perhaps fearing their power because of how they reveal our own lack (who's this Palin nobody?). this paradoxical (im)potence underscores the nature of images’ enigmatic power and makes image work important for rhetorical pedagogies. Mitchell explains that:

[f]or better or for worse, human beings establish their collective, historical identity by creating around them a second nature composed of images which do not merely reflect the values consciously intended by their makers, [as with the rhetoricity of pictures] but radiate new forms of value formed in the collective, political unconscious of their beholders. As objects of surplus value, of simultaneous over-and underestimation, [… images] stand at the interface of the most fundamental social conflicts. (106)

in particular, Mitchell sees images in terms of their rhetorical agency; they

are phantasmatic, immaterial entities that, when incarnated into the world, seem to possess agency, aura, a “mind of their own,” which is a projection of a collective desire that is necessarily obscure to those who find themselves […] celebrating around or inside an image. (105-6)

for many, the obscure nature of the mutual desire of images seems to be what pedagogies of the visual (where i can find what i'm calling "image pleasure," although image pleasure exceeds pedagogy) might be after. that is, images “radiate” cultural values and desires[2]; we respond to the desire of the image as we discern a will to engage with and participate with and in images. “Celebrating around or inside an image” seems to suggest unwitting participation (as w/ the golden calf), and here we may find space to imagine image work as an endorsement of an uncritical disposition. this is not the endorsement many of my colleagueas in Rhetoric and Composition bring to image work. regrettably, however, it seems to be working for Governor Palin.

[1] Blair qualifies by calling for a few key design elements (see George for summary or Blair in Visual Rhetoric in a Digital Age.

[2] for several drafts, I had used “articulate” over the more appropriate “radiate”; we have so normalized our ekphrastic hopes and conventional pedagogies.

stand up straight & let me get a look at you

It's awards show Sunday, so i'm giving Margot. I'm through with the wishfulness and angst and regret, and Margot, more than an...