Video Vortex Conference (Saturday) - recap

posted in Events on January 19th, 2008

The second (and last) day of Video Vortex kicked off with a promising presentation, given by Thomas Elsaesser on the narrativity in cinema and video in general.

Mr. Elsaesser used the Honda Cog ad, which worked very well with the crowd, especially since he also showed the “spin offs” of the actual ad.

Elsaesser concluded his speech by saying that:

YouTube can be addictive as it drags you along, but after two or three hours, a sense of entropy sets in and the joy of discovering the unexpected wears of

Powerful words, no doubt about it. All in all, his presentation is difficult to summarize in a few words, but definitely the kind of talk I was hoping to hear during the conference.

Next up was Jan Simons who talked about the effects of tagging (especially in the sense of Flickr) on a system as a whole.

According to Simons, tagging creates messy categories, which is of course true, especially considering that many things have more than one meaning (homonymy), such as “rock” in a musical sense and “rock” in a geological sense and then there are things that have more than one name (synonymy), such as the season known as fall and autumn.

It basically comes down to the fact that tags cannot be trusted when trying to categorize content, because, and I will use another example from Simons here, a tag such as “in England” might mean that one, a picture was made in England, or two, a picture could reflect the life in England.

The speech was concluded with an example of massive tag overuse, which can be found here.

The third speaker of the morning panel, Dan Oki talked about space and the importance of space in video as well as how, for example, the Blair Witch Project was important for the evolution of cinematography.

After a quick lunch, the afternoon sessions were set to start, but a Jane Doe (Gabriele something) took the stage to talk about a project of hers called “GaMa”, which tries to be a gateway to archives of media art.

A quick search reveals that they already received 1.8 million US Dollars in funding from the European Union nearly two years ago, yet the Jane Doe, initiator of the project, just explained that they are still trying to figure out their business model. It does make one wonder how the European Union decides who to fund and who not to fund …

After a quick intermission, the actual panel, with a focus on curating online video was kicked off by Sarah Cook

Patrick Lichty, professor of Interactive Art and Media Theory at the Columbia College in Chicago shared his thoughts about online video in relation to context, tradition and audience.

Nothing really ground-breaking there other than a couple of, to me, obvious reasons why artists have not yet embraced YouTube and probably never will, unless YouTube changes the way they treat their contributing members.

Lichty’s conclusion quickly referenced LOLCats and that, somehow, made the whole thing go full circle.

After another quick break, Tilman Baumgärtel started the final panel of the conference, Participatory Culture.

Pirated media in Asias was the main topic of Baumgärtel’s talk, he explained how piracy in Asia is different to Europe, because of the lack of availability of high-speed Internet access in rural areas and also because of the lack of trust.

Whereas in Europe and the Americas, downloads are the primary form of piracy, Asians prefer physical stuff such as CDs and DVDs.

The speaker also talked about a movie called Ciplak, an ultra-low-budget production that was filmed over the span of a month, with a Canon XM2 Mini DV cam and equipment such as Ikea lamps.

The movie, however, looks great and I would recommend anyone interested in indi-media (or Asian movies) to check it out - we were treated to a few minutes of it and all had a good laugh.

At one point, Baumgärtel talked about how some film makers use pirates as a(nother) selling channel: pirates are seeded with a semi-good quality version of the film and after enough momentum has been established, the director releases a DVD with a high-resolution version of the movie and to make it even more interesting, also includes games, screensavers and a making off. While it does sound a tad crazy to most Europeans, I can see how this kind of marketing would work in a market that primarily relies on piracy.

It would appear that the whole piracy thing is a very strict business. For every one master copy of a new movie that enters the country, three copies are made and distributed, within 24 hours or less, to the different islands. Only then does local reproduction of a pirated movie actually start and even then, the production only happens during the day. The reason for that is simply that the pressing plants generate more noise than most neighbors would accept during the night and with the police breathing down the necks of pirates, giving “the man” another reason to lock you up might not seem the smartest move.

More information on Baumgärtel’s talk and works can be found on, a name that spans from the time where the government of an Asian nation issued a decree that allowed the local populace to copy and distribute European and American books and other publications.

Ana Percaica’s topic was “Avi and Divx Art” and brushes topics such as the copyright laws in Croatia and the destruction and confiscation of videotheque copies in the early Nineties.

She talked about how, for example, a home-made porn video of a local celebrity gained so much exposure that we number of downloads came very close to the number of total inhabitants of Croatia and did a good job at explaining why the whole concept of “copyright” does not work all that well in Croatia.

Severina, the porn-lady, was also the underlying topic of the whole talk; it would appear that, in order to protect her innocence (uhuh), Severina apparently asked for all downloaded copies back (yes, the audience chuckled on that note), a clear indicator that the concept of downloads is not as obvious as it would appear to be.

Severina even instructed her lawyer to force the portal that distributed the clip to remove it, but could only support her claim by stating that the video invaded her privacy - which it did not, since she was the one that leaked it initially and her follow-up attempt, claiming that it was “video art”, was also dismissed, based on the grounds of the fact that home-made porn is not art, because it simply is not innovative. Maybe you should have gone for the whipped cream and honey after all, Severina?

The last speech of the day was given by Dominic Chen, who works with Creative Commons Japan.
Of all the speeches that were given during the whole conference, I would have to say that his was the best.

His topic, the critical point of the commons and digital prochronism (yes, it is a mouthful) was both interesting and innovative.

Chen presented on the explosive grow of content and the need for a meta-platform that would be able to handle the growth, he touched on subjects such as the war for openess between Google on Facebook and spiced up his talk with interesting images and video clips as well as clean presentation slides.

All in all, Chen shared some great notes and thoughts with us and really knew how to handle the, seemingly difficult audience.

As always, once Chen’s speech got interesting, the producers told the speaker to wrap it up and call it a day. A quick recap was given and the bar opened.

The first Video Vortex in Amsterdam, to me, was a moderate success. The second day was much better than the first one, mostly because the speakers were more interesting to me and talked about stuff I actually could relate to. Nonetheless, it was a welcome change of the

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