Media Arts Program

Sunday, March 20, 2011 at 3:00 p.m.


University at Buffalo Graduate Student Association, and the Departments of Media Study, Arts Management, English, and American Studies

EXCHANGE STORIES: Economics, Labor and Interchange Explored in the Moving Image


How can we use make and use media to envision the ever-shifting connections of global economics? In the U.S. our economic and cultural solipsism is increasingly being challenged by global communication and emerging economies. There is an increasing cultural interest in exploring the vagarities and vulgarities of the market. What do our closest cultural neighbors in Europe have to say about this situation? 

3:00 Opening remarks and introduction of presenters by moderator Liz Flyntz. Berlin filmmaker Sophie Hamacher will introduce her curated series of films. 
4:30 Excerpts of complimentary works by Rust Belt based film & video makers Lisa Jane Davis and Anna Scime
5:00 Department of Media Study graduate student Cayden Mak on Adorno’s conception of the culture industry in relation to new social gaming networks. 
5:30 Discussion 
Screening introduced by curator Sophie Hamacher
Incorporating the films of several European artists, this seminar will examine different forms of economic practice as forms of cultural practice, raising questions such as how economic practice operates in contemporary cultures. The film program employs a wide range of approaches including experimental, documentary, auto-ethnographic and vérité strategies, which sometimes analytically, sometimes ironically deal with these topics. The presented films each individually try to activate new forms of understanding and “doing” or “thinking” economy.   
 Shedding Details (Laura Horelli and Gerhard Friedl 23 min.) 
This video is a by-product of a documentary on the Culinary Union, a Las Vegas labor union. Slavica Tricolic, who worked for ten years at the mega-resort Ceasars Palace on the Las Vegas Boulevard, was tricked into making a mistake and fired. Shedding Details is a film on the problems of translation and the verbal depiction of work, a film about a necessary account in a moment of crisis, and a film about the conditions of its production. Thus it is a film about the conditions, problems and aporia in documentary practice. 
The Anarchist Banker (Jan Peter Hammer 29min.) Named after the short story wrote in 1922 by Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa, Jan Hammer's video restages Pessoa's dialogue between the banker and his secretary as an interview between a banker, Arthur Ashenking, and Dave Hall, a TV moderator. The dialogue's original content has been adapted to reflect upon the financial practices of neo-liberalism and the resulting credit crunch. Through the words of Arthur Ashenking we are, thus, led through the genealogy described in between the writings of Max Stirner and the economic policies of Milton Friedman. The banker's inexorable logic, through which he exposes the core of his economical philosophy and debunks his opponent is, however, faithful to the original, and proves itself uncannily contemporary in its defense of 'rational egoism' and unabashed individualism. 
El valor del gallo negro (Discoteca Flaming Star 24min.) In this video Discoteca Flaming Star turns Latin America’s oldest stock exchange into a performance platform surrounded by banners declaring “What kind of Passion Piero?“ (a reference to Antonioni’s Eclipse) transforming the space into a site of social contradiction. Initiating a five hour workshop as a “council of poetry,” the collaborative explores abstract processes in the financial world, the (in)visibility of the collective, and the spatial presence of bodies. 
Screening introduced by curator Liz Flyntz
From the post-industrial ruins of the rust belt to the new values of the networked economy, these selections explore exchange through collective immaterial labor and cultural memory. Here we will investigate shared archetypes as they emerge from the global brain. 
there is no eye in equus (Anna Scime 12min. excerpt) 
there is no eye in equus employs original footage, audiovisual quotations, advertisements and archetypal imagery in order to produce a rather personal inquiry into coincidence and its place in the process of poesis. A detective story, it focuses its investigation on those unconscious exchanges that create their own accidental image economies, as well as their relative relationships to intellectual property and value. 
total eclipse of the heart of darkness (Lisa Jane Davis 15min. excerpt) Combining elements from historical, personal and literary sources, this experimental documentary deals with themes of synchronicity and loss. Stylistically, the film combines, sound and archival footage with shot footage and animation to create a dream-like meditation that blurs the line between fiction and reality. 
The Schema of Game Culture: The Gamification of Everyday Life and Adorno's Culture Industry
Presented by Cayden Mak 
Theodor Adorno's writings on the culture industry primarily focused on the business of film, but his critique of the culture industry is no less appropriate to the contemporary business of games. This paper examines “gamification,” or the use of game mechanics to incentivize everyday life, as an extreme manifestation of the culture industry. I will show how it is a direct result of the shift in the structure of capitalism that Adorno suggested is the result of the culture industry's hypercommercialization. 
Through an analysis of the system of achievements and rewards available on the social networking utility Foursquare, I will demonstrate how the use value of achievement in play is replaced by the exchange value of achievements such as badges and mayorship. This replacement of use value by exchange value is not limited to the experience of the player – it extends also to the data aggregated by Foursquare about businesses, individuals, and current trends. I also suggest that this analysis is applicable to many other meta-game reward systems, such as those on services such as Facebook, Xbox Live, Steam, and the Playstation Network.