Rituals of Intercession:  2015

     I have fashioned many televisual inscriptions over my lifetime.  And during these last 12 years I have appropriated many more still.  Now, after being produced, collated, re-membered, re-functioned, theorized and practiced; my televisual excesses stand obliged, ‘duelly’ commanded toward the double bind of public re-mediation.

     Within our contemporary turn towards ubiquitous image making, my aggregations of folklore -- the screen abundances of industrialized man -- must now be re-conjured into potlatch sacrifice, in order to reclaim respectful social status through a generous and ceremonious recitation of these ancestral tales.  And importantly, all this must be ‘gifted and counter-gifted’ toward challenging the fearsome idolatrous spirits inherent in our newly acquired and dearly beloved camera/screen/gun media.  For our accursed image making has spuriously transmogrified contemporary culture.  We must now devise remedies to deliberately counter conceits of digital verism.  Midnight Montage is but one attempt.

     Questioning, challenging, provoking and interrupting common media practice is purposeful in every Cultural Farming incantation.  For as media theorist Jean Baudrillard claims: There is no liberation or revolution of the media available save "restoring the possibility of response", which means allowing media-speech to "be able to exchange, give and repay itself".  Baudrillard paradoxically admits, however, this would require "an upheaval in the entire existing structure of media".  But if upheaval of contemporary media today appears next to impossible, might there be some method for ‘personal’ overthrow?   Midnight Montage is but one attempt.

     Indeed, here Baudrillard posits his most beautiful thought, grounded within the primitive processes of Symbolic Exchange: To literally turn media "against itself"; to "challenge all fixed, unilateral power relations, to unsettle their single-pole; to reinstitute a cycle of relational speech and response".  Baudrillard’s notion of Symbolic Exchange (noticeably absent are examples of praxis) intends to elicit a necessary, responsive, reciprocal (sometimes even dangerous), regenerative counter-gift to the insidious advance of media simulacrum.  Midnight Montage is but one attempt.

     Following Baudrillard (as well as Brecht, Benjamin, Eisenstein, Debord and McLuhan, among others) Midnight Montage is not the simplistic practice of cut-and-paste collage.  Nor is it comedic concatenation, randomized ambiguation, psychotic verism, parodic mash-up, tendentious juxtaposition, clever redaction, narcissistic pastiche or righteous iconoclasm.  Rather, it is a higher-order of "destructive, annihilating truth"...a militant performative combination of quotidian comparison and quotational arcade.  As Thersites would have it, this is more than wit larded with malice, or malice farced with wit.  At bottom, Midnight Montage is experimental ethnography -- a simple act of writing culture -- now rendered into longitudinal ‘video potlatch ritual’ for challenging and repaying our media's excesses of reality and diabolical conformity.

     Midnight Montage contends that greater exchanges of fatal strategies (particularly through a praxis of intellectual montage and allegorical lament) within the figurative landscapes of televisual language contributes to social fecundity by means that radically rupture, carnivalize and innervate ‘ob-scene’ media models.  For only fenestration allows light to penetrate façade.

     If you cannot smell the odor of our contemporary media practices or hear the clarion call for a new media theory and practice; or if you refuse my peculiar flavor of ethnographic surrealism these visual rituals embrace -- the critical methods within my methodology -- then simply consider these electronic carvings to be experimental totems, dangerous ‘shame pole’ gifts from a video witch doctor to inviolable North American media-tribes.  For each video in this project is a maledictive transgression of media banality, purposefully evidenced in these dark corners to help confound and redeem the black magic of human communication.

     You are invited to linger here, inside this digital long house, to feast, to sing and dance, and to witness a ritualized re-performance of the ancestral stories told to me.  All web content is listed chronologically, in the order assembled, but sequential viewing is unnecessary.  In the end, this is simply a gift I freely give to you.  It is how honor is bestowed and retained.  Do with it as you will.

                    Midnight Montage is but one attempt.




                                Rituals of Contemplation

      This website was publicly launched on 15 Sept 2014.  Simultaneously, all episodes are airing on broadcast TV from February 2014 to October 2016.  Combined, these video gifts now complete my gesture of potlatch.  Beyond the ken of this stated intention, however, Midnight Montage proffers a robust anatomy, a critical synoptics, a Menippean Satire, of early 21st century North American television production: languages and techniques.  In toto, this website represents but one small attempt to repay the 20+ terabytes of media data collected and collated by me alone from my home TV since 2003, using only an iMac (paper) and a 2006 version of the editing software iMovie (pencil), as my simple tools. 

    After four decades functioning as an observer/practitioner living and working in, amongst, betwixt-and-between the ‘exotic tribes’ of North American media communication, I have concluded that there are few better ways to inform and reform unchecked TV media production practices than by writing a formal ‘destruction of riches’ through ethical appropriation and public remediation; using critical theory, montage and surrealism.  For when done well, this ‘symbolic gift’ can ceremoniously establish independent standing, repay social debts and honor historical ancestry, and help to counter the taken-for-grantedness rampant throughout communication production.

     Today, even during properly conceived media praxis, we continue to find startling intellectual incompetencies, as evidenced throughout most all commerce and scholarship.  Indeed, wherever media technologies are employed, most critical and theoretical approaches to usage and production are utterly ignored.  In this absence, we find technological cacophonies of moneyed phantasmagoric seduction trumping reciprocal, intelligible, civic screen media practice and critique.  As McLuhan writes, “We make our tools, and thereafter our tools make us.”

   As to the hundreds of hours of archived content not included here into my ritual presentations, I apologize to these innumerable anonymous media makers, for they remain dearly deserving of this manner of public response through the tenets of auto ethnographic surrealism, personal performance and critical documentation.  They, too, truly deserve deep pubic scrutiny and critique.  But then I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV.  I am part reluctant ethnographer and part figurative landscape editor.

     And so, when Cultural Farming appropriates television’s content, it often appears to be exploitative promotion of the very media production it claims to recuperate.  Moreover, as Cultural Farming attempts to expand existing methods of ethnographic writing, it threatens the academy's precious ritual of logocentric scholarship.  These lead to common mis-conceptions.  Alas, “To have great poets, there must be great audiences.”

     Here, when Cultural Farming eschews title and celebrity, it spits in the eye of most forms of (social) media self-aggrandizement.  When Cultural Farming resists branding, promotion, book deals, banner-ads, fund-raising, festivals, t-shirts sales, grants, fellowships, donations, kickstarts-likes-followers-crowds, etc. -- and instead silently and civilly offers its gifts publicly without claims of ownership or copyright restriction -- it displays a dangerous ethic anathema to the grotesque ebb-and-flow of media (neo)capitalism with its totalizing militaristic-pornographic transformation of techniques of production. 

     When Cultural Farming circumvents acceptable (industrial) terms or proper (academic) channels, it challenges the very premise of standard visual documentary.  When Cultural Farming assays existing media theory to see if it still ‘holds water’ in an evolving world, it provokes celebrated experts who’ve grown accustomed to being right.  When Cultural Farming warns that our cameras are an equivalent to our guns, it is meant to remind how we fundamentally ignore the implications of our own media-constructed (sur)realities.  The black magic inherent in (C)ritical montage can help to inoculate against these viruses.

     Now situated, all that remains is to stop watching TV/media and to start looking at it closely and critically for extended periods of time -- as if you were obliged to reply.  And then begin to collect particular media fragments that attract (similarly or repetitively, normatively or exceptionally, orally, aurally, visually, viscerally or intellectually) and reassemble combinations of these bits into any number of collisions:


     Then go read good theory and learn to make for yourself even more media constellations through re-mixing again, because “that moment of shock is socialist revolution.”  And after all, “The only reason for being a Marxist is to get to a point where you can stop being one”.  (Eagleton, 1981, p.78 & 161)

                    Midnight Montage is but one attempt.



                                Rituals of Concordance

As John Ralston Saul writes:

“Now the death of God combined with the perfection of the image has brought us to a whole new state of expectation.  We are the image.  We are the viewer and the viewed.  There is no other distracting presence.  And that image has all the Godly powers.  It kills at will.  Kills effortlessly.  Kills beautifully.  It dispenses morality.  Judges endlessly.  The electronic image is man as God and the ritual involved leads us not to a mysterious Holy Trinity but back to ourselves.  In the absence of a clear understanding that we are now the only source, these images cannot help but return to the expression of magic and fear proper to idolatrous societies.  This in turn facilitates the use of the electronic image as propaganda by whoever can control some part of it."  (John Ralston Saul, 1992, p.460)

As Walter Benjamin writes:

“All efforts to render politics aesthetic culminate in one thing: War.  …Accordingly (Futurists) state: …’War is beautiful because it establishes man’s dominion over the subjugated machinery by means of gas masks, terrifying megaphones, flame throwers, and small tanks.  War is beautiful because it initiates the dreamt-of metallization of the human body.  War is beautiful because it enriches a flowering meadow with the fiery orchids of machine guns.  War is beautiful because it combines the gunfire, the cannonades, the cease-fire, the scents, and the stench of putrefaction into a symphony.  War is beautiful because it creates new architecture, like that of the big tanks, the geometrical formation flights, the smoke spirals from burning villages, and many others.’

This is evidently the consummation of ‘l’art pour l‘art.’  Mankind, which in Homer’s time was an object of contemplation for the Olympian gods, now is one for itself.  Its self-alienation has reached such a degree that it can experience its own destruction as an aesthetic pleasure of the first order.  This is the situation of politics which Fascism is rendering aesthetic.”  (Benjamin, 1938)


As James Clifford writes:

“Reality is no longer a given, a natural, familiar environment.  The self, cut loose from its attachments, must discover meaning where it may -- a predicament, evoked at its most nihilistic, that underlies both surrealism and modern ethnography.  Earlier literary and artistic refractions of Benjamin’s modern world are well known -- the experience of Baudelaire’s urban flâneur, Rimbaud’s systematic sensual derangements, the analytic decomposition of reality begun by Cézanne and completed by the cubists, and especially Lautréamont’s famous definition of beauty, ‘the chance encounter on a dissecting table of a sewing machine and an umbrella.’  To see culture and its norms -- beauty, truth, reality -- as artificial arrangements, susceptible to detached analysis and comparison with other possible dispositions, is crucial to an ethnographic attitude.

Ethnographic surrealism and surrealist ethnography are utopian constructs; they mock and remix institutional definitions of the arts and science.  To think of surrealism as ethnography is to question the central role of the creative “artist,” the shaman-genius discovering deeper realities in the psychic realm of dreams, myths, hallucinations, automatic writing.  This role is rather different from that of cultural analyst, interested in the making and unmaking of common codes and conventions.  Surrealism coupled with ethnography recovers its early vocation as critical cultural politics, a vocation lost in later developments.

Ethnography cut with surrealism emerges as the theory and practice of juxtaposition.  It studies, and is part of, the invention and interruption of meaningful wholes in works of cultural import-export…  The procedure of (a) cutting out and (b) assemblage are of course basic to any semiotic message; here they are the message.  Cuts and sutures of research are left visible; there is no smoothing over or blending of the works raw data into a homogenous representation.”  (Clifford, 1988, p.147-148)

As Norman Denzin writes: 

“Here, adrift in a phenomenology and cultural analysis of late capitalism we find ourselves, voyeurs all, products of the cinematic gaze.  Our challenge is clear.  Begin to write, and live our own pedagogical versions of postmodernism, making our own playful ‘mystories’ of this bewildering, frightening, terrifying, exhilarating historical moment.  ...Theorists of postmodernism are storytellers.  ...Our most powerful effects as storytellers come when we expose the cultural plot and the cultural practices that guide our writing hands.”  (Denzin, 1991, p.156)

“The challenge now is to think video, to think cinematically, to visualize, not only theory and culture as products of a complex visual cinematic apparatus, but to show how that apparatus entangles itself with the very tellings we tell.  To tell a theory visually, like a story or a ‘mystory’, to use Ulmer’s (1989:xi) term, is to argue for a new ethnographic relationship to old-fashioned writing itself.” (Denzin, 1995. p.200)

As Laszlo Moholy-Nagy writes:

"The reality of our century is technology: the invention, construction and maintenance of machines.  To be a user of machines is to be of the spirit of this century.  Machines have replaced the transcendental spiritualism of past eras."  (Moholy-Nagy, 1947)

As Jean-Luc Godard writes:

“I am a painter with letters. I want to restore everything, mix everything up and say everything.”  (Brown, 1975, p.95)

"People in life quote as they please, so we have the right to quote as we please. Therefore I show people quoting, merely making sure that they quote what pleases me."  (Narboni, 1972, p.173)

As Kenneth Burke writes:

Taken simply at its face value, imagery invites us to respond in accordance with its nature.  Thus, an adolescent, eager to “grow up,” is trained by our motion pictures to meditate much on the imagery of brutality and murder, as the most noteworthy signs of action in an ideal or imaginary adult world.  By the time he is fifteen, he has “witnesses” more violence than most soldiers or gunman experience in a lifetime.  And he has “participated in” all this imagery, “emphatically reenacting” it.  Thus initiated, he might well think of “growing up” (that is, of “transformation”) in such excessive terms.  His awareness of himself as a developing person requires a vocabulary -- and the images of brutality and violence provide such a vocabulary, with a simple recipe for the perfecting or empowering of the self by the punishing and slaying of troublesome motives as though they were wholly external.  One can surely expect such imagery to have sinister effects, particularly in view of the fact that the excessive naturalism of modern photographic art presents the violence, as nearly as possible, without formal devices that bring out the purely artistic or fictive nature of such art.  There is no difference, in photographic style, between the filming of a murder mystery and the filming of a “documentary.”  (Burke, 1950, p.17-18)

As Michel Leiris writes:

“The sense of a catastrophe perpetually invoked and avoided creates a rapture in whose depths horror and pleasure coincide...”  (Leiris, 1963, p.38)

As Guy Debord writes:

“The alienation of the spectator, which reinforces the contemplated objects that result from his own unconscious activity, works like this: the more he contemplates, the less he lives; the more he identifies with the dominant images of need, the less he understands his own life and his own desires. The spectacle’s estrangement from the acting subject is expressed by the fact that the individual’s gestures are no longer his own; they are the gestures of someone else who represents them to him. The spectator does not feel at home anywhere, because the spectacle is everywhere.”  (Debord, 1967)

As Anna Grimshaw writes:

“Television, like cinema, offers itself as an interesting site in which a new kind of ethnography might be explored.  Its power and ambiguity, however, have long made intellectuals uneasy.  Anthropologists, too, however have shared this wariness and suspicion, remaining largely aloof from engagement with television’s presence in the worlds they seek to investigate and rejecting, almost by instinct, its potential as a medium of ethnographic communication.”  (Grimshaw, 2001, p.150)

As Susan Buck-Morss writes:

Benjamin's laborious and detailed study of past texts, his careful inventory of the fragmentary parts he gleaned from them, and the planned use of these in deliberately constructed 'constellations' were all sober, self-reflective procedures, which, he believed, were necessary in order to make visible a picture of truth that the fictions of conventional history writing covered over.”  (p.220)

For Benjamin, the technique of montage had 'special, perhaps even total rights' as a progressive form because it 'interrupts the context into which it is inserted' and thus 'counteracts illusion' and he intended it to be the principle governing the constellation of the Passagen-Werk: 'This work must develop to the highest point the art of citing without citation marks.  Its theory connects most closely to that of montage.’”  (Buck-Morss, 1989 p.67)

As W.J.T. Mitchell writes:

“Merleau-Ponty's abstruse discussions of the dialectics of seeing, the “chiasmus” of the eye and the gaze, and the entangling of vision with the “flesh of the world” become much more down to earth when the spectator/spectacle has been visibly embodied and performed in the classroom.  A more ambitious aim of Showing Seeing is its potential as a reflection on theory and method in themselves.  As should be evident, the approach is informed by a kind of pragmatism, but not (one hopes) of a kind that is closed off to speculation, experiment, and even metaphysics.  At the most fundamental level, it is an invitation to rethink what theorizing is, to “picture theory” and “perform theory” as a visible, embodied, communal practice, not as the solitary introspection of disembodied intelligence.  …The Showing Seeing exercise is one way to accomplish the first step in the formation of any new field, and that is to rend the veil of familiarity and awaken the senses of wonder, so that many of the things that are taken for granted about the visual arts and media (and perhaps verbal ones as well) are put into question.”  (Mitchell, 2005, p.355-356)

As Terry Eagleton writes:

(W)hat we have here are all the seeds of Benjamin’s later defense of Brecht.  The drama as fragmented, device-baring, non-hierarchical, shock-producing, theatre as dispersed, gear-switching, and dialectical, ostentatious and arbitrary yet densely encoded: what Benjamin discovered in Brecht was precisely how you do all this and be non-melancholic into the bargain.”  (Eagleton, 1981, p.23-24)

As Joan Littlewood writes:

“Choose what you want to do -- or watch someone else doing it.  Learn how to handle tools, paint, babies, machinery, or just listen to your favourite tune.  Dance, talk, or be lifted up to where you can see how other people make things work.  Sit out over space with a drink and tune in to what’s happening elsewhere in the city.  Try starting a riot or beginning a painting -- or just lie back and stare at the sky.”

As Erdmut Wizisla writes:

(Brecht’s) plays were to bring to the stage events and material of contemporary significance, whose meaning would be accessible to “an audience with sharp senses, who know how to observe”.  He expected an audience who could adopt a “cool, investigative, interested attitude, namely, the attitude of the audience of the scientific age.”  (Wizisla, 2009)

As George Marcus and Michael Fischer write:

“Contemporary practitioners of ethnographic film are well aware that it (film) is as much a constructed text as are written books.  Ethnographic film making thus poses challenges similar to that of ethnographic writing: problems of narrative and focus, of editing and reflexivity.  Perhaps the ethnographic film cannot replace the ethnographic text, but it may indeed have certain advantages over it in a society where visual media are strongly competing with written forms for attention of mass users, including intellectuals and scholars (p.75).”  “...The guiding value of those interested in experimental ethnographic writing…is dialogic: 'the effort to create a relationship with the Other -- as in the search for a medium of expression which will offer mutual interpretation, perhaps visualized as a common text, or as something more like discourse.'  …Feminist anthropology is trying to shift discourse, not improve a paradigm: ' that is, it alters the nature of the audience, the range of readership and the kinds of interactions between author and reader, and alters the subject matter of conversation in the way it allows others to speak.  (p.255)

Like the Frankfort School, the surrealists contested a reified culture, in which they viewed traditional norms, conventions, and collective meanings as artificial, constructed, and repressive.  They reveled in subverting, parodying, and transgressing those dead conventions through unexpected juxtapositions, collages of incongruous elements, drawing from the erotic, the unconscious, and the exotic.  Indeed, their juxtaposition and collage techniques acknowledged the increasing speed and normality with which the fragments of once different cultures could come together in a modern world.  They used the term 'ethnographic' to convey their relativist, subversive attitude, which could contest the contemporary work of French anthropologists in Africa, Oceania, and aboriginal America.  

The ethnographers who emerge from the dialogue with surrealism, however, are left with a dual legacy.  First, to bring out the critical potential embedded in the ethnographic method requires that anthropologists take seriously the notion of modern reality as a juxtaposing of alternative cultural viewpoints, which exist not merely simultaneously, but in interaction, and not as static fragments, but each as dynamic human constructions.  Second, the view of culture as a flexible construction of the creative faculties encourages ethnographers to expose their procedures of representation, makes them self-conscious as writers, and ultimately suggests to them the possibility of including other authorial voices (those of the subjects) in their texts.”  (Clifford & Marcus, 1986, p.123)

As Judith Butler writes:

“As we think about worlds that might one day become thinkable, sayable, legible; the opening up of the foreclosed and the saying of the unspeakable become part of the “offense” that must be committed in order to expand the domain of linguistic survival.  The resignification of speech requires opening new contexts, speaking in ways that have never yet been legitimated, and hence producing legitimation in new and future forms.”  (Butler, 1997, p.41)

As Sarah Pink writes:

“The future…should be a two-way process through which mainstream anthropology comes to accommodate visual knowledge and ethnographic film comes to accommodate anthropological concerns.  …I suggest we need to create a visual anthropology that no longer simply defends itself against the mainstream… One way this is already achieved is by accommodating theoretical developments in anthropology within visual projects… Another is to develop new forms of visual representation that can communicate theoretically… This might involve producing not only new forms of ethnographic film, but hypemedia texts that combine word and image.  …This may provide important directions for a future in which visual anthropology has a more prominent public profile and engages with what some have argued is our responsibility to promote a public anthropology that comments on and intervenes in issues of public concern.”  (Pink, 2006, p.19)

As Catherine Russell writes:

“One of the things that experimental film brings to ethnography is what (Bill) Nichols describes as the ability to see film as cultural representation - as opposed to seeing through film.  It is a difference between discourse analysis and content analysis, and it requires a selection of texts that are exemplary of particular configurations of culture and representation.  …If we can understand film and video as a means by which 'culture' is translated into technologies of representation, we can potentially see, in Rey Chow's words, how a culture is 'originally' put together, in all its cruelty.”  (Russell, 1999, p.22-23)

As Herbert Marcuse writes:

“The basic thesis that art must be a factor in changing the world can easily turn into its opposite if the tension between art and radical praxis is flattened out so that art loses its own dimension for change.  A text of Brecht’s clearly expresses this dialectic: “People who want to show the world as a possible object of domination are well advised at the outset not to speak of art, not to recognize the laws of art, nor to aim at art.”  Why not?  Brecht’s answer is because art is “a power equipped with institutions and learned experts which will reluctantly accept only some of the new tendencies.  Art can go no further without ceasing to be art.”  Nevertheless, says Brecht, “our philosophers” do not have to forgo entirely using the offices of art, “because it will undoubtedly be an art to represent the world so that it can be dominated.”  The essential tension between art and praxis is thus solved through the masterful play on the dual meaning of “art”” as aesthetic form and as technique.

(Marcuse, 1977, p.35-36)

As Donald Theall writes:

“A digression into John Dewey's pragmatic discussion of the relation between the arts and the processes of human communication will assist in understanding why nonsense provides such a powerful model of human communication.  In Democracy and Education Dewey unqualifiedly called out the close resemblance between communication and art.  He says, ‘The experience has to be formulated in order to be communicated.  To formulate requires getting outside of it, seeing it as another would see it, considering what points of contact it has with the life of another, and then reforming that in such a way so someone else can appreciate the meaning.  All communication is like art.'  And Dewey goes on to say that,  'Nonsense, which forces the exploratory intelligence to work with gaps created by grammar, logic, and mathematics produces a strong desire to derive intelligibility from a still broader range of sensory interplay with other gaps and surfaces.  Communication is the process of creating participation’ (p.45).  (These) poetic works are bridges between gaps of understanding; they provide models of communicating in a self-questioning manner.  The experimental nature of these poetic works involves playing with the surface of sense, with the multiplicity of meaning and polysemy of language and machine, and exploiting the thrust towards a transversality of textuality.”  (Theall, 1999, p.xvi)

As Antoine-Dunne & Quigley write:

“Although Eisenstein incorporated Vertov's productive aim he shifted things from Vertov's emphasis on documentary reality towards his own cinema of attractions.  Content, for Eisenstein, meant a series of connecting shocks arranged in a certain sequence and directed at the audience, and organized in relation to principles which would lead to the desired reaction in correct proportion.  His significant departure was in constructing an active medium, which mixed Vertov's unstaged recording of film facts with staged materials, stylization of shot composition, and mise-en-scene as a conscious remaking of reality - altogether a much more purposeful artistic intention.  It came partly from collage, which John Heartfield and George Grosz in turn derived from Cubism.  The more intense aesthetic was needed to break down a stimulus shield that people developed to anaesthetize themselves against the barrage of perceptual assaults of the modern city.  This squared with Brecht, and with Benjamin's philosophical outlook (as conveyed in The Author as Producer).  In this way Eisenstein, Brecht, and Benjamin foresaw a revolutionary use of communications technology such that montage could be used to open things out to explicitly political purposes.”  (Antoine-Dunne & Quigley, 2004, p:46)

As Sprio Agnew writes:

“Now how is this network news determined?  A small group of men, numbering perhaps no more than a dozen anchormen, commentators, and executive producers, settle upon the 20 minutes or so of film and commentary that’s to reach the public.  This selection is made from the 90 to 180 minutes that may be available.  Their powers of choice are broad.   

They decide what 40 to 50 million Americans will learn of the day’s events in the nation and in the world.  We cannot measure this power and influence by the traditional democratic standards, for these men can create national issues overnight.  They can make or break by their coverage and commentary a moratorium on the war.  They can elevate men from obscurity to national prominence within a week.  They can reward some politicians with national exposure and ignore others.

Now what do Americans know of the men who wield this power?  Of the men who produce and direct the network news, the nation knows practically nothing.  Of the commentators, most Americans know little other than that they reflect an urbane and assured presence seemingly well informed on every important matter.  We do know that to a man these commentators and producers live and work in the geographical and intellectual confines of Washington, D.C., or New York City, the latter of which James Reston terms the most unrepresentative community in the entire United States.

Both communities bask in their own provincialism, their own parochialism.  …The views of the majority of this fraternity do not -- and I repeat, not -- represent the views of America. …Perhaps the place to start looking for a credibility gap is not in the offices of the Government in Washington but in the studios of the networks in New York!”  (Agnew, 1969)

As Bruce Conner writes:

“The artist has his role in our society that the madman had, that the fool had, that the prophet had ...he's a protected fool.  The fool with his bells says foolish, stupid things, but every once in a while he also comes out with the truth.  It's a very dangerous job to be the fool.  He's got to eat at the king's table and be part of the process. The king really wants him around because all the other people (who are real fools) wouldn't say what they really meant.”  (Conner, 12 Aug 1974)

As Alfred Jarry writes:

"It is because the public are a mass -- inert, obtuse, and passive -- that they need to be shaken up from time to time so that we can tell from their bear-like grunts where they are ― and also where they stand. They are pretty harmless, in spite of their numbers, because they are fighting against intelligence."  (1873-1907)

As James Carey writes:

“But the disruption of journalism is rather more disquieting than the fact that we can no longer tell which parts of the movie are advertising and which parts are the story, for journalism is central to our politics, to the power of the state, to our capacity to form livable communities, indeed to our survivability as a democratic community.  Therefore, it is rather important that we get a clear fix on the changes affecting journalism and both adapt and reinvigorate the most ennobling traditions of the craft.  ...Journalism is a particular form of social practice, a form of inscribing the world, first in speech, then in print, then in the modern “advanced” arts of broadcasting and electronics.  What unifies the practice across time, media, and organizations is its democratic context and something more.  …We must ask not what the ideals of journalists are but what the spirit that is expressed in practice is and to what degree that spirit and practice are consistent with our needs as a democratic people.”  (Munson & Warren, 1997, p.330-333)

As Marshall McLuhan writes:

“In the new cool TV world, the old hot world of hard-selling, earnest-talking salesmen has all the antique charm of the songs and togs of the 1920’s.  Mort Sahl and Shelly Berman are merely following, not setting, a trend in spoofing the ad world.  They discovered that they have only to reel off an ad or news item to have the audience in fits.”  (McLuhan, 1964, p.228)

As Sergei Eisenstein writes:

“It is not a Kino-Eye that we need, but a Kino-Fist.”  (Eisenstein, 1925, p.5)

As James Elkins writes:

The multitude of photographs displayed in the press, according to Kracauer, forces the beholder to confront the truth of capitalist society: its mechanical superficiality, its banality, its spiritual meaninglessness.  Only through a raw encounter with the surface nature of photography, in its accumulated emptiness, can the process of disenchantment and, importantly, change begin.  At the heart of Kracauer’s thesis is a paradox: “In the illustrated magazines, people see the very world that the illustrated magazines prevent them from perceiving,” he writes, suggesting that seeing is not the same as being critically conscious of what one sees.  Siegfried Kracauer believed that the abundance of photographs, archived in the multiplicity of picture magazines, appearing in newsstands month after month, year after year, could potentially catapult consumers into unflinching recognition of, and revolt against, a vapid, overrationalized society.”  (Elkins. 2007)

As Franco Cassetti writes:

“In Eisenstein we find a constant urge to operate in the interstices of different sciences, between linguistics and anthropology, between psychology and aesthetics, between the history of art and biology.  This impulse might suggest a mistrust of procedures of analysis but, on the contrary, it takes advantage of the relative weakness of various paradigms to make the research more effective - and to obtain better results… The role of the scientist and scholar, wise man and pragmatist, are superimposed and merged: each appears just when the others seem to be asserting themselves.”  (Christie & Taylor, 1993, p.167)

As Theodor Adorno writes:

“The effect of television cannot be adequately expressed in terms of success or failure, likes or dislikes, approval or disapproval.  Rather, an attempt should be made, with the aid of depth-psychological categories and previous knowledge of mass media, to crystallize a number of theoretical concepts by which the potential effect of television -- its impact upon various layers of the spectator's personality -- could be studied. It seems timely to investigate systematically socio-psychological stimuli typical of televised material both on a descriptive and psychodynamic level, to analyze their presuppositions as well as their total pattern, and to evaluate the effect they are likely to produce.”  (Adorno, 1991, p.136)

As Douglas Kellner writes:

“Overcoming the divide between a text-based approach to culture and an empiricist social science-based communication theory, the Frankfurt School sees media culture as a complex multi-dimensional phenomenon that must be taken seriously and that requires multiple disciplines to capture its importance and complexity.  Within the culture industries, television continues to be of central importance and so critical theorists today should seek new approaches to television while building upon the Frankfurt School tradition.

Thus, I would conclude that critical perspectives developed by the Frankfurt School, British cultural studies, and other scholars who focus on dissection of television production and political economy, texts, audience reception, and socio-political context in a multiperspectivist framework provide the most comprehensive and flexible model for doing critical television studies.  For some projects, one may choose to intensely pursue one perspective (say, feminism or political economy), but for many projects articulating together salient critical perspectives provides a more robust approach that helps to grasp and critique television’s multifaceted production, texts, effects, and uses.”  (Kellner, 2003)

As Robert Stam writes:

“The relationship of the storyteller to his material, suggests Benjamin, is a “craftsman’s relationship”.  His task is to “fashion the raw material of experience, his own and that of others, in a solid, useful and unique way.”  Films, Vertov suggested, should be “as useful as shoes.” (p.211)  ...Television, meanwhile, is regarded as almost a dirty subject by the literary intelligentsia, as hopelessly vulgar and congenitally tainted, a not surprising reaction when one reflects on the rude challenge that it offers to traditional prerogatives of that intelligentsia.”  (Stam, 1992. p.211)

As Marcel Duchamp writes:

“The simplest Surrealist act consists of dashing down into the street, pistol in hand, and firing blindly, as fast as you can pull the trigger, into the crowd.”  (Duchamp, 1969)

As Banks & Morphy write:

“Certainly anthropology itself is embedded in representational processes that may reflect political interests and which are an integral part of a particular system of knowledge, affecting what is known and how it is interpreted and understood by others.  One agenda of visual anthropology is to analyse the properties of visual systems, to determine the properties of visual systems and the conditions of their interpretation and to relate the particular systems to the complexities of the social and political processes of which they are a part.  A second agenda is to analyse the visual means of disseminating anthropological knowledge itself.  As reflexivity becomes a central component of anthropological method then visual anthropology with its history of reflexivity, with its element of reportage and its potential to monitor action and process has become an increasingly central field.”  (Banks & Morphy, 1997, p.2)

As Antonin Artaud writes:

“Through the hieroglyph of a breath... I can find once more the idea of a sacred theatre.”  (Artaud, 1958,  p.134, 141)

As Bertolt Brecht writes:

The Philosopher:  Crying doesn’t express sorrow so much as relief.  But lamenting by means of sounds, or still better words, is a vast liberation, because it means that the sufferer is beginning to produce something.  He’s already mixing his sorrow with an account of the blows he has received; he’s already making something out of the utterly devastating.  Observation has set in.”  (Brecht, 1965, p.47)

As Dick Hebdige writes:

“The Gramscian model demands that we grasp these processes not because we want to expose them or to understand them in the abstract but because we want to use them effectively to contest authority and leadership by offering arguments and alternatives that are not only 'ideologically correct' ('right on') but convincing and convincingly presented, arguments that capture the popular imagination, that engage directly with the issues, problems, anxieties, dreams, and hopes of real, (i.e., actually existing) men and women; arguments, in other words, that take the popular (and hence the populace) seriously and that engage directly with it on its own terms and in its own language.” (Hebdige, 1988, p.203-204)

As Kurt Schwitters writes:

Fümms bö wö tää zää Uu,


                                                     kwii Ee.


dll rrrrr beeeee bö

dll rrrrr beeeee bö fümms bö,                                      

     rrrrr beeeee bö fümms bö wö,

             beeeee bö fümms bö wö tää,

                        bö fümms bö wö tää zää,

                             fümms bö wö tää zää Uu:

As Hannah Arendt writes:

“‘The main thing is to learn how to think crudely.  Crude thinking, that is the thinking of the great,’ said Brecht, and Benjamin added by way of elucidation: ‘There are many people whose ideas of a dialectician is a lover of subtleties…’  Crude thinkers, on the contrary, should be part and parcel of dialectical thinking, because they are nothing but the referral of theory to practice.”  (Arendt, 1968, p.15)

As Jean Baudrillard writes:

“The most intimate operation of your life becomes the potential grazing ground of the media...(while) the entire universe unfolds unnecessarily on your home screen.  This is a microscopic pornography, pornographic because it is forced, exaggerated, just like the close-up of sexual acts in a porno film.  All this destroys the stage, once preserved through a minimal distance and which was based on a secret ritual known only to its actors.  ...Obscenity begins when there is no more spectacle, no more stage, no more theatre, no more illusion, when everything becomes immediately transparent, visible, exposed in the raw and inexorable light of information and communication.  We no longer partake of the drama of alienation, but are in the ecstasy of communication.  And ecstasy is obscene.”  (Baudrillard, 1987, p.20-22)

As Brown & Dobrin write:

  1. -Critical Ethnography is not a univocal, but a polyphonic discourse.

- CE adopts a praxis informed by the theoretical imperatives of postmodern critique, which gestures toward a synthesis of the social, the political, and the personal, in which logos is infused with ethos.

- CE confounds theory with its fugitive signs, even as it refocuses its critical gaze on signifying practices of site-specific discourse communities.

- CE wages a liberatory struggle of counter-criticism against postmodern theory - talking back, as it were, to the theoretical discourse that would master it.

- CE exposes the limitations of critique that so effectively exposed its own -- moving toward a more dialectic engagement with theory and a more dialogic solidarity with participants.

- CE is situated at the intersection of radical pedagogy and postmodern theory.

- CE is being informed by 'feminist pragmatism': “ethics of care.”

- CE counters the criticism of self-reflexive narcissism.  (Brown & Dobrin, 2004, p.299-314)

As Paulo Freire writes:

"People will be truly critical if they live in the plenitude of the praxis, that is, if their action encompasses a critical reflection which increasingly organizes their thinking and thus leads them to move from a purely naive knowledge of reality to a higher level, one which enables them to perceive the causes of reality."  (Freire, 1968)

As Edward Bernays writes:

“The very fact that newspapers must sell to the public is an evidence that they must please the public and in a measure obey it.  In the press there is a very human tendency to compromise between giving the public what it wants and giving the public what it should want.  This is equally true in music.  It is true in the drama, where managers, producers and authors combine to adjust plots, situations and endings to what the public will be willing to pay to see.  It is true in art, in architecture, in motion pictures.  It is true of the lecture platform and of the pulpit.  ...The standing problem of every newspaper office -- the winnowing of the day's news from the mass of material that reaches the editorial desks -- illustrates pointedly the need there is to examine the reasons which prompt the editors in selection.”  (Bernays, 1961: p.112-113)

As Neil Young writes:

“Don’t let it bring you down.  It’s only castles burning.  Just find someone who’s turning.  And you will come around.”  (Young, 1970)

As Henry Giroux writes:

“My call to make the pedagogical a defining feature of cultural studies is meant to accentuate the performative as an act of doing - a work in progress informed by a cultural politics that translates knowledge back into practice, places theory in the politics of space of the performative, and invigorates the pedagogical as a practice through which collective struggles can be waged to revive and maintain the fabric of democratic institutions.”  (Giroux, 2000, p.135)

As Paul Valéry writes:

“Myth is the term for everything which exists and subsists only on the basis of language.  There is no speech so obscure, no gossip so fantastic, no remark so incoherent that we cannot give it meaning.  One can always assume a meaning for the strangest language.  ...Myths vanish under the light in us which is generated by the combined presence of our bodies and of our highest perceptions.”  (Valéry, 1956, p199)

As Georges Bataille writes:

“The solemn giving of considerable riches, offered by a chief to his rival for the purpose of humiliating, challenging and obliging him… it is necessary to startle, to stifle the rival group… to pay back with interest… potlatch remains the opposite of a rapine.”  (Bataille 1991, p. 67-72)

As Mikhail Bakhtin writes:

1. It (Menippean Satire) is usually more comic than Socratic dialogue.

2. It is unusually free (from history, realism, and legend) and hence fantastic.

3. Its fantasies create extraordinary situations for the purpose of testing philosophical truth, especially through the manipulation of perspective.

4. It mixes the fantastic, symbolic, and even quasi-religious with a "crude slum naturalism."

5. It is "a genre of 'ultimate questions,'" combining bold invention with broad philosophical reflection.

6. It uses the spheres of heaven, earth, and hell to look at these ultimate questions.

7. It uses "experimental fantasticality," that is, "observation from some unusual point of view".

8. It often represents unusual states of insanity, split personality, dreams, excessive passion, creating a "dialogic relationship to one's own self."

9. Scandal, eccentricities, inappropriate speech, violations of politeness and social expectations are very characteristic.

10. It is full of contradictory behavior and characters.

11. It combines elements of social utopia with other satiric elements.

12. It inserts a variety of other genres, often to parody them.

13. Hence it is "multi-styled" and "multi-toned."

14. It is concerned with current topics. "The satires of Lucian, taken as a group, are an entire encyclopedia of his times".  (Bakhtin, 1981)




An American

resident of Canada, experimenting with new forms of critical media ethnography in Cultural Farming.


Midnight Montage :  Theory and Practice


Critical Media Ethnographic Surrealism