Dislocated screens: found footage and remix in the Bit-torrent Age

Ross Rudesch Harley, Presentation for Screenscapes Conference, Sydney University, Dec 2007.

Ross Rudesch Harley

Artists have always been plugged into archives, whether it be for inspiration, research purposes, or as a source of raw material. The present digitisation of archives into web databases and peer-to-peer networks has further accelerated this relationship of storage and cultural exchange.

Australian media artists particularly have been engaged in using found-footage strategies � as evidenced by work made over the past three decades and included in recent retrospective exhibitions such as �SynCity�. Armed with techniques of cut and copy, these artists purposefully manipulate and hack found material for their own strategic purposes. In doing so, they dislocate archival material from its original screen-base and re-animate global popular culture in their own personal/local style.

Tracing a conceptual bass-line that can be followed from the avant-garde filmmakers of the 20s, Situationist detournement and Burrough�s cut-up techniques of the 1960s, 1980s Super8 strategies, contemporary VJ culture, creative commons, wikimedia, open source and P2P networks, this presentation will lay out some of the stakes involved in remixing the archive in the bit-torrent age.

In particular, this paper will analyse and present the work of Australian artists including Ian Andrews, the SodaJerk collective, Kate Richards, Sarah Waterson, Nova Milne and Sam Smith in terms of this lineage. It will also make reference to a number of new online video archive-and-research projects that are currently emerging in Australia [including those of dLux, the Monash University Australian Video Art Archive, the Sydney Video Art Research Project, and Griffith Artworks]. In what ways do P2P networks and the read-write web challenge the existing practices of public institutions and content-producing artists, and what benefits might these networks offer artists and researchers in the future?