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Notes on the 8 BIT premiere at MOMA, Oct 7
(work in process)
--the 420-seat theatre was 5 seats shy of being completely full, I was told.
--My description of Game Boy music as "that tuneless stuff Malcolm McLaren likes" and Nullsleep's vituperative response from a live stage got a laugh. I'm resigned to my role as "the heel," as it is called in professional wrestling. Post-screening comments about that "battle" were interesting: a media critic who attended called it a "mods vs rockers moment" and a higher-up in a media arts non-profit said to me: "I was surprised--I thought you supported our music." I do, most of it--I guess this person hasn't been reading my blog lately
--The movie favors a sociological, narrative, theoretical style of art. A different 8 BIT would tilt more to the crazy, pointless, Dionysian (but not wholly uncritical) side, represented by Paper Rad, who use game imagery and techniques extensively in their online and offline cartooniverse. Kristin Lucas's pioneering game-based videos emphasizing (Modernity-damaged, personal) psychology over Marxist socio-crit could also be included.
--Rumor has it JODI footage will be inserted--I love them, but they were established Internet-dismantlers before they became game dismantlers (correct me if I'm wrong). They would be the logical centerpiece to 8 BIT: The Return. 8 BIT already borders on long--not sure it can handle much more run time.
--If 8 BIT as currently constituted seems balanced (and it does), it is because the music clips and the montages of game "trash" supply the ebullient, anarchic counterpoint to institutional critique.
--the audience laughed at the funny parts and everyone seemed into it, including many who hadn't encountered Super Mario Clouds before.
--the movie is driven by excellent music and, as mentioned, relentlessly tasty videogame imagery--these are the glue binding together what is otherwise a series of (intermittently great) talking head interviews.
--Music-wise, Bodenstandig 2000 is a perfect mix of gritty chip tone techno-rave, Nitzer Ebb white b-boy rapping/chanting, and Laibach-ian Euro-gloom: they're accomplished "major label" musicians keeping it real with gear anyone can own. Snippets of other outstanding performances keep the film humming.
--the other thing that drives the movie is, once again, a busy visual sensibility centered on games. This has less to do with the individual artists featured than the producers' in-depth research and use of found clips that show a real love for the idiosyncrasies and poetry of games. This unified visual style supplies the feeling of an art movement--even when the artists actually have quite different backgrounds and intents. (I personally see the DIY, WTF work of Bodenstandig and the BEIGE crew as being opposed to the overdetermined, overproduced global capitalist apologetics of, say, John Klima.) Producer/Co-director/Director of Photography Justin Strawhand deserves special mention for this unifying use of images and clips mined from the net and creatively montaged. (Not to slight the contributions of Director and original concept-er Marcin Ramocki)MOMA 8 BIT page
(there's a second screening on Wednesday, Oct 11)8 BIT website