Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Editing as critique

At Electronic Arts Intermix in New York, I saw some video art that made copying and editing into new expression, raising fascinating copyright questions. Alex Galloway & Radical Software Group’s RSG-Black-1 (Black Hawk Down) (2005) is a film, running time 22:04, comprised of the 144-minute 2001 film Black Hawk Down with all the white characters edited out. 22:04 is of course a big chunk of the movie, and yet that number – less than a sixth of the original – itself conveys a message about Hollywood and race that Tony Scott probably didn’t intend. Copying plus editing – and nothing more – has produced a social and political message.

Matters are complicated, as Zach Schrag pointed out to me, by the fact that Black Hawk Down is a story about how the white US soldiers never really interact with the Africans they’re supposedly there for, so that they confront a completely alien environment. One could therefore argue that the divide RSG-Black-1 highlights is obvious in the original. But Black Hawk Down tells the story of the soldiers; RSG-Black-1 is about the background, the people in the background, the stories that we only saw in patches and fragments in the original. I think it therefore necessarily comments on and critiques the original.

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