Lev Manovich on Mon, 29 Sep 1997 05:38:16 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> About Little Movies

LITTLE MOVIES now available online at:


Lev Manovich
About "Little Movies" (1997)

"Little Movies" is a lyrical and theoretical project about the aesthetics
of digital cinema, and a eulogy to its earliest form -- QuickTime.
Beginning with the supposition that every new medium relies on the content
of previous media, "Little Movies" features key moments in the history of
cinema as its logical subject.
        As time passes, the medium becomes the message, that is, the
"look," more than the content of any media technology of the past is what
lingers on. "Little Movies" reads digital media of the 1990's from a
hypothetical future, foregrounding its basic properties: the pixel, the
computer screen, the scanlines. In the early 1890's the public patronized
Kinescope parlors where peep-hole machines presented them with the latest
marvel -- tiny moving photographs arranged in short loops. Exactly a
hundred years later, we are equally fascinated with tiny QuickTime movies
-- the precursor of digital cinema still to come. Drawing a parallel
between these two historical moments, the "Little Movies" are explicitly
modeled after Kinetoscope films: they are also short loops.
        The project was begun in 1994 when the World Wide Web was just
beginning to gain mass exposure. From the beginning, my intention was to
create cinema for the Net. I wanted to turn the network limitations into a
new aesthetic. Is it possible to create films with the resolution of 1
pixel?  Is it possible to have a meaningful and an emotional experience
under 1 MG in size?
        I grew up in the U.S.S.R. where the material resources were quite
scarce and I often had to travel from one end of Moscow to another because
every art supply store would only carry a few colors at a time. So I would
buy black paint in one store,  get on the metro to travel to another end of
the city, buy white and blue paints at another store, get on the metro
again, and so on. Faced with the abundance of material and computation
resources of the U.S., my  reaction is to work against it. I don't need
faster networks, more storage, more multimedia, more processing power -- I
want to figure out first what can be done with just a few pixels.
        You can call this approach digital minimalism. Or perhaps digital
materialism, DIAMAT for short. Ironically, the official Marxist philosophy
in the U.S.S.R was also called DIAMAT -- which was an abbreviation for
"dialectical materialism."
        An aesthetic analogy can also be made with the structural
filmmaking movement of the 1960's which defined the material elements of
film media as their subject matter. In "Little Movies," I thematize the
material elements of digital media such as pixels, scanlines, compression
artifacts, computer screen.
        I also feel an affinity with Moscow conceptualism of the 1970's and
1980's (Komar and Melamid, Kabakov and others). In contrast to Western
conceptualism these artists did not want to deny the materiality of an art
object; they combined an emphasis on ideas with the traditional form of
easel painting. Similarly, I investigate the historical, social, and
economic specificity of digital media as well as its unique perceptual and
experiential effect. "Little Movies" is an attempt to research all of these
aspects simultaneously.


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