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  • 29.10.2008. - 23.11.2008.

    Dan Oki, "The Last Super 8 mm Film"


    This is the second time that Super 8 mm film has faced artistically more propulsive media since Eastman Kodak released it in 1965. First time was when Super 8 motion picture film format was less favoured than VHS (Video Home System) technology. This happened again 20 years later, due to the increasing accessibility of high quality digital video and the advent of new distributional channels such as the Internet. Therefore, Super 8 mm film never conquered the world of film and video arts. It was predominantly used for its initial purpose of home movie format. It enabled amateurs with little technical knowledge to record and reproduce 3-minute films about highlights of their everyday lives.

    Although Super 8 was widely used in everyday life, it was a particular, almost obscure genre in film and video arts. Some of the reasons were a specific antiquary character of the picture, shooting of 18 pictures per second, frequent lack of sound etc. The artwork of Dan Oki can serve the purpose of illustrating such position of Super 8. “The Last Super 8 mm Film” is a collection of his private films shot in the period between 1986 and 2005. These films, including Dan Oki’s earliest video experiences as a young film amateur from Zadar, his wife’s performances never seen in public and everyday family life, have so far been perceived as inferior in the context of his official artistic career. Instead of well shaped narrative form, refined production and technological excellence, all these being prevailing features of his artwork, his Super 8 films, “diaries” put in chronological order, seem “unfinished and common place”. They represent the ill-defined area where private life overlaps with professional and even social lives.

    Remedialization has been a constant characteristic of media art. According to theoreticians such as Mcluhan and Manovich, insights into the process in which “technology of the past becomes the art of the future” (Mc Luhan) never lose its sharpness. When it comes to the exhibition “The Last Super 8 mm Film”, it presents a particular remedialization and it refers to the phenomenon of archives and archiving. By going through the process of transformation of Super 8 films into digital signal, Dan Oki’s films are not only adapted to reproduction on digital equipment (computer, TV screens etc.) but they are also organized as a system. According to Dew Harrison’s essay “Digital Archiving as an Art Practice” <http://www.chart.ac.uk/chart2005/papers/harrison.html>, practice of archiving has not been rare in the 20th century art. He pays special attention to self-archiving illustrated by the works of such artists as Art & Language group. Although this group cannot be classified as media art (but conceptual art) and its members unambiguously disassociated themselves from it throughout 1970’s, the destiny of their work “Indexes” (1972-1974) clearly showed the range of remedialization that digital technology introduced in the art culture. “Indexes” is a system with interchanging structure: in 1972, when first shown at Documenta 5 in Kassel, it consisted of 350 text sections (text fragments) derived from the texts and conversations about art written by members of the group that were organized in such a way that each section was related to every other section, thus resulting in 122,500 references. (The group members claimed that was the only way to reach the area where meanings were established and art criticism transformed into exact, not fantasy practice). The work was presented in the form of archive cabinets with indexed text fragments and wall display with charts that put those fragments into different relations. About 30 years later, translation of this work into DVD medium, of text into hypertext, provided opportunity for the Art & Language group members to treat their artwork as a document and to re-interpret it. According to Dew Harrison, digital variant of this work was inevitable.

    A similar idea of self-archiving is the subject of “The Last Super 8 mm Film”. However, the logic of data indexation is in accordance with a current shift of interest from personal computer to World Wide Web and Super 8 is adapted to so-called folksonomy, the practice and method of creating tags to annotate and categorize content. In other words, when Web 2.0 was released, a traditional method of classification became the focus of interest. The metadata of our private analogue archives often contain both chronological and subject indexing that reveal what the saved data actually is. These tags, such as “summer”, “wedding”, “first birthday”, “graduation”, “miscellaneous” etc. describe the content of the saved material. This logic was applied to Dan Oki’s film: by digitalizing the collection of Super 8 films, he organized a traditional film archive as a contemporary data basis thus using the old principle of systematization, so-called folksonomy. In this way, the exhibition visitor/ the Internet user can easily search and watch the films regardless of his/ her knowledge of the latest communication trends.

    What is the message of this re archiving? Does Oki’s digitalization of already existing archive discover something new or just cast a slightly different light on what has already been known about his artwork, art culture and media art in general? When compared to other examples of self-archiving in contemporary art and history of art criticism suggested by Dew Harrison, the first difference is the content of the systematized material. All the examples given by Harrison have been the attempts to systematize particular super-individual areas of life labeled as “culture”, “the spirit of the times”, “imaginary”, “dictionary” etc. (the title of Warburg’s project “Mnemosyne Atlas ”(1927-1929) illustrates this quite well). On the other hand, Oki’s systematization is focused on his own private and professional life that through the process of revalorization of personal history offers new contents and methods for future art practice (unlike typically (post) modern goal to correct the dominant discourses of art criticism, as was the case with Art & Language’s artwork “Indexes”). In the context of media art, where Oki’s artwork is at home, such revalorization becomes remedialization. Remedialization of “The Last Super 8 mm Film” refers to two things. First, at the level of artistic poetics his Super 8 mm films refer to often neglected thematic aspect of his works. He uses subjectivity, romantic preoccupation with himself as an artist to “soften” media art, determined by technological, economic and political factors. Many of his works support this thesis (Housekeeper (1997); “Forget, Remember and Know” (1998) etc.) Finally, his need for continuous recording of everyday life affirms the filmmaker (artist) as a centre of representational view (universe) (another possible reference to Oki’s films is Jonas Mekas’ film “Lost, lost, lost” (1976)). “The Last Super 8 mm Film” also refers to contemporary culture and the situation in which extremely personal information (birth of a child, summer holidays, daily routine including resting, eating or reading, love and marital relationships etc.) become socially relevant. Once digitalized and systematized, put into software “data-mining” operations, their informational relevance gradually increases. Although it is possible to differentiate more private from less private videos, such as those showing the members of Zagreb subculture who emigrated to Amsterdam in the early 1990’s, the fact they were made in the intimate circle of friends and not in conditions of the professional documentary production, emphasizes the privacy of Oki’s Super 8 films even more.

    Prior to digital cultural shift, art practice could have differed documents, p
    rivate archives from public archives of general importance. Nowadays, especially after Web 2.0 was released this is no longer possible. Constantly establishing and annulling the border between private and public, digitalization archives all areas of human life. In the case of Oki’s “The Last Super 8 mm Film”, digitalization casts a new light on his work on one hand and creates data basis that will become less private and more public, less his and more ours on the other. (Klaudio Štefančić)


    Dan Oki (Slobodan Jokic, 1965, Zadar) is a media artist and film author. In his work he uses the media of film and video, installation, computer arts and the Internet. His works are based on the process of researching personal, visual, and narrative contents, which demand various media forms and the ways of their presentation. During a few latest years, he has focused his interest on hybrid feature-length film and cinematographic database in the context of the new media. He realised his first exhibitions and experimental films in Zagreb between 1987 and 1989. From 1991 to 1993, he studied film and video at De Vrije Academie in Den Haag as one of Professor Frans Zwartjes’ students. In 1996 he completed his graduate (M.A.) studies in media arts at Hogeschool voor de Kunsten in Arnhem. From 1997 to 1999, he studied at the postgraduate studies in film directing and screenwriting at Maurits Binger Film Institute in Amsterdam. He belongs to the generation of artists who in 1990s worked on cinematographic databases, interactive video, CD ROM's, web art and computer animation. He teaches as Associate Professor in the field of film and video art at the University of Split Arts Academy and the University of Zagreb Academy of Drama. He has taught as a visiting professor at many academies in Europe. He was awarded the following prizes: Grand Prix Videoex 2000 for the film “Divine Beings”, Zurich; Special Award by the New Media Jury at the international Split Film Festival for the CD ROM "U okolišu himera", Split, Croatia 1999; Werkbeurs by the Netherlands Foundation for Fine Arts and Design, Amsterdam 1998.; Jury Award at the International Biennal ARTEC'97 for computer animation "The Householder", Nagoya, 1997.; The Third Award for the Experimental Film at the Croatian Film Show for the film "V moje oči letio igle", Zagreb, 1989.

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