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Expanded Cinema

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“The first book to consider video as an art form, was influential in establishing the field of media arts. In the book he argues that a new, expanded cinema is required for a new consciousness. He describes various types of filmmaking utilising new technology, including film special effects, computer art, video art, multi-media environments and holography." - wikipedia

444 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1970

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About the author

Gene Youngblood

8 books5 followers
Gene Youngblood (born 30 May 1942), is a theorist of media arts and politics, and a respected scholar in the history and theory of alternative cinemas. His best known book, Expanded Cinema, was the first to consider video as an art form and has been credited with helping to legitimate the fields of computer art and media arts. He is also known for his pioneering work in the media democracy movement, a subject on which he has taught, written, and lectured since 1967. - wikipedia

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Displaying 1 - 8 of 8 reviews
Profile Image for Tentatively, Convenience.
Author 16 books191 followers
July 12, 2016
This is visionary. Prophetic. Brilliant. Genius! &.. wishful thinking?! & I only see 2 editions listed here: the 1st paperback & the 1st hardback! That's a disgrace. Is this bk SO esoteric? Does it have SO little popular appeal? I reckon SO. It was published in 1970. I was living in Baltimore at the time & I heard a fair amt of references to it. This was probably b/c of Stan Vanderbeek's heading of the UMBC (University of Maryland, Baltimore County Campus) film & video department. It wdn't've been b/c of any insightful professors at MICA (Maryland Institute College of Art) where film & video weren't really looked upon as valid artforms yet!

Vanderbeek was a visionary (& a very nice guy) & he's in "Expanded Cinema". Rightfully so. At any rate, it was an influential bk to many a UMBC student & yet.. not THAT influential b/c I don't think most people 'got it'. I, on the other hand, think I 'got it'.. but I didn't READ IT until now! 39 yrs later! In other words, I feel like I was a natural youngun in this zeitgeist. &, thanks to the head of the film & video department of the Enoch Pratt Free Library, Helen Cyr, many of the works discussed in this bk were actually available FREE to be gotten out of the public library & projected. THANK YOU HELEN! I certainly appreciated this at the time but I appreciate it EVEN MORE NOW as a I realize how hard it must be to witness any of this work these days.

I actually got many of the works referenced in this bk out of the library & made very poor quality transfers of them for my own personal collection & I'm very glad I did! Since then, I've looked up many of the works online to see if they're available on DVD & the answer is generally NO. Or, if they are, I haven't found them. Now, of course, this cd be b/c the makers didn't want them available in a non-film medium. On the other hand, not having them available for easy home viewing is ironic insofar as much of the bk touchs on the very revolution of home viewing that has come into existence since the writing of "Expanded Cinema" - hence my calling it prophetic. Youngblood certainly nailed the coming of home movie theaters & the internet!

"Expanded Cinema" is a classic example of a bk I cd've marked up w/ things to reference & things to be inspired by on just about every page. Here's from Buckminster Fuller's Introduction, page 26:

"As yet preoccupied only with visible, static, newspicture views of superficial surfaces of people and things - with a one-millionth fraction of reality which it has cartooned in utter falsehood - society fails to realize that several hundred thousand radio or tv communications are at all times invisibly present everywhere around our planet. They permeate every room in every building passing right through walls and human tissue. That is to say that the stone walls and human tissue are invisible and nonexistent to the electro-magnetic wave reality. We only deceived ourselves into reflexing that the walls are solid. How do you see through your solid eyeglasses? They are not full of holes. They are aggregates of atoms as remote from one another as the stars. There's plenty of space for the waves of light to penetrate."

Fuller goes on to develop this vision to discuss thought transmission:

"It may well be that human eyes are just such infra-sized parabolic transceiver cups. It may be that our transceiver eyes adequately accommodate the extraordinarily low magnitude of energy propagating of the brain as electro-magnetic wave pattern oscillations to be picked up by others."

Keep that in mind the next time you look into someone else's eyes! In Youngblood's Preface he writes:

"We're in transition from the Industrial Age to the Cybernetic Age, characterized by many as the post-Industrial Age. But I've found the term Paleocybernetic valuable as a conceptual tool with which to grasp the significance of our present environment: combining the primitive potential associated with Paleolithic and the transcendental integrities of "practical utopianism" associated with Cybernetic."

Again in the Preface he makes the claim that with "Holographic Cinema" "we'll arrive at that point in the evolution of intelligence when the concept of reality no longer will exist." &, here, we enter the realm of what I'm calling "wishful thinking". Such "radical evolution" philosophizing runs as a strong current throughout the bk & I find it to be one of the most exciting things about it.. &, yet.. as a person immersed in such subjects who's grown into adulthood during the time of Youngblood's prophesies I find myself agreeing more w/ the cautionary tales of Jerry Mander's "Four Arguments for the Elimination of Televison" published only 8 yrs later: 'reality' may not have ceased to exist but people's grasp of it has probably been severely skewed by the 'revolutionary' potential of tv, eg. & where exactly IS this Holographic Cinema that Youngblood predicted wd be here by 1990? I've had a primitive hologram in my personal collection probably since the 1970s & "Virtual Reality" has come into existence but, & I think it's a shame, Hologram Cinema, as Youngblood explains it to be possible isn't exactly a common thing now is it?!

I was delighted to read on p65: "The artist is always an anarchist, a revolutionary, a creator of new worlds imperceptibly gaining on reality." I expected Youngblood to be a scholar but a scholar & an anarchist is better yet! On page 70 we read a quote from Susan Sontag: "If there is any 'knowledge' to be gained through art, it is the experience of the form or style of knowing the subject, rather than a knowledge of the subjects itself." & that seems to me to be the premise of Language Writing too. That wd've been cutting edge theory at the time & I probably wd've agreed w/ it somewhat if not entirely but now I'm more inclined to think that it's symptomatic of the creative person's rush to justify new forms more than something whose form necessarily holds water that we can actually drink. &, then, "Television Renders Cinema Obsolete as Communicator of Objective Reality": OI! Is this the bad influence of Marshall McLuhan?

"Television is the earth's superego." "Before television we saw little of the human condition. Now we see and hear it daily." Oh, yeah? &, now, w/ the internet that's even more 'true' - & still as 'false' as ever! For me, we just have more mediated perception of the "human condition" - wch isn't quite the same now is it? "We're in direct contact with the human condition; there's no longer any need to represent it through art. Not only does this release cinema; it virtually forces cinema to move beyond the objective human condition into newer extra-objective territory." &, this, in some sense is a main crux of the bk. & maybe it's wishful thinking. At any rate, if this has happened in the last 39 yrs I haven't noticed it!

"Syncretism is a total field of harmonic opposites in continual metamorphosis; this metamorphosis produces a sense of kinaesthesia that evokes in the inarticulate conscious of the viewer recognition of an overall pattern-event that is the film itself as well as the "subject" of the experience. Recognition of this pattern-event results in a state of oceanic consciousness. A mythopoeic reality is generated through post-stylization of unstylized reality."

Well sd! If ever there's been a consciousness-expansion-drug-use -combined-w/-Buddhist-philosophy statement regarding & defining EXPANDED CINEMA this may very well be it! & I agree w/ it (sortof)! But, as wonderful as the above may seem, it's probably of even less concern to the 'Average Joe' now than it was 39 yrs ago. The banal still rules as the people drudge thru their wage-slave & Christinanity & Islam mind-deadened existences. Oceanic Consciousness? I need a Coke!

Youngblood, in a section on Stan Brakhage, writes: "Superimposition is not used as an economical substitute for "parallel montage" - indicating simultaneous but spatially separate events - for spatio-temporal dimensions do not exist in the consciousness." &, then, "When you see the sun superimposed over a lovemaking scene, it's not an invitation to interpret a meaning such as cosmic regeneration or the smallness of man in the universe, but rather as an occasion to experience our own involuntary and inarticulate associations." Oh really? be that as it may, as a film & video maker myself, I think I can accurately attest that superimposition is often also just a gratuitous way of making movies denser w/o enriching them at all - overused by amateur experimenters in much the same way that echo is. It might've been thrilling to witness in 1959-1964 when Brakhage was making Dog Star Man, the film under discussion, but, IMO, it's largely an overused quickie mart cliché today.

Of course, "Stag Films" have been around since the birth of film PERIOD but Youngblood addresses the then fledgling existence of videotape 'porn': "Those of the old consciousness warn that although the videotape cartridge can be used to unite and elevate humanity, it can also "degrade" us by allowing unchecked manufacture and exchange of pornography. But the new consciousness regards this attitude itself as a degraded product of a culture without integrity, a culture perverse enough to imagine that love's body could somehow be degrading." Maybe "love's body" can't be "degrading" but, c'mon, Gene, we're talking SEX here - not LOVE. & SEX can be exploited ad nauseum by ruthless capitalist interests in ways that completely disembody it from any hope of LOVE.

"The hardware and software environment presently exists in which one can purchase films as easily as one purchases books or records. The video/film symbiosis accomplished in electron-beam recording results in the end of "movies" as social event and technical discipline. The decisive factor in the demise of cinema & TV as we've known them is the ability to choose information rather than being enslaved to mass broadcasting schedules or distribution patterns, restricted by both mode and (profit) motive." & that really was prophetic in 1970! After all, VHS tapes were far from common household items then! I didn't even know anyone w/ a VHS cartridge camcorder until 1981! & he was a technician. Alas, how many people take advantage of this ability to unleash themselves from the "mass broadcasting schedules or distribution patterns"? Not as many as I'd like to see!

"We're entering a mythic age of electronic realities that exist only on a metaphysical plane." Yeah, yeah, but people are still trapped in the same old, same old. "Through the hologram window we peer into a future world that defies the imagination, a world in which the real and the illusory are one, a world at once beautiful and terrifying. It is certain that holographic cinema and television will be common by the year 2000; but more probably this will take place within fifteen years from now." Whahappen? It's easy for me to pick on Youngblood in hindsight - all prophets are open to such - after all, I predicted that there wd HAVE TO BE A REVOLUTION in the United States by 1984 - it seemed so obvious that the Reagan yrs wd generate it! Instead, things got even worse w/ the subsequent Bush regimes. But Youngblood's prophesies were reasonable & highly intelligent at the time.

In conclusion, Youngblood writes: "Technology is the only thing that keeps man human." [..:] "We have no basis for postulating a "human nature" until there's no difference between the individual and the system. We cannot ask man to respect his environment until this difference is erased. This is anarchy: seeking a natural order. It is technoanarchy because it will be realized only through the instrumented and documented intellect that we call technology." Well.. can't say that I agree w/ that! I think technology is overemphasized. I'm much more interested in Fuller's Introduction-postulated thought transmissions through the eyes.

Regardless, this bk is a primary text growing out of the notion of "radical evolution". & I'm a staunch proponent of Radical Evolution. But I think we're as much in the era of the cycle of rot as we are in the cycle of growth. As my friend Hyla Willis & I recently discussed, the notion that radical evolution goes on forever into greater & greater highs of oceanic consciousness is as much a delusion of unlimited growth as the capitalist "American Dream" - it seems like great wishful thinking, like working toward the use of nanotechnology for 'immortality', but, more likely, those of us who've tried to live the dream will "live fast & die young" or only take baby steps not ultimately so differentiable from those of anyone else less spectacularly motivated. So be it. Youngblood is STILL a genius - & I don't say that lightly!
Profile Image for Evan Pincus.
76 reviews14 followers
August 9, 2021
Totally zooted hippie-utopian new media art screed more inclined to quote Bucky Fuller (who contributes a very, uh, “dymaxion” introduction and a poem) and Bob Dylan than anyone actually working in the field the book is ostensibly centered on - although I’m sure that Youngblood (R.I.P.) would tell me that the “paleocybernetic age” of art was exactly what they were talking about! Lots of great stuff here - I’m a particular fan of the little pearls sprinkled throughout like “Wavelength is a romantic film” (so true bestie!) or “all art is experimental or it isn’t art - art is research,” as well as the delightfully bitchy chapter on 2001, which splits the difference between detailed technical dissection of the stargate sequence and a lengthy interview with Arthur C. Clarke about how Kubrick’s problem is that he’s too much of a damn humanist and that’s why the movie fails - but I find the underlying thesis a bit hypocritical; there’s a lot of form-is-content process-forward discussion of art that really speaks to me, but it seems Youngblood is more interested in simply shifting the metaphysical lens from what’s being represented (if anything) in a piece of work to the technology behind it, the metaphysics at play there. A piece he discusses carries the title of “The Medium Is The Medium,” and I‘m frustrated by the fact that the book seems to reject that premise entirely in favor of digging into what modern systems like telecommunication and computation inherently mean and how they play a role in psychedelic inner-space “happenings”. A bit too high-minded for me - I am a simpleton who believes in art for art’s sake and am turned off by these discussions of metaphysics, which are especially disappointing in a book that gets so many other things so right.
Profile Image for Daniel Carson.
3 reviews
April 10, 2015
There's such a strange ethereal feeling of importance about this book, as though it were an artifact passed down and hidden through ages. Nothing in the book's message seems the slightest dated and still remains prophetic. Of course, people in the 60s and 70s anticipates technology to develop much faster than it actually has in regard to film and video tech, so the predictions about the near future of video art seem tacky at best. Still, the book has the feel of a manifesto or a creative call to arms. I've never read anything quite like it and may never again.
February 2, 2019
The first half or so of this book is invaluable and anyone interested in cinema should read it. It offers illuminating thoughts on the purpose of art and cinema and the direction it needs to move in if it's to remain relevant and powerful. It absolutely changed the way I think about movies. As the book goes on though, Youngblood focuses on newer mediums and their importance, such as computer films, video, mixed-media theater, and holograms. He goes seriously in depth on these topics and spends a lot of time on technical details which can be difficult to understand, especially considering all of the technology he describes is from 1970 and before. This book goes from fascinating theory to a collegiate style textbook. Still worth the read.
Profile Image for Roberto.
18 reviews
August 11, 2015
This book might as well be titled Expanded Art. The reason why this book feels timeless and mythical its because it speaks of somewhat universal principles of creativity before explaining the techniques behind the works. I loved it.
Profile Image for Ed Kennedy.
20 reviews
November 20, 2022
Incredible and inspiring view of early video art. The author reads a utopian worldview through the entire text.
Profile Image for Michael.
187 reviews18 followers
October 31, 2008
Boundless utopia through the future of an illusion -- forty years later, it still hasn't come to pass.
Profile Image for Mike.
58 reviews
August 20, 2014
This is a wild read and is definitely of its time. It is something I'd recommend if you're looking for thought-provoking material while on acid.
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