Zryd and defending the honour of the avant garde

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Author(s): 
Ogonoski, Matthew

A brief comment on Zryd's presentation. 

 
I appreciate Zryd's approach and his emphasis on the importance of the experiential quality of experimental texts (I also agree with his preference of the term Experimental Media rather than Avant Garde). However, I'm unsure as to whether the reasoning that these texts are worth studying - "they are good objects of study" - was justified accordingly within his presentation. 
 
I must qualify my position before I continue. Like Dru Jeffries' response, I will also draw attention to my lack of engagement with experimental media (I was also one of the few people who outed themselves as having not experienced Snow's Wavelength. Why this is considered such an embarrassing thing to admit is unclear to me, but that is a discussion for another time). But my problem with the presentation does not regard Zryd's defense of experimental media itself, but the motivation of such a presentation.
 
My question is, which film departments are not offering avant garde or experimental media courses? Zryd's presentation may have benefited from a brief survey of the different universities across North America, and the content of their film programs. I would be amazed to learn that there were not at least a few avant garde courses being offered in each example. 
 
I know in my personal experience I have proposed a contemporary Hollywood cinema course to fill an area of study completely absent from Concordia's undergrad in film studies. Though considered, the proposal was unsuccessful. The only course that comes close to filling this void is Film History since 1959 - a largely ambiguous and unfocused way of referring to a whole period of cinema - whereas there is a specific course offered in experimental film. Though I'm not arguing for one over the other, the lack of a current Hollywood cinema course seems a more immediate and substantial problem. I do not argue this simply because my interest is popular cinema, but because popular cinema is sometime avoided like the plague due to antiquated notions of what cinema is.
 
Regardless, I have one other slight qualm with Zryd's presentation, and this may simply result from my ignorance. I was unconvinced by the example of Les LeVeque's 4 Vertigo. Discovering how colour shifts throughout Vertigo by watching LeVeque's film, as stated by Zryd, seems to me a unique example without great implications for experimental media at large. When this was proposed, the first thought that came to mind was Cinemetrics, and I know how hesitant the conference attendees feel about this tool. Furthermore, the example does not say so much about experimental film as it does about a popular film. I think this example may have fit more comfortably in a discussion of archivology, though perhaps not Katie Russell's presentation. 
 
To conclude, though Zryd's presentation was interesting and much appreciated, I'm unsure as to whether it was warranted accordingly to his concerns. 
 

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