Videovortex :: Keith Deverall

January 2008, The Netherlands

Videodefunct, a sledge hammer approach to video blogging by Keith Deverall

Videodefunct, a sledge hammer approach to video blogging by Keith Deverall

In January 2008 I flew to Europe to participate in a workshop at the Netherlands Institute for Digital Arts/Montevideo. The workshop was part of Videovortex, a conference that explored and discussed forms and narrative structures of online video since the explosion of youTube. The conference was organised by Geert Lovnick,  with principle researchers Seth Keen from RMIT University, Melbourne, and Vera Tollmann a freelance author and curator from Berlin.

The intention of the workshop was to discuss issues concerning video blogging and demonstrate two alternate systems currently being developed. I was there with Seth Keen to demonstrate a system we are developing in Melbourne by the Videodefunct Collective—myself, Seth, and David Wolf. The other system demonstrated was Show In a Box, developed in the US and presented by Jay Deadman, and Ryanne Hodson. Both systems are extensions to the WordPress blogging software.

Videodefunct is a multi-channel networked video system that, through defined taxonomies, enables poetic connections between fragmented video sources. Through this project we have been exploring the role of poetics within video interfaces, the blurry boundaries of associations, and the role of curation within non-linear video systems.


In contrast Show In A Box is more traditional in terms of format, but with clear ambitions to engage with the multitude of video formats and the ethics of opensource software development. In general Show In A Box aims to be a ‘in the box’ system the provides video blogging options to non-programmers.

Before arriving in Amsterdam I had spent a couple of days in London with the aim of meeting with Steven Ball at St Martins College of Art. At St Martins, Steven runs the British Artists Film & Video Study Collection, he is also currently curating a show of experimental shorts looking at British and Australian landscapes.

As our conversation developed I introduced to Steven the concepts behind Videodefunct, an interest for him as they are currently undergoing research to explore options for maintaining and displaying their collection. Whilst he hadn’t seen the Videodefunct system we had a long conversation regarding the challenges of Video archiving, and in particular, modes of navigation and access to video archives.

This conversation provided a strong foundation for the conference and workshop to be held in Amsterdam the next day. As we presented Videodefunct it became apparent the system was going to challenge assumptions that where broader than those just connected to Video Blogging. It was challenging some of the base line ideas of video production, and video installation. In particular, video as a final edit, and the placement, and association of images.

It also challenged the very nature of what Video Blogging is, and what it could be.

The issues that arose through this workshop highlighted the different processes by which people work, and the value that some people place on the absolute. Out intentions had always been to disrupt notions of the absolute, and instead embrace emergent structures and associations.

As the rest of the conference got underway the relevance of the Videodefunct system became apparent, in particular its relevance to online video curration, the notion of Video as Database, and its potential positioning within the history of Database Cinema.

During a session that explored and questioned the form of online video, Dan Oki (Professor for film and video art, Academy of Fine Arts in Split, and the Film Academy in Zagreb), argued that all films should be fragmented down to each edit and placed online for others to reedit. In effect making global archives of clips or singular edits. A system such as the Videodefunct system would offer an alternative platform for viewing and interacting with such archives.

Another strong confirmation in relation to our ideas in designing the Videodefunct system, was the idea of interface as a means of drifting. Thomas Elsaesse (Professor in the Department of Media and Culture and Director of Research Film and Television at the University of Amsterdam), in his talk titled Constructive Instability followed a trail through youTube that was akin to a DŽrive. He had a definitive theme to follow but the path taken was completely exposed through interrelations within the youTube database. To drift as a form of navigation is a departure from the key word search and the silo interface, but by no means a departure from the meta structures of Networked Media, and the World Wide Web.

The outcome of this travel, through the support that ANAT has given, is a global awareness of our work, and its relevance in the world of networked video. This experience has also provided an opportunity to position the work of the Videodefunct Collective within this global context.

Since landing back in Melbourne the Videodefunct Environment has been a source of discussion with many of the people that we met in Amsterdam, with interest from diverse groups, including video curators, artists, and NGO’s. Very recent developments have seen World Vision Australia approach us in regards to creating a series of networked documentaries on a number of poverty areas around the world. With a prototype being filmed in Colombia during July 2008.

The other outcome made through this travel has been the development of a program of Performative Sound and Image works as part of the Melbourne International Film Festival in 2008. The proposition of this program to MIFF coincided with my meeting with Steven Ball, and his interest in performing some works whilst on holiday in Australia.

To conclude, this travel has enabled myself and my collaborators on Videodefunct to present our work to an International Audience. This experience enabled us to source extra development funding, as well as a partner in World Vision, to take the concepts further than we had previously imagined. The travel also provided an opportunity to create international contacts that has lead to a two day program of Performative Cinema to be held during the Melbourne International Film Festival 2008, featuring both local and international artists.

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