Entering a new medium is often all at once immensely thrilling (look at all these new possibilities that have opened up before you!) and immensely difficult (quite franklyâ€” what is everyone else doing that youâ€™re not?). Sometimes the learning curve is immediate and steep, and other times the obstacles are not visible until much later. Consuming the art and playing the audience for it, I think, is little different.
The reappearance of the Ann Arbor Film Festival this week provides a fertile ground for indulging in sensory rumination, for exploring ideas and concepts dissembled and reassembled and fed to the audience through various audio-visual stimuli. It has been, as an event, largely opaque to me. Iâ€™d never quite understood its intended audience, its intended market, whether it was meant to be a rather exclusive intellectual mingling or something accessible to the public at large, and Iâ€™ve certainly never been.
Finally attending one gives me little to no authority to speak on the matter, but it has produced ideas, relevant ideas such as: Is the artistâ€™s primary responsibility to the medium or to the subject? The proper treatment of one is no use without the same of the oddslot other. Do you lay out all the facts completely and fairly, or do you craft a narrative? Bits of both will end up being sacrificed before a balance is achieved. Yet the concept of genre, fitting the content into a known form, is often met with disdain regardless of its format. Prose, sculpture, or film, there are parameters, but there is also room to explore. How far then, and how?