Publications on alternative media have been few and far between, a scarcity eased considerably by the depth and quality of those few dedicated to such an undertaking. With just three issues, INCITE: Journal of Experimental Media has already proven an invaluable addition to this effort. The journal is currently seeking to raise funds for the publication of INCITE #4: Exhibition Guide, focusing on alternative media exhibition practices. Brett Kashmere, editor and publisher, took some time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions about the journal's origin and the upcoming issue.
JACOB WALTMAN: Could you tell me a little bit about INCITE's founding, how things initially came together?
BRETT KASHMERE: INCITE was founded in 2008, shortly after I immigrated from Montreal to the U.S. Starting a journal about experimental film was a long-time goal of mine, at least going back to the late-90s, but I never had the time, or really the skills or contacts, to act on it prior. Finishing an MA in Film Studies (in 2004) helped prepare me for the editorial responsibilities of managing a journal. And touring with my film, Valery’s Ankle (in 2006-07) introduced me to a larger network of programmers, writers, and film/videomakers on both sides of the border. I think that’s a unique aspect of INCITE. We have an even mix of Canadian and American contributors. It’s truly cross-national.
There were additional catalyzing forces. One was a small, not-for-profit, grassroots cooperative in upstate New York called Syracuse Experimental, dedicated to the growth and preservation of alternative, first person cinema and media, which I helped form. Publishing a journal was one of the core objectives set forth in our manifesto, “There’s More To Filmmaking Than Making Films.” That notion, which I adapted or maybe straight cribbed from something Jonas Mekas once wrote, has been a guiding principle for me. So I was happy to also include Jonas’ manifesto in the first issue of INCITE, MANIFEST.
A second catalyst was reading Scott MacDonald’s interview with P. Adams Sitney, published 2005, in which Sitney questions why no one from the generation of experimental filmmakers born in the 1970s and 80s were starting their own journals and writing about each other’s work, as our predecessors did in the 60s and 70s. Hearing Sitney say that probably sharpened my resolve and signalled that the time was right.
A third factor was that I started a teaching job at Oberlin College in 2008. In addition to my salary, I also received a (very modest) research grant, which I put towards some of the material costs of the journal’s first issue, as well as to hiring student assistants. It wasn’t very much money, but I stretched it as far as I could.
WALTMAN: INCITE's online accessibility is very generous, but you maintain a presence in print as well. Could you talk about balancing the two, and the importance of continuing to produce print?
KASHMERE: Information should be free. Design and printing costs money. To resolve that contradiction we make the content available for free online, and we also produce a nice hard copy version. The sales of the print issue doesn’t recoup the production costs, unfortunately, so we sometimes delay putting each new issue online. I love publishing, and I love printed matter, so the idea that there would be a tangible, physical iteration was always the linchpin for me. There aren’t many printed journals devoted to experimental media anymore, either in depth or as a curiosity. For me, publishing INCITE is a way of giving back to something that I love, and for the most part I relish the process. It can be tedious and frustrating putting each issue into print, though. That’s one reason that we started the online interview series, Back and Forth: to stay active between the annual issues. We’re hoping to add some additional online sections over the next year or so, such as an Annotated Artists’ “Work Bench” series and a reprint series, which contextualizes important or undervalued texts that are difficult to find. We’re currently preparing a new version of Tom Gunning’s “Towards a Minor Cinema,” for instance, with an intro by Ekrem Serdar.
(Other Cinema, San Francisco)
WALTMAN: On a related note, for those of us unfamiliar with the more practical details of putting together a publication, speak briefly about some of the challenges that go into putting a journal like this together (and perhaps the necessity of something like an Indiegogo campaign to aid in the process).
KASHMERE: Producing an issue of INCITE is a costly and time-consuming effort. The first couple of issues were published mostly out of my own pocket, with the money that I made from my teaching job. I did the first issue largely by myself – the editing, proofreading, layout, design, glued the binding, made trips to the post office etc – and Leslie Topness created the letter-pressed covers and helped guide me through the workflow. I didn’t know anything about different bindings, or paper stocks, offset printing, proofing, etc at the time. Being at Oberlin eventually allowed me to recruit assistants into the process, and some of those people are still part of the team. Eliza Koch, for instance, designed issues #2 and #3 and is now working on #4. She’s a fantastic talent, and has helped step up our aesthetic. Peter Nowogrodzki created the first version of the website back in 2008 and is now spearheading issue #5, BLOCKBUSTER. Dave Burnham has become a contributing editor and is currently managing the Indiegogo campaign. A number of other students have helped out along the way, assisting on specific issues and general tasks and projects. And, over the past couple of years, people such as Walter Forsberg (who co-edited INCITE #4 with me) and Christina Battle have joined the team, which makes the whole endeavor more fun and more collaborative, and less isolated.
EXHIBITION GUIDE, the issue we’re working on right now, and fundraising for, has about 50 contributors and approximately 75,000 words worth of writing, which will likely translate into 250 pages or more. It’s going to cost about $7000 to print, at minimum. That’s for a perfect-bound edition with approximately 50 color illustrations, printed on high quality paper. We’re trying to raise $8000 through our Indiegogo campaign to cover those printing costs, a small honorarium for the designer, and shipping all of the rewards after Indiegogo and PayPal take their cut (around $600). That doesn’t come close to covering all of our expenses, or our time, but it will help a lot.
We’re not a high circulation, glossy magazine. We don’t receive any outside funding. We don’t publish ads. We’re a completely independent, volunteer-run, niche publication, serving a small but dedicated audience. Each issue allows us to grow that audience a little bigger, and to expand our reach and readership. We’re now collected by about 20 university libraries in Canada and the United States, as well as by the Museum of Modern Art Library and the New York Public Library, among others. The next step is to get the journal into a few stores, to increase its street visibility. But that’s a whole different kind of challenge. We still need to do the cost-benefit analysis on that.
WALTMAN: English-language magazines focusing primarily on experimental media have been few and far between (Experimental Cinema Magazine early on, Film Culture, Millennium Film Journal, etc.). How do you see INCITE communicating with/expanding on/diverging from these publications?
KASHMERE: I think there are significant similarities, and significant differences. I’m not familiar with Experimental Cinema Magazine, but Film Culture and Millennium Film Journal are big influences -- I collect both, and look at them often. I feel like INCITE is part of that tradition. One thing I always enjoyed about Film Culture was all of the writing by filmmakers, in the form of manifestos, letters, interviews. And Millennium Film Journal publishes incredible scholarly articles among many other types of writing, artist pages, polemics, etc. My goal for INCITE has been to land somewhere between a zine and an academic journal, to embody the spirit and rigor of each.
One way that we differ is that each new issue of INCITE is distinct from the previous one: the type of binding or the dimensions may change, for example. And each issue typically includes an insert – a DVD, a poster, etc. There is no uniform style or standard font. The form and design usually derive from the content. The BLOCKBUSTER issue, which Peter is developing with Ian Page (our first with guest editors), will take the journal in a slightly more conceptual-literary direction, I believe. That’s a nice thing about being totally independent: it allows us the flexibility to experiment with different ideas about what a film journal in the 21st century should be or can be. If making INCITE ever became a process of plugging content into a template, where every issue looked exactly the same, like October, which I also love, then it wouldn’t be worth it for me. We fill a different kind of role.
(Masstransiscope by Bill Brand)
WALTMAN: In your introduction to INCITE's first issue Manifest (Fall 2008-Spring 2009), you wrote of the journal's intention to address the waning critical attention on more recent developments and accomplishments in experimental media. Four years on and several issues in, how has INCITE responded to this challenge?
I don’t know if we’ve done as good a job as we could in that regard. I would like to be publishing more critical essays and reviews that focus on the work of emerging and emergent media artists. There is still an overall lack of good critical writing about the current scene and new voices. On the other hand, we have provided a platform for younger film and videomakers to articulate their ideas, including Ben Russell, Evan Meaney, Clint Enns, Double Negative Collective, Julie Perini, Jaimz Asmundson, Jesse McLean, Jacob Ciocci and many others. And we’ve published interviews with a lot of up and coming / ascendant artists since our inception, such as Michael Robinson, Aleesa Cohene, Oliver Laric, Karl Lemieux, Jon Rafman, and Sabrina Ratté, as well as established practitioners like Taka Iimura, Deborah Stratman, Craig Baldwin, Jennifer Montgomery, and so on. However, the majority of our critical and scholarly articles have been about the work of an earlier generation: Bruce Conner, Lillian Schwartz, Paolo Gioli, etc. Dave Barber’s piece on the Winnipeg “landfill surrealist” Mike Maryniuk, who probably isn’t known nearly as well as he should be, is an example of the kind of text that I would like to publish more of going forward. Thomas Beard’s essay on Shana Moulton’s video-cycle, 'Whispering Pines' is another.
WALTMAN: Amos Vogel appears to be a touchstone for INCITE #4, could you share some thoughts on his passing and the manner in which legacy served as inspiration for the upcoming issue?
KASHMERE: Amos and Marcia Vogel, in particular the work they did with the Cinema 16 screening series beginning in the late-40s, have been an inspiration for me and countless others. They created a model for exhibiting independent and experimental cinema that microcinemas such as a Light Industry, Other Cinema, UnionDocs, etc continue to follow. Amos had a unique approach to programming – the dialectical collision of diverse forms and genres, that continues to resonate strongly today. He was also fiercely independent, strongly against censorship, believed in the importance of good design, personal expression, and political agitation. In addition, Cinema 16 testifies to the importance of partnerships throughout the history of avant-garde cinema, even if they aren’t always properly or fully acknowledged. It’s hard to imagine Stan Brakhage’s films without the contributions of Jane Brakhage, for instance, beyond her role as “muse.”
I never had the chance to meet Amos, or Marcia, but their grandson, Jesse, was a student at Oberlin during my time there and I had the chance to meet him and talk with him. When Amos passed away last year, I heard about it from Jesse. I believe those personal connections are what make the world/s of experimental film and video unique. It’s a very giving and generous and closely-knit community, even though those relationships can sometimes be difficult or confrontational. People aren’t in it for the money, obviously, but because they believe in the importance of radical expression through moving images, which has the ability to change lives and affect the way we see and interpret the world.
Those are the kinds of things that I’m hoping to pay tribute to with INCITE generally, and this new issue specifically. Our goal with issue #4, is, at least in part, to provide a practical guide for 16mm film exhibition. Thanks to Alain LeTourneau and 40 Frames, we are publishing an array of technical resources in the volume. We also have testimonials from the projection booth, and a DIY screening checklist courtesy of Christina Battle. By focusing attention on the procedures of 16mm film exhibition, within the wider context of microcinema practice, I feel like we’re honoring the work that Amos and Marcia did with Cinema 16 while carrying their legacy forward.
(Marcia and Amos Vogel)
INCITE #4: Exhibition Guide
Edited by Brett Kashmere and Walter Forsberg
Table of Contents: http://www.incite-online.net/issuefour.html