Platform Alterations: Vertigo Expands its Online Interventions

By Anne Robinson

In years to come, it may seem very strange that the moving image was written about accompanied only by still images. The age of new media has brought with it the means to change all this and to reconfigure the relationship between the moving image and critical writing. This is not all good, and the same changes are making it far harder for print-based media to survive. The pleasing materiality of a lovingly produced print copy of Vertigo is something that we all hope will survive the migration of so much journalistic activity onto the net. Yet the print version of Vertigo can only be sustained if it can also diversify its net-based activities and increase its virtual presence.

Accordingly, the editors have been hard at work to bring you a new multi-platform Vertigo that will host a variety of new initiatives which we hope will preserve the best of its print manifestation together with a range of innovations. The most important of these new projects are Brief Encounters, Showcase and Make It Your Own.

Brief Encounters is a programme of live film and discussion events, which will also be available as podcasts, forming a series of online encounters with innovative filmmakers, artists and thinkers. Each event will set up a focused dialogue which will in turn form part of a larger matrix of ideas about the contemporary moving image.

Local, Global, Virtual… will be the umbrella title for the first three ‘encounters’, which aim to explore the contemporary moving image in relation to our sense of place. Starting close to home in the culturally and economically diverse terrain of East London with filmmakers and writers who have taken formally experimental approaches to contemporary territorial conflicts and vanishing horizons, the series moves on to look at the shifting boundaries of the global moving image by inviting filmmakers and artists to engage in debate about new production contexts and formal diversity. It will also attend to independent film and artists’ moving image in the digital world of virtual communications with its new formal strategies, emphasis on interactivity and slicing through of the old orders of production and distribution. The notions of engaged practice and extending the frontiers of opportunity and imagination for filmmakers and artist will form a thread through these events.

The series has been devised as a collaboration between Vertigo magazine and London Metropolitan University, thereby extending Vertigo’s links with the academic community, especially those interested in practice-led research. Vertigo subscribers will be able to meet the filmmakers and polemicists who have been involved on projects profiled in the magazine and podcasts will be published on Vertigo’s website.

Vertigo has previously published multimedia and moving image material alongside the magazine as well as embedded within the website, but in the past this has been only an occasional activity. That changes at the beginning of 2009 with Showcase - a curated online space featuring a selected range of film/video clips and trailers from new, re-issued or currently exhibited independent moving image work. Artists’ film & video and innovative world cinema will be highlighted, with an additional emphasis on moving image work as research. Showcase strives to reach out to a wider audience as well as providing small distributors with a platform for more experimental work. By offering a hybrid space which places all of this in the same frame, Showcase reflects the dynamically shifting boundaries of the contemporary moving image.

In a further development of the website, Make-it-your-own – innovative new software which allows proprietary DVDs to be played alongside audience-generated written commentary – will be presented as part of a media literacy initiative to widen the audience for independent moving image work among young people. With this project Vertigo takes the potential for audience development heralded by DVD one step further by developing new paradigms for inscribing critical writing into the moving image itself.

Taken together, the intention is that Brief Encounters, Showcase and Make-it-your-own will represent a further strengthening of Vertigo’s presence within the contemporary moving image ecology. Vertigo’s championing of diverse creative cultures can hopefully now be matched with a diversity of radical material embodiments for its advocacy.