Friday, 21 October 2011

Master Hands: A Video Mashup Round Table at Enculturation

Part of the Prelinger Archives and openly accessible online as a Public Domain film at the Internet Archive: Master Hands (as embedded in full at YouTube above) is a classic "capitalist realist" drama showing the manufacture of Chevrolets from foundry to finished vehicles. Though ostensibly a tribute to the "master hands" of the assembly line workers, it seems more of a paean to the designers of this impressive mass production system. Filmed in Flint, Michigan, just months before the United Auto Workers won union recognition with their famous sitdown strikes. Released in 1936, the same year as two other films with which it shares similarities: Modern Times and Triumph of the Will, it was selected for the 1999 National Film Registry of "artistically, culturally, and socially significant" films [text mostly taken from the entry at the Internet Archive; hyperlinks added].

Today, Film Studies For Free is thrilled to flag up a truly "unique experiment in digital publishing": Master Hands, A Video Mashup Round Table,” a project commissioned by the ever innovative online journal Enculturation and published as Issue 11 in the last few days.

Here's part of a short explanation of the project by the issue editors:
Master Hands is a 1936 film sponsored by the Chevrolet Motor Company that shows the inner workings of a Chevrolet plant in Flint, Michigan. It is available for download at the Internet Archive, and it offers rich material for mashups and remixes. [Richard Marback, Wayne State University] had been considering a project involving Master Hands for some time, and when he shared his mashup of the film with [James J. Brown, Jr., University of Wisconsin-Madison] in May it triggered a discussion between the two of us about how such a work might be published. Richard was not interested in writing an essay to accompany his video project – he wanted the video to stand on its own. Jim suggested that the best way to engage with such work was to create another mashup, and we began discussing a round table format in which other scholars would create their own mashups using the same source footage and respondents would discuss the mashups.
The videos (all under ten minutes in length) and the formal responses to them are linked to here. The individual mashup titles and their artists are set out below.
This is a great project in its own right, but what a wonderful model for future (and, of course, present!) forms of Film Studies, FSFF (rather typically for it) thinks...

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