For over a hundred years, the film scene has been dominated by the global Northern cinema, the norm, while other film expressions have had an "ethnographic" angle. This has changed gradually, especially with the introduction of a new, globalized context: "mediascape". Created by Arjun Appadurai, the concept summarizes both the media itself and the world they create. Mediascape, as a concept, points to the importance of our visual environment, while at the same time emphasizing the fluid and fragmented nature of all cultures as they are thrown into the global template flow.
The climate crisis has made it clear that we – all people in the world – are in the same boat and must solve the problems together. But the increasing European resistance to refugees coming across the Mediterranean to Europe indicates that even the continent, once a proud multicultural bastion, is about to forget the importance and respect for cultural diversity. It is therefore important to understand that our global world is a patchwork of a variety of cultures – fluid, multifaceted and diverse – and that film expression is part of this diversity. And this is the goal Mediascapes. The book has been edited by Ivan Bargna, an Italian anthropologist with Media and art as a specialist and professor at the prestigious Italian universities Bicocca and Bocconi in Milan. Bargna is also an art curator and conducts ethnographic research in the northwestern part of Cameroon.
A mediated reality
Reality is always mediated: What we experience as real is constructed through interaction between different media, old and new, known and unknown. In the introduction to the book, Bargna argues that if we are to understand cultural diversity, it is imperative that we pay attention to the process where social constellations both arise and resurface, and that we create a holistic media landscape and participate in the global media landscape.
The various articles in this anthology examine how the daily worldwide flow of images, video and television broadcasts is reshaped locally and re-mediated based on local political, social and personal circumstances.
The climate crisis has made it clear that we – all people in the world – are in the same boat.
Mediascapes points out that the contemporary world consists of many centers, and invites the reader to open up new ideas about the differences between the north and the south, between the center and the periphery. It shows how diverse the southern part of the world is, that in the south one cannot be restricted to passively consuming what has been produced elsewhere, but that one actively produces audiovisual cultures that re-mediate both tradition and modernity. This is extremely important and innovative, since it shows how much cultural creativity is, not only in the production itself, but also in the way that what has already been produced in one place is circulated and poetically given a new context and form in another place. .
In the chapter "Political spectacle, imagined landscapes and monarchic eco-propaganda on the north of Thailand" Amalia Rossi writes about the research she did in 2008 – 2009 in the northern Thai province of Nan, where the battle for control over strategic natural resources was followed by a "visual war. ”, Which was fought through image propaganda.
Sara Beretta presents in the "Dgeneration: Video and subjects of contemporary China" the new, digitally based "D generation" of Chinese filmmakers. Her research does not include the social and cultural reality the films are produced in. The infrastructure of the pirate market before and after the web has enabled an alternative space for circulation, consumption and production of information, images and sources that stimulate the self-reflection of a generation that does not aim to change society, but which fully represents and interprets its shortcomings (p. 100).
In the chapter «Artistic expression, representational practices and migrant spaces. The Milanese case of via Padova »Sara Mramani highlights the potential and limitations of visual anthropology, based on the awareness that each expression and dissemination is not only a social and cultural construct, but also instruments in the struggle for recognition and self-determination for each individual and each group.
And finally, in «Spectacle of pain and aesthetiscs of poverty. About Enjoy Poverty by Renzo Martens », Ivan Bargna writes about the video the German artist made in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2009, to analyze the relationship between humanism and the production of images that help create an impression of" the other "as a victim. Artistic activism gives the film a shape reminiscent of an ethnographic docufiction, and it is ambiguous: The goal of the artist-ethnographer is not to achieve a representation that is adequate or partake in the pain of the other, but to show the limitations representation has, including the impossible by remaining on the outside of what one seeks to represent (p. 17).
This gem of a book helps to elevate the knowledge of our contemporary media scapes, especially when it comes to the diverse use of cinema as an expression of the world around. Mediascapes will be interesting reading not only for experts, but also for the regular reader who is curious about film and what is moving outside their own little bubble. It's a shame that the book is only available in Italian. Tentative.
Translated by Vibeke Harper