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What does using theory mean?

    “Contrary to prevalent mis-definitions, surrealism is not an aesthetic doctrine, nor a philosophical system, nor a mere literary or artistic school.  It is an unrelenting revolt against a civilization that reduces all human aspirations to market values, religious impostures, universal boredoms and misery.  Specialists in revolt: the surrealists thus described themselves in an early tract.  Born of the appalling conflict between the inexhaustible powers of the mind and the impoverished conditions of everyday life, surrealism aims at nothing less than complete human emancipation, the reconstruction of society governed by the watchword: To each according to his desire.

     “More specifically, surrealism aims to reduce, and ultimately to resolve, the contradictions between sleeping and waking, dreams and

action, reason and madness, the conscious and the unconscious, the

individual and society, the subjective and the objective.  It aims to free

the imagination from the mechanisms of psychic and social repression, so that the inspiration and exaltation heretofore regarded as the exclusive domain of poets and artists will be acknowledged as the common property of all. ” (Rosemont, 1978, p.1) 



                  “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.”

      Media Theory, of course, means different things to different people, for instance between the Institute of Social Research and the Internet Research Agency.  Theories can be good, some theories can be bad.  Either way, theory always begins with a supposition, or a system of ideas, for explaining observations of the natural world. One can make a claim to truth only after a supposition has been examined and tested through repeatable parameters and methods.  Lenses, Filters, Falsifiability.  Methodology and method.  Consensus through a preponderance of evidence.

     Scientific method should not be driven by any single perspective, but should be willing to go wherever experiment dictates and adopt whatever works.  Refracting within a variety of undulating surreal methods, Understanding Television experiments with a variety of simple TV techniques.  These techniques should also be ‘eyeballed’ through particular theoretical filters, for instance, as “Epic Smoker’s Theatre”. 

     This is how Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956), arguably our most provocative modern poet-playwright, intended his Epic works to be consumed.  He wanted his audiences to watch intellectually not emotionally; to lean back disengaged, not forwards immersed in empathy.  He suggested smoking cigarettes and watching each production dispassionately...with critical distance.  Brecht held disdain for theatrical machinations that emotionally trick audiences into intellectual passivity.  His theatre developed a variety of (critical theory) techniques for countering pathos and immersion...and fascism.  Brecht’s radical dramaturgy deeply informs Cultural Farming’s notions of theory and practice.  (read more)


                   “It is not a Kino-Eye we need, but a Kino-Fist.”

      Sergei Eisenstein (1898-1948), perhaps the most influential early soviet filmmaker, perfected a parallel theoretical filmic technique: Montage...the mother of all media special effects.  Eisenstein’s methods attempted to write a kind of explosive short-hand, through “intellectual collisions” of images and ideas.  He edited his film clips intending each to explode, allowing for alternative unspoken concepts to arise in the aftermath. 

      Eisenstein’s works are masterpieces of between-the-lines visual expression.  He was the first to assert a camera-machine as mightily as the sword.  He soon realized, however, just how politically charged and personally dangerous his theory and practice would prove to be.  For the catastrophe of critical provocation is that the utterer is commonly its first casualty, as Cultural Farming can also attest.  (read more)


                                      Arcades Project:

“This work has to develop,, to the highest degree, the art of citing without quotation marks.  Its theory is intimately related to that of montage.”

      Likewise, Walter Benjamin (1892-1940), Germany’s most cited media theorist, fiendishly collected cultural tell-tales.  He wanted desperately to construct these into an allegorical ‘quotational arcade’ for tracing Europe’s calamitous turn to Modernity.  He called his Arcades Project “rag-pickings” because he intended it to be collaged from trifling, yet exemplary, bits of cultural detritus.  Benjamin came to understand he could only illuminate his “profane panorama” through the usage of surrealistic methods -- quite like Brecht and Eisenstein -- in order to properly explicate these new realities, now shocked between two world wars, and edging to the doorstep of history’s most hideous mechanical absurdities

      Today however, we find surrealism to be but another old-fashioned concept, so utterly hijacked and corrupted, we have entirely lost its true essence.  True Surrealism is a suite of robust methodological techniques, which Cultural Farming attempts to recover, precisely because it conjures Benjamin’s illusive intersection of positivism and mysticism.  (read more)


          “We shape our tools, and thereafter our tools shape us.”

     Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980), media theory’s meteoric and misunderstood celebrity-philosopher, also deeply played inside communication’s plasticity.  To McLuhan, language was mankind’s first technology.  He purposefully tricked with words, as we so carelessly do today with electric media, to confound towards multiple modes of comprehension.  He reveled in outing alternate currencies of meanings parodied inside liturgical ignorance and the mechanics of clumsy syntax

      McLuhan’s specter was James Joyce, by necessity, for McLuhan understood Joycean polysemy helps to ground fulsome intellectual sense:  Grammar-logic-rhetoric.  Give-receive-reciprocate.  Turn on. Tune in.  Drop out.  Each a critical mantra pulsing throughout Cultural Farming.  (read more)


             "More real than real, that is how the real is abolished."

      Yet as the infamous post-mod philosopher, Jean Baudrillard (1929-2007), explained: There is no liberation or revolution of media available to us, except for "restoring the possibility of response".  For Baudrillard, we must allow media-speech to "be able to exchange, give back and repay itself" through forms of Symbolic Exchange (potlatch).  Ironically, Baurdillard admits this would require "an upheaval in the entire existing structure of media".  Unfortunately, unlike McLuhan, Baudrillard never gets around to offering us a useful road map of critical praxis. 

      Understanding Television, however, may well express viable strategies for better waging ‘necessary personal revolution’.  Still, we willfully promote a dependency upon tyrannical media (obscene & panoptic), which seduce through endless ecstasies of appearance.  Each must be pervasive, inescapable, and always presented through ever higher resolution lenses and screens.  For when “vision machines” (Virilio) rule by means of paradoxical logic, surveillance and punishment go hand-in-hand inside the simulacrum of hyperreality (Foucualt).  (read more)


                              CRITICAL ETHNOGRAPHY       

                               ANTHROPOLOGICAL FILM

                               QUOTATIONAL ARCADES


        And as for the methodological haunts of SURREALISM lurking inside every Cultural Farming video, I defer to Michael Löwy, (2012):

       “It is impossible to imagine an activity more contrary to these times, and less opportune, than that of a Surrealist Group at the beginning of the 21st century.

      Surrealism must not be confused with the so-called "artistic avant-gardes" that succeed one another after flourishing for a short period -- such as Fauvism, Cubism, Expressionism, Futurism, Dadaism, Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art and others.  Surrealism is simultaneously artistic, philosophical and political, as were the Baroque and Romantic movements.

      Like alchemy, socialism, and the Romantic philosophy of nature,

Surrealism is a matter of tradition.  It has an ensemble of writings, manifestoes, and documents that transmit its esoteric, philosophical and

political message, as well as a continuity of magical and poetic practices.  It refuses to erase the past.  Anything that cannot find a spark of hope in the past has no future.

      But Surrealism (like hermeticism, sorcery, piracy and utopia) is above all a matter of creative imagination.  Like the cangaceiros, the noble bandits of the Brazilian woods, the Surrealists are doomed to innovate, invent and explore.  The old ways, paved roads, and beaten paths are in the hands of the enemy.  New ways must be found --- the wanderer makes the path.”



1.  What is going on here?

2.  How should viewers watch these video essays?

3.  Introduction to the research.

4.  What does understanding television mean?

5.  How do I understand television?

6.  What does using theory mean?

7.  Can you discuss one of your videos?

8.  What was discovered in this research?

9.  What if viewers still don’t ‘understand’ television?



An American

resident of Canada, experimenting with new forms of critical media ethnography in Cultural Farming


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