Targeting Montage

      Montage: The Mother of all Special Effects. But, what does the term “montage” mean?  What does montage look like?  Can montage be categorized? 

      “Targeting” montage, which is the overarching method of Cultural Farming’s mediaturgy, is the purpose of this generalized mandala.  For montage is the foremost fundamental practice in media communication.  And so, as a lifetime visual rhetorician, I felt a need to render an idea of montage practice, from Cultural Farming’s particular point of view.

      To begin, it should be acknowledged that the forms of montage are infinitely numerous and can be found everywhere.  Most of the hundreds of thousands of video clips archived by Cultural Farming over the last six years can be analyzed as examples of montage.  Montage can be collisions of clips; it can be fast, slow, long, short; it can be contrasts of performance; it can be parody, irony or prose; it can be aural or verbal; it can be effects and filters; it can be “internal” or “external”; it can be intellectual, political, artistic, practical, accidental; it can shock, comfort, humor, distill and obfuscate.  Whichever form montage assumes, however, the enactment (the performance) of montage itself is most always an example of power, and thus, political.  In short, the idea of montage can be confusing since it goes well beyond simple notions of juxtaposition, collage, editing or redaction.

      This project is to encourage our awareness of the wide practices of montage, for any attempt to exact a precise delineation of montage is an exercise in folly.  Rather, the purpose here is to attempt to comparatively situate a few common examples of montage in order to better recognize the overwhelming kinds of practices and presentations of montage throughout all contemporary media.  So remember, I am “targeting” montage practice over content or text.

      The graph, above, is sketched as a compound Greimasian semiotic square.  Here, too, the quadrants are not to be understood rigidly, that is to say, Critical is not the binary of Commodity, nor Educational an opposite of Exploitive.  However, in terms of intentional technique, practices of montage can be usefully fit into this schematic.  The RED (archived) and GREEN (Cultural Farming) dots within this graph are hyperlinks to individual video examples.  Again, the purpose here is not to proffer the best or most exact examples of montage, rather these are only 75 videos quickly selected from thousands to serve as illustration. 

      This project, for me, proved to be quite surprising.  Of course I’ve long trained to distinguish forms of montage; I’ve spent years experimenting with countless varieties.  But the simple act of targeting a few examples in this way visually illustrates how most forms of contemporary TV/media montage repeatedly fall into certain categories.  I could have continued with hundreds of more dots on this graph, but simplicity, clarity and usability would diminish... a sample of 75 videos is plenty to illustrate the point.

      After seeing that most all TV/media forms of montage fell near the Commodity-Exploitive-Nutritionless quadrants, to further contrast, I then overlaid both PINK and GREEN shaded areas above the graph to further illuminate.  Again, I saw that Cultural Farming’s montage practices reside primarily in the GREEN area, that is, over the Healthy-Educational-Critical less populated quadrants.  Click the dots and compare styles of montage for yourself, or for that matter any of the unending forms of montage confronted everyday.

      What is learned:  This is an excellent exercise for comparatively examining practices and techniques of montage -- as a means of reflecting upon our own intentional montage.  Drag the graph-image to your desktop and print out a blank graph... use it to analyze production and presentation while watching your own TV.  After all, how our media are constructed is always the first step towards what can be communicated. 

      And now, with new awareness, consider this video below, and ask yourself: Why montage this way?  What is communicated?  For whose benefit?  How does it inform a viewer?  What is lost?  What is problematized?  Is this what national “news” networks should be doing?   And importantly, how might we respond to the makers of these ‘informational’ constructions?

Click To Play...',,


An American

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

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       Below are two images.  One is an example of Eisenstein’s “correspondences”.  It is his visual expression of plastic composition: music, gesture, line, intonation, path, emotion.  The other image example is a screen grab of a typical Cultural Farming project inside Apple’s software iMovieHD 6.0.3. iMovie video software is also free and it is the only editing tool I have ever used.  On close inspection, the similarities between these two images are stunning.  How could it be otherwise?

(Eisenstein, Sergei 1942. p176-177)

(Cultural Farming - iMovie HD 6.0.3   2008)

“Montage is a beautiful word.” writes Eisenstein, 

“One does not create a work,

one constructs it with finished parts, like a machine…“

      While each project in Cultural Farming experiments with different methods and styles of appropriation and remix, there is very little manipulation of the actual remediated TV content.  To do otherwise, is to confound the very purpose of ethnography: to allow television practice to speak for itself... which is plenty surreal already.  In short, actual TV clips are simply ripped, and then repositioned for building meta-stories.  95% of Cultural Farming is constructed through the simple processes of cut/paste, fade in/out, dissolves, and titlings... with little else.   But then, when done well, pure editing embodies the heart of theories explored in Sergei Eisenstein’s Montage of Attractions, Walter Benjamin’s Trauerspiel and Arcades Project, and Bertolt Brecht’s Lehrstück and Epic Theatre, even Marshall McLuhan’s Mechanical Bride. 

      Yes, you will find some examples here of reversing, aging, colorization, and a few of the other wide array of effects and transitions offered in iMovie, but manipulations like these are always use very sparingly, for they invoke more kinds of production-seduction, which are contrary to purposeful ethnographic writing.  Likewise for audio.  Cultural Farming projects are not music videos, although the addition of non-diegetic audio is sometimes a necessary structural compliment/counterpoint.