Fences highlights a shared interest in the unlikely subject of fences, barriers, and other parameter structures by a variety of practitioners. This became a noticeable shared interest while searching for online content to programme, and we have put together a selection here. For some, fences become a point of formal study, perhaps doubling with similarities to video’s raster grid, repetition of the frame, even the barrier of representation. For others, there may be a metaphorical interest through social hurdles, political barriers, and geographical borders. And for others still, it is perhaps less rational, more an impulsive interaction with a fence. Whether intuitive, conceptual or psychoanalytical, these recordings highlight a shared interest in this unusual subject.

Fences, 2002, Vittorio Santoro

Two-Tone Landscape(video), 2020, Dooyong Ro

Ferry to Orkney, MiniDV, 2020, Nancy Collins

Fences Facing Magic Mountains, 2016, Bolex Super 16mm digitized, Camille Laut

A Fence Gives Way, video, 2010, Iram Ghufran

Green Stripe, 2017, John Seth

Election/Coverage, 2013, Chris Paul Daniels

The Fence, 2016, Anna Mari Räsänen

Jon Rose plays Fence 2 at White Cliffs, 2012

Fence, 2015, Christina Gednalske

Fence, Super 8 transfered to video, 2006, Sean Meehan

Apparitions at Day’s End, video, 2013, Christophe Katrib

A New Horizon, Slowly, Coming Into View / To the Late Risers That Still Get the Worm / Sunset in Reverse, 4K, 2018, Marco Kane Braunschweiler

Cat on Fence, 2011, Angela Juarez

FENCES was the result of our programming method, where these related works surfaced as a common interest in creative and/or experimental online content. This anomaly makes for an unusual programme, highlighting the strange phenomenon of making and uploading fence related projects for public viewing — one we have also found inspiration in (embedded below). Online video hosting has enabled practitioners to share content like never before, with more videos being uploaded than any one person can physically watch. This vast sea of content is rich in creative and experimental practices, though as much of this operates outside of normative artworld systems, it is rarely considered in more dominant and conservative programming and curatorial methods. Coming into contact with film and video artworks in particular, commonly involves an intermediary, such as a cinema, gallery, museum or distribution house; while for unknown practitioners, the most common form of recognition comes through open call submissions.

When rebooting xviix earlier this year, we initially contemplated the merits of the open call format. It streamlines the programming process by gathering a body of material to work with, and can function as a source of income through pay per submission. But there are downfalls to the open call, as by and large it benefits the programmers. Practitioners put in the majority of the work, seeking out the opportunities, having to finish their projects, submit them through laborious forms, write forced synopses, awkward third person personal bios, even provide promotional stills and excerpts. The entire process is often without any funding, and it is becoming more common to pay a fee for the service of consideration; literally buying the attention of the programmers. An inevitable hierarchy is formed in this exchange, as makers become secondary to programmers as gatekeepers; of whom we often know very little about.

In the prospect of becoming gatekeepers –– albeit of this little site –– we wanted to shift the hierarchy of programming, as when gatekeepers are the beneficiaries of the system, it would appear that practitioners take the brunt. Even after the labour of making and submitting, there is the emotional labour in the swath of rejection emails, and before any of this, the need to have the confidence to submit anything at all. In the alternative model of searching for videos, practitioners must still upload their content, and whether or not it will ever be seen remains unknown. But a noticeable difference in the online searching model is that there are far fewer rejection emails, and those that are sent are directed at us. There are of course benefits to the open call model, but the way it has been normalised can be problematic, as it is an unusual process, and its popularity is somewhat unique to the film, video and moving image community(ies).

This is not to say that trawling the internet for videos is the right method, it is also fraught with problems. One is that Vimeo has become normalised as the host of more intentionally creative content. This can streamline the programming process, but Vimeo is not the most accessible platform. Sites like YouTube, Instagram, Youku, DailyMotion, Putlocker, even MOVCLOUD might be more viable and comfortable means for users to upload within their own communities, especially when looking beyond geographical ties. And yet, the online upload is the most common mode of distributing content, but this is not to say this content is intended to be contextualised in the manner we formulate around them –– needless to say, this text is not a reflection of the views held by the practitioners featured in the programme. From a programming perspective, Vimeo appears to be considered more intentionally creative, and a safer space for these considerations. One of these considerations is the act of uploading as a creative gesture, with production as only part of the creative process, and an acknowledgement of the content itself as outward facing.

Uploading creates networks, connections, and understanding, as creative in the sense that not uploading prevents the development of these elements. From video art and essay films, to home videos and recordings of police brutality, access to online content creates social, cultural, and political influence through the gesture of uploading. And as attention to content becomes the commodity resource of the 21st century, navigating and understanding this content becomes more socially, culturally, and politically relevant than it may first appear. Online videos are given a life that even the most politically motivated artist moving image cannot achieve, especially when operating through artificial scarcity, to which uploaded videos hold a counter significance, in their own availability for people to see –– something many artists are actively avoiding.

While capitalism is changing in the continuing technological revolution, it traditionally supports the withholding of content for commercial gain. In the traditional sense, uploading can be understood as an anti-capitalist gesture. Limitation creates commercial value, but it is also destructive, as anti-social, anti-cultural, and anti-political, in how potential dialogues are silenced through these imposed limitations. And in some strange turn of events, the film, video and moving image community(s) have begun to strive for this exclusivity, to create content significant enough to be hidden away; some even removing content once they reach a level of significance. This neoliberal adversary has formed a less supportive environment when compared to the early cooperative models, which although problematic, were far more community focussed. In London alone there was: Black Film Audio Collective, Circles, London Filmmakers Cooperative, London Video Arts, and Sankofa Film and Video Collective. Programming was a way of developing these communities through connections between practitioners. Neoliberal capitalism appears to have corroded this community element towards the survival tactics of the individual, furthered through excessive city-living costs and austerity measures.

Premier status of festivals and distribution restrictions promote the withholding of content, while also making password protected screeners, or try-before-you-buy excerpts, available online –– some even making trailers. All of this requires additional effort from the practitioner to make content inaccessible. And yet a more corrosive and pervasive system is the commodity art object, contractually editioning the number of copies allowed to be made by law. This aggressively nullifies the potential reach of the ideas being presented in favour of the resale value of the buyer's hard drive, which is increased through the social significance of the ideas being silenced. To put this into another context, had Derek Jarman done this, contractually locking away Caravaggio, The Garden, and Blue in collectors cupboards rather than televising and distributing them on VHS –– creating social, cultural, and political influence, inspiration and support –– society may not have made some of the progresses of today. And while so much more progress is needed, the world we are entering withholds ideas –– and predominantly those of the left –– which are becoming available for purchase rather than consideration.

Simply sharing videos on the internet has its own problems of big data capitalism, but with alternative revenue streams such as Patreon and Kickstarter being used by more savvy experimental practitioners (i.e. The White Pube), alternative, non-conservative, non-sketchy-company-affiliated options are becoming more sustainable. But it should be said that deviating from the system is not easy. It takes some confidence to take these alternative routes, which can be additionally difficult for those already feeling the effects of marginalisation. As privileged people, we are experimenting with this alternative method through this site, one that is problematic, but one we hope can raise awareness to the importance of sharing ideas, promoting creativity, and developing new forms of community through the scope of deviating from engrained methods and embracing the rapid changes occurring in contemporary digital culture that have been elevated during the covid pandemic.

In our own role as self appointed gatekeepers, we do have a style of making that we prefer, focusing on accessible, low-income methods in production and distribution, which offer a sense of lived experience. Our gatekeeperism is limited by our own vision, and while we aim to uphold a supportive platform for practitioners experimenting through means that may otherwise be overlooked, this can slip into fetishisation and exploitation in ways we also need to continually address. As we are still developing this model, we do not receive any funding, and nor do the makers. This is a problem we are looking to address, but we are also weary of inevitably complications that funding and/or open source revenue may introduce.

The unusual qualities of FENCES may be the consequence of the unusual programming method. Whether this is successful as meaningful is another discussion, though the prospect of a perfect programming method is of course a fallacy. For some, especially those continuing traditional ideas of experimental and artist film, video and moving image practice, the open call system functions as a useful and viable framework of reaching other enthusiasts. While for others, those whose practice is not so easily categorised or understood inline with conventional methods, and may not be intended for the festival goer and/or academic community (or the temptation of the art market...) these makers may require other means of celebrating alternative creative practices. There is no one-size-fits all method, and so problems inevitably arise from any dominant system. xviix is another imperfect method of programming, though one we hope can raise some of the issues around the hierarchies of gatekeepersism, the problems of exclusivity, and ways in which these systems can be dismantled and destabilised; while bringing together creative practices that can be easily lost in the ocean of online content.

Park Works, Sony Xperia XZ2 (II), 20/04/2020, 09:17, Springfield Park, London, Amy Dickson (co-programmer)

Spiked Fences, iPhone 5, 2014, Jamie Jenkinson (co-programmer)