Tag Archives: youtube

the malian cyborg wars

Wandering through Youtube, I recently stumbled across the work of Cheick Ouattara. Amongst the Malian Youtube content – an abundance of music video clips, ripped from the national television, ORTM – this was vastly different. A montage of shots show what is undoubtedly Bamako, with the banks of the Niger and the smoggy sky. But in this Bamako, unbeknownst to the stream of commuters on motorbikes, a giant red dinosaur wreaks havoc, galloping over the bridge and into the center of town – where it meets a young man who can see it, and covers his head as it unleashes a roar. This brief sequence is one of the vast, albeit brief oeuvre of Ouattara, a self taught 3D animator, and the first in Mali to experiment in live action animation.

Cheick runs a small advertising agency in Bamako designing logos and short animation sequences for state television, educational systems, and local NGOs. Using 3D, Java based animation software, Cheick combines live action with computer animation. His short clips on Youtube, from technical test videos and samples, show skeletons dancing in the Niger, X-wings flying over the Niger river, and animated crocodiles. His objective is cinema, and his collective has made some moves in this direction, working on a film for the French Cultural Center and in talks about a movie about Vampire Mosquitoes. “Our difference from other West African filmmakers” Cheick says, “is we want to make films with animation and special effects – science fiction and fantasy films.”

One particular trailer begins with a preamble describing the conflict in the North of Mali against the Islamists, and the resultant effort to create cyborg warriors. The short video shows terminator-esque machines racing Northwards from Douentza, retaking Timbouctou, sauntering before the ancient mosques and libraries. “The idea is,” he explains, “with the war in Mali, people have been asking ‘Who will come to help’? In the film, Malians working abroad create Malian cyborgs. The problem is, when the robots liberate the North, they become their own problem. When you create an artificial intelligence, it wants to preserve its own place. This will create a new problem, between humans and cyborgs.”

Cheick has hope for the film, in among other things, showcasing the unity of the country. “I want to show there is no difference between people. When the resistance starts against the cyborgs, the Tamashek are going to play a big role. They know the most about the desert, and they’ll be the ones who will be fighting the robot war,” he says. “Before everything, they were the masters of the North.”

The intended film will be a mix between live action and animation. Using the Xbox Kinect to capture motion, Cheick intends to trace out the movements of the cyborgs. The film would require filming in the Timbouctou and hours of animation. “We want to simulate a cyborg war,” he explains. It’s a big project, and the short Youtube trailer is just a synopsis to show the possibility of the idea.” And while there is no firm plan or Malian kickstarter to make the vision a reality, Cheikh continues his work – his Youtube stream is available here.

everything is remix pt. 2

In West Africa, as mentioned every so often here, cellphones are far more important than television in media diffusion and consumption. Videos are traded, like sound – from short comedic clips to full length movies. But amongst the plethora of video, nothing stands out like the remix. Using pre-existing sequences, new audio is dubbed in a voice over to give a new context. This is of particular relevance in a country like Mali, with 13 national languages where these unofficial channels allow and ensure propagation. For example, the 1928 silent Charlie Chaplin film “The Circus”, here given an audio voice in Bambara. Or Tom and Jerry – in Tamashek.

Interesting, the platform has yet to be adapted with any design. Much like the inception of Youtube, before its servers were crowded with ad campaigns fighting for page views, the video remixes of the network have little utility are purpose besides amusement. Anonymous montages, their narrators float through the networks, flung out into the void with innocent jokes and distractions – led by the desire to create for the sake of creating.

The viral effect of video on cellphones offers some potential ideas. Besides the more nefarious capitalist exploitations, the network could very well be hijacked to spread another sort of message. There has yet to be a single public service announcement by any international NGO on cellphone video – even as untold capital is poured into old media such as radio and television. As generations gather around the glow of cellphone screens watching the latest clip on a phone, it begs the question of when infastructure will adapt to the new media model, to utilize this underutilized and unseen medium. Perhaps it’s time to embrace the remix.

series of tubes

Found while researching Chadian music – a film that looks like a U.S. corporate work training video, complete with Budda Bar-esque soundtrack. The video is clearly a propaganda short for an alliance of Chadian anti-government rebels. What was particular about this video was the dance sequence that appears halfway through (at 2:54). What is this video? Where was it intended to be broadcast?

Writing about Africa a world away, the most appropriate research tool is the internet. It’s dynamic, but not necessarily useful, particularly with regards to portions of the world without the abundance of access necessary to forge a virtual identity, an internet facsimile of a culture. The authoritative (wiki) sites are authoritative for lack of competition, a dearth of information about parts of the world, offering the summation of an entire people or cultural creation sourced in a few brief words from a handful of self made experts, often outdated and reflective of another era. The next decades will undoubtedly see an explosion in global access: a Cyber Cafe on every corner. More self/locally produced media will be created, although the language division remains a massive barrier. For the moment, the least hindered by cross cultural accessibility due to language and ease of use is the living archive of video on Youtube.

Chadian cellphone video

While scouring the internet, watching the Youtube videos with bizarre foreign name, perhaps transliterated from some unrecognizable script, it’s encouraging to view them as windows into far off destinations and incomprehensible cultures. Or conversely as some modern ethnographic tool. Both are murky definitions and leave a questionable choice between two extremes.

the mastery of the web art of collection (and perhaps the best summation of this topic) is the very self conscious presentation at coolplacessoundsystem, a tumblr devoted to the collection of images and videos, often African, that share an origin of places both foreign and of limited internet visibility. The site is reflected in this brief trailer for a projection, a collection of Youtube videographic surfing:

*update from Tony from Coolplaces — see the comments*