Input by Eric Tandoc (USA) for the International Conference on Progressive Culture organized by the International League of People’s Struggles Philippines, July 6, 2011.
As a cultural worker living and organizing in the United States and the first world, we are presented with many possibilities and challenges. We live in the belly of the imperialist beast and are constantly bombarded with the decadent petty bourgeois culture that promotes individualism, consumerism, sexism, apathy and disregard for the rights of others.
We live in a highly technological society where owning a computer is relatively more accessible, yet many of the working masses still cannot afford computers. For many, the use of the internet are mainly for consumption and entertainment, watching videos on Youtube and professing to the world their thoughts and emotions on Facebook.
Aside from being used for entertainment, a computer can be a powerful resource for progressive cultural work. Within a single machine, one can do graphic design, multi-track audio recording, video editing, DVD authoring and reproduction. Music and videos from Youtube can be downloaded for free and utilized in service of the people for educational workshops and multimedia presentations.
With the advancement of technology such as Serato Scratch Live in 2004, long gone are the days where you have to bring numerous crates of vinyl records to gigs. All you need is your laptop and you can assign mp3’s and control them with records. Thus you can scratch and mix mp3’s just as you would vinyl records.
In 2008, a plug-in was released that allowed for video files to be assigned and manipulated by the records just like mp3’s. With this technology, DJ’s are now video DJing, mixing and remixing videos and scenes from pop culture films.
But a guiding question for the use of this technology is “for whom are we creating art and culture?” For revolutionary artists, it is clear that art must be made in service of the oppressed and exploited masses of working people around the world. However, living in the first world, most of the youth we have contact with are from middle class backgrounds or, if they are working class, are influenced by petty bourgeois aspirations.
As a filmmaker and organizer, I want to create films that question the status quo and expose the struggles of the Filipino people to the rest of the world. I especially want to reach the Filipinos who grew up in the US and don’t know much about our history or what is going on here right now. But on a wider scale, it’s important to be a bridge to share these stories with the whole international community and build international solidarity.
And as a DJ, I want to make and play music that moves people, hits them in the heart and spreads an inspiring message of bringing about a new world. With both these mediums, the main goal is to educate the people in an engaging way and hopefully motivate them to join organizations and directly contribute to social change and making this new world a reality.
So when we made the film Sounds of a New Hope which is about a Filipino rapper named Kiwi, his music and the growth of hip-hop as an organizing tool in the struggle for national democracy here in the Philippines, I felt that it was important to create it in a way that engages youth from different backgrounds to want to learn more about the Philippine struggle for freedom.
It’s with this purpose that I came up with the idea of the Live Remix. Instead of showing a film in the conventional way, I thought it would be interesting to take advantage of new technology. I converted each scene into its own video file and utilize video DJing to manually re-edit the film live. I added new scenes that were not in original theatrical version which feature interviews with youth organizers and others that address human rights violations, forced disappearances and the peasant struggle for land. Also, in between scenes, we incorporated live musical performances with the videos serving as the instrumentals and visually depicting what the lyrics are talking about.
But presentations like this are only the beginning. They can be used to generate interest, but the most important part is to flow up with the contacts made and recruit them to people’s organizations in order to make a more direct contribution to serving the masses of working people and bringing about social change. When people’s art is integrated with solid organizing, then we can truly shape the society of the future.