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ange on 10/02/2012 at 12:00PM

Interview: Rick Prelinger Encourages Remixers To Break New Ground

Michael Edson

As you prepare your entries for our Past Re-Imagined As the Future remix contest, we thought you could use some tips.

We asked moving image archivist, filmmaker and contest judge Rick Prelinger to share his thoughts on what makes for an incredible remix. Is it lots of looping and repeating footage? Machine gun single frame montages? Prelinger suggests that there's new ground to broken as you sculpt your new Creative Commons masterpieces. In our interview, Prelinger explains how ephemera can help us avoid the trap of presentism, his new interest in collecting home movies, and more about the history/future of the Prelinger Archives.

Why preserve ephemera? How have you grown to understand its historical and cultural significance?

Nothing gives a better sense of ordinary peoples' experience in the past than evidence drawn from daily life. And most of this material wasn't meant to survive -- we have it only by lucky accident. Ephemeral material, like the kinds of films in our archives, is permeated with a strong sense of time and place. It shows how people interacted, worked, presented themselves and partied, and it's also filled with evidence of past persuasions -- how we were told to behave, study, work, and believe.

I also like ephemeral material because it's extremely vivid and accessible. It's a seductive gateway to the many histories that combine and recombine in America, and more than that, it gets people thinking in historical terms. It's one way to avoid the trap of presentism -- the idea that life was, and always will be, as it is now. It also helps us realize that we're not living in a time unlike any other. Much of what we're going through now as a society has already happened in other contexts.

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