Map Critique

Maxim Pozdorovkin’s Our New President is an experimental documentary that explores Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Unlike traditional documentaries, Our New President contains no interviews, instead relying entirely on Russian propaganda to tell its story. However, it is arguable as to whether or not Pozdorovkin is in fact trying to tell a story. As he explores the Russian sentiment of the election, and the nature of propaganda, he artfully creates his own propaganda.

Pozdorovkin knows that he could not simply create a timeline of the events and instances that took place because the dissemination of media is too vast, and remains too unknown to explain using such a linear model. To this day we are still exploring the effects of Russian born “troll farms” that continue to banally inundate social media with false information. It was more useful for Pozdorovkin to explain this phenomenon, by recreating it. Our New President bombards the viewer with endless content supplied both by the international news syndicate Russia Today (RT), as well as homemade Russian Youtube videos praising Putin and Trump, and Hillary Clinton. If I learned anything from this film it is that the whole of this propaganda is greater than the sum of its parts. However ridiculous it was, it had a profound effect on its viewers.

Although this project is not a map per-se, I felt that the film’s intentions to explore these events through a non-linear model, was an act of deep mapping. In essence, a map’s goal is to foster some sort of knowledge production, and on a ground level that is what this film is attempting to do. As Brett Bloom and Nuno Sacramento put it, “to get an understanding of an actual place, one must inhabit its overlapping contradictory stories simultaneously”. Though this film largely revolves around propaganda footage, the wide range of video quality and topics creates a highly subjective yet multi-layered atmosphere rather than a more definitive, dimensionless narrative.

Pozdorovkin’s explanation is purposefully inconclusive and open-ended, which works in his favor and to his detriment. In his own words, Pozdorovkin views Our New President as an attempt to create a fact based movie “entirely fact free”. Yet, it might be difficult for viewers to arrive at this more external conclusion about genre and news creation. Even Pozdorovkin admits the film has its faults. To understand the overarching narrative of the film, viewers need a certain amount of critical visual literacy. Ironically, Our New President is arguably trying to create a commentary about the lack of a popular critical literacy that exists around news media, and especially in its various and ambiguous iterations on the internet today.

Still, Pozdorovkin’s model remains useful in regards to mapping. Our New President tries to bridges a gap between documentation and hard data by reintroducing the viewer to the extensiveness of Russian meddling in an emotionally overwhelming manner. This kind of video-based mapping is especially useful for the topic of modern propaganda, as it is almost entirely visual.

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In my own explorations of bodegas I thought that imitating Pozdorovkin’s model might be a useful way to understand the role bodegas play in New York City culture. Much like Pozdorovkin, my video is entirely comprised of already existing media. Although some of the other maps that I created have original content, I felt that it would be equally important to create some sort of documentation of the media portrayal of these spaces.

I gathered hundreds of clips from movies, television, and Youtube. While I did my best to sort through them, I was not able to finish a “final product” for this map critique. However, I’m not too sure that there is such a thing, and rather I would like to extend this version as an open-ended conversation that is somewhat inconclusive. That being said, I’ll continue to work on this, even after the class ends. Unlike Pozdorovkin, I did not feel the need to bombard the viewer with clips, although I chose to overlay a number of videos on top of each other. The purpose of this was not to make the work palatable, but to attempt to show the multifaceted usage of bodegas in popular and social media. My hope is that this video will strike a note with New Yorkers. However, I still see that it has similar limitations to Our New President. Yet, I don’t think I have a problem with its nicheness in this instance. I see it as more of a reproduction of already existing knowledge that could easily be reworked in an endless number of ways.

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