Michael Betancourt

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Michael Betancourt is a theorist who works with experimental art as a way of developing and testing theory. He has been a photographer, copy editor, art director, mail clerk, secretary, art historian, typist, intellectual, graphic designer, teacher, laborer, illustrator, nerd, dark room technician, side-show magician, cook, writer, web master, associate editor, slacker, and telephone operator. He has been exhibiting his work with cinema and related media since 1992. His approach treats movies as a conceptual framework, moving freely back and forth between film, video and (more recently) digital formats, independent of the specific technology of presentation. His belief that there is no fundamental distinction between the aesthetic structures of painting and those of movies was confirmed by experiments with David Jones' custom audio-video synthesis instruments housed in the Experimental Television Center in Oswego, New York. These thoughts have led his work into intermediate places between traditional painting or photography and motion pictures. He has developed a new kind of kinetic art that can be both a static photograph and a movie, depending on its exhibition. Betancourt has screened, broadcast, or exhibited his interdisciplinary artwork world-wide over the net and airwaves, and shown work in museums, galleries, night clubs, colleges and festivals: including the Museum of Contemporary Art (Miami), The Painted Bride Art Center (Philadelphia), Jaraf (NYC), the Wolfsonian-FIU Museum (Miami), Unquote Television, the Rebus Gallery (Denver), and the Ann Arbor Festival of Experimental Film. He was co-founder of The Experimental Show in 2001 with Elizabeth Hall and Charles Recher. His on-going Censorship Project exists exclusively on-line. Starting in 1997, Betancourt's digital presence at Art on the Net (art.net) involved him in the American Civil Liberties Union's cases against Internet censorship. His digital composites of human bodies were developed and presented specifically to provide a test case for the concept of "obscenity," a concept that Betancourt argues is logically paradoxical; thus untenable. This work has brought him to a position of prominence in the legal battle to stop censorship of the Internet in the United States. As part of this process, he adapted the principles of the open source software movement to art with the Free Art Project, an action that anticipated Bruce Sterling's Viridian Note 124: The Manifesto of January 3, 2000. Following through on his belief that dialogue, criticism and history must be a part of any artist's working process, Betancourt has an interdisciplinary Ph. D. focusing on the intersection of history, media and art theory; his MA is in the history of experimental film and video. He has written articles for Hi-beam, CTheory and Tout-Fait. www.cinegraphic.net http://art.net/~betan/