Friday, April 18, 2008

Videodrome As Prophecy

I'll be at the New York Comic Con this weekend so I asked Joe Linsner to do a guest spot eleaborating on some interesting points he raised in an email. I think this piece is right up the Synchromystic alley, from the perspective of a guy with a lot of experience in the subconscious mind. This is the kind of stuff Joe and I chat about for hours on end and I wanted you guys out there to get a chance to get Joe's very synchro and very mystic take on art and reality. I'll be out most of the day and will post any comments when I get back tonight.

Hope you guys enjoy this!

Talking to my friend Chris Knowles the other night sparked a chain reaction of associated thoughts in my mind.

He mentioned seeing pictures of people in India living in cardboard boxes while still being hooked up to satellite TV.

He stated that he could personally live anywhere, just so long as he didn’t lose his high speed internet connection (I'm the same way).

He mentioned how popular World Of Warcraft has become. World of Warcraft is currently the most popular MMO ( Massively Multiplayer Online ) interactive game in the United States. It is number three in Korea, and number six in China.

It made me think of a scene from David Cronenberg's Videodrome where the Cathode Ray Mission takes disjointed homeless people and brings them back into society's norms by setting them up in cubicles and giving them a good dose of TV. Television becomes their eyes and shows them the world as the nation’s broadcasters believe it should be -- it replaces their own personal vision with a hand-crafted one.

Cronenberg later explored these concepts further in Existenz, which is about video games and virtual reality. It was inspired by an interview he did with Salmon Rushdie (author of The Satanic Verses) where they batted around the question “can game designers be artists?” Is a creative work that is interactive still art? Or is it only “Art” when it is static, and the information only flows one way?

William S. Burroughs said that when science finally gets to another star, they will find the artists and writers already there waiting for them. The artists and writers are the architects of reality. Nothing ever happens until it already exists on the dream plane.

Joseph Campbell said pretty much the same thing ~~ that poets and artists always lead the way to the future for any society.

This led me to think of David Lynch’s Inland Empire, a poetic masterpiece which works on a myriad of levels, offering a wide spectrum of valid interpretations. In Inland Empire, reality bleeds into and then back out of a number of different modes of perception-- art -vision – dream – television - real life – dream life. All of those facets exist at once, and preference of one facet over another is simply a matter of personal choice. I am sure that the films weird sitcom bunny people tie into that -- Lynch serves the viewer whacko images, and the viewer is then left to digest them however they choose. In this way, it is a very interactive movie. The mark of Lynch’s genius is that the viewer never once gets the feeling that he is being served pure gibberish. It is all spoken in an almost familiar language, one which the viewer just needs to learn in order to keep up.

One of the key points of Videodrome is the externalization of man through technology. It is a two-way flow – it bleeds into us, and we enter into it. Walls come down, and a fusion occurs. In Videodrome, James Woods literally pushes his face through a pulsing and alive television, then later goes on to accept a videotape into his abdomen.

For those people in India living in boxes, their reality goes into and expands outward beyond the literal measurements of their TV sets. Same with us internet junkies. Same with the World of Warcraft junkies. That artificial reality we all know and love, cyberspace, has become just as valid as the cardboard box we may someday live in.

With this in mind, the Harry Potter series is the ultimate metaphor for our age. Just think of the scene in The Order of the Phoenix-- Harry and the magical Weasleys enter a ratty looking tent. Once they enter it, Harry ‘plugs into their virtual enviornment,' and what he sees expands fantastically. Harry exclaims, “I LOVE Magic!”

The ratty exterior of the tent is rubbish, but the magical interior of the tent is ELECTRIC. Those twin realities that young Harry Potter straddle represent both our humdrum daily lives and the lives we live on the dream plain -- just like Dorothy’s real-world Kansas and her dreamland of Oz.

I know that for almost the past 20 years people have been saying that the internet is replacing reality for many people. That is nothing new and has been a cliche for a long time. But I think the skeleton key that will somehow unlock the mystery door is hooked into what Burroughs said ~~

The artists and writers will get there first.

And it was these 2 quotes from Chris’s post about the film 2001: A Space Odyssey which made me remember the William S. Burroughs statement.

“I will say that the God concept is at the heart of 2001-- but not any traditional anthropomorphic image of God. I don’t believe in any of Earth’s monotheistic religions, but I do believe that one can construct an intriguing scientific definition of God.” Stanley Kubrick, Playboy interview, Sept 1968

“Quite early in the game I went around saying, not very loudly, "M-G-M doesn't know this yet, but they're paying for the first $10,000,000 religious movie."
Arthur C. Clarke, Report on Planet Three and Other Speculations, 1972.

I think that 2001 is just as much about inner space as outer space. Walls are coming down left and right, and we are finding ourselves on the dream plain with the artists and writers of the world staring back at us.

Joseph M. Linsner
Apr. 2008


  1. The exchanges the rabbits have with one another in the separate episodes of Rabbits are definitely coherent, they're just in the wrong order! Like one replies to a question that hasn't been asked yet.

    I keep meaning to get the script and work out what the right order was.

    It reminded me of the Kentucky Fried Movie, because the order of the credits for each segment is different to the order they're shown in, and I don't think the credits were alphabetic (I did check that years ago, but I haven't double-checked it recently just to ensure I remember it right).

    The internet saturation frankly p-'s me right off, because I'm actually qualified in, and still studying networks and aspects of that - but there's no jobs at all. The ones that show up, never ever have any connection to setting up or maintaining servers & networks and the likes in relation to anything like the gaming sites. Plus they all ask for previous experience you can't ever get w/o having worked in those areas to begin with - and believe me, not one of those areas is a job you'd ever want - they're all corporate whore no-soul jobs, nothing exciting like a videodrome type of anything (oh and nothing ethical or green either). From here, the whole thing is virtual anyway, in that - it doesn't seem to actually exist anywhere!
    Bearing in mind too that it's entirely possible to manage these things at great distances - you don't even need to reside in the country where the hardware or software is located.

    I'll believe it when I see the hardware and the cabling. Til then I'm filing it under 'not real and a big sham of trickery and illusions'. There's like one guy and a few clones running the whole thing.

  2. eXistenZ I found quite Gnostic, cause it was as if the original creator of the gameworld (Allegra) was at the end brought into a false reality, where she was a mere participant experiencing someone else's game (Trancendez) - that's a lot like the demi-urge concept.
    I also thought there was a very weird parallel with Ian Holm's character (the pod surgeon) to his Jack the Ripper in the film about him (From Hell, I think it was called).

    eXistenZ was in cinemas here same time The Matrix was out, also of course about computer-reality simulation. I remember going to see it and hoping he'd take neither pill! that film would have been much more interesting: just to have had it gone beyond the whole 'someone else showing you how it is' guru theme. But alas.

  3. Hey CK, are you going to be at the convention all weekend? Will you have a booth there or are your speaking or just attending? I live in the city and if you're gonna be there I'd love to go say hello...

  4. Kean, I'll be at the con all weekend. Come by and say hello. I'll be doing a panel at 5pm on Saturday.

  5. That was an AWESOME read, thanks CK!

    Beginning to crystallize my current concept of "unplugging" slowly from the "www". I used to use my computer as a canvas to create 3d graphic pieces with photoshop and various tools, but the past few years, I just have not been as creative...a pisspoor cyber junkie at best.

  6. re: digital arts,

    If you haven't already then try Paint Shop Pro (not sure if it's still the same post-Jasc?) & alienware effects, and Fractal Painter (another great sw app that doesn't seem to get released anymore), and Fractal eXtreme if you like making fractal movies.

    Latham's Organic Art app's also look amazing; I never got to trying them myself yet.