How much of our everyday life is colonized by corporate sponsored vandalism and socially engineered marketing prompts? Never mind the obvious mediatized experiences. Take a walk across your nearest urban landscape and look deeply at the signs—explicit and implicit—that seek to influence our actions. Observe how the environment increasingly is demarcated, bordered, limited, controlled and monitored. Why do so few people think about our “society of control” or its soft bargaining through manufactured desires, marketing prompts and mindless distractions? (Hard bargaining occurs when your Governor threatens to call out the National Guard on you for exercising your democratic rights.)
The distinction between private and public space is becoming increasingly blurred. The average urban dweller is now estimated to absorb—mindfully or not—2000+ ads a day. Advertising dominates our internal mindscapes and our external landscapes. Unless we desire to isolate ourselves like the technophobic Unabomber, we are unable to escape these corporate marketing intrusions. What, then, is our defense?
... The colonization of personal mindscapes and public landscapes is part of a privatization of the commons in which limitations are put into place through walls and barriers. Extending this metaphor further, corporate colonization delimits the artistic creative imagination as well as the civic imagination of what is possible. Extend this even further and it is as if we have been culturally framed and put on the wall of a museum. Our world becomes comprised only of the narratives that “they” state “we” should pay attention to.
... Humans are narrative creatures, homo fabulans, who seek meaning and are open to narrative constructions. We all laugh at the person who is unable to perceive that their favorite TV star is not the character they play, but is this all that different from those of us who are unable to perceive the surreality of the infotainment with which we are presented 24/7? When it comes to more important political and social issues, how does this play out in our perceptions of what is right and wrong? Do most people investigate for themselves and use their knowledge to produce their own meanings, or do they sit back and allow talking heads to tell them what to think?
... What do you do, though, when the populace has been colonized so heavily by the invading forces? How do you get them to recognize their enslavement or to begin to imagine something different? How do you deal with the lackey art world that supports the dominant structure of passive consumption, corporate branding and obsessive collecting? What does an artist do, when they know their art depends on a critical audience to respond as co-creators, to wake people up? Especially when all of their direct actions of defiance and critique are immediately repurposed and delimited for safe consumption in the 24-hour titillation news cycle.
This is not a new dilemma. As Monty Python so humorously demonstrates in The Life of Brian, graffiti most likely showed up wherever the first empires sought to control societies. Critical artists of all types have a heritage of challenging controlling narratives through defiant rejection of the forms of the dominant culture: medieval carnival culture, dada, ‘pataphysics, punk, Guillermo Gomez-Pena’s performative dioramas, Luis Bunuel’s films, Situationist detournements, and so on.
Documentaries generally adopt an authoritative voice and are very manipulative in their traditional structures. Documentary films from the very beginning have problematized and/or been implicated in this cultural problem. From the questions of whether Nanook of the North restaged its anthropological observations of Inuit life, to Orson Welles’ playful mocking of truth, art and property in F for Fake, to Errol Morris’s restaging of torture scenes in Standard Operating Procedure. What then is the filmmaker-artist to do when attempting to critique dominant, controlling narratives through the form of documentary film? -- Michael Dean Benton, "Exit Through the Gift Shop." North of Center (March 2, 2011)
Abosch, Kevin, et al. "A Very Crypto Future." On the Media (October 12, 2018) ["The economy is the ultimate exercise in collaboration — with collaborators you don’t necessarily choose, such as governments, which can impoverish you with the stroke of a pen. In response to this vulnerability, a person (or persons) working under the name Satoshi Nakamoto launched Bitcoin, a peer-to-peer currency with a fixed number of tokens, built on a distributed, indelible ledger. Ten years into the life of the cryptocurrency, it has a market cap in the billions of dollars, and has given rise to thousands of copycat and competitor currencies, all built on their own communities and visions of the future. But in many ways, the underlying principle — faith — is as central to the value of money as ever. Bob speaks with Vinay Gupta, Nathaniel Popper, Neha Narula, Mark Blyth and Kevin Abosch about how cryptocurrency fits into the evolution of money."]
Blyth, Mark and Bill Maurer. "Money, Then and Now." On the Media (October 12, 2018) ["Most schoolchildren learn that money arose when barter proved insufficient for meeting everyday trade needs. People required more complex transactions, so they invented currency: a medium of exchange, unit of account and store of value. It's a compelling story...but a false one. Instead, most evidence suggests that money arose from recordkeeping — or, as UC Irvine professor Bill Maurer explains to Bob, "in the beginning was not the coin... in the beginning was the receipt." In this segment, Bob speaks with Maurer and Brown University's Mark Blyth about past and present myths about money, and what the history of money might suggest about its future."]
Hyman, Louis. "The Radical Catalog." On the Media (October 18, 2018) ["Another chapter in the history of American consumerism came to a close this week when the retail giant Sears announced it was filing for bankruptcy and closing 142 of its unprofitable stores. As experts sifted through the details about what doomed Sears, we found ourselves reading a Twitter thread about a little-known bit of shopping history. Louis Hymanis an economic historian and professor at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations. He tweeted: "In my history of consumption class, I teach about Sears, but what most people don't know is just how radical the catalogue was in the era of Jim Crow." In this week's podcast extra, Hyman talks to Brooke about what we can learn from the way Sears upended Jim Crow power dynamics, and what lessons it offers about capitalism more broadly. His latest book is Temp: How American Work, American Business, and the American Dream Became Temporary."]
Keene, John. "Reimagining History." On the Media (October 10, 2018) ["Last week, the MacArthur Foundation awarded genius grants to 25 creatives in art, literature, science and music. John Keene, a writer of poetry, fiction and cultural criticism, was one of them. He was recognized for his innovative use of language and form, and the way his work “exposes the social structures that confine, enslave, or destroy” people of color and queer people. Keene spoke to Brooke back in 2015 about his story collection, Counternarratives, which centers the voices of the marginalized in both imagined and reimagined historical moments."]
Lish, Atticus. "On Becoming a Scumbag." Harper's (October 2018) ["A poignant, profane novel of addiction."]
Wolin, Sheldon S. "Myth in the Making." Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism. Princeton University Press, 2008: 4-14. ["Democracy is struggling in America--by now this statement is almost cliché. But what if the country is no longer a democracy at all? In Democracy Incorporated, Sheldon Wolin considers the unthinkable: has America unwittingly morphed into a new and strange kind of political hybrid, one where economic and state powers are conjoined and virtually unbridled? Can the nation check its descent into what the author terms "inverted totalitarianism"? Wolin portrays a country where citizens are politically uninterested and submissive--and where elites are eager to keep them that way. At best the nation has become a "managed democracy" where the public is shepherded, not sovereign. At worst it is a place where corporate power no longer answers to state controls. Wolin makes clear that today's America is in no way morally or politically comparable to totalitarian states like Nazi Germany, yet he warns that unchecked economic power risks verging on total power and has its own unnerving pathologies. Wolin examines the myths and mythmaking that justify today's politics, the quest for an ever-expanding economy, and the perverse attractions of an endless war on terror. He argues passionately that democracy's best hope lies in citizens themselves learning anew to exercise power at the local level."]
Rivette’s final film [Around a Small Mountain] is a captivating variation on a theme that obsessed him: the interplay between life and performance. Luminously photographed by Lubtchansky in the open-air splendor of the south of France, it revolves around an Italian flaneur (Sergio Castellitto) who finds himself drawn into the world of a humble traveling circus led by the elusive Kate (Jane Birkin), whose enigmatic past becomes a tantalizing mystery he is determined to solve. -- The Female Gaze (2018)