Punk Origins No. 1: Internet Theatre
Consider each Catalogue number to be a self-contained thesis in the Post-Situationist-International (SI).
Consider each Day to be a looser definition of time; much like the interpretative measurement of days in the biblical sense.
The integration of the Spectacle represents a point where the marketing messages of the corporate broadcast environment intersects and forms a grey zone with the detourned messages of independent thinkers…One might say that the Revolution will be televised. That’s definitely one way to look at it.
The spectacle rejects the value of real experience, by creating empty substitutes for that kind of experience. It’s the empty calories of a visual culture; and now we have developed additional terms to reflect this idea (with dismay). We are becoming a post-literate society.
But more about that later.
Don’t you think it’s about time you inspired your local community to REJECT life’s passive creations — those which are provided by forces of capitalist consumption, as alternatives for real experience.
Examples of these creations are those supplied as marketing messages to consumers like you, your family, and friends.
They, who would “buy or die”
Young, fresh minds are being exploited for their disposable income.
The messages created by “integrators” of the spectacle, are messages populated by waves and sensations of powerlessness
The consumer “buys” to avoid rejection by peers.
The messages urge buyers to feel less empty by consuming more empty calories.
They use the power of seduction to weaken the will, instead of strengthening it or inspiring.
They abuse the potential of any new (or current) medium, by forcing a trite message to a non-creative end.
They use a misdirected, or displaced “culture of cool” – yet another Mixed Message of a gentrified, yuppified underground culture that is no longer elitist.
The messages flatten, condition, and de-stimulate.
They are spells.
They condition new behaviours in people to not read, but to “skim” instead of reading and contemplating.
In such a case, everybody loses.
They are enablers for not thinking or forming opinions in favor of a consumable, quantitative hunt for options. They favor the external image: the lure of the politically correct soapbox — but the soapbox is almost six feet underwater, and our eyes are just peering above the waves. It is a last gasp of air. It is a popularity contest.
The right to deliberately experience a unique viewpoint — don’t we all still think we have this? How many would question this? That they are so accustomed to the unseen machinery, a metastructure that most can no longer see, is perhaps not a concern for some.
But to consume empty calories is also to fatten up, to get slow. There is little to say in favor of blinker the mind to accept the pop culture spectacle as reality. Remember — you don’t want your girlfriend or your wife, you really want Britney Spears and her contradictory messages. You want gangsta shit. You
MTV, VH1, E! — what are these channels about? If you asked for a manifesto, you’d probably get directed to a mission statement. It might even sound non-committedly noble, to “offer music fans what they want.” That’s what everybody says they are doing. Answering to market need. On-demand services.
So I propose this. Let’s do an experiment. Let’s create 999 more channels of boy bands, girl bands and vanity. Let’s manufacture music, and let’s enforce that all ideas we see are our own.
Let’s add about 240 more shopping channels. Let’s create additional infomercials where we position our reverse-engineered products.
Let’s “introduce a need” into the market, by showing a consumer struggling with pancakes. Let’s give the people what we say they want. Let’s put asses in the seats.
Let’s do reality television, it’s more real than reality — it’s a hyperreal substitute for experience, man, plus it lacks the huge time commitment of having friends. ALSO the hyper-real TV people are innately more beautiful, and what’s so AMAZING — is that they apparently have no idea they’re being filmed, so their problems are DEFINITELY interesting.
Let’s overstimulate children. They’re all Baby Mozarts, Baby Einsteins, Baby Da Vincis. Let’s put them in front of endless multimedia triggers — new parts of their brains will stimulate, plus — it even makes them better shoppers than we were.
Let’s not have an opinion. Let’s have a brand, but no attitude. We don’t stand for anything as designers of messages, but our opinions are those of our clients, whoever they might be. Let’s stand up for what the people who pay us stand for. Let’s not stand up to our beliefs, someone’s gotta pay the rent for this $2000/mo office!
Let’s continue to create stupidity and offer more options, more choice, so that others can feel outrage and offence at the short-sightedness of home-based entrepreneurs and their e-myth.
Let’s trade upon the lives of all young people, and keep them indoors more, it’s safer anyway and that way they won’t have sex or get into gangs.
Let’s exploit the spectacle by placing our own messages into the canons of meta-advertising. Let’s place message that say “consume this you dumb-ass fucker! You’re not smart enough to know the difference between Pepsi and RC, so this should fly by over your head.
There’s also the global brain theory, which is really interesting.
The global brain exists, and according to writer Peter Moraites, the next phase of collective consciousness is inevitable. It’s the next level we move on to, beyond the state that appears to be amassed with chaos and entropy. Today we are meta-particles, bumping into one another; then, at a sort of neo-atomic level, we vibrate en masse when the collision rate increases beyond a certain level, and we change over into a different life form. Or something like that.
There is always the possibility that we could extinct ourselves too, before this other thing could happen.
It’s one of many photos; a young man with a slight grin, holding up a sign he’s made with the following words on it, “Everything is connected in life. The point is to know it, and to understand it.”
It’s contained in this beautiful quote, located in Gillian Wearing’s project “Signs That Say What You Want Them To Say, and Not Signs That Say What Someone Else Wants You To Say.”
We are all connected to everything else. It’s so important that we not forget this part. If someone were to tell me that there is a meaning to life has been finally discovered, I’d have to tell them, Sorry man, you’re too late, I’ve already read it somewhere else.
Just that, nothing more.
What I mean by this, is that the only artifacts of early Situationism are the words…This is what a mostly-failed movement could offer, if not for the inclusion of Fluxus style lightness to divert and to subvert.
No website that writes about Post-Situationism, without also “detourning” at the same time could be of any real value. No one wants to read about conceptual art theory. Hence, this essay is going to be kept very short.
Subverting the public space of the web has been Day For Night’s m.o. since 1995, when it began to create NIGHTlinkRail, NoelCrane.com and numerous web presences for the show ALIAS. The objective of such diversion was to distract and amuse, to subvert and shake.
Since, this has become absorbed into the “Integrated Spectacle” — it is increasingly commonplace for networks to think they’re being subversive, too, by creating Reality televisions and for a fictitious property to “converge” media. Naturally, there is more than a few media
What will happen when all media has been converged? Will reality TV go away? Or will it simply go back into supporting the public’s apparent adoration of this form of Spectacle?
To resolve this, we must educate ourselves. We must condition ourselves, by encouraging and rewarding patience, even tenaciousness. It might even involve re-training ourselves to put ourselves before the clients we work with. If I cannot endorse a product or service, then I must also exercise my right of refusal. I will grow my own food, and provide my own services to others who are like minded. I must recognize what makes this so important.
It is by coincidence that the use of a realist metaphor, that subverting the language of advertising can become a big part of how something like that gets presented. For example, we have Simon Patterson’s “The Great Bear”, joining the world’s public persona, engineers, comedians, royalty, planets and major philosophers on a tube map; the environmental graphic design icon of the London Underground.
Sarah Lucas, and other representatives of what became termed in the 90s as Young British art, the wave that followed the “Freeze” and “Saatchi” exhibitions, for the talent that spun off of Goldsmith’s college alumni in the 1990s, and covered so thoroughly in Matthew Collings’ books “Blimey” and “This is Modern Art.” Many of these have created theses by way of a thread, to follow the media subversions of Situationism, Surrealism and Fluxus.
It also stands to reason that many contemporary subversions in the form of viral marketing are deployed by Post-Situationists, using the medium for social commentary or wise-crack; the most visible example in Los Angeles is Shepard Fairey’s “OBEY” flyers, using Andre The Giant’s saddened, heavy face, almost-perfectly posterized though photocopying.
I’ve always had this passion for fiction intertwining with reality, and blurring those edges – especially where these either make for a good dialogue about life and art. Perhaps it even fulfills a need I have; for irony to find a home in art. The effect of bringing lightness and humor to every experience now prevails, because, only now, I can see it in all of my work…!
In France and Britain, in the mid-to-late 60s, Situationists played with the messages brought forth by the spectacle, when they doctored its language and subverted its imagery.
The most notorious offense, lies in the commercial misappropriations of the human form, face and body – especially the face. At its least obvious, we usually recognize desperation on the part of a seller, to put on a Noxzema-fresh, Photoshopped close-up of a sexy model – as a gesture of unattainability.
The place for this in Day For Night’s body of work exists within a desire to uphold the aesthetic appeal of beauty and the beautiful creation, but meanwhile, it assumes some overlap with the integrated spectacle.
Words, to describe pictures of people who use words and pictures, to describe places and things.
The Situationists were a league of French political artists during the latter 20th century, whose slant on social reform took the form of a surreal post-Dadaist manipulation of word and text. Often, their détournements (diversions) involved the supplanting of common meaning with abstract and subversive meanings of their own, as a statement of social upheaval and reform. The détournements of the late 1960s may now take on an added significance as the worldwide web now begins to pervert itself – an internet we begin to take for granted, which now willfully distorts and subverts – disorienting us as it fetishises commerce, leading us into a greater state of net-complacency. One might ask what would have happened if the Situationists had evolved purely into web designers?
Internet Theatre, (Day For Night shorthand for web situations) is the art of misdirecting an audience while holding court, and tapping into the web’s awesome theatrical potential, by chaining together a suspension of disbelief similar to that thing which film does, and which theatre and television do, too. It’s the representation of image as fact, made even more surprising by its plausibility, through a series of strategic clues.
Example One. Noel Crane is a second-year graphic arts student at the University of New York in Manhattan. He is also resident advisor on the 7th floor of his dormitory and dispenses homespun wisdom to the freshman students. On the side, Noel designs fonts in his spare time and has a webpage, Noelcrane.com to front his desire to establish a career in the graphics biz someday, possibly soon after graduation. More interestingly, though, he has fallen in love with a girl named Felicity Porter who is one of his advisees.
Noel primarily inhabits a television world created by the producers at Imagine Television and Disney Online… This world shared space on Tuesday nights on the Warner Brothers television network as the tv show Felicity. Of course, Noel has no idea how we watch his every move on television, nor does the interactive world he has “created” online indicate any such confidence. In fact, there are no mentions to a television show, or even the girl named Felicity, but only a passing nod here or there. Noel remains blissfully unaware that viewers are writing their pleas to try and wake him from web slumberland.
The creative premise of Noel Crane.com is that, on the surface, it could be the homepage of any young and technically-gifted college student, noodling with web design like a true hobbyist. The site’s primary objective is to reinforce Noel’s brand by defining the walls unseen around his public life – the web browser is a gap between the bricks, wherein a separate dialogue emerges between the show’s creators and viewers.
By presenting a student’s homepage, complete in its virtual idiosyncrasies – as opposed to a sponsored website, self-consciously boasting cross-promotional and merchandising offers – the fans have retained a seemingly personal, private window onto Noel’s world. They will learn more through his tastes and insights. Thereby, omitting any references to the universe created by television, the Felicity listservers and mailgroups also have something interesting to talk about. And in many cases, fans who discovered the site ended up endorsing it with hyperlinks from pages on sites they created themselves to honor the show and its characters.
Noel’s fictitious site experienced a sharp rise in visits over the next weeks, capping just over 43,000 visits during the month of November 1998 when it was first announced – during the course of dialogue, during the show – and many visits came from repeat visitors. It was a fairly auspicious start for a web designer whose work was never registered with search engines or linked to from any other part of the show’s integrated brand experience.
With Internet Theatre, that fourth, proverbial, mythical wall stands intact. It says as much about a show’s presentation as it can become a presentation of the show – all the while observing newer, unusual boundaries for siteworks. For Day For Night, this offered up, with each new project, a laboratory for new experiments in electronic communications and commercial misdirection.
Internet Theatre is guided by a logical process. The characters cannot see the past the edge of the stage.
Perhaps this can be likened to the dedication of method actors when they assume character. Day For Night is at its most passionate when it comes to maintaining a hands-on approach within this level of sitework – where each project can executed by adherence to a logistical script, and in a fully-adopted character or guise.
We measured the success of a project like Noel Crane.com by the bewildering level of positive confusion we can create with it – when a casual visitor can positively cross-reference a universe created on television, from a separate reality existing only on the web.