Sunday, November 21, 2004

In the December 2004 issue of Harper's there's an article called "Attack of the superzeroes" by Thomas de Zengotita that touches on nature, media and method acting and its brilliant.

There's a passage in this article that falls under the heading THE FLATTERY OF REPRESENTATION that particularly struck me:

"One of the most popular public-service TV shows of the 1950s was called "You Are There". The name sounds hokey now, but that was the original miracle of television: everyone became a participant/eyewitness to events on the world stage. And that's why people spontaneously told their stories about the Kennedy assassination, no matter where they were physically. They saw and heard it all unfold. Not just on TV, of course- all the media were contributing - but it was TV that made you feel as if you were there. Reams of coverage, endless coverage, amazing coverage - in a way more compelling that if you had been there physically, because virtually you were there from so many different perspectives. You weren't in one spot, the way you would have been if you had been physically there, squashed behind a fat lady, looking in your purse for your sunglasses when the shots went off, thinking they were fireworks at first, until you heard the screaming. No, not like that: you were not there in one humble and limited spot; you were everywhere there, because that amazing coverage put you everwhere there. You had a sort of God's-eye view.

"This is a form of flattery so pervasive, so fundamental to the very nature of representation, that it gets taken for granted. The alchemy that fuses reality and representation gets carried into our psyches by the irresitible flatterly that goes with being constantly addressed in such fabolous ways. We are so habituated to this flattery that it can be made remarkable only by contrast.

"Say your car breaks down in the middle of nowhere —the middle of Saskatchewan, say. You have no radio, no cell phone, nothing to read, no gear to fiddle with. You just have to wait. Pretty soon you notice how everything around you just happens to be there. And it just happens to be there in this very precise but unfamiliar way. You are so not used to this. Every tuft of weed, the scattered pebbles, the lapsing fence, the flow of cloud against the sky —everything is very specifically exactly the way it is, and none of it is for you. Nothing here was designed to affect you. It isn’t arranged so that you can experience it, and you didn’t plan to experience it. There is no screen, no display, no entrance, no brochure, nothing special to look at, no dramatic scenery or wildlife, no tour guide, no campsites, no benches, no paths, no viewing platform with natural-historical information posted under slanted Plexiglas lectern things— whatever is there is just there, and so are you. You begin to get a sense of what it would be like if you weren’t the center of it all."

(I'm not the only one who found this passage striking)

No comments: