October 10, 2011

Found Object: "PressPausePlay"

I've been waiting for this movie for years. Not in the sense that I heard about it on a website, tracked it's release, and finally saw it for myself. More like, It expresses ideas I've been grappling with, and espousing, and sharing with my peers for years. You can watch it in its entirety for free here.

PressPausePlay is a documentary about new media. Music, Film, Visual Art, computing, technology, industry, and all that good stuff. It assembles a host of artists, professionals, and experts and discusses the elephant in the room:

Namely, things feel different now compared to when they used to, and not merely due to nostalgia.

While the above statement is probably accurate for any period in human history, something about this time is different. Maybe it's just that I was alive during the "used to" period, and am a struggling artist in the "now" period, and will hopefully be alive (and successful) for whatever is to come next. Maybe I'd be expressing the same idea if I were born in 1941 instead of 1981. But still. I played Nintendo when I was 6, and I used a personal computer with internet access at 13, and now that I'm just shy of 30 I can do more things on my phone than anyone would have imagined 10 years ago, much less 30 years ago. We still have war, and poverty, and all the problems we've had as a species since the day we were a species. But still, something now is different. Right?

I've been alive for, and cognizant of, some of the most sweeping changes in popular culture in several hundred years, and as a person (consumer, artist, whatever) it's incredibly invigorating and vexing at the same time. In contrast, my little brother is 9 years younger than me. He and his friends share a common language with me, they like many of the same bands, and have seen many of the same films, and lived through many of the same economic, political, and industrial hiccups. Yet, they awoke to this culture well after the institutions that grew up with had already died. All that, in 9 measly years. They never even had a chance to use Napster, for crying out loud, and yet they live in a culture that was changed by it. Things will always change, but PressPausePlay helped me put a finger on why this time around it seems different (even if it isn't (though I think it is)).

Change has been so rapid that nearly every institution created to support art and popular culture (or exploit/capitalize on it) has been dismantled or reborn from scratch several times over. Yet, there are still wealthy, working, privileged hacks and artists working side by side, just as there have been for centuries... So what's a guy like me to do?

It's difficult to understand the contradiction of a sophisticated digital age, and the child-like playfulness that these new tools give us the ability to run with. The idea of expressing an idea to "everyone" via the internet is incredible, but first, how can I afford the computer or camera or electricity or education I need to express that idea? Like I said, invigorating and vexing at the same time.

I don't think technology is the key to Utopia, nor is it the harbinger of doom. But it sure is something.

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