A Video Art Retrospective At MoMA Reveals The Utopian Hopes Behind Tech We Now Dread
On January 1, 1984, George Orwell was greeted by a TV show unlike any other show. The fact that Orwell died in 1950 is completely irrelevant. As the author of 1984, Orwell had higher hopes for the mid-1980s than anyone else. In Good Morning, Mr. Orwell, video artist Nam June Paik tries to bring a maligned future back to the present.
In Orwell's fiction, television was destined to be the ultimate instrument of political control, a propaganda vehicle cleverly combined with a surveillance system that would allow the Thought Police to spy on citizens. can be an instrument of cultural liberation.
“I wanted to show [television]'s potential for interaction, its potential as a vehicle for peace and global understanding,” Pike explained. ."
Hello Mr Orwell proves that Pike is not alone. A live mixed broadcast on foreign satellite channels, providing simultaneous participation from John Cage to Allen Ginsberg, Peter Gabriel and Oingo Boingo. This sleek program awaits media from MTV to YouTube. Its 25 million live views have surpassed print copies of Nineteen Eighty-Four since its first issue in 1949.
After decades of neglect , Good Morning Mr. Orwell recently resurfaced as part of an extensive new media retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. This new show, nearly forty years after it aired, is more than just a tribute to art history. He also has broad cultural interests and challenges the techno-utopian dream of the 1980s, much as Pike challenges Orwell's dystopian rhetoric.
Like visionary literature, visionary media art is interesting not only because of what it predicts, but also because of what it ignores. The latter may be even more significant in retrospect because it can also reflect our blind spots.
In the case of Good Morning, Mr. Orwell, we are witnessing the triumph of technological security. At the height of the Cold War, when political borders seem impenetrable and the division between East and West threatens the entire nuclear apocalypse, live satellite broadcasts defy geographic division, as if to show that nothing can stop people from integrating and pursuing a common goal to find. . Technology seemed to offer a solution to the problems of the time (since the true Orwellian nation was hiding behind the Iron Curtain). Ironically, Pike assumes the future in hindsight. In response to Orwellian portrayal of television as a weapon of the enemy, Pike repositioned it as a friend of the enemy.
As Mr. Orwell points out in the Good Morning exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art , they belong to the entire genre of optimistic media art. This genre also includes Movie-Drome 1964-65 and Stan VanderBeek's "Hole-in-Space" created by Keith Galloway and Sherry Rabinowitz in 1980.
The first is a multipurpose theater where people are immersed in moving images from all over the world. Conceived as the first hub of a global network for the exchange of visual information, VanDerBeek's invention was intended to "make the world public aware of itself", which he considers "an important step towards peaceful coexistence". Only one Movie-Drome was built under the supervision of VanDerBeek. It took the Internet to make public media ubiquitous: an immersive experience that manifests itself not in physical drama but as a media bubble.
Hole-in-Space is simpler than Movie-Drome , and conceptually, if not technically, consists of two TV cameras and a large screen on the opposite bank, located on a street inviting people 2,700 miles apart to meet virtually. . Amazed passers-by who did not expect that a hole in space would pierce time and make future buzzers live in all time zones at once.
Orwell had no clear influence on the creation of Movie-Drome or Hole-in-Space , and neither did Nam June Paik. What unites these three works, spanning two decades and marking a technological leap in the transition from local projection to satellite communications, is the tendency to view the present as an unusual and complex story that moves forward. A reference to the past must be made to provide a framework for presenting innovations, but the currently compressed problem space of the past must be carefully revisited.
This blind spot applies not only to visionary media art, but also to innovative technologies in the commercial sector. The difference is that the latter is usually consigned to oblivion in a landfill, while the former is kept in a museum.
In cultural archives such as the MoMA, visions of the past can still influence the future. They can have a positive impact on the future by performing background checks on technology safety claims. Historical knowledge digs into problem areas, providing an important counterbalance to unforeseen consequences.
Hello Pakpack. Mr Orwell is watching you.