April is upon us, and this month we’re taking a sideways look at technology. Specifically the way it’s changed us on one of our most profound human levels: the way we communicate with one another.
It’s an embryonic state that we find ourselves in people my age (let’s say hovering just above 40 on some ragged wings) are adapting, working with the assimilation of an ever-new tech procession into most aspects of our lives, while people that have never lived without the sprawling, crooked genius of the internet seem to have the trick down: just go with it.
I’m not a luddite — I love the world that has opened up for me. As someone who used to manage a video store, by which I mean VHS, I have no calling to revisit the days of clunky, dirty video cassettes and the infuriating limits placed upon the consumer by physical distribution, and every time I hear somebody complain about the sound quality of mp3 files all I have to do is think back to the murky warbling of the cassettes I used to have. But, for the longest time I unconsciously resisted contemporary technology, waving my cane from my front porch at it, corn-cob pipe jutting from the corner of my sneering grill. Why? Because it would have meant that I had to change.
The fluid nature of early 21st century machines means that they are assimilating more organically into our lives, and if that’s all you’ve ever known, it makes it a lot easier to just dive in and see what the possibilities are.
UPSTREAM COLOR (6 Apr) is without a doubt the most poetic example I’ve seen of how external forces work with us and through us, connecting us in ways that we might not even fully comprehend yet. Engaging in the world of social media is something akin to having low-level psychic powers: my friend on the other side of the world feels elated this morning, how does that make me feel? My friend across town is hungry, a peripheral person that I barely know is worried about losing their job, a dozen people on my feed are reading a post by someone we’ve never met, all in real time. When experience becomes more collective, what does this do to our identity? What creates the tides? It’s a love story, beautiful, challenging, maddening and true.
The notion of power, held through wealth and visible prestige, hasn’t gone anywhere yet, but the cracks might be starting to show. COSMOPOLIS (13 Apr), adapted from the quietly shattering book by Don Delillo and adapted by the master of cinematic collapse David Cronenberg gives us the absurdist tale of a media tycoon driven by unknowable hungers. Isolated from the physical world, save for specifically cherry-picked encounters, we spend a day with a man who follows the hidden patterns of this power, even if they must lead him towards a self imposed doom. The old ways of doing business are dying, the concept of wealth and what it means are changing, and nothing will ever be the same.
The Cronenberg gene manifests itself again in our program through the debut feature from progeny Brandon, ANTIVIRAL (20 Apr). Either a grim, clinical dystopic sci-fi horror, or the blackest of black comedies, the viewer can decide what this unsettling and viciously intelligent film means to them. The concept of “celebrity” has changed. Where idols used to be presented to us, like sculptures or new gods, we now vote on the objects we lionise. Not in the crass, simplistic format of game shows where raw, naive ambition is pasteurised into some kind of final survivor to be shuffled off stage, but through this brutal 24 hour immediacy. Arrests, overdoses, weight gain, breakups, all fed out to the world live. How long until contracting the same strains of disease that your favourite celebrity is incubating becomes desperately appealing? How long until the cloned flesh of superstars can be used for unspeakable purposes? Antiviral would like to discuss this with you.
As a bonus feature, we’re extremely pleased to be holding an outdoor screening of the truly bizarre cinematic curio TRIBULATION 99 on the evening of Tuesday 8 of April, at the QUT Creative Industries Precinct in Kelvin Grove. Much like relationships, power, and fame — the idea of truth is being further warped through the lens of our new machines. If the “truth” was controlled in the past by large, selective media companies, it has now begun to run rampant as all of us go forth armed with a camera and a perspective. When there are seven billion versions of the truth, what currency does it hold anymore? A riotous collage of found footage and b-movie snippets, Tribulation 99 presents an alternate history of the world, in which the colonies of Martians that live in the centre of our planet wage an endless war with the covert forces above. It’s supremely silly and complete genius.
We finish the month with a look back at the 20th century, and the fears of technology that plagued us then. A quaint time, when the concept of surveillance, media thought manipulation, and de-humanisation in return for security were something that came from outside, from unknowable faceless forces, instead of being a process that we are complicit in, every day, every time we use our devices.
Our audience can choose from one of three features in our monthly voting forum: Videodrome, Blow Out, and THX 1138 — these are cautionary tales from the 1970s and 80s. The time of my youth, a time that now seems as impossibly distant and unworkable as the youth of my ancestors.
Links to trailers for all of our films, and further details about the shows can be found here: http://www.slq.qld.gov.au/whats-on/events/sliqflicks