The Independent Film and Video
Monthly December 1999
Greetings from the year 2000. While I’m certain this time capsule contains many antique objects for your curiosity and enjoyment, my personal feeling is that you’ve come here looking for something else. Though I can’t foretell the exact extent of your current crisis, my letter speaks of a future I can easily imagine. Of technological developments I can readily foresee. Of the inevitable mid-life crisis of the information age.
We are the ones who used to be called the storytellers. Filmmakers. Videomakers. Mediamakers. We come from a time when new forms of digital technology were just about to replace the old tools and conventions of celluloid and videotape. When the old vocabulary of cinema had begun to fade out, to lose its meaning (some say its relevance), and was replaced by binary codes and electronic computer commands. These technological changes promised to make the tools of storytelling simpler, cheaper and abundantly accessible to the masses.
Now that everyone is the producer/director/designer of their own personal website, (when did they become mandatory?), I realize I’m not talking to specialists anymore. So what do you call yourselves? Time Architects? Interactivists? Cybernetters? The view from here has me imagining startling developments in artificial intelligence, virtual technology, information encryption and cybernetics. Micro-miniaturized stereo retinal cameras -- recording imagery made as simple as seeing itself. Bio-ports -- for direct neural input and output transmissions. Voice recognition software -- finally eliminating the need for keyboards. Genre formula programs -- eventually eliminating the need for editors. Computers as full creative partners -- acknowledged by name in the credits.
Like the 19tth century invention of photography or the 20th century revolution in desktop publishing, the unprecedented opportunity for anyone who wished, to become both sole creator, distributor and internet impresario of their own work, promised to once again liberate art and change the world forever. But something went wrong.
Despite all the radical advances in the how, and the democratization of the what, you’ve somehow forgotten the essence of the why. Information overload, an over-saturated media environment, and a pervasive sense of creative detachment have left you feeling more and more uninspired. You’ve lost touch with the spirit and passion that has always driven people to create, to excite, to surprise, to teach, to evoke, even to shock, their fellow human beings.
I’ve placed a zoetrope at the bottom of this time capsule. Turn off the lights. Hold it in your hands. Shine a candle (if you can find one) or a flashlight (if you still have one) or your pocket laser beam (more likely) upon it, and gently spin a magically animated old-fashioned optical illusion. Feel that sense of sheer wonderment. Behold the persistence of vision. This is what we can help you remember.