Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Godfrey Reggio's "Evidence"

Watch this first; it's about seven minutes long. Commentary after the break.



I have to continuously remind myself that most people are so plugged into the television grid that they can no longer distinguish inside and outside. I have heard many excuses for this, "I only watch the good programmes" being one of the most common. Otherwise good friends have thought I was (almost literally) insane for not at least watching the news: "How will you know what's going on?" As though the news tells us that.

"But it's better than nothing" is the usual retort. Oh, is it? Television does not connect us with our world; it separates us from it. Appealing to specific instances of television programming as beneficial confuses the form with the content.

On learning that I do not own a television set, the most common response is one of pity, and an offer of a spare device. People are far more likely to freely give a television to a lost soul than they are to lend a book. Or a hot meal.

"Evidence" is a short film by Godfrey Reggio that shows children watching television from the television's point of view. It is of course equally about us watching the children, and as such comes dangerously close to being overly reductionary. In my opinion it would have been far more effective as seven minutes of a single fixed view of one child. The panning and cutting seems a lame attempt at normalising the content, totally out of place considering the subject matter.

And Reggio's love of Glass's music is here misplaced. The soundtrack is far too romantic for my liking.

Nonetheless it says something entirely pertinent in today's culture of child-rearing. Stick the kid in front of the box and they shut up. Their brainwaves chill to a level deeper than sleep. For in sleep we do a lot more work than in front of the box.

Bear in mind that until hormonal changes stop in early adulthood, a young brain is still growing and forming new nerve connections. Indeed this continues throughout life, but is most active before the age of 18 or so (after which we start the long process of dying). Different parts of the central nervous system get fixed at different stages. The building blocks of language must be learned in the first few years, musical ability can be set at an early age, etc.

What happens if instead you feed a young person a steady diet of electrons in a scanning beam at a fixed frequency, with a set resolution, representing the world as a discrete low resolution grid?

You get the adults you see all around you in our post-cultural society.

(Parenthetically, this is the first time I've posted any video here. That just goes to show. Something.)

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1 comment:

robin said...

Note to self: you need a positive glowing media tribute to counteract what could otherwise be seen as regressive conservatism, something that celebrates being plugged into the contemporary mediascape.

Also: write more about Reggio's films. People seem blissfully unaware of them.

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