Cyberactive SEWER LIFE?
Notes from a journal
By Patric Hedlund
Mist hangs over downtown intersections, condensing like wasted ambition in puddles on the pavement.
I'm a high tech junkie with a habit; A cyberartist on a mission.
"Rock n'Roll has done it all. What else is left? Men dressing like women, women dressing like sacred cows.....I just hope that underneath this information superhighway there is a healthy sewer life." -- Dolby
SoftForce is an invitation to join a fertile sewer life conceived on a mountain top, created by people obsessed with making this multimedia revolution mean something more than a better price to equity ratio in a Wall Street portfolio.
Purple jacaranda trees litter the city with memories this morning. Los Angeles is shivering into April. Headlights from morning traffic scribble dully through the overcast. Mist hangs over downtown intersections, condensing like wasted ambition in puddles on the pavement.
At 9:00 a.m. Hollywood's streets are still painted with the palette of Moscow or Berlin; the smug lawns of Beverly Hills are ashen as a New York midnight and even Santa Monica is muffled in the grays of a Chicago winter. L.A. is Everycity today, just another town where fifteen million people, 77,000 of them homeless, huddle against each other, hands outstretched, reaching for dreams.
My dream has to do with multimedia and future consciousness. I'm driving a salvaged 1979 Chrysler Cordoba to a press conference at the oh-so-chic Four Seasons Hotel. I call the car Urban Camouflage, my defense against carjacking and theft in a city at war with itself, yet still capable of blinding beauty and abrupt generosity. There is $30,000 worth of computer equipment in the rusted trunk of this junker, but the hunt for a free parking space three blocks from the hotel diffuses any illusions about my financial priorities: I'm a high-tech junkie with a habit. A cyberartist on a mission.
At last I find a safe place to dock Urban Camouflage. I check the lock to the trunk, scoop up my briefcase and lope past tumbling bougainvillea and manicured gardens to the hotel. The entrance to the Four Seasons hosts life-size sculptures of commuters frozen mid-dash in bronze. Doormen tip their hats cordially as I rush through the lobby, past the bronze gentleman in a three piece suit hailing a cab.
My mountain boots sink into the lush carpets on the way to the ballroom for the press conference. The heavy briefcase swings against my jeans. I've come loaded with press releases about SoftForce, and suddenly feel grateful to be here. At the entryway, five tables bearing an elaborate breakfast buffet are loaded with lox, pastries and crystal goblets filled with fresh squeezed orange juice. It is an expensive spread.
But I'm puzzled. The conference has begun and this isn't what you'd call a standing-room-only crowd. The dais holds almost as many people as the chairs below. No popping flashbulbs. No shoving paparazzi. Most the people in the room are the festival's paid staff or expense-account corporate bureaucrats. No wonder there was so much untouched food left on the buffet. There are hardly any working press here--working press would never allow such a wealth of lox to go to waste.
The Interactive Media Festival, originally funded with Motorola's $2 Million, was designed as a splashy first-cabin extravaganza. Fanfare and aspiration vibrate from the official press packets. But the atmosphere is oddly flat. Words we've all heard before bump dully against the walls, then slide to the floor, DOA.
"Motorola is proud to have the foresight to fund this worldwide search for exemplary examples of the very finest in the evolving arena of multimedia," the PR flack drones. Self-congratulations follow in a predictable litany by paid spokespersons from The American Film Institute, Ziff-Davis and yet another PR firm--important, perfectly nice people from big corporations and self-impressed institutions. You get the picture.
This press conference--and the Multimedia Festival itself--isn't about promoting artists, it is about enhanced corporate positioning in the dance of the Titans that will end in strategic market alliances for the next century.
I'm not really welcome here. I'm just an artist with an obsession, the kind of weirdo the PR for this event says they intend to honor. But artists in this environment are less than a necessary inconvenience.
Thomas Dolby, the musician, pops onto the crowded stage like a marigold in a garden of gray stones. He wears a wool cap knit from rainbows. He's the panel's token creative alien.
Dolby politely tolerates the shopworn rhetoric about information superhighways, interactive infrastructures, and personal digital epiphanies. Then a freelance writer asks the panel something about the difficulty artists have affording the tools necessary to explore multimedia. The panel responds with the verbal equivalent of a blank stare. The Motorola guy mouths something as inspired as a lump of cold oatmeal on a Tupperware tray.
Then Thomas Dolby suddenly loses patience.
He says that if he were a kid today he'd probably buy a personal computer and a camcorder instead of an electric guitar.
"Rock n'Roll has done it all. What else is left? Men dressing like women, women dressing like sacred cows.....I just hope that underneath this information superhighway there is a healthy sewer life."
For a moment my heart leaps. Even a token artist on a corporate dais managed to blurt out at least one lucid truth, and hey, that's what is really happening here. SoftForce is an invitation to join a fertile sewer life conceived on a mountain top, created by people obsessed with making this multimedia revolution mean something more than a better price to equity ratio in a Wall Street portfolio.
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