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30 Oct 2008

Bewildered by Art. And a Competition.

Yesterday I showed you the film produced from the talk I gave via video conference to Tallinn in Estonia as part of the ‘Life After Capitalism’ series.  Part of the series featured a web-forum, where people were invited to post ‘reflections’ on what they had seen or experienced during the series of talks.  Here is a short film made by Marit Sirgmets inspired by my talk.

It is very flattering and charming to have one’s work celebrated in any artistic medium (apart, perhaps, from large piles of elephant manure) but I have to confess, with the deepest respect to Marit, to finding this one utterly incomprehensible.  There is no doubt some powerful symbolism at work, but it does go somewhat over my head.  Therefore, given that you are all a far more artistic and intellectual bunch than I, I am running A Competition.

Please post as comments below your interpretations of this film, trying to explain it to the more philistine of us.  The one that most successfully makes the Transition Network office giggle, moves us to tears or produces the most intense emotional reaction or revelatory “aha!” will win a signed copy of The Transition Handbook.  Closing date Friday 14th November at 10am. I await your illuminating insights with great anticipation.

Categories: General

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Dan Bartlett
30 Oct 10:59am

The symbolism is prominently that of Life-Death-Rebirth, or Sleep-Death-Awakening. (a formula represented in the Life-Death-Rebirth deities found in virtually every religion.)

At the start things are slow. Life goes on as normal, but there are obviously some problems a brewin’. There is trouble in paradise. The images of childhood and wildlife morph into images of city life and industrial technology. The idyllic childhood (representing the average consumer addicted to his material short-sightedness) is faced with the problem of extinction, resource depletion, poverty etc. There is power beyond wisdom.

As things start to escalate, the little smiley faces begin to appear. They represent the possibility of facing these problems with optimism, merging the smile with the arrow of change. In this way they shine light upon the opportunities for a healthier community, the opportunities that often lie dormant beneath the blind hysteria regarding modern ecological/economical crises.

Things start to speed up. Great problems, but also greater opportunities. The pace is almost frantic: the opportunities must be taken soon. It’s up to us to realise the potential and “be the change we want to see.”

Soon things finally hit a tipping point — hence all the whiteness. There is a silence, a death: representing simultaneously the planetary suffering caused by our way of living, and also the painful realisation within the individual of what has happened. The consumer begins to realise that he has to give up his drug.

After a prolonged period of anomie, there is an awakening. The focus on the one person in the video may symbolise a new global focus on human life and compassion, instead of dedication to economic exponential growth and all that it implies. On the individual scale, the consumer has awakened to the problems around him/her, and realised what must be done. It will be difficult, but it’s now or never.

In short summary, I think this video represents the rise, “death” (not to be taken literally) and rebirth of civilisation, whilst simultaneously representing the stages of the individuals attitude towards our global predicament – sleep (ignorance), death (realisation of problems, sorrow, anger), and rebirth: let’s join/start a Transition movement and sort this mess out!

Mike Grenville
30 Oct 11:25am

after the nightmare red period in the country under occupation with all its attendant drudgery, seeking solace in cigarettes, came the capitalist period. But even that passed (hence the buried money). After the REM period of dreaming of how life used to be comes a period of sleep without awareness – a calm white time, until finally she wakes smiling knowing that it was just a dream of the past as she wakes to a happier ‘Life After Capitalism’.

Cathy Fitzgerald
30 Oct 12:20pm

You know, I think the ‘happy face’ symbols in her dreams might be symbols of the viral nature of transition culture increasinly infiltrating her culture? Weird, but strangely positive and happy – good dreams can be contagious 🙂

Jane Buttigieg
30 Oct 5:18pm

Sorry, all wrong actually. Those pink smileys that gradually appear amidst the images of drudgery are infact acid tabs, taken to relieve the general misery experienced under capitalism. The point where the whole screen is covered by them represents the point where reality is totally obscured by these fun little tabs, only to lead to a total loss of reality, hence the long white period which is a kind of psychedelic ecstatic state. Finally the person who has taken one too many of these little pink tabs awakens, like the sleeping beauty, to find a doctor standing over her filming her as part of a government funded ‘Say no to drugs’ campaign.

2 Nov 11:32am

Pink smiley as a key. Pink smiley is a symbol from local (Estonian) supermarket chain, it is abundantly used when the chain holds its “shopingrally” (“osturalli”). It is one of campaigns what various supermarkets hold and what is very expected and well attended by population. So when there is campaign in one of many supermarket chains, you can immediately notice it at the city streets. Streets fill up with people with pink (or yellow, or striped, etc) plastic bags. In a country what suddenly jumped from socialism into capitalism, the market madness reveals itself particularly drastically. Everything is commodified, from “green living” into political parties, even Adbusters idea of “fuck brands”.
So i would interpret the film like that:
One is not free from ads even at his/her dreams. Images appear either from subconscious or IWC (Integrated World Capitalism) feeds them into your dreams. One wakes up, promising day, today is a “shopingrally” and one can go shopping again.
Of course you can leave irony out and see first part as bad dream and second part as wakening into post capitalism.

Graham Burnett
2 Nov 10:20pm

“I don’t know much about art but I know what I like”

Do I win the bag of crisps???