The Solipsism of Video

This week I attended a screening of “Daylight Savings” at Anthology Film Archives – a film my friend co-wrote years ago.  Writers for hire “come on board” and join projects, email their contributions off to California or someplace, and then move on as writers and professionals, and then sometimes the project gets done, and they stand up in front of the film as if it’s their own.

Goh and Goh.

Goh and Goh.

This particular film featured a lot of luscious music by the folk singer Goh Nakamura, and the question and answer session somewhat awkwardly included live performances by him and his co-star. Comparisons to “Once” were inevitable. I loathe hearing my own work misrepresented by lazy comparisons, but writing moves like glaciers and conversation moves like sled dogs, and I found myself, when describing the film to a friend later that night, calling it “sort of a Japanese-American ‘Once'”.

When Goh sang, it felt like a vindication of live performance over the power of video, Goh singing in front of his own image on the screen behind him. “You just sat through the movie, but now, lucky you, can see the real thing.”

But wait! If there was any doubt about the hegemony of video, I walked right into the proof of its omnipotence tonight.

On Orchard Street, in the heart of the Lower East Side, a landlord is trying to lure a new tenant into a space, and is posting a sign. Fair enough. Sprucing up a “for rent” sign only makes sense, but how do you persuade the passer-by that your space is 100% desirable? Or, more to the point, what do you say to the passer-by within earshot of the potential tenant in order to persuade him or her that this rental space is the land where small business dreams come true?

The solipsism of video.

The solipsism of video.

You show a video of the space, that’s what you do. Never mind that a video is completely pointless. The storefront itself is right in front of you. The interior space in question is brightly lit, and clearly visible through the glass facade. The only imaginable point to a video is to demonstrate that you know that a video is called for. The medium truly is the message.

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