Today, an international economy exists to fill our time with images, stories and other diversions. The byproducts of this economy – fan culture, celebrity news, secondary media that help with the work of sorting, ranking, interpreting, and appreciating – occupy the same virtual space as the main artifacts, and therefore both complement and compete with them. You can watch the show, read the recap, listen to the podcast, and post your own responses, using all of the screens and keyboards available to you.
It is also, more and more, our way of working, of socializing and of educating ourselves. We are not so addicted to screens as they are forced upon us, repaying the convenience, knowledge or pleasure they bring with our time and conscience. The screen doesn’t care what we’re looking at, as long as our eyes are engaged and our data can be harvested.
Movies did not create this state of affairs, but they are part of the technology that made it possible. The movements stimulated the human appetite for imagery, storytelling, and indirect emotion in a way that nothing had before. But movies are also a potential victim of the screen-saturated world. In the old days you could buy a ticket and walk away from reality; the common space of the theater was also an area of intimacy, intimacy and anonymity. Now, of course, screens are surveillance tools. When your Netflix screen asks, “Who’s watching? The real message is that Netflix is watching you. The act of looking does not offer an escape; it induces passivity. The more you watch, the harder the algorithm works to turn its idea of you into reality. As art becomes content, content is transmuted into data, which it is your duty as a consumer to give back to the companies that sold you access to the art.
The question is not whether the films will survive, as a hobby, destination and imaginative resource. The question is whether the kind of freedom that “going to the movies” represented in the past can be preserved in a technological environment that offers endless entertainment at the price of submission; whether active and critical curiosity can be sustained in the face of corporate domination; if artists and audiences can re-sequence the democratic DNA of a medium whose authoritarian potential has never been so appealing. Not if we go back to the movies, but how we go back to the movies.