At the Golden-Calf Slaughterhouse: an interview with Johannes Grenzfurthner
A sprawling interview with artist and filmmaker Johannes Grenzfurthner on his latest movie Glossary of Broken Dreams.
Some two years ago, Thomas Kaestle interviewed Johannes Grenzfurthner, Austrian all-purpose nerd, and founder of monochrom about his then brand-new movie Traceroute. In this jagged autobio road movie the filmmaker journeys through his past as a nerd, artist, activist, and discourse generator. He undertakes a funny, associative pilgrimage through the USA, visiting the sacred sites of his decades-long quest for knowledge to pay homage to the gods of tech- and pop-culture.
Grenzfurthner's new movie, Glossary of Broken Dreams, is a sequel as much as a counter-thesis. Produced with a micro-budget, this monumental mosaic is taking the audience on a ride through an encyclopedia of overused, misconceived, and corrupted concepts and ideas. The fact that it concerns the favorite vocabulary of current discourses, the golden calves of contemporary controversy, makes for a considerably explosive force. With relish, Grenzfurthner is leading them to the slaughter to rummage through their bowels and read in them an uncertain future.
So, Thomas Kaestle sat down with Grenzfurthner again, this time to talk about the deconstruction of concepts and discourses, alleged security within false contexts, societal and political change, the fragmentation of ideological camps, cherished ideas, letting go, Daleks, and Cthulhu.
Babylonian Context Confusion
The movie opens with an Iain M. Banks quote: "The trouble with writing fiction is that it has to make sense, whereas real life doesn't." Now, a glossary usually holds out the prospect of something along the lines of meaningfulness through contextualization. Is it different with your movie? Are you trying to reestablish a meaning for concepts that have become commonplace – or, rather, to question their established meaning? Can you fill them with new meaning? Or are they left behind as empty phrases? In other words, are you coquetting by using this quote or rather by promising a glossary?
I am coquetting as fuck and I will be first to admit that. In general, broken dreams don't get listed in keywords and cataloged; quite the contrary, in fact. In movies and in literature, dreams are always presented as something romantic and poetic. And I wanted to play with that in the title. Glossary of Broken Dreams is an inconvenient, entertaining movie, I would say. It was born out of the frustration that debate culture (not only) on digital platforms has become radically fragmented and fractalized, making it hard to call it discourse. It's a Tower of Babel-like context confusion that pleases me as a nerd, but as a political being who wants society to progress, it doesn't please me at all.
Everybody spouts bombastic words. Resistance! Privacy! Activism! Market! The Left! And yet, no-one really knows what they mean – or what can be achieved with these argument killers. My, (perhaps addlebrained) ambition here is to educate. I'm trying to breathe new life into these concepts, but for some of them it might be too late, rigor mortis has already set in and we should just let them go. That opening Iain Banks quote provides a framework. It's the first hint that we are neither dealing with a classic documentary nor with a feature film, but with something different altogether.
In this way, Banks came in handy. I really cherish him more than most authors, because with his utopian model society, the Culture, he manages to pointedly highlight the flaws of a liberal social system. For this accomplishment alone, he deserves to be honored with the opening sentence. I follow suit and soon define myself as narrator and moderator, denouncing myself as a lumpennerd, and then I go about explaining the political terms and concepts of the early 21st century that, to me, seem to be the most important. My aim was to assess these concepts and, where necessary, to sacrifice them. Death to the golden calves! Only the stupidest calves choose to be gilded!
Ruins with Potential
In your last movie, Traceroute, you admit to your inner urge to use Pachelbel's Canon in D major for all your movies. Here, it appears in some kind of hip hop-version. Is it your anchor in popular culture, a placeholder for all the other references, contexts, and clichés that have left their imprint during your socialization?
Yes, like I say in the Traceroute intro, the piece has been very important for me since the early 1980s, when I first heard it on Carl Sagan's TV-show Cosmos. In the course of my life, there were some moments of insight, mostly political, calling everything into question, and this TV-show is definitely one of them. It was my first contact with empiricism, with science, and it made me embrace amazement, the ability to wonder, but also the ability to not care if you don't understand everything. Because that's part of what it means to be human.
I also grew up in a time when there wasn't much aside from popular culture. Even people like Marcel Reich-Ranicki or other prophets of the educated bourgeoisie were presented to me through TV-channels and in TV-cockfights. When would I ever go to the theater, or a museum, or a real concert? There was no authenticity. The world was made of color points on a Grundig TV set. "World" was merely the perception of copies of copies of copies, and even the original was already an interpretation. This situation is problematic, especially with regard to growing up politically. I was 16 when the USSR was dissolved. As a kid, I was afraid of the Eastern Block and cultural products such as Rocky IV or Red Dawn only fuelled my fear.
And, all of a sudden, it was gone. As it were, my coming-of-age story began with the end of history. What was my self-conception as a young anti-fascist in 1991? What was there worth fighting for? One of these fights was, without a doubt, the battle for sovereignty over the discourse and the hegemony on the internet. Who would win? The libertarians? Or the anarchist? Or have the two always been in the same camp? Now, 25 years and dozens of digital revolutions later, we are faced with the fact that communication possibilities are in ruins. I address this problem in my movie because these ruins have tremendous potential.
Palimpsest from a Time Loop
In relation to your other works – no matter what kind – is this movie rather a sequel, a footnote, an index, a context, a meta-level, a paraphrase? Or really just a glossary?
Glossary of Broken Dreams can be regarded as a sequel to Traceroute. After all, as the narrator, I am a connecting element between both movies. With Traceroute, my focus was to dive into my own story and to find a common ground with other people, nerds in this case. Traceroute was a road movie about a trip to interesting places and people, and their resistance. Glossary of Broken Dreams is a voyage into the depths of ideas and concepts. My attempt at mediation has several chapters resembling short movies that also vary widely esthetically. Sometimes I wonder if the project was doomed to failure from the start. But like an astronaut caught in something like a Star Trek time loop, I did it anyway.
To answer your question, though, what is it? Context, footnote, meta-level? In some way, all of that. But I am missing one characterization here: palimpsest.
How did you select these concepts? Which did you omit? Or are they building on each other, like in a narrative? Do you think of the movie as a glossary of contemporary discourses, specific communication in social networks, modern Western European societies, worldwide nerddom, or a glossary by Johannes Grenzfurthner?
Well, for me, the movie is a major personal accomplishment because I took on all the central functions of production, but it's more than a personal glossary. In fact, I compiled the theoretical background for the movie and many of the texts in tandem with Ishan Raval. I can say that I needed an intellectual sparring partner, and Ishan was the right man for the job. Just like me, he is a regular lumpennerd. On top of that, it was inspirational that, even though Ishan went to university in what he likes to call "the Dumbfuckistan of America" (aka North Carolina), he's from India. So, we had a non-Western perspective on the team, yet we found our shooting locations in Vienna and the boondocks surrounding it.
Many of the terms were not up for debate. It was clear that we would start with capitalism and the market, then talk about freedom and resistance, move on to activism and the media, and so on. We had a certain narrative arc in mind, starting out with the basics and continuously moving to the more complex and controversial. For example, our analysis and dissection of identity politics is quite something, perhaps requiring previous knowledge.
With the wonderful help of Chris S. Sims, our discourse slasher, Ishan and I prepared the theoretical texts. Chris' support was crucial because as an editor with Dungeons & Dragons, he really has an eye for jettisoning. On the basis of these texts, I went on to develop the characters and the plot of the movie and started filming with the actors. At the same time, I was cutting scenes that were finished and started to put the movie timeline together. Everything was happening simultaneously. Compiling, writing, filming, cutting. And sometimes not even in this order. It felt like creating a jigsaw puzzle and trying to solve it at the same time. But in a short time – the production took about 5 months – it was doable without losing track completely. Somehow, I was able to hold it all in my head, juggle it, and pull it together.
Relay Race with Oneself
How many of your friends are going to pat your shoulder and say, "Damn right, man! That's what I've been thinking!"? In the movie, you state that it is "a project with no measurable target audience."
Since we didn't receive any funding to speak of, mainly because we didn't apply for it, there was none of the usual film-funding-justification waste. We just went at it. Usually, a movie goes through several bureaucratic jury feedback loops, which is tedious and stultifying, and rubs away the edges of a project. In my case, I only had a 10k EUR budget for a feature film, but on the upside, I didn't have to justify myself to sponsors. Your average producer or selection committee would never have let a movie like this one pass, above all because, as they would ask, who would want to see this? But I didn't care much one way or the other. I wanted to make a movie that I think is necessary. This film is the result.
What kind of reactions are you expecting from your audience?
I think of every person who doesn't leave the theatre within 30 minutes as a win. We live in times of radical attention economy, after all.
The first reviews have already come in, and they are positive, even if the reviewers seem overwhelmed. I present a huge chunk of theory, confronting the audience with the central political topics of the early 21st century. Immediate reactions are most likely to be about the vehemence rather than about the content. I tried to keep the tone entertaining and witty, but the content is not exactly an invitation for congratulations. What I'm saying about privacy and freedom of speech isn't something a lot of people in our bubble want to hear. My guess is that the traditional Left will be happy with the first half of the movie, but then they have to take a beating. At the end of the day, it's obvious to Ishan and me that the Left represents the ultimate broken dream. We're straightforward about that.
"The human is a narrative being. We construct emotional machines, so-called 'stories', to communicate, to share the world in which we live and make it collectively experienceable. And we are pretty good at doing that. Since the primordial soup at some point mendelized into primate brains, we have either been fleeing from big cats or telling others about our escapes from the clutches of big cats." This is a quote from our last interview together. And it is also one of the first sentences of the new movie. A personal module that is already older and that you like to quote? Or maybe even someone else's quote without a reference? A paraphrase?
As is often the case, sometimes reflecting on a project only begins when talking about the project in hindsight. During our interview about Traceroute I realized some significant things that should have been part of Traceroute, but alas, they occurred to me only during the interview. So I thought, why not use this dissonance as the opening statement of Glossary of Broken Dreams? In a sense, I handed the baton to myself and ran.
On the Shoulders of Agglutinated Giants
What is your method with regard to quotes – your own as well as others' – for your movie? Do you have a big, colorful kit full of maxims, perceptions, theories, innuendos, wacky stuff, and weird absurdities somewhere in the back of your head?
I have a good memory, but I still write everything down. I am the collecting kind. I make long to-do-lists with quotes, notions, and crude ideas, Sometimes it takes years before I can cross some of them off the list. Some of them never see realization, but movies are a good context to use this stuff because the meaning can have so many layers. For example, I have a thing for making up bizarre and entirely stupid character names, like DeForest Schbeibi (first name from Star Trek actor Kelley, last name is the Austrian diminutive of puke). That's completely beside the point, but I come up with crap like this a dime a dozen. In Glossary of Broken Dreams, I was able to cross a lot off my list.
Visually it is obvious how you apply what you find as set modules to illustrate your ideas. And when I think of the monochrom office, your HQ at the MuseumsQuartier in Vienna, even just a peek through the windows reveals that a considerable amount of the material is used to cover these walls like a collage. According to you, what is original material? When does something become your own idea, theory, worldview? Where and when are you an author?
I think that distinguishing between originals and copies is a non-issue. I suppose I shouldn't let a lawyer hear me say this, but for me, it's obvious we're all standing on the shoulders of agglutinated giants. Humans are copying machines, genetically and culturally. If a cell stops copying, it's a dead cell. If culture can't copy freely, it withers away. A good portion of my creative work takes place in the no-human's land between digitality and reality. To me, the internet isn't just another medium, it's a habitat in which I operate. And when real space meets web space, that's when the magic happens.
Now, to return to your question about authorship, this issue is about property, and nobody can avoid these questions in our world, in the positive and in the negative sense. I made a low-cost movie, but one of the biggest splurges was buying the music rights for the end-credits song by Inti-Illimani. That's quite bitter. Other songs I wasn't able to pay for, and some the phenomenal Michael Donaldson (Q-Burns Abstract Message) composed especially for the movie, for example. I owe him a lot of favors. And Christoph Burstup Weiss is supposed to get 1 bitcoin for his 8bit-song. When I'll be able to afford that is anybody's guess.
Hello Again, Human Chain
In the movie, the highly associative image material often appears at a wild speed. Did you stack/cut it so fast in order to create (or at least suggest) a dynamic, to not exceed the permissible length for pictorial citations – or to show, and ideally also initiate, a visual stream of consciousness? Does the speed correspond to the speed of your thoughts when brainstorming? Or is it just the speed at which people usually browse the internet?
No permissible length exists for pictorial citations (in Austria). If an image is visible for just one frame, that constitutes a copyright infringement. I am pretty sure that all the material I use is legally ok. I dutifully paid stock-footage fees and the archive material (i.e. old ads and so on) are from the Prelinger archive and marked as public domain there. So the decision was a question of style and aesthetics. I guess that viewers are encouraged to watch my movie several times, and if people want to do so, that's the best possible outcome. I like a good challenge when it comes to watching movies. I can't stand it when everything is explained and alluded to three times to make sure that everybody got that THE BUTLER DID IT! Really demanding movies, like Primer, aren't fully graspable when seeing them for the first time. Right on!
As a low- or even a no-budget essay, the movie depends on you collaborating with friends and colleagues who were willing to dive into the cosmos of your ideas for a couple of minutes. I remember that during one of my visits to Vienna, you suggested some citations for me to pick one and then say it in front of a camera right away, just casually leaning against a tree in front of the MuseumsQuartier. In hindsight, I am somehow pleased with the fact that it got cut from the movie…
I felt bad about having to kill your scene, particularly because you were going to play Richard Feynman, quoting one of my favorite citations. But you are correct, this movie comes to life through its many different cinematic styles that allow for all these wonderful cameo appearances. It has people in it like Stefanie Sargnagel, who is currently hitting it big in the German-speaking literary scene with her quirky texts, and Amber Benson, who is known to most people as one of the main characters in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Amber and I have known each other for years, so I sent her an e-mail asking if she might have time to record one or two pages for me with my collaborators Sophia Cacciola and Michael J. Epstein at their home studio in LA. That really happened, within a week actually. I'm very proud of the result.
With Robert Stachel, who is a member of maschek, a media comedy group world-famous in Austria, the approach was similar. I've known Robert forever, and we work with each other from time to time, so we met at Daniel Hasibar's sound studio, and we recorded the text for the section on resistance. Altogether, the movie is a weird mixture of people. Schlien Schürmann, a radio presenter with the Bavarian public broadcasting company, is in it, as well as Max Grodėnchik, one of the fabulous Ferengi in Star Trek: Deep Space 9. And the Austrian actress Katharina Stemberger. The six degrees of separation are having a Japanese square dance.
Address Database as Art Project
How much impact did the people that were available and the unfolding opportunities to work with them have on the contents? Could anybody have pitched in? Or are the people around you, depending on the situation, part of your psychogram – and therefore part of the contents and upheavals of your material?
No, my approach to casting was targeted. It's not as if just anybody could have done this. And some of the characters that I wrote I discarded again when the performers I wanted weren't available. No scruples! But I think that you are spot on about my psychogram. I'm a very gregarious person, and my entourage influences my work. I like to network, and my ultimate art project might well be my address database. But I think my bustling nature is also what lets me enjoy making movies so much. It is a team effort in every department and, unlike with other art forms, you can still flip each frame a hundred times.
Did you need people who are not Johannes Grenzfurthner simply so you wouldn't have to say everything yourself? Or do your guests fulfill other functions in the movie, too?
Well, it was lonely enough, directing, cutting, and managing the production on my own – and Ishan and I were compiling the text via Transatlantic Google Doc. For weeks on end, all I saw were pixels changing on my screen. I was quite happy to share the madness with people in real life. To ride through the boondocks of my youth on a terribly hot summer's day with Duscher & Gratzer to record the guitar songs, and then have some beers when the work is done. There's something to be said for that!
And yet, for most people, it must have been like working on a secret weapon, where nobody knows what anybody else is doing at the moment. I mean, no-one appreciated the dimension of this project. In the end, some people were surprised that it didn't turn out to be a short film. The only one who accompanied me from start to finish in real life was Daniel Hasibar, my sound god, who was there at the studio to make recordings and at all the on-site shootings. He's the only one who got away with criticizing me in the process. As the sound designer, at a certain point, he got an overview of the entire thing.
In the opening, you postulate theories such as: "a human is a political being", "you can't avoid being political", "we project a certain story onto the world”, or "we communicate our views by creating narrative or conceptual shortcuts". At the same time, you announce the reevaluation and maybe even slaughtering of golden calves. And indeed, in the end, many of the concepts, interrelations, and meanings, at least according to your reasoning, have been questioned, refuted, debunked, stultified, or vaporized. What then is left of politics if the established concepts cease to function?
This problem is fundamental to critique. But I'm not cynical. Quite the contrary. I just thought it was time for something like a political spring cleaning of concepts. Because picking up the broom and taking a chance to get rid of stuff is the only way to prevent us all from becoming social liberal hoarders. One of my examples is the concept of privacy that, at the moment, is everyone coddles like a puppy. Let me say this, as a good old Neo-leftist, I'm having problems with the conservative and deeply bourgeois can of worms that the privacy debate entails. I think it's time to change our thought patterns here. Instead of trying to find ways to defend our privacy come hell or high water, we should ask ourselves why privacy is such a major concern for us? Is what we're trying to achieve here just reformist symptom-control rather than a solution to the underlying problems?
In your opinion, what are possible courses of action for future-oriented Western societies? In the movie, you are taking the easy way out by (spoiler alert!) letting yourself be eaten by Cthulhu. That being said, after all the criticism of what is already in place, what is the story you project? Do you have a suggestion for better or more efficient concepts for life after the breakdown of familiar system boundaries?
I wouldn't have made this movie if I didn't believe that we can do better. Let me be clear about one thing, as stated in the first part of the movie, we're all part of the problem. Har har har! But we're not being defeatist. I am also offering new perspectives here and there. For example, I think that establishing new structures and digital commons will be of essential importance. Just like the introduction of social infrastructure for workers was important at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, in the 21st century, it will be very important to win back and occupy virtual space. The web is the major junction of capitalist production, we need to start there.
Enemy of the State
Is capitalism the central concept in the movie, the meta-entry in the glossary? It seems to serve as a key reference for most of it. Together with the reference-term 'freedom', which is introduced as the selling proposition of capitalism, they appear to be predefined parts of a system that seems almost impossible to escape. With your parody of an only seemingly conscious and enlightened bourgeoisie, you point out that, in capitalism, basically everyone is mired in a commodity fetish. Do you see yourself as trapped in these interrelations?
Of course. No corner on this planet (and beyond) can be considered free from state and capital. As a person, no way exists for me to be free from them. Especially as a citizen. I mean, I do own a passport, I am a wage-slave just like anybody else, and my financial buffer is tiny. The means of production that I own are negligible (my ThinkPad). If we realize that we are part of the problem, it will open up new possibilities, I guess. Lots of people really think that listening to Norwegian Death Metal alone makes them critics of the system. Of course not. Every one of us is hanging on to some strange notion or belief of how we could make the world a better place. It's all about donating to Greenpeace for some people, for others it's a vegan diet.
Doesn't change the fact that most people won't pass the banana-test, though. Because when you start talking about post-capitalist societies, they'll ask where their bananas will come from. Or who's going to collect the trash? If you ask questions like that, you haven't thought far enough.
Communism appears only briefly, as an ideal that's not suitable for state systems.
Or, in more concrete terms, every state is the enemy.
It's via a detour to socialism that you reach a social utopia promoting the elimination of competition. Without competition, you suggest, the world could function in global fairness, people could be more productive and happier. You don't name any sources. Are there sociological theories that you refer to here? How realistic is the elimination of competition in your view? Apparently, you're not counting on it because your movie doesn't end there...
Oh, the system of so-called communist states is in there and, of course, it gets slapped, because IT ISN'T COMMUNISM! But social democracy doesn't get off lightly, either. The episode on competition you refer to is an allegory for me to analyze resource-wasting competition-based systems (capitalism, evolution), establish their pros and cons, and compare them to collaborative systems. But you should think of that as a template of thinking rather than as an encouragement to boycott Settlers of Catan. As you noticed, the movie doesn't end there. It was important to Ishan and me to slag off some of the pillars of bourgeois ideology (market, freedom, competition) at the beginning of the movie before really kicking it off.
It hasn't changed. We still have to reflect the totalitarian social conditions and the need for change in theoretical terms. If we understand theory in this way, as a form of practice, it means theoretical education unveils the social conditions and a new perspective triggers the means to change things.
Johannes Kepler and Punk
The picture you let the Viennese coffee house waiter-glove puppet paint of possible actions for art, resistance, and activism is bleak at first. Apparently, we even enjoy our own surveillance and being controlled. And the boundaries we can overstep these days to be provocative are no longer macrosocial, so there is hardly any relevant attention to be gained here. Today's society is happy with mere events, somebody says in the movie – and then you, as Johannes Kepler, claim that punk is dead. Why Kepler?
Kepler makes for a nice absurd turn. In the movie, I keep quoting people, and Kepler marks the break that, of course, all of this can't be true. I am rooted in a tradition of reflexive and performative documentaries because I question the conditions of objective documentary work. My movie is an essay. I randomly submit it to film festivals as a documentary and to others as a feature film. How vain these categories are! Sigh!
The analysis of the culture of resistance is presented in the movie. I really mean that. Artistic intervention on the level of Action Art, as the Wiener Aktionisten did in the 1960s, is no longer possible. That ship has sailed. Twenty years ago, the producers of Jackass instigated significantly more effective provocations on MTV and made millions. Every kind of counterculture eventually turns into a marketable commodity. The question is, how do we strategically deal with that? Stay vigilant and keep reflecting your own context!
In what context would you locate your movie if not in resistance, activism, art, or punk? Is it just another capitalist product whose consumption contributes to the preservation of the regime? Or maybe has no ramifications whatsoever?
Being a romantic, I don't want to hear that, but if I'm honest, that's probably the case. Each cultural product is ultimately embedded in a network of social violence. Maybe the grand gesture is the only approach we have left, but this way of making a piece is important. This point should be discussed more. Particularly in the realm of creative work, people are given carte blanche to be an asshole. I never understood why that should be the case, and I have always actively combatted it. If I've been an asshole, I've tried to listen to criticism and to better myself. The most terrible lie about working creatively is that you can only deliver your maximum performance if you suffer and if other people suffer. What a pile of inhumane rubbish.
Purchasable Liberal Values
In my view, to draw on Radical Constructivism, for which emigrated Austrians paved the way, as a key witness for all news being fake. News is always made for a certain target audience with a certain objective, an exploitation of the philosophy for a blanket disillusionment. If, as they say, no objective truth existed, but only individual constructions of perception, it would relativize the concept of fake. And, morally speaking, every individual would then be even more responsible for the truths they construe.
My main objective is to distance myself from the fairy tale of an enlightened public and the utopia of objective news. That might sound disenchanting now, but for me, it's also about finally stopping to believe that journalist gatekeepers will save us from anything. They won't. If that's what you believe, you already have one foot in a bourgeois promise of liberation. To me, it's only a very small step from fact-based journalism to clickbait. This relationship was shown quite clearly in recent years, even within high-quality media. Growing economic pressure makes them do whatever is necessary. But to me, my (admittedly polemic) statement is not an invitation to join the swinger club of post-modern arbitrariness, much rather a warning not to rest too much on Western liberal values. They come with a price tag. Reality is not Habermas' wanking material of egalitarian communication.
To me, ideologically motivated misinformation can hardly be equated to responsibly contextualized content. Do you intentionally utilize polemic shortening for your work? To what purpose?
In a world where 4chan is probably more influential than the New York Times, valences have clearly shifted. I discuss this shift in the episode on politics. In a world of micro-societies, it has become difficult to refer to something like citizens or subjects. What used to characterize a political person in the past has now turned into a fight against absolute fragmentation. I ask myself, though, if this change can be stopped by demanding civic values alone. Open society isn't the superglue we used to think it was.
Dalek Before the Storm
In the movie, politics has to see a point-and-click therapist eventually, because it suffers an identity crisis and is no longer able to speak with a unified vox populi. A universal voice remains a past ideal in times of globalized audience subgroups. A Dalek is driving through this scene; in the TV show Doctor Who, the Daleks are a hostile alien race with a collective consciousness and a strong desire for expansion. A dystopian reference to the fact that dictatorial and absolutist systems will have an easy going in a situation like this? On top of that, you present democracy rather as opium for the people and social democracy as a corrupted, hardly helpful approach. And finally, you refer to the Left as “the ultimate broken dream” and call the power of the working class in a digital world pure nostalgia.
Yes, that's exactly why the hoover-Dalek interrupts the therapy-session. For now, it's still dutifully doing its job and we can easily click it away, but what about the next day? Totalitarian ideologies have an easy going. It's only a question of time until. in the spiral of tolerance, there will yet again be enough tolerance for the madness of ultimate contempt for human beings. Liberal democracy is the face of capital as long as it's not afraid. Fascism is the face of capital when it is afraid. When times are good, the property-owning bourgeoisie tends to advocate the ideology of liberal democracy. But when the accumulation of capital is at stake due to the crises of capitalism, they turn to fascism in order to protect the capitalist operating modes. I can't believe in democracy's promise of salvation. Do you want total Centrism?
My movie is an attempt to rethink old ideas (and therefore, of course, ideologies). I don't think of that as being pessimistic. To the contrary, it means actively approaching the situation. In 2005, as a part of monochrom, I had this idea to offer people the possibility of being buried alive in a coffin, because I wanted to learn how to handle my own claustrophobia. And what could be better than burying other people in order to overcome your own trauma? Well, it took about, say 275 burials! Ha!
Back to the Dalek. Where are the Tardis and the Doctor? Even though he, too, can't offer a long-term solution for a perfect world, he has mastered survival in a fragmented universe. And he stands for hope on a small, manageable scale. Or are things not that bad in your world, and the Glossary of Broken Dreams will make good bookends for your mother's shelf?
We can always find refuge in the safe spaces of counterculture, like the disillusioned hippies did in the 1970s. It's very common now in this Biedermeier of identity politics. But this won't achieve anything. Take the ongoing propaganda war on the internet. Right-wing, authoritarian memes are easy to make and easy to distribute. It doesn't get any more basic than BUILD A WALL or SYRIANS OUT. Leftist memes have a much harder time. Leftist memes are twenty-five pages long and come with footnotes. That stuff isn't sexy, but does it have to be? Glossary of Broken Dreams will fit in nicely with What's that Bird? and Healthy Pets Naturally on my parent's bookcase.
Where can we see your film?
It's being shown at a couple of film festivals, universities, and hacker cons (for example HOPE in NYC), and will be available on Vimeo-on-Demand later this year. Please check our project page for details.
I have to add that the film also hit the torrent sites a couple of days ago. Someone released the genie from the bottle. There were hundreds of seeders. What a frickin' force of nature. I have seen folks from Afghanistan and Bolivia quote my film on Twitter. That makes me happy. But the torrent forum threads are the best. Trolls discussing my movie! Car crash deluxe.And there's a self-proclaimed liberal user on IMDb who attacks me for adding a trigger warning at the beginning of the film. He claims it's people like me who make liberals look bad, and why liberals lose elections. Well. a) I'm not a liberal. b) Elec-what? c) The message actually says “epistemological trigger warning”. I guess that joke died on arrival. However, I have more jokes to send to the minefields.
I'm glad, though, that I put a ‘how to donate' insert into the film. There's a steady stream of buckazoids coming in. Gotta eat (aka 'trickle-down effect').
First published in German on Zebrabutter.
Translated from German by Evelyn van Hulzen.
Karl Schroeder's "Stealing Worlds": visionary science fiction of a way through the climate and inequality crises
Karl Schroeder (previously) is literally the most visionary person I know (and I've known him since 1986!): he was the first person to every mention "fractals" to me, then "the internet" and then "the web" -- there is no one, no one in my circle more ahead of more curves, and it shows in his […]
Veteran reviewer/interviewer Rick Kleffel (previously) has just posted a long podcast interview (MP3) with Neal Stephenson, discussing his latest novel, Fall; or, Dodge in Hell ("a science fiction novel with a fantasy novel stuck inside of it").
A couple of weeks ago, I was thrilled to hear Subgenius founder, the Reverend Ivan Stang, interviewed on the Comedy on Vinyl podcast (previously) and to discover that the Church of the Subgenius was selling a $35 Salvation/Membership/Ordainment kit that was chock full of goodies.
So you cut the cord and got rid of cable? Join the steadily growing club. But while you’re out picking a streaming service, you might find one big blind spot: Local TV and sports, not to mention first-run programming from the big cable networks. Luckily, there’s a throwback way to get it for free: The […]
Even if you feel like AirPods are worth the price tag, you’ve got to admit there’s a certain anxiety that comes with using them. What if I lose them? What if they get wet in the rain? Or drenched in sweat? Or fall into the drink you dropped them into? Shiny tech is great, but […]
With the quick-fix appeal of video games and their own cell phones, it can be tough to keep kids focused on supposedly “educational” toys. And while it may seem counter-intuitive to fight tech with more tech, we’re all in when it comes to the Toybox 3D Printer. We’re not sure if anyone had envisioned a […]