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November 6th, 2012 / 1:26 pm
Craft Notes

On Immersion

I’M IN THIS screen. So who cares that’s easy. The average American spends more than half their waking hours looking at one of these. That’s the word, anyways. And so you figure our neurological roads lean hard toward our being mostly screen. Dude McLuhan said something about how the advent of television, in contrast to the film projector, threw light upon rather than in front of us and made us screens that way as well. Something about how this left a gap in which the act of viewing became participatory, created an organic circuit.

 

So I’m in this screen and I AM this screen. I’m also positioned in front of or outside the screen. That’s already a trianglejob, without even considering the other very hard.

 

Every mage of the ages melted down and flattened all their shewing stones and crystal balls to make the LCD we’re gazing hard and scrying in. Whether the display is a window, a mirror, or a screen proper, or if the difference between those is even worth speculating on, it doesn’t change our being here, suspended outside time and space in a locus we’ve taken mostly for granted. What a bunch of witchy fucking cyborgs we’ve become. I’m either psyched on or repulsed by that depending on the mood.

 

What the shit is nature..? If we’ve developed these powers of sight and being as we have because they were inevitable then there’s no hard line.

 

Over the years, my interest in mysticism has precipitated personal innovations in the field of watching TV. Apart from the de facto passivity involved in sitting patiently and processing information with the piousness of prayer, I’ve mapped the mechanics involved in the act with such frequency that, while those togglings of displacement and identification are largely intuitive, the synchronization of thought and pseudo-action have become uncannily natural.

 

I recently attended a performance by artist Olaf Olsson, who speculates on why Bill Gates called Windows Windows instead of calling Windows Gates. That would be a promise of full access, he says. He makes a joke about the possibility, then, of doing a Doors tie-in with the advertising. “Don’t just look: break on through to the other side”.

 

I’m in the screen, in the realm of the screen, watching the screen and watching my thoughts while I’m watching the screen and mapping the affinities and sychronicities between them. It’s fuuuuun.

 

We’re living in a golden age of television. Some of these stories are the best stories ever told. Some of these stories were constructed with sophisticated understanding of the things I’ve been talking about. They lend themselves well and become richer with repeated viewing. Familiarization polishes the crystal ball to a level of transparency in which the viewer-participant has a greater degree of freedom and movement.

 

For example, I’ve watched the entirety of Deadwood eight or nine times. While the action and dialogue remain fixed memorized elements, the transmigratory dynamics within the body/bodies of the town do not. My own thoughts and understanding become clearer and give way to different levels of meaning both within and outside the given contexts. I’m living there and doing shit.

 

As an aside, there’s a scene in Twin Peaks in which the Deputy Andy exclaims, I’m a whole damn town! This is exactly the viewer’s experience.

 

Getting back to it, Deadwood (along with Twin Peaks, duh) had spirituality and metaphysics in its structure from the beginning. Originally pitched to HBO as the story of St. Paul, David Milch had intended to tell a story about the shift from the Emperor to the Cross as the organizing symbol of society, and the liberation of energy entailed in the collective’s agreement upon such a symbol. But HBO had already bought the show Rome, and so Milch located the themes elsewhere and substituted the Cross for Gold in terms of symbol.

 

Milch also writes oracularly, lying on his back on the floor, surrounded by writer-interns. Most days they showed up on set with nothing to shoot. Not too bad, considering the intricacies of the language.

 

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I’m thinking too of Breaking Bad, a show about transformation. Also a show involving the essential criminality of the creative imagination. Struggles of hierarchical power structures, the desire we have in the body of (al)chemist Walter White to move from ineffectual passivity to a state of total sovereignty. A struggle that is also ours, as we move out of our chairs with greater and greater speed.

 

Most shows are written collectively, and without a completed structure in mind. So too the experience of viewing, equally collaborative and improvisational. The gap the circuit. The ability to jump from body to body in a vehicle where we’re at once moving and completely still, doing everything and nothing both.

 

It’s like whoa. I like that.

- Garett Strickland

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