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Hackwriters
The International Writers Magazine: New York in Action

Video Kingdom
• Dean Borok
Now that we’re living in Video Kingdom, with drones flying over volcanos and speed demons racing motorcycles down bobsled tracks wearing a helmet camera, let’s take a minute and get back down to earth. The most fascinating videos are the ones that catch the essence of human idiocy, which will surely serve as a treasure trove for future generations of social anthropologists.
Image: New York Terminal 1892 Steiglitz

New York Terminal Steiglitz
Subway attack
Exhibit One is a cell phone video shot in a New York Subway car, showing a gang of very robust Black females attacking an equally robust Hispanic-looking dude in a drunken dispute over the color of his gangsta leather jacket, which the leader of the girl gang objects to. She puts her fingers in his face, then she slaps his face, then she smacks him in the face, then she clobbers him in the head with her shoe. Meanwhile, another girl walks over to the person who is filming the assault and knocks the phone out his hand.

The guy picks up the phone and continues filming, showing for one instant the reactions of the other drunken nut jobs on the car, who, instead of panicking, are jumping up-and-down and cheering like animals in the zoo.

The tall dude, tired of being whacked around by this broad, grabs her right sleeve with his left hand, pushes her into the car door and starts pounding her head with his right hand, exactly like a hockey game at Madison Square Garden. Meanwhile, the other girls have attacked the guy from behind and are trying to climb on him.

That’s New York on a Saturday Night, but it reminded me of nothing so much as a video of a pride of lionesses trying to bring down an elephant at an African watering hole, right up to the cheering section of screeching birds and animals in the bush.

We don’t yet realize how lucky we are to have this developing treasure trove of video of video culture because it is so new that there is not yet enough of it.

Fire of London
Fire of London (Bridgeman Art Library), NY
Imagine if you would have live video of the French Revolution or the Conquest of Mexico. Never mind that! Even an ordinary day in Elizabethan England with the narration done by Shakespeare himself. That would be fascinating viewing.

If the NSA wanted to perform a really useful function, it would archive all the videos it sucks up in its data sweeps for future use by researchers. No longer will artists and historians have to try to interpret our contemporary actions and motivations, they will be able to view us from every possible angle. (Not that I have anything against interpretive representations, but now future artists will have a more substantive foundation of reality to work from)


The only problem being that people today are so deadly boring, bland and puritanical. All it takes to remind us how pointless we have become is one look at Kim Kardashian or Lady Gaga. We should have had these video technologies a half-century ago, when hair-raising shit was really going on! Imagine if we would have a real-time video of the Turtles’ Howard Kaylan puking all over Jimi Hendrix’s red velvet suit at the Bootlegger Club in London in 1967. That would be rich! Thank Heaven we have access to the Nixon Watergate recordings for a taste of historical reality. No amount of clever historical interpretation can live up to the reality of that dialogue.


Unfortunately, as the technology becomes sharper, people are becoming more anodyne and boring, so future artists may be forced to embellish contemporary reality just to keep the audience awake. How are you going to manufacture an entertainment about Obama, Putin etc. without calling in an artist like Jim Carrey or Chris Rock to liven things up? That is the heavy lifting that will be required to make us seem interesting.

© Dean Borok Nov 13th 2014
dean@200motels.net

Image: New York Subway Year 2040

Subway future

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