October 20, 2006
Sony released the second video for their range of LCD televisions this week. The first (Balls), and infamous, is a stunning, gawp inducing piece of media. A cunning shroud of disbelief holds the viewer in front of the screen, enough to think twice about the colour quality of their addiction plane.
Today brought the second installment (Paint) of a demonstration of a colour fest. Much anticipated, perhaps too much.
Here’s a couple of frames from both productions.
The clown in the second is obviously noticeable. The dude in the first less so.
Why are they there? Neither pieces are particularly figurative, neither really engage community considering they are both shot within community settlings. Neither really place the value of a new telebox as a social desire. To acquire a new screen for better resolution and color quality plays to a personal greed channel. ‘Paint’ features a young lad and women too. All figures in the adverts are avoiding the color burst that’s happening around them…
None of the personas of the target audience, none of them seem like characters of greed.
Editor, Paul Watts explains in the ‘behind the scenes movie‘ that the clown in the Paint advert was used to get up the crescendo of the paint explosions. Balls never needed a crescendo..
But both Paint and Balls are classic examples of spectacle.
Guy Debords text ‘Society of the Spectacle’ covers notions of state control through the use of consumerism. From this translation [link], the following quote seems to set these productions in an uncomfortable setting; noting the role of the television set on the whole, as a uni-direction message system.
“The concentrated spectacle is primarily associated with bureaucratic capitalism, though it may also be imported as a technique for reinforcing state power in more backward mixed economies or even adopted by advanced capitalism during certain moments of crisis. Bureaucratic property is itself concentrated, in that the individual bureaucrat takes part in the ownership of the entire economy only through his membership in the community of bureaucrats. And since commodity production is less developed under bureaucratic capitalism, it too takes on a concentrated form: the commodity the bureaucracy appropriates is the total social labor, and what it sells back to the society is that society’s wholesale survival.
“The dictatorship of the bureaucratic economy cannot leave the exploited masses any significant margin of choice because it has had to make all the choices itself, and any choice made independently of it, whether regarding food or music or anything else, thus amounts to a declaration of war against it. This dictatorship must be enforced by permanent violence.
“Its spectacle imposes an image of the good which subsumes everything that officially exists, an image which is usually concentrated in a single individual, the guarantor of the system’s totalitarian cohesion. Everyone must magically identify with this absolute star or disappear. This master of everyone else’s nonconsumption is the heroic image that disguises the absolute exploitation entailed by the system of primitive accumulation accelerated by terror.
“If the entire Chinese population has to study Mao to the point of identifying with Mao, this is because there is nothing else they can be. The dominion of the concentrated spectacle is a police state. ” [Link para 64]
So the role of the lone individuals within Balls and Paint do take on a persona – that of one trapped within the spectacle. Both spectacles, especially Paint, are acts of violence – extreme pontification of colour as subject. Just watching the ‘behind the scenes‘ trailer shows what military organisation and precision it demand to produce Paint.
As linear media begins to lose its usefulness in a world of bi-directional communication, exemplified by online networks and conversations – the last thing SONY needs is to dictate to it’s audience the virtues of the spectacle. The spectacle will only serves to alienate the social – the seduction of the spectacle distracts from the virtues of communication, by dominating the conversation with the audience. As we stop and gawp at the splendour, we forget to talk. If we discuss the spectacle, we soon realise that we too were caught in a moment that rendered us silent as a clown.
This not to say the spectacle is a dead zone of communication. The spectacle holds an important role to the needs of the individual – at times of crisis people come together. At time of celebration, rejoicing is at it’s best when shared. The spectacle has identified the frailty of the individual and exposed the intrinsic need to share history. But if society remains convinced that the spectacle is the totality of society, when may be in trouble..
” “Static societies” are societies that have reduced their historical movement to a minimum and that have managed to maintain their internal conflicts and their conflicts with the natural and human environment in a constant equilibrium. Although the extraordinary diversity of the institutions established for this purpose bears eloquent testimony to the flexibility of human nature’s self-creation, this diversity is apparent only to the external observer, the anthropologist who looks back from the vantage point of historical time.
“In each of these societies a definitive organizational structure has eliminated any possibility of change. The total conformism of their social practices, with which all human possibilities are identified for all time, has no external limit but the fear of falling back into a formless animal condition. The members of these societies remain human at the price of always remaining the same.” Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle [Link para 130]
Colour itself is of course one of the great spectacles of the human experience. Taking from Hannu Salmi essay, History in Colour, the reference to the explosion of historical movies such as The Ten Commandments (1923) and The King of Kings
(1927) by Cecil B. DeMille, and from Ben Hur (1927) by Fred Niblo amplifies Debords concerns about ‘how history has revived nationally important imagery and, simultaneously, offered a spectacular ‘exit’ from everyday life.’
“In the resurrection scene of The King of Kings the miracle was accompanied by modern technology: the screen burst into color when Christ ‘came out of the grave’ “. [Link]
This technique is explicit in the Bravia adverts, and to precise effect – offering an exit from a social moment and presented with a historical present. It also reveals how little the role of media produced for Television has changed since the advent of colour. Meanwhile, as we stop to gawp at the precision of the spectacle afforded by the Bravia LCD, we remain silent, and static. This is technology that persuades the audience not to talk.