In the past, there were no VCRs, no mobile phones and computers were programed with pieces of cardboard. Information was centralised, access was analogue, low tech, on foot. The future lived only inside our heads. It was something to imagine, something that was going to take place, a tantalising possibility of connections and distribution. So this is where we live now: you can buy Planet of The Apes on DVD for $10 in Coles, or store your entire music collection in a single box that fits in your pocket or text a friend in a nightclub in London from the beach in Sydney. Your favourite author’s latest book isn’t [and never will be] available in Australia, but no sweat, just order it from Amazon. One of our cousins is a ship’s captain in command of a vessel doing the cargo route from Perth to Sydney and he spends his time in his cabin reading vintage Isaac Asimov short stories that he downloaded from the web on his PDA. Everything is happening everywhere and it’s taking place all the time. One day the day will come when the day will not come – and that day is today.
Twenty five years ago Kate Richards organised an all night screening of Super 8 films at the Film Makers Co-Op cinema that was on St. Peters Lane in Darlinghurst. There were dozens of films and the program lasted ‘til dawn. The event was grandly called The First Sydney Super 8 Film Festival. The following year, there was another one, and year later the event moved to the Chauvel Cinema. The festival gave birth to the Sydney Super 8 Film Collective [which became the SS8F Group] that eventually evolved into the Sydney Intermedia Network and then, in 1998, dLux Media Arts. And here we are, a quarter of a century later, standing in the Exhibition Hall of the Sydney Opera House for the launch of Mobile Journeys dLux’s big new annual event.
This is what the future looks like – a corporate sponsored and affiliated art event with a flyer that’s jammed packed with logos: dLux, Australian Interactive Media Industry Association, Australian Network for Arts and Technology, Aus Gov, Australia Council and Samsung. The hall was bright, clean and tastefully lit, there was a podium with listening posts for sampling audio works on headphones, a series of projectors threw up images from interactive web works and another wall of Samsung phones were each loaded with artworks fitting 3G specs.
There were short speeches, thank yous and acknowledgements and then a small woman got up at the lectern and, almost lost behind the microphone, said few words on behalf of Samsung. We can’t remember what she said but listening to her smooth delivery of a pre prepared corporate branding statement was like discovering that everyone else in the room was genetically engineered wetware straight out of a protein vat in downtown Seoul – it was pure future shock. Values and Philosophy, according to Samsung, go a little like this:
Samsung is now crossing the threshold from aspiration to attainment. Each and every day, we are committed to expressing – in all our products, services and activities – why we should be recognized as one of the world’s premier companies. We will demonstrate these top-level qualities to everyone whose lives we touch – to our customers, partners, co-workers, shareholders and, most importantly, to the people in our communities.
As we enter this final phase in our journey to becoming a top global competitor, we must be aware of developments in the world environment. Europe’s economic integration continues to expand, and the North American Free Trade Agreement is creating another growing economic bloc. As trade barriers disappear, the world is evolving into one massive economic entity. In business, the rule of “survival of the fittest” will be played out on a global stage: the world’s top companies will flourish and grow, while second- and third-tier players will fall behind.
Part of that will to survive is to forge creative partnerships with people who can supply program content for 3G phones. Enter dLux and the fifteen artists who’ve made work for the show. Perhaps it was inevitable that the future of Super 8 would be as niche content for portable devices and maybe even some of the work is engaging in its own right, but we don’t know, our phones are not compatible. The exhibition feels like a trade show with art as a by product, an image overflow holding pen for bored commuters with time to spare as they shuttle to the airport. What was once radical, subversive, marginal and provocative is now mainstream, marketed and comodified. dLux has a program of screen works that’ll be shown at the Chauvel Cinema on August 31. After the screening, the cinema will shut its doors forever.