Thursday, March 19, 2009

a guide to being underwater: what I said in "Under the Sea at Fernbank"

Making a very simple subject very complicated.

Partly because it is.

I surprised myself at where I went with my meditation on the Jim Carrey-narrated Under the Sea Imax film, shortly to open at Fernbank Museum of Natural History.

So here’s a map of where I went in the sixteen hundred words that follow (or precede, chronologically, but in blogs the more recent tends to be read before the older post):

1) We look at and make movies and other works of art according to what we ourselves have experienced visually, and learned to be suspicious of or become bored by. Past pieces of culture change their aspects according to current preferences, too.

2) We also design according to the day-to-day stimuli of our environment. This includes new subject matter made available by, say, improvements in underwater photography as well as by digital technology.

3) And we focus on documentary subject matter that reflects or provides metaphors for the dominant economic and emotional forces of our own historical moment. We look at big mean animals just at the moment that we drive big mean driving machines, and others of us look at little colorful diverse animals the same way we look at little colorful diverse pieces of club design or, God help us, other subcultures.

4) So when we discover new colors in nature at about the same time that we can cheaply replicate new colors in manufacture, imaginative designers such as Karim Rashid combine the subconscious cultural fascination with new bright color with their own interest in finding new and more interesting ways of being functional. They combine responses to unspoken cultural shifts with their own wish to change the world. (The nineteenth century discovery of coal tar derivatives in the Mauve Decade parallels our own moment in terms of technological function, new discoveries in nature, and better living through chemistry.)

5) And that’s about as far as I can get with a movie about fish. Except that I end my ramble with a meditation on the actual environmental message about global warming and species diversity that the Imax movie is meant to convey. And except that

6) I kind of ponder where we might be going as we shift from the delusional speed of economic concentration that was financial globalization and move tentatively towards whatever is going to emerge as the New Normal. But I only kind of ponder that.

So much for the latest on Counterforces. Soon to come on joculum: a meditative survey of Terry Eagleton’s The Meaning of Life: A Very Short Introduction and Reason, Faith, and Revolution: reflections on the god debate.

Now go have fun.

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