Myth Picture

Towards the end of 2016 Adam Curtis’s documentary Hypernormalisation caused a bit of a stir, Curtis argues that since the 1970s, governments, financiers, and technological utopians have given up on the complex ‘real world’ and built a simple ‘fake world’ that is run by corporations and kept stable by politicians.

A few days ago an interesting interview emerged where Curtis discuses art, power, self-expression, individualism, freedom and myth. Read it in full here.

Art

“We may look back at self-expression as the terrible deadening conformity of our time.” – Adam Curtis [1]

Individualism

“Capitalism is about self-expression; art is about self-expression. Art is far from being a radical outside movement.” – Adam Curtis [2]

Power

“But the computers know the truth. They see us as a group. We’re actually quite similar to each other. We have the same desires, ambitions, and fears. Computers spot this through correlations and patterns….Computers can see us as large groups, but they’re glum and only aggregate us to sell us stuff. In reality, the computers give great insight into the power of common identity between groups. No one’s using that. What’s sitting with the computers is a way of seeing new groups, new common identities between people.” – Adam Curtis [3]

Freedom

“The contemporary idea of freedom is very much an individualist one. I, as an individual, want to be free to do what I want to do.” – Adam Curtis [4]

Myth

“I sometimes wonder whether conspiracy theories are an attempt to re-enchant the world in a distorted way…It’s like religion knocking on the door and trying to come back in a strange and distorted form. A sense of mystery beyond our own understanding of the world. If you ever talk to conspiracy theorists, that’s the sense you get from them. A sort of almost romantic sense of awe that there is this dark mysterious thing that a rational thing could never penetrate. That’s sort of religious.” – Adam Curtis [5]

“A myth that tries to explain the things you don’t understand and gives you a sense of consolation beyond your own existence. I think that’s really good. We’re missing that.” – Adam Curtis [6]

Melodrama

“The hyperindividualism of our age is not going to be going back into the bottle. You’ve got to square the circle. You’ve got to let people still feel they’re independent individuals, yet they are giving themselves up to something that is awesome, greater, and more powerful that carries them into the future beyond their own existence. That’s what people are yearning for.” – Adam Curtis [7]

Note to Self:

  • The points this and his previous films like ‘Century of the Self’ raises really made me dwell on certain topics…‘there has been this idea that the function of art is to change the world, and it will do so by changing the way people think and see. Whereas , if you look at the history of art, really brilliant art steps back and shows to you clearly what really is going on in the world you live in, in a vivid, imaginative way.’
  • ‘… artists have retreated over the last 10 to 15 years into either obscure creative bubbles or into money…none of it will actually go out and engage with the world, it’s a retreat.’
  • The current system of power is pretty invisible to us. It resides in finance, in all sorts of new kinds of management, and within computers and the media, which involves invisible algorithms that shape and manage what information we get.
  • The function of art is to go out and explain the world to people, and do it in ways that make it vivid and imaginative.
  • What’s waiting to be invented is a new kind of imaginative language that describes the world of power, which is invisible to us.
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