Screen: Content to Context

Yes, the Opening Ceremonies were perhaps one of the most elaborately crafted exercises in narrative and mass consumption ever constructed, a logistics of perception meticulously designed to captivate each member of the worldwide audience: the Four Great Inventions and Parade of Nations as tele-colonial act. But this does not, nor cannot, tell the whole story.

Generally speaking, one's options within Beijing on 08.08.08 were to either watch on television in the privacy of one's own home alone or with a handful of family and friends; watch at one of the state-controlled, corporate-sponsored public viewing areas; or not watch at all. The outdoor quasi-public viewing area in the hutong with HomeShop provided an alternative to these options. One could say that it was simply a scaled-down version of one of the public viewing areas scattered around the city, but this misses the subtle nuances of difference.

Courtesy of Jeroen deKloet + HomeShop

Once the neighbours realized what was unfolding, it seemed to me that the opening ceremonies at HomeShop became a very collaborative DIY event. So many people wanted to contribute, whether it was in buying beer for the party, sharing marinated peanuts brought from home, serving watermelon and tidying up afterwards, or performing a very local history of the hutong (the fool!). And I would argue that the subsequent events hosted by HomeShop during its 17 days wouldn't have had the same traction with the neighbours — either in explicit participation or as a tacit acceptance of outsiders occupying local space — were it not for that initial encounter with an optics of familiarity (television) coupled with a haptic and supple molecular form that was not too small (isolated in living room) nor too large (the mass of the public viewing area).

(Certainly the dynamism of the Loser's Party and the wii would like to play // we don't have tickets event would have been drastically different in that case.)

At the same time the scale of the HomeShop public viewing cannot be disconnected from the fact that this was one of the most-watched television broadcasts in human history and hence the desire to be in the hutong to begin with. So while it is evident that the intimate nature of HomeShop's public viewing served as a catalyst for what might be described as a temporary autonomous zone, there is a need to interrogate this micropolitical space on a sliding spatiotemporal scale from global to local — not smaller or larger, but both/and — or at least read it stereoscopically as an experience of here and now.

(a work-in-process between elaine w. ho and sean smith towards "17 days in beijing: screen of consciousness on the micropolitical," a text for public issue 40)

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4 responses to Screen: Content to Context

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  1. Ted says:

    Different image and context, but this reminds me of a pic i have of a group of Kenyans, mostly men, gathered at night around a small television watching the 2008 US election returns. The DIY was obvious as the television looked rigged to even get clear reception…the marinated peanuts were secondary. Sure, it is almost quaint, and it was, I suppose, meant to show how the global community gathers around beatup old televisions to watch the "winds shift in American politics"…but why do they have to gather in this manner, rather than enjoy the luxury of watching a Sony Bravia in a cul-de-sac? Where is the globally realized "Yes we can!" in that? The power of the visual, digitized, hd/grainy image, the gaze of informal community…

  2. sportsbabel says:

    Or, who cares what was actually on TV to begin with, so long as it created the kind of DIY gathering of which we both speak? The social seems to have much more resonance when you have to work for it a little, rather than consuming it from a big box warehouse.

  3. sportsBabel » Unlayering says:

    [...] recourse for determining the layers and relations between the part-subjects that comprised their contextual fabric. As Massumi points out, they are ontogenetic. But, as with the processed static and moving video [...]

  4. sportsBabel » (down the rabbit) holey space says:

    [...] end of the street where i live: bangladesh defeats england in historic cricket victory. it was not projected through the partition but rather reflected upon the building’s facade. closer, yet further away. oh, i *do* remember [...]