Video as History

Posted in Videontology with tags , , , , , , , on June 23, 2009 by re: turn on

I’m finding it difficult to reconcile my conflicted emotions about Neda Agha-Soltan‘s shooting death during the Iran election protests, which was captured on video and went viral on YouTube.

As her mouth and nose pours blood from her punctured lung, she looks up to the camera capturing her final moments. I believe that she was aware that her death will be seen by the world. She’s imploring us with her eyes. Its hard to meet her gaze, yet hard to look away.

If Ahmadinejad and Iran’s clerical elite capitulate to the overwhelming call for democracy from their people and the world, this video will be emblematic of that struggle.

Film has long been tied to political and sociological movement. In 1925 Eisenstein’s The Battleship Potempkin influenced the shift from individualism to collectivism, following Russia’s socialist revolution. Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will was instrumental in whipping up nationalist fervour in support of the Nazi party’s military aggression that culminated in WWII. The assassination of JFK captured by Zapruder‘s little 8mm camera sparked public paranoia that would define 70’s America. The student at Tienamin Square halting the line of tanks as the moment the rest of the world became cognizant of China’s tyrannical rule. The many amateur videos of 9/11 defined the moment in history when the West’s complacency turned into fear and aggression. Now Neda bleeding to death on the street in Tehran will be the moment in history when the Middle East’s most powerful nation revealed its black heart.

Zapruder’s film of the JFK assassination both defined and changed history, as the only public evidence of what happened that day in Texas and an iconic image that moved the world. History as recorded is interpretative. It is written by the victor to be as palatable as possible to the status quo. The staging of the flag raising at Iwo Jima for the sake of a photo might also be possible with video, but there is one factor favoring video as a true record of history. Video’s ubiquity makes it democratic, even in a country without democracy like Iran. Anyone can capture an historical moment on their phone or video camera and distribute it online, just as has happened with the unjust death of Neda. With the decline of library use, we are increasingly watching video as a record of history.

As I write in the comfort and safety of my office, how does watching her death ethically implicate me? I’m trying not to rubberneck like I’m driving past the aftermath of a car crash. I’m trying to provoke discussion and anger over her unnecessary death at the hands of a regime that evidently must stand down. But I’m also voyeur to a moment of utmost intimacy. Could Neda also be imploring us to look away?


Dodgy Client

Posted in Inspiration with tags , , , , , on June 22, 2009 by re: turn on

In his blog Consumer Psychologist, Adam Ferrier wrote an excoriating account of his undercover visit to the Advanced Medical Institute (AMI), encountering dubious medical practices and pressure selling. Worth a read before AMI take an injunction out against him like they did the Sydney Morning Herald.

It made me wonder about the AMI’s advertising account; whatever its worth, is it nothing but a Faustian pact or mob deal? Does an agency lose its soul or pinky fingers when engaging a dodgy client?


In 2006 the Federal Court ruled newspaper ads for the AMI’s erectile dysfunction nasal spray were misleading or deceptive under section 52 of the Trade Practices Act 1974 in proceedings against them, their agency Colbyco and spokesman Ian Turpie. Turps confessed the truth about his wang’s wonkiness (or lack thereof) as a media stunt to the ACCC in return for clemency. But a quick google search of Colbyco and MD Philip Somerset reveals nothing after this case. Did the incident ruin Colbyco, did they rebrand or are they stuck at the bottom of Sydney Harbour wearing concrete slippers?

To what degree do service providers bear responsibility for their client’s skullduggery? Is advertising questionable remedies for impotence to susceptible unfortunates all that different from advertising shampoo with keratin to image conscious women?

Peer respect is also important for an agency to flourish, particularly being lauded at self-congratulatory industry awards. But beware, those ad industry folk in the audience are easily provoked into an angry pitchfork waving mob.

If the AMI presently have an agency, they’re staying quiet about it. Given the continued controversies surrounding the AMI, including frequent Advertising Standards Bureau objections (the latest TVC listed here), does anyone know who handles their advertising?

Elevator to Heaven or Hell

Posted in Videontology with tags , , , , , on June 18, 2009 by re: turn on

Videontology may seem a little focused on online video, but I ♥ all aspects and mediums of moving images. Italian video artist Marco Brambilla has a daunting body of work behind him. He recently collaborated with design studio Crush on an installation called “Civilization” that is staggering in its lavish aesthetic, complex application and simple execution.

A visual depiction of Dante’s Divine Comedy, “Civilization” is installed in the elevators of the Standard hotel in NY, synchronously panning up and down with the movement of the elevator. At street level you get Inferno and the penthouses are Paradiso, subtly encouraging premium bookings.

In keeping with Dante’s self-referential flourishes, Marco Brambilla selected familiar images from films like Zack Snider’s Dawn of the Dead and 300, Mel Brooks’ To Be or Not To Be, Star Wars, Dark City, Jacques Tati’s Playtime, Ghostbusters and too many more to mention. Along with stock footage and stills, he collated materials over three months and worked with Crush for another 6 weeks (after hours given the budget of the project) to create a 2D draft that would subsequently be rendered into a 3D vertical plane by Flame artists. CGI like fireballs and lighting were also rendered in Flame.

Its by no means perfect; some of the loops are distractingly clunky, the train and rollercoaster just disappear or fade out, the depth ascribed to 3D planes occasionally looks unconvincing and composited elements’ colour grading is inconsistent. But these are minor quibbles, given Civilization’s epic scope and visual opulence, not to mention its novel application.

You can read more from Marco Brambilla and Crush on “Civilization” here.

Society Sobriety (pt5) Econopocalypse Survivors

Posted in ...what crisis? with tags , , , , on June 17, 2009 by re: turn on

Any business provider of goods and services can see first hand how rapidly purchasing confidence has dwindled with the GFC. Even businesses on higher ground that stayed relatively dry during the GFC floods are shoring up their finances with sand bags full of “thanks, but no thanks”.

Irrespective of liquidity, business spending is generally paralyzed by a frugal mentality that could be harmful in the long run. A major corporate client of ours has slashed its formidable marketing budget to less than half across all subsidiaries. A few of those subsidiaries’ marketing budgets have been stripped to essentials like product packaging and staffed by a skeleton crew whittled down by redundancies. I’m sure most of those measures are prudent, but if the cuts persist over time their brand identity will be compromised when consumers notice the waning potency of their once favorite brand, particularly when its on a shelf or rack beneath another brand that demands more attention.
Master-BlasterDespite this client’s reduction in production with us, we’ve had significant growth over the last year. With the economic turmoil, companies are now more inclined to try new suppliers rather than comfortably plodding along with the familiar. The good folks of Leo Burnett developed a Firefox plugin that replaces the word “crisis” with “opportunity”, which is the browser analogue to our present business views. Chinese philosophy aside, many companies are taking advantages of more competitive supplier offerings and their competitor’s duress. Its like Mad Max, the cities fall to pieces while those willing to get down and dirty thrive.

MadMax-TinaAny Road Warriors out there experiencing business growth despite the econopocalypse?

Society Sobriety (pt4) Spank-a-Bank

Posted in ...what crisis? with tags , , , , , , on June 14, 2009 by re: turn on

People in finance and senior corporate management have been prime hate bait for some time now. In a random chin wag about organic bread with my local baker, the mention of flour prices had a Jekyll/Hyde effect, turning this mellow surfer dude into someone ready to muster a lynch mob and hang a banker from the highest tree. I argued for personal choice and responsibility, that everyone borrowing beyond their means should also share their slice of the culpability pie. He wasn’t convinced, claiming these over-mortgaged martyrs were duped by unscrupulous lenders.

That was a surreal shift from a prior view through the looking glass. Earlier this year I was at a party predominantly populated by professionals straddling the X-Y generation and gender divide. GFC hysteria was peaking and many of them work(ed) in finance. With grim fascination I spoke with a guy in mergers and acquisitions, whom I’ll call Mr Face for the sake of privacy and the cranial features he shared with our simian forebears. Mr Face visibly trembled on the verge of a panic attack. Pretending to avoid talk about his job but clearly desperate to unload his occupational distress onto any amateur psychologist within earshot, Mr Face disclosed his vocation like a murderer’s confession. He bitterly added that he knew I thought him evil, just like everyone else. With my tongue lubricated by a bottle of scotch, I made reference to self-hating bankers in as diplomatic a manner as possible under the inebriated circumstances. Mr Face actually became hostile when I gently suggested he relax and worry less about the mights. He saw job loss as a certainty and being run out of town by angry pitchfork waving villagers as a possibility.

Mr Face was buying into the media hype, despite his privileged insider’s view. I’m surprised he didn’t have an objective opinion of the state of the economy and those responsible for it. I’m surprised he had built no immunity to the media virulently spreading pathogenic prejudices against the finance industry. He needed Codral and Lemsip like everyone else.

I think Mr Face could also learn a lot from the brave banking stalwarts of The Crimson Permanent Assurance, Terry Gilliams’ 1983 short film presenting a completely sensible account of bankers fighting oppression.

Callousing up those lilly-soft banker’s hands clenched around the makeshift hilt of a ceiling fan sword, Mr Face will become Spartacus and raise an army of disgruntled finance folk and management types. They’ll raze Sydney to the ground, Terry Gilliam knew it back in the 80’s.

<< Society Sobriety (pt3) New Media Iceberg

Owning Creativity

Posted in Inspiration on May 28, 2009 by re: turn on

I was honoured to write a guest blog for Julian Cole’s blog Adspace Pioneers, one of my faves. I wrote about the ownership of creativity and the current co-existence of traditional intellectual property with the new Creative Commons.


Power of Provocation

Posted in Inspiration with tags , on May 21, 2009 by re: turn on

I recently got my panties in a bunch over Zac Martin’s guest post for Julian Cole’s blog Adspace Pioneers. Commenting on his inflammatory opinion of Hollywood’s imminent demise knotted up my panties good. What was interesting though is how his admission of deliberate provocation not only untied the knots in my panties, it also inspired self-reflection on my own blog writing style.

Zac being the consumate conversationalist, he has now continued the discussion on his blog Pigs Don’t Fly. It questions the necessity of sensationalism in not just social media, but media generally.