Imagine Michelangelo Antonioni tweeting on a Sunday afternoon. You can try but it’s not an easy task, probably because Antonioni didn’t know anything about the Internet. Not in the 60’s and the 70’s. So how could he say so much about the global net, back then, when no one could even dream of online shopping or sharing pictures? In fact, he did said a lot about it. You will realize that as long as you know where to look.
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He was an artist in a true and strict sense of the word. Arguably to any extend. I believe that there is a distinct quality that this kind of people possesses. They can feel and what is more, they can feel deeper than others. This specifically includes things that are yet to come. They are ahead of the time, so they pose questions that stay around for decades. They do and it’s a fact. Here are my few examples, quite fresh ones I suppose.
Firstly, there is Blow-Up, a classic movie from 1966. It’s about a young lad with a camera who takes a wrong picture at a wrong time so there are some complications. The picture becomes important for some as it involves a dirty secret, possibly even a dead body. Now here is the wide gap between the reality and the image. They are separated; a detached photo is a brand new piece of space and time. So after all the body is gone, the real murder far away yet the picture stays in his house. So he tries to blow it up and up in order to see the truth. But truth works in such a way that it can’t be just made more visible for a person to understand it easier. Instead we have one truth for reality and a different one for the photo. No mare representation.
Now, of course a photo camera isn’t a mind-blowing tool, even in the 60ties. Still the way it is used and the problem it presented should gain much more attention now. Actually, today it’s an obvious everyday problem of every single person. How the pictures on my profiles correspond to me, for example? How can I manipulate them, how far can I go? What information can to be retrieved from if? How accurate? How trustworthy? It is a problem that got its value just now and was not so obvious 50 years ago. Than it was just one guy who dedicated his life to snapshots, while now it is everybody who both takes and sees and what’s most important who interprets the pictures, every day, tirelessly and ceaselessly. Antonioni saw that.
The second case is connected to the wonderful Passenger from 1975. The theme here is a different matter altogether. We witness an identity theft. It was a successful attempt, well, at least for some time. The case is that the social and cultural background that makes it possible. The action takes place everywhere that is London, parts of Africa, Spain, and in-between as well. The whole evidence of the fact that you are yourself is a fragile document. People you do business with, they don’t even know how you look like, they see you for the very first time, often for the last time. Everything is in the papers. Again, it could only be an individual case, some kind of luck that no one realized the fraud.
Now compare it to the Internet again. What sites are you logged into? Many I guess and the number keeps growing. What you need for access and control? Just a login and a password, nothing more. So in case somebody else happens to get them he can become you in the cyberspace, he is you even to the people that know you well, as all they see is an image or the name of the account that send the message. Few days ago I read that a kid stole a phone from a woman and then took a photo of himself smoking, What he didn’t know was that it was set to automatically upload it on the victims facebook page. So they got him. But on the other hand, it only takes as much as to physically take your phone to be in control of your e-identity. Most people now don’t log in, the phone remembers the password and their mail or twitter is always accessible by whoever has the device in hand. You know the rest. Antonioni had an intuition about it too.
The point is clear. Art can help us see. And it’s often working way into the future. It’s not only universal values and known motives that are timeless. Older art is as helpful with cutting edge technology as it gets. Prove me wrong. Above all, watch and re-watch the masterpieces, read and re-read, as you never know what’s going to come up. It happens so that Antonioni became nearly an expert on the cyberspace, whether he knew it or not. He couldn’t have known.