Wednesday, March 25

I am my Camera.

I never need much of an excuse to replay Broadway theatre critic, Walter Kerr's infamously brief put-down of the play, I am a Camera: "Me no Leica" was Kerr's unflinching critique.

Later adapted to become the musical, Cabaret, the play's title came from the opening line of the 1939 Christopher Isherwood story  - Goodbye to Berlin"I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking". How accurately that reflects much of our interaction with contemporary culture. And indeed beyond.

So much of life is only being experienced vicariously through the screens of our smartphones. We are becoming our cameras. Nothing has happened unless it's been shot and tagged and shared and logged.

Concert-goers are watching the gigs on their phones rather looking at the stage. Sight-seeing is selfie-shooting. The visceral and the emotional are compressed and filtered. Nothing is first hand.

U2 360º Barcelona

Recently I came across another version of the phenomenon. Visiting a couple of New York museums last Summer, time and again I watched visitors run up to a painting, bang off a quick wide shot of it and then another close-in of its caption card. And on to the next piece The whole interaction, if you could call it that, took about 15 seconds.

Of course, this was also combined with galleries of selfies using the exhibitions as backdrops. And enthusiastic parents who were snapping their kids in front of artworks, making them imitate their subjects' poses in a sort of odd homage. But at least they were paying some attention to it.

Are these haphazardly snatched photos of art and captions ever going to be looked at again? Probably not. But MoMA or the Met or the Whitney had been done. Tagged. Distilled to an iPhoto event.

What's for sure is that there's little living in the now. Appreciation, absorption, immersion is deferred. Ignored. Perhaps archived to a digital album on some hard drive, with uploaded pixels that will never see the light of day again.

We need to store memories, sure, and hopefully look back at them; but to do that we need to make some first.