In the last decade, many artists statements or exhibitions stressed the importance of hybridity (a.k.a. culture mix?) as a subject matter or underlying idea. Pretty fitting with the second law of thermodynamics; the law of entropy, and the rise of virtual networking, and globalisation, you may think. But hybridity is not just the me-and-my-disjointed-pieces take (which I completely empathise with, by the way), it is also the me-and-those-weirdos-I’ve-never-spoken-to getting together to do something. The age of hybridity paves the way to the rise of collectivism.
Last night I found myself using the word ‘hybrid’ when asking director Fanny Armstrong about the process of creating her film ‘The Age of Stupid’, which mixes animation, documentary and fiction. (Did I surprise myself by saying hybrid instead of mash-up?) She explained that after testing the first documentaries in private showings, and listening to the audience’s opinions (good business practice), she came up with the idea of homogenising the plot with an overarching fictional story, and of explaining the facts using animation. The result is extremely watchable! It’s a super-fast-cut version of Arabian Nights, full of multiple twists, but without the raunchiness (about time we had a film with no predictable boy-meets-girl chapter), and a bit more water (in the form of floods…). Real-life characters come and go, unraveling their microstories around the hard facts of climate change that are wonderfully rendered in artistic motion, in complete oblivion to the big brother watching them from the future that never happened. It works. 5 years went into the making of the film, and clearly they’ve paid off. The resulting singular vehicle amplifies hundreds of voices, and encourages the raising of the public voice to collectively prevent catastrophe, for them and us. Double whammy.
The shuddering film appeals because of it’s important message, that’s obvious, and because of the engaging stories (in film that is also obvious) but principally, I think, because of the format. The documentary scenes ground us, Pete Postlethwaite’s part gives us an even harsher reality check, but one that, because it’s fictional, we can ‘disbelieve’, and some really cool animations that illustrate scientific facts and arguments distinctly. It speaks different languages but takes us to Rome.
My favourite bit of the film is the darkly humourous idea of setting the ‘future’ scenes inside a museum. It’s a dead museum, a grave for imploded cultures, and the irony of the pickled animals is riotous!
The film projection in Tate Modern was followed by a Q&A that went from the tentative to the heated. One gentleman who must have been living inside his jet-airplane too long asked for practical advice on reducing his carbon-emissions (I, like you, assumed that is is common knowledge that turning down the heating, shutting down computers and stand-by gadgets, not wasting, recycling, becoming vegetarian, avoiding plastic and flights, using public transport, walking or cycling, and buying organic food from farmers markets is a good way forward, but one can always do some research – it will be easier that finding the philosopher’s stone). Another gentleman was very provocative in his challenge to the climate change theories expressed in The Age of Stupid, but Ms. Armstrong’s logic was flattening: even if we are wrong, there is still a measurable positive outcome for all from walking more, eating in-season local produce, being more involved in the consequences of your own consumption, and in not granting world-domination to large corporations. Go girl!