Intro to Ode to a Ramen Society

Back in the mid-1990s I produced/hosted online radio/television shows at; initially online radio, later online television. Pseudo was the brainchild of Josh Harris, a true Internet pioneer. When the Internet bubble burst at the dawn of the 21st century, Pseudo went under, but it left its mark. In late 1999 Josh Harris started a fascinating project in online communal living called Quiet: We Live in Public. 150 or so participants moved into a downtown Manhattan three-story building and had their every move recorded and streamed online. Some participants were creating works of art. Tensions arose, to an extent fueled by drug use and promiscuous sex. On New Year's Day, 2000 the project was raided by the New York City Police Department after reports of gunplay. One participant was working on an art piece incorporating weapons, including a machine gun. Things got out of control. Quiet: We Live in Public evolved/devolved into an online experiment focused upon Josh Harris and his then girlfriend. They laid bare their lives in a webcam-laced environment. Their relationship fell apart, with the constant scrutiny finally driving them bonkers. At this time Harris went bankrupt. He had made millions in the late 80s/early 90s through his Internet consulting company, Jupiter Communications. He invested that money first in and then in Quiet: We Live in Public. As the boom was blowing up, Harris was live on the Internet via webcam, daily receiving news of his financial ruin. Harris had what he described as a “controlled nervous breakdown.” He left New York City, brought an apple farm upstate and lived there in seclusion for 5 years. Recently he returned to the Internet with a project called Wired City, which combines reality TV and online gaming.

The program director at was Robert Galinsky, who these days is running the New York Reality TV School, teaching people how to “act/behave” on reality TV shows. To me the notion of thus theatricalizing reality ties in to how I mine social networking sites for artistic source material. The animation for which these words serve as introduction is rooted in 10 images I lifted from Thérèse Elaine’s Facebook profile: 5 covers of vintage pulp fiction magazines, 5 photographs of Thérèse Elaine. In the animation the pulp covers and photographs meld. Josh Harris and Robert Galinsky see the inherent dramatic power of letting people vent before a camera. I view the Internet as a record/playback device. Web browsers are located in the applications folder of my computer, along with the software with which I create the animations that tap into something beyond my own limited sphere. Thérèse Elaine writes about our collective aesthetic limitations on her Facebook page:

I think that language killed our observational skills, then we killed language, the IPod killed what was left of conversation and everything is so instant gratification that we should be dubbed the "Ramen society."

Aesthetic resonances permeate our “Ramen society.” As a digital artist I aim to visualize/externalize them. I began this introduction writing about Josh Harris. I will close with a final quick thought on him. The Internet is constantly being reshaped, honed, and expanded through the will of innovators like Josh Harris. It has a history, much as literature, cinema, painting, sculpture and all other forms of expression have histories. Josh Harris very much contributed to that history by opening the door to people harnessing the power of the Internet in highly personal ways.

Animation duration: one minute fifty-five seconds, before looping.

Peter Schmideg

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