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NANOMODERNITY Revisited – JASON SILVA on Art & Design in Science

Jason Silva – Photo courtesy Bruce Weber / Abercrombie & Fitch

*Guest Contributor JASON SILVA on The Importance of Aesthetics & Design in Science

Jason Silva is the host of the Al Gore funded Current TV & one of Bruce Weber’s muses for the latest Abercrombie & Fitch campaign. Silva recently signed with CAA (Creative Artists Agency), one of the most prominent talent agency in the world; he has a number of projects in development for several networks. (For more on Silva, see my earlier conversation with him on Nanomodernity’s Epicurean Challenge).


“A new, wide eyed and freshly minted vision surfaces: as a species we are just now in the process of being reborn. Insights abound, awareness rebounds, and shackles are being untangled, we might, if all goes well, be free. Free of our genetic heritage and free of our biological roots, free to soar into a promisingly magnificent future, the future of commingled information, of interweaved sensation, of co-opted dreams.” — WildCat, SpaceCollective.org

A while back I read a Newsweek article about the space program that really resonated with me. The article, titled ‘Rocket Men,’ written by Jeremy McCarter, spoke of the importance of artists in the effort to re-ignite excitement about space exploration. It mentioned an idea by Buzz Aldrin, from his memoir, Magnificent Desolation, in which he made an “intriguing suggestion: Send an artist into space.” The author of the Newsweek piece went on to say that what is needed is a true “Romantic hero for our 21st-century space adventure” …and that we “might need a little star power to make it out to the stars.” The point here is this: big ideas need to be packed in a thrilling, sexy, emotionally-appealing way. In the case of space exploration, the author eloquently puts it like this: “NASA itself needs to help the public grasp that sending human consciousness 40 million miles into space can be its own mesmerizing reward….”

I think this very same challenge applies to those working in other areas of cutting edge scientific exploration: Synthetic biology, genetic engineering, stem-cell research and beyond. We need to help the public grasp that enhancing humanity, merging with our technology, extending our lifespan, reaching for the infinite, really, is its own reward. It is the most magnificent of undertakings. Some have said “design is becoming imminent to being”. Freeman Dyson said, “In the future a new generation of artists will write genomes with the fluency that blake and byron wrote verses”. Technology and art go hand in hand. The artists’ paintbrush is a technological instrument. The artistry of Mozart or Bach was made possible by the technology of musical language and musical instruments… Technology serves as a tool for human flourishing.. creativity is funneled through our technology.

Richard Holmes’ fascinating book, “The Age Of Wonder,” explores the late 18th century, or as the author refers to it, “the romantic age of science,” a time when the scientists were poets and the poets knew about science. What scientists and artists shared then, and what we need to regain now, is a fascination and love affair with what Holmes calls “the exploratory voyage.” We need to create mythological narratives around science and the implications of exponential growth in technology. The Singularity and what it means should be explored with astonishing artistry… & this is what I’m doing with my documentary Turning Into Gods. [More on Silva’s ideas concerning art, design and science]

Jason Silva’s Turning Into Gods, (teaser) edited by Jason Silva and Sean Puglisi

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Nanomodernity’s Epicurean Challenge – In Conversation with Jason Silva

 

Thus Life and Death, and young and old,
Are, as the severall Atomes bold.
So Wit, and Understanding in the Braine,
Are as the severall Atomes reigne:
And Dispositions good, or ill,
Are as the severall Atomes still.
And every Passion which doth rise,
Is as the severall Atomes lies.
Thus Sicknesse, Health, and Peace, and War;
Are alwaies as the severall Atomes are.

Cavendish, Margaret (Lucas), “All things are govern’d by Atomes,”
The Atomic Poems of Margaret (Lucas) Cavendish, 1653

Jason-Silva-1I recently came across an article by Ken Davis, The Age of Semi–Post–Post-Modernism, which rightfully asserts that “Moving beyond ‘postmodernism’ has to mean a shift away from the myopia and cynicism that has characterized our recent past, if it is to mean anything at all.” Following this noteworthy text, a number of artists and curators such as contemporary German photographer, Thomas Eller, echoed its probing into the future of creativity, “Tell me, what comes after Modernism/Post-Modernism/Post-Post-Modernism, etc?”

My response is that we are entering the age of, what I call, Nanomodernity. It is an era in which, according to the father of Transhumanism, Ray Kurzweil, “our intelligence will become increasingly nonbiological and trillions of times more powerful than it is today – the dawning of a new civilization that will enable us to transcend our biological limitations and amplify our creativity.”

Do I honestly believe that these awe-inspiring promises and developments will take place during my generation? Well, it all depends on how long I will live which, if you are a Singularist, is a very very long time. So, yes, we just may live long enough to bear witness to humanity achieving “inconceivable heights of intelligence, material progress, and longevity.”

In many ways, Nanomodernity is a seemingly and dramatically different concept from Postmodernism with its illusions of mass accessibility. During the past thirty or so years, Post-Modernity’s (synthetic) populist pronouncements lead many to believe that no area of our lives is immune to its invasion and that its practices could be adopted by anyone. Of course, this was not truly the case, since, in the realms of arts and sciences, alliances are made with meticulous discrimination.

Even in the so-called democratic Age of the Internet, the Yosemitean disparity between the arts, sciences, and the masses can be profoundly demoralizing. Just as many people, including, art world insiders often fail to decipher rapidly market-driven trends in visual arts, concepts such as the Singularity and Transhumanism baffle scientists and philosophers alike. Whereas the formers’ aesthetically inspired foundations, at worst, intimidate people, the heightened scientific nature of the latter painfully overwhelms the multitude who don’t even know what the Theory of Relativity stands for.

As an enthusiastic, albeit new, convert to the study of the Singularity (and Transhumanism), I have cultivated strong responses to many of its premises. Impressions which I understand need to be perpetually revised in relation to this invigorating and exponentially(!) growing field.

How, then, a traditionally trained art historian and museologist like me, was introduced to such esoteric concepts? Well, I shall credit Murray Gell-Mann who, on September 15th 2009, declared “80 is the new 40.” Late last year, I had the pleasure of attending the 80th birthday bash that the Santa Fe Institute had thrown for the Noble Prize winning American physicist. In other words, my first introduction to the Singularity took place at an outdoor dinner party in the company of some of the world’s most renowned futurists, scientists and strategists. My visit to The Institute catapulted me into a world beyond that of Early Modernist (16th-19th century) aesthetics which I had just left at the University of Oxford. The dizzying, exhilarating and, at times, frankly, bewildering nature of conversations held between the likes of John Smart, Jordan Greenhall, Joseph Coates and John Hagel III marked the beginning of my passionate inquiry into this Late Modern Era pursuit of the Philosopher’s Stone.

Fast forward, nine months later, I have caught up with Jason Silva of Current TV who is in the process of creating his 21st century Manifesto on Singularity called Turning into Gods [see video below]. Along with Max Lugavere, Silva is the founding host of the Emmy-winning TV network launched by Al Gore. With national distribution to more than 50 million homes, Current TV is the fastest growing network in television history. The Venezuelan-born Silva is a graduate of University of Florida where he studied film and philosophy. Two years ago, Max and Jason, hosted the first PANGEA Day that included a live 4-hour program of 1,700 acts ranging from film, music, and live speakers; the event was seen by a projected audience of 500 million people in more than 150 countries. With his heartthrob good looks and vibrant personality, the 28 year-old Silva, who recently signed with CAA (Creative Artists Agency), has been hailed as the “apostle of our future” who is “looking to make converts.”

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Homa Taj – When did you first come across the concept of Singularity? And, what does it mean to?

Jason Silva – I first discovered Ray Kurzweil’s book The Singularity Is Near a few years ago… It blew my mind. I’ve always turned to original thinkers to challenge me and assault my intellect and make me question everything I thought I knew about the world. I read The Singularity Is Near around the same time that I was really into Ernest Becker’s The Denial Of Death – a book which laid bare the reality of the human condition. SO my thinking was this: we infuse the world with meaning, creating sometimes exquisite social constructs and mythologies, grand narratives that contextualize our lives as heroic and meaningful… and yet… we end up as food for worms. Religion won’t save us; art won’t save us, though it may inspire us… These things may assuage the anxiety, but our situation is still quite bleak… and yet the one thing that HAS helped us overcome problems is our technological ingenuity… We remake reality with our tools.. We stand defiant before the universe and say: “We do not accept your terms”… and this is where the Singularity metaphor works – as we decommission natural selection and our technology become exponentially more powerful, even entropy will not be able to escape our artistry and technical genius… Soon enough we will reverse engineer the human brain, create an artificial consciousness, backup our mindfiles, and in Marshal McLuhan‘s words will start making sense: “First we build the tools, then they build us.” The Singularity means victory over entropy, decay and death. The Singularity is when the universe wakes up.

HT – You have talked about “The Catalytic Intersection of Art and Technology;” this, of course, is the title of a presentation which you gave at the 2010 Humanity Plus Summit . (Admittedly, I did not hear your talk, however,) I have come across some of your ideas which propose to use the arts to “elicit a sense of awe and wonder out of people.” I would like to see the arts integrated into your mission, not used as tools to ‘entice’ the masses but as an end unto themselves… as their own reward.

JS – I transcribed my talk from Humanity Plus into a Huffington Post article you can read. The basic premise is that package design and art direction are as crucial to the content as the content itself. The way an idea is DELIVERED is pivotal to whether it makes an impact. It really comes down to my love for big ideas… I get off on things that make me go WOW, and my goal is to create content that gives people that same feeling – If we can awaken people’s sense of awe and wonder, titillate the child-voyager inside all of us, the world becomes that much more magnificent. With Turning Into Gods I want to make a philosophical documentary about the reach of our science that dares to push our imaginations further than we might be comfortable with.

HT – I am very interested in ways you relate to the philosophy of Hedonism: for some, this school simply embodies the notion(s) of eliminating pain from our everyday existence. But I take it further to include the Epicurean enhancement of pleasure principles… Where does Singularity stand in relation to this extremely important humane trait?

JS – Hedonism is the philosophy of pleasure… which makes sense to me… Pleasure can come in many forms, sure, but I think we can all agree that illness and death give no one pleasure, as much as we may try to ennoble them. The Hedonistic Imperative is David Pearce’s magnificent manifesto that merges genetic engineering with the principles of hedonism, proclaiming that we should re-write our entire biochemistry, our genomes, the whole thing really, and become “paradise engineers”… so that “genetically pre-programmed bliss becomes as natural as breathing.” What could be wrong with that? We’re already so good at creating beautiful art to articulate things such as love and longing and so much more… imagine the “art” we could make if our genomes become the paintbrushes… reality becomes our canvas. To me it’s intoxicating to consider these ideas. I’m all for stretching out perfect moments forever. As the end of the film Flight From Death said: “Everything has been figured out, except how to live… life exists in individual moments and it is up to us to make sure those moments are vast, interconnected and grand… to make a masterpiece out of life… one that we would willingly live again and again, for all of eternity… this is what we can try for.”

HT – All right then, when a ‘paradise engineer’ considers what brings people joy and happiness, s/he must realize that everyone’s idea of pleasure radically differs from others. For some, aspects of (mainly physical) pain bring pleasure. For others, of (often) religious persuasion, most aspects of pain and suffering signify redemption which, in turn, promise an eternal Utopian existence. So who is to decide what pain and pleasure are and what their role in our lives ought to be? And, how does the Singularity address this critical Epicurean dilemma?

JS – The whole religious device of martyrdom and a “life of pain in exchange for that heavenly reward” is a construct built to ease the pain of existence to many people. For too many people, life is a constant struggle followed by death… How does anyone make sense of that without some consolation? But I think as more and more people are lifted out of poverty, medical engineering becomes more extraordinary, diseases are slowly eradicated… I think we will come to see more obscure forms of suffering also as unacceptable.

HT – This brings us to science’s challenge in addressing human emotions that are as diverse as the number of individuals on earth. In addition, our respective passions/ sentiments/ feelings/ soul (or everything that you wish to call them) evolve and metamorphose according to our physical place and temporal position in the world. How does an overpowering force like the Singularlity which basically proposes to clone humanity deal with human emotions – my understanding so far is that it tries to avoid them?

JS – The Singularity is a metaphor for when we become fully embedded in the technology we are creating technology that will be evolving so many times faster than today that it makes it impossible to wrap our heads around it… What we do know is that technology extends our reach – it extends who we are. Human emotions are still just information… We will be able to redraw and/or manipulate our emotions to suit our tastes….

HT– Technotopia is not a new concept by any means. The very foundations of the Renaissance were based on the marriage between sciences and humanities. However, I think what frightens most people is their lack of understanding of what is going on behind the scenes: the great divide between sciences and the masses is far more alarming than most are willing to admit…

JS – I think the internet brings all the world’s information to anyone’s fingertips, so anyone can become somewhat well versed in science and technology trends. If science is still intimidating to people, it simply means we need to make science more hip… We need another Carl Sagan. We need a James Dean of philosophy and of science. We need to find ways to using beautiful art direction to present wild scientific concepts in a beautiful way… If you visit Space Collective, you’ll see a great example of this.

HT – Personally speaking, I am not interested in sciences, technologies or ideologies that want to dominate nature. As a self-proclaimed Romantic, how do you propose to negotiate between post-biological sciences and their determination to impose their power on nature. What do you say to Ecological Utopists, like myself who wish to advance our world in tune with nature?

JS – I think it’s natural to mess with nature, as long as we don’t destroy our environment. Cancer is also nature… it doesn’t mean we should respect it. There are some things in nature that are ugly and brutal and human intervention is the most noble thing in the world in those kinds of circumstances. Humans are part of a self-organizing system… I think that system will find ways to evolve without destroying its cocoon.

HT – The very genuine fear of political/ nationalists taking over this science aside, my understanding is that many Singularists (& Transhumanists) fear backlash from certain religious groups who will oppose their agenda to advance /alter nearly every aspect of the human condition beyond its present biological state. What I fear the most is that some extremist religious groups will embrace this science and, given many of their institutions’ phenomenon material wealth and mass appeal, be able to adapt it to their respective ideological agendas.

JS – People are always afraid of change, especially change that happens really fast and disrupts the status quo. Too bad. Change is coming, and it’s going to be exponential. However, this happens in millions of tiny steps whereby we probably won’t even be alarmed. I’d say most people would be quite happy to one day enjoy cellular rejuvenation therapies that add decades to our lives, or gene therapies that augment our intelligence of empathy… Our lives will be improved on such a profound level that even the bio-luddites will be seduced…

HT – I would like to return to your Manifesto on Singularity, Turning into Gods. How are you using the milennia-old technique of storytelling and the century-plus-old medium of film to tell your story about humanity’s post-biological future?

JS – I’ve always loved movies and documentaries. They offer a way to make sense of our ourselves and contextualize the world around us. I simply want to explore these wonderful ideas and extrapolations about our future in this way. Almost nothing is as pleasurable as being transformed by a film… They make us see the world in a new way, they move us, they make us laugh and cry and get the goosebumps. They add something to our lives. What a gift!

HT – From a (Hollywood) Studio perspective, how are you planning to sell this project when there are almost no archetypes or very few precedents (i.e. Barry Ptolemy’s Transcendent Man on Ray Kurzweil) that are seen mainly by a handful of individuals at film festivals? The scientific aspect of the Singularity is far too complicated for most to digest and, in the words of one of my favorite screenwriting gurus, John Truby, the Mythical dimension (of films) is “extremely episodic.”

JS – I’m good friends with Barry Ptolemy and he’ll likely be a collaborator on Turning Into Gods... I’m pretty confident we’ll find a way to get Turning Into Gods to make a splash – certainly we’ll benefit from an increasingly wired population hungry to find good content on social media platforms. Maybe we can create a viral campaign. The success of the Turning Into Gods TEASER is already encouraging… It’s been everywhere from Vanity Fair to Singularity Hub… so really running the gamut!

Until the day when, in the words of Kurzweil, “there will be no clear distinction between human and machine, real reality and virtual reality. [When] we will be able to assume different bodies and take on a range of personae at will. [When] human aging and illness will be reversed: pollution will be stopped; world hunger and poverty will be solved. [And, until] nanotechnology will make it possible to create virtually any physical product using inexpensive information processes and will ultimately turn even death into a soluble problem…” I will be meditating on the future of humanity cuddled with a copy of Dante’ Paradiso which is:

The apotheosis of the virtual world, of nonmaterial things, of pure software, without the weight of earthy or infernal hardware, whose traces remain in the Purgatorio. The Paradiso is more than modern; it can become, for the reader who has forgotten history, a tremendously real element of the future. It represents the triumph of pure energy, which the labyrinth of the Web promises but will never be able to give us; it is an exaltation of floods and bodies without organs, an epic made of novas and white dwarf stars, an endless big bang, a story whose plot covers the distance of light-years, and, if you really want familiar examples, a triumphant space odyssey, with a very happy ending. You can read the Paradiso in this way too; it can never do you any harm, and it will be better than a disco with strobe lights or ecstasy. After all, with regard to ecstasy, Dante’s third cantica keeps its promises and actually delivers.

Umberto Eco, “A Reading of Paradiso,” On Literature

 

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In PSITTACUS’ Theatrum Mundi, Macbeth gets a Web 3.0 treatment

Giulio Camillo Delminio’s teatro della memoria based on his Teatro della memoria, Venice, 1550

“In the future…a new generation of artists will be writing genomes the way that Blake and Byron wrote verses.” Freeman Dyson (Theoretical Physicist and Mathematician)

Young Hyun and Bradley Huffaker, A frozen moment of activity in the Internet universe, San Diego Supercomputer Center at the University of California; also, exhibited in: Design and the Elastic Mind, Courtesy Museum of Modern Art, NY (Feb-May, 2008)

During the past two years theatre and performance art spaces and training programs have been forced to close down, across the United States and Europe. Recently, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) abandoned its live theatre festival; the esteemed National Theatre Conservatory in Denver is phasing out its graduate program; and, highly regarded non-profit companies like the Pasadena Playhouse are disintegrating. Even a remarkably affluent community like Nantucket, MA – where ‘millionaires mow the lawns of billionaires’ – has failed to protect its tradition-in-the-making of seasonal theatre. Seaside Shakespeare, founded by actress, producer and director, Susan

McGinnis, has had to suspend its programming for an entire on an island which prides itself in being a National Historic District. In other words, even proximity to absurd amounts of money does not signify a community possessing the foresight to preserve its intangible heritage. In Europe, a similar dissolution of support for non-tangible cultural patrimony is taking place. Only last week, a Dutch choreographer friend, Edd Schouten, told me that his program at Daghdha Dance Company, in Co. Limerick, Ireland is “struggling for financial survival.”Now, imagine a group of young theatre artists who, in the middle of the worst economic downturn since the Depression, has the fortitude (or shall we say the chutzpah) to start a multimedia production company at the heart of the intensely competitive entertainment capital of the world, in Los Angeles.

Psittacus Productions, however, hardly resembles our vision of what a start-up performance arts venture ought to look like. The company founders’ tri-coastal (London, New York, Los Angeles) team have made their marks on four continents, including 49 states across the US. Robert Richmond of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama; Louis Butelli of the prestigious Aquila Theatre Company; and, the dynamic dramaturg, Chas LiBretto comprise Psittacus’ founding members. Along with other collaborative partners, the Productions team have nearly a century worth of experience as: writers, actors, directors, performers, composers and choreographers.

The rich theatrical heritage and vast body of experience of Psittacus’ creative members promise to inject much-needed life and vibrancy into the vanishing world of Classical Theatre. The company’s mission is “to create innovative theatre art to share with the community, and to investigate the ways in which modern life and technology affect the way we tell stories.” In other words, Psittacus has set out to unveil and stage the corpus of our collective memories – as embodied in classic Western literature – in the highly stylized and aesthetized form of theatre via Web 3.0, smart phones, and other technological apparatus.

This is, fundamentally, what differentiates Psittacus Productions from nearly every other performance art group that uses aspects of multimedia: the company produces performative works which begin with technology. Their art is grounded in the principle to create narrative that is expressly and simultaneously crafted for the stage and the Internet. Psittacus’ mission is to “allow the art form of theatre to truly reflect the experience of being alive at the start of the 21st century,” says Butelli. As a performance laboratory, the company engages “the power of social networking and new technologies to create an essentially virtual theatre and production company.”

As an artistic genome par excellence, theatre’s primary function is to explore the collective intelligence and artistic expression of individual creators – writers, actors, designers, choreographers – and the ways in which they relate to one another as well as to a greater whole.

Unlike most traditional art forms where artists act as solitary figures basing the majority of their work on singular vision(s), “theatre is that rare animal in the arts.” Butelli explains that the medium is “a fully collaborative form, wherein a company of players who know each others’ work, strengths and weaknesses can grow and flourish.” The collective improvisatory nature of theatre, too, allows for new and unexpected encounters and results to develop.

Even for creatures known for their mimetic abilities, “social interaction, reference, and full contextual experience are important factors in learning to produce and comprehend an allospecific code.” No, this University of Arizona study was not about theatre performers but about Psittacus Erithacus – that life form after which the company is named. “It’s pronounced ‘SIT-ih-kuss'”!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Mrshwc6ukY&hl=en_US&fs=1&]

It’s pronounced “SIT-ih-kuss,” Courtesy Psittacus Productions

The mother of all collective intelligence arts, theatre is a mechanism whose primary functions are to identify and (re)discover our communal heritage – our collective memories. In this sense, Psittacus’ mission to connect the future of our lives and how we relate it to our present and past lies at the roots of modern (16th century-present) theatre.

Few young performing arts groups can rival the knowledge that the founders of Psittacus possess of the theatre of the Renaissance. As a matter of fact, Butelli and LiBretto met while working at Susan McGinnis’ Seaside Shakespeare, on Nantucket, in 2008. A decade ago, The New York Times hailed Richmond’s directorial work on a production of Cyrano De Bergerac (2000) to have “set a high standard for charm and invention.” The NYT’s D.J.R Bruckner, equally, reveled in Butelli’s performance in the Comedy of Errors asserting that he possess “the timing and precision of a dancer, [who] might be made of rubber.” The DC Theatre Scene called him “the fabulous Louis Butelli” who played his part (Grumio) in Taming of the Shrew “to perfection.”

 

Giulio Camillo Delminio’s teatro della memoria based on his Teatro della memoria, Venice, 1550

More than half a century before William Shakespeare wrote his Tragedy of Macbeth (in 1604-11) – whose adaptation marks Psittacus’ world premier performance – the great Renaissance thinker, Giulio Camillo Delminio (1480-1544), published the canonical Idea del Theatro. Camillo envisioned his teatro della memoria in the future tense since it was yet to be built. Based on the ancient ‘art of memory,’ Camillo’s teatro was a virtual mnemonic space that embodied all the knowledge in the world. The actor/participant would take position in the middle of the stage and seek to grasp all “eternal truths” that depicted “the various stages of creation, from the first cause through the angels, the planetary spheres, and down to man.” This order of ‘eternal truths’ was registered through a Cosmologically Wide Web of link systems that was based on various tightly or loosely related loci (places or spaces), in a simulated environment. Simulated, since, first, Camillo’s theatre had not yet been constructed; and second, in its Classical genesis, the practice of the ‘art of memory’ takes place in an imaginary spatial structure when a physical one does not exist, or suffice.

Much like Medieval encyclopaedism; Renaissance thesaurus, wunderkammer, cornucopia, bibliotheca & musaeum; and Late Modern Era the Internet; theatre is a compilation of visual and textual forms which has served as reference points for humanist educational programs. Moreover, none of these phenomena have only existed as physical (tangible) entities, but foremost as mental and virtual categories. Their primary mission to collect texts, objects & information has been a cognitive activity that may be appropriated for social and cultural ends. In other words, the correlation between the theatre and the Internet is not only suitable.. it is inevitable.

In Kabbalah, Magic, and Science, The Cultural Universe of a Sixteenth-Century Jewish Physician, David Ruderman explains that “the basic planetary images” of (Camillo’s) Renaissance theatre “were talismans receiving astral power that could be channeled and operated through the agency of the theatre. By mastering the proportions of universal harmony whose memory was preserved in the theatre’s structure, the operator could harness the magical powers of the cosmos.”

And, what can be more magical than the experience of, literally, observing the creative soul of a group of artists travel across oceans and continents via the World Wide Web, in real time. This is such stuff as dreams are made on wherein a group of vibrant performers in Los Angeles can put on a comic book-flavoured adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth in Hollywood that may be seen by viewers from Seattle to Stuttgart and Singapore. Richmond who has worked in Europe & across the United States, describes his directing philosophy as an exploration of “space, time, physicality, and relationships in unique and creative ways.” In this spirit, Psittacus’ 21st century configuration of theatrum mundi turns the world into a theatrical community by attempting to challenge and blur ideological, local and temporal differences.

Just as Camillo wrote his text on his teatro della memoria in the future tense, Psittacus, too, awaits its wooden O wherein resident and visiting artists can generate one of the first large-scale fusions of the theatre with the full spectrum of new technology. “We propose taking over a raw, unused commercial space in downtown Los Angeles for a year,” Butelli explains passionately, “We will, then, retrofit it as a theatre with all the needed technological devices that will help us connect with our audiences around the globe.” Psittacus is determined to generate something quite revolutionary.

In a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, Clay Shirky writes, “There is no easy way to get through a media revolution of this magnitude; the task before us now is to experiment with new ways of using a medium that is social, ubiquitous and cheap, a medium that changes the landscape by distributing freedom of the press and freedom of assembly as widely as freedom of speech.” So, how does Psittacus plan to start its media revolution?

The company calls on all modern day talismans with stellar power who will channel their philanthropic might to the exploration of universal truths through the agency of the theatre. In simpler terms, the company needs all the financial help that it can receive. According to Butelli, much of the reason for the financial troubles that so many arts organizations are experiencing is “because they rely so heavily on a limited number of super wealthy donors who have been fueled by the stock market.” Psittacus’ funding model is to rely on smaller cumulative sources. To that end, the company is taking a number of assiduous measures that include joining KickStarter, which according to The New York Times is an “online site that helps creative people find support.”

On June 18-20 and July 9-25, Psittacus begins its first season with A Tale Told By An Idiot; a new 60-minute stage adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Determined to make a most memorable first impression, Psittacus’ Macbeth is “a visually stunning textual and movement piece with a comic-book aesthetic and original techno score.” The live performance will be streamed over the Internet and shared via social networking sites during which viewers can engage in a real-time chat. Viewers Psittacus

Louis Butelli is promising to become to the American theatre what Jason Silva is to Singularity. Both Butelli and Silva are young, dynamic and extremely talented individuals whose infectious energy and passion for their respective fields enrapture their viewers. In fact, it is from Silva’s forthcoming documentary Turning Into Gods that I borrowed the above quote by Freeman Dyson, “In the future…a new generation of artists will be writing genomes the way that Blake and Byron wrote verses.” The future is, indeed, very near.

 

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