Cultural Dreams

We live in the age of the image.
Today, no other realm of culture displays so much power
than that of the image.
Words, music, literature,
books, newspapers, rock'n roll, theatre...
nothing comes even close
to the authority of moving images, in cinema and television.

Why is it that today, not only in Europe,
but all over the world,
"going to the pictures"
is synonymous with
"seeing an American film"?!

Because the Americans realized long ago
what moves people most
and what gets them dreaming.
And they radically implemented that knowledge.
The whole "American Dream"
is really an invention of cinema,
and it is now being dreamed by the whole world.
I don't want to discredit this,
but merely ask the question,
"Who is dreaming the European Dream?"
Or better: How are we encouraged to dream it?

Wim Wenders, “Giving Europe a Soul?”

Lately, I’ve become obsessed with “regionalism” as an artistic movement of the late 1930s (Grant Wood, et. al. + the Federal Writers Project). The thing that most people call “American” is actually more of a function of the cultural values of hot spots such as California and New York, or even Texas. These values don’t necessarily coincide with the vast majority of the country. The agreement on what “American” means (for better or worse) is a function of mass rather than local medias.

This hasn’t always been the case. Regionalism is usually branded as “thinly disguised nationalism.” The arc towards a “European Dream” subsumes the “regionalism” of the nation-states involved; it’s the end of regionalism all over again. But I think its loss comes at a dear price, it’s ultimately the death of the local in favor of the “general.” This general perspective is the property of those who talks the loudest or acts the rudest, rather than any sort of true consensus—such “universal” agreement seems impossible.

But most significantly, I think, we lack an awareness of just what a “local” media might entail. America had that in the newspaper explosion of the late nineteenth century, but lost it with the advent of mass media.

Posted by Jeff at December 24, 2006 11:11 AM

December 2006 (1)