We Live in Public. Inevitably – A Review

You have a Facebook profile. I do too. You’ve probably also had a MySpace profile. You may still have one, despite the fact that it’s no longer considered “vogue” and the only users on MySpace are pretentious Art-Punk rock groups and thirteen year olds. Regardless of where you’ve pitched your virtual tent, the large majority of people in developed nations are active in this digital social lattice. We blog, we vlog, we tweet and we text, and we let people into parts of our lives that would otherwise go unnoticed. Who cares about the bowl of Lucky Charms and Xanax you had for breakfast this morning? Plenty of people do. So log on to Twitter and tweet it!

This concept isn’t new. In regards to internet history, it’s actually archaic. Back in the late 90’s, fledgling artist and “dot com” success Josh Harris envisioned a future where one’s privacy was voluntarily diminished in order to be part of a club of voyeurs. He saw this as an inevitability. With the path technology was taking at the time, and with the people’s ever increasing need to consume information, Harris predicted an advent of technological social congregation. We Live in Public illustrates the course taken by Harris to realize this vision in the most bracing and physical way possible; in an underground “hotel”, with over one hundred volunteers and with countless webcams and camera men watching every individual. Sleeping areas, toilets, even showers weren’t off limits. Needless to say, FEMA and the NYPD eventually gets involved, especially after complaints of gunfire and violence come about.

Eventually, the film becomes a tale of how to lose friends, money and how to alienate yourself. Harris allows himself to be a victim of his own neuroses, telling business associates and colleges that his previous projects were simple (extremely expensive) “experiments”, and his apparently most nourishing relationship a “fake”, merely utilized for another art installation. Once a bachelor, a savant with millions, he becomes a depressed misanthrope looking to sell whatever intellectual property he can.

We Live in Public spins an interesting yarn, a kind of riches to rags story of an man with a gigantic chip on his shoulder who seems to need to prove to himself, more than anyone else, that he’s “…one of the first great artists in the twenty-first century.”


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