Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Peter Greenaway on the Future of Cinema

In a recent speech at the judging of SecondLife Machinima, Peter Greenaway tells us that cinema is already dead, and media like SecondLife is its inheritor.

I would love to refute Greenaway's requiem for the cinema, proclamations of its death were premature before, often just before extremely productive periods like the film boom of the seventies.

This time though, the patient may really be terminal.  I read recently where something like eighty percent of all cinemas ever built are now either abandoned or demolished, with another ten percent converted to other uses, that leaves us with less than ten percent still showing movies.

Overall, movie attendance is way down, even though revenue is up slightly due to the increase in ticket prices for 3-D films.

It's particularly unfortunate because it took us about a hundred years to learn how to use the concept of motion pictures and develop a language for it, and now its most remarkable and beautiful venue teeters on the brink of oblivion. 

As many blissful hours as I have spent sitting in the dark with strangers, I'm afraid my grandchildren will never have the same experience.  Cinema will probably go the way of Opera, preserved as a revival in a few municipal centers, but unavailable to most of the world.

As for the second half of Greenaway's prediction, I have felt for quite a while that the future of the motion picture probably lies in video game like formats and services like YouTube.

Recently, Peter Jackson remade the 1933 original King Kong.  His production stands as a testament to the use of digital technology for motion pictures, technology originally developed for video games.  His production of King Kong exists only because Donkey Kong came before it.

Greenaway says he's disappointed with the entries he was given to judge in the machinima contest, but he offers no guidance or clues on how to make better entries for the next contest.

At some point I'd like to say that, although Greenaway has said many times how much potential he sees in SecondLife as an art form, he doesn't seem to be using it very much as an artist.  I've seen his name attached as a consultant on a number of pieces, but never as the principal artist.

With his training in painting and cinema, I would think he has the ability, but perhaps lacks training in how to use the tools.

I agree with Greenaway that virtual reality can be the next big thing in art, but we're lacking the few key artists to make it possible.  That's not to say there aren't any at all.  There are some people I would consider giants in these early years of virtual reality as an art form.  People like AM Radio, for instance, or Rachel Breaker.

Perhaps Greenaway is wrong and the future of the medium is not machinima, but rather the experience of being in the virtual spaces live.

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