Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Applause! Applause! Review of Thus Spoke The Spectacle at The Kraine Theater by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of Thus Spoke The Spectacle at The Kraine Theater was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 5 (2015) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Thus Spoke The Spectacle
Written & Produced by Eric Goodman
Guitar & Vocals: Eric Goodman
Drums: Leo Freire
Lighting Designer: Jake DeGroot
Theatrical Consultant: Leonie Ettinger
Sound & Lighting Technician: Eric Dittmore
The Kraine Theater (85 East 4th Street, NYC)
Reviewed 5/31/15 at 8:00 p.m. 

Thus Spoke The Spectacle is an ambitious rock music video media criticism project inspired by the spirit and works of Guy Debord, Marshall McLuhan, Neil Postman, Lewis Mumford, Jacques Ellul, Noam Chomsky, Erich Fromm and Friedrich Nietzsche. The reference to the "spectacle" in the title comes from a 1967 book of philosophy by Guy Debord entitled The Society Of The Spectacle in which he argues that in a world in which most information is conveyed electronically via the words, sounds, and images of mass media, that our lives are guided not by actual events, but by carefully constructed representations of the events and "pseudo-events" that bombard our consciousness. Debord argues that authentic social life and activity has been replaced with its representation and that passive identification with the spectacle supplants genuine activity and unfolds before our eyes into a form of "official reality." 

Other effects of this media onslaught are to distract our attention from the real issues our country faces, to direct us towards consumption, to mobilize public opinion, to desensitize us from the horror of real life by presenting negative news in juxtaposition to positive images, to destroy critical thinking, and to create a new morality including a completely re-written Ten Commandments that current generations are expected to live by. Relevant to that latter point, Guy Debord wrote, "The extraordinary new conditions in which this entire generation has effectively lived constitute a precise and comprehensive summary of all that, henceforth, the spectacle will forbid; and all that it will permit."

In Understanding Media, Marshall McLuhan said, "All media work us over completely. They are so pervasive in their personal, political, economic, aesthetic, psychological, moral, ethical, and social consequences that they leave no part of us untouched, unaffected, unaltered...Once we have surrendered our senses and nervous systems to the private manipulation of those who would try to benefit from taking a lease on our eyes and ears and nerves, we don't really have any rights left." In Amusing Ourselves To Death, Neil Postman adds that in this new era of media domination, technology has become an ideology, because "it imposes a way of life, a set of relations among people and ideas, about which there has been no consensus, no discussion, and no opposition." In The Myth Of The Machine, Lewis Mumford shared his belief that "Western Society has accepted as unquestionable a technological imperative that is quite as arbitrary as the most primitive taboo: not merely the duty to foster invention and constantly to create technological novelties, but equally the duty to surrender to these novelties unconditionally just because they are offered." Continuing on the theme of technology in The Technological Society, Jacques Ellul argued that "television, because of its power of fascination and its capacity of visual and auditory penetration, is probably the technical instrument which is most destructive of personality and human relations."

In Manufacturing Consent, Noam Chomsky argues that "marginalizing people through directing them to consumption is a major means of control." He adds that "the smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum." In The Sane Society, Erich Fromm wrote, "It is naively assumed that the fact that the majority of people share certain ideas or feelings proves the validity of these ideas and feelings. But the fact that millions of people share the same vices does not make these vices virtues." Finally, as Friedrich Nietzsche wrote in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, "As the will to truth thus gains self-consciousness...morality will gradually perish now...this is the great spectacle in a hundred acts reserved for the next two centuries...and perhaps also the most hopeful of all spectacles."

Eric Goodman has performed Thus Spoke The Spectacle at theaters, colleges, conferences, festivals, galleries and other performance venues throughout the United States. It is an important piece of work because it reminds us of how the media manipulates our thoughts and actions. Many people believe that the spectacle is reality and, in so doing, we deny ourselves the right to think on our own, outside the spectacle. As a result, our quality of life is impoverished and with such a lack of authenticity, human perceptions are affected and there's a degradation of knowledge with the hindrance of critical thought. 

The goal of this production is to "wake up the spectator who has been drugged by spectacular images." The problem with Thus Spoke The Spectacle is that Eric Goodman completely fails to achieve that goal. The various video clips entitled "Separation Perfected," "Now...This," "The Tragedy That Remains," "The Uninterrupted Monologue Of Self-Praise," Mr. Money," Frankenstein," "The Myth Of The Machine,", "WMD Blues," "Culture Death," and "Thus Spoke The Spectacle," are not properly introduced or explained. It is never clear what point is being made or how it relates to the media criticism of those social commentators and philosophers who inspired the show. There is no humor, no clear message, no relief from the monotony, and no guidance provided to make the points understandable to someone not familiar with the subject matter. I only understood a bit more about what Eric Goodman was trying to say by doing additional research after the show but most audience members are not going to do that. Most will remember seeing edited video clips, hearing some rock music and remembering Eric Goodman reading words here and there that were incomprehensible. Thus Spoke The Spectacle is unfocused and not at all entertaining. While it was intended to be informative, it fails in that primary mission as well.

The Spectacle's new Ten Commandments are presented as a Top Ten list with the number introduced by David Letterman and the Commandment projected on a video billboard in Times Square. The Spectacle Commands - #10 Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods Before Me; #9 Thou Shalt Worship Graven Images; #8 Remember the Superbowl Sunday & Keep It Holy; #7 Honor Thy Corporation & Thy State; #6 Thou Shalt Worship Numbers & Hold In Disdain All That Can't Be Counted & Verified; #5 Thou Shalt Desire What I Demand; #4 Thou Shalt Consume What I Command; #3 Thou Shalt Maximize Profit; #2 Thou Shalt Be Efficient; and #1 Thou Shalt Watch!

For more information about Thus Spoke The Spectacle, visit www.TheSpectacle.net and for tickets, go to https://www.vendini.com/ticket-software.html?e=66037df93ae0411c90742901907caa17&t=tix. There are three more shows at The Kraine Theater on Sundays at 8:00 p.m. on June 28th, July 19th and August 30th. $12.00 for students. $15.00 for adults. 

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