„Infotainment” is an installation that combines sound and media art within one spatial framework of a dark room, offering to the audience a disquieting experience of being immersed into an abyss of news and information that describe the contemporary world as it is constituted by the omnipresence of mass media and entertainment. In an attempt to repeat and rethink Guy Debord’s idea who in 1973 has made a film based on his own theory exposed in the “Society of spectacle”, exploring the opportunities constituted by his strategy of “detournement”, Aleksandra Hirszfeld, the authoress of “Infotainment”, wonders about how this strategy might be re-cycled in a world that perhaps has in the meantime grown out of the old patterns of social and cultural critique, re-seizig and re-absorbing what had previously been a line of flight from the system, so that it turned inwards and rechanneled critical thinking into an acceptable and consummable lifestyle that can be bought at the market of ideas. In order to get at grips with this condition of contemporary criticism one has to invent rules of game that would constitute a closed area of autonomous commentary to the reality. This has been as much true about the time in which Debord acted as well as it is still more true about our time.
To begin with, it is notewirthy that the very notion of “infotainment” has been re-captured from the discourse of news-tv production. Since information itself seems to be increasingly uninteresting for the public, infotainment tries to make information entertaining and “attractive” for reasons different than mere informing and often remote from it. Thus, the totality of the infotainment system informs our thinking not in terms of objective representation of reality but in terms of subjective attraction by presentation which in fact seems to be the principle of the spectacular of which Debord talked. Indeed, it seems that the information becoming infotainment for commercial reasons is one of the most agressive, even if subtle, intrusions into the collective consciousness we have been recently affected by. With her work, the artist is trying to recapture this new intrusion, resist it, unmask its stupefying efficiency and use it on her own. By creating autonomous point of view within infotainment that allows to quote its main mechanisms both parodically and ironically, Hirszfeld engages into a tactic argument with the regime of spectacular, which is a way to avoid and question its domination. What she does is generally in accord with what Debord had once intended, but it is noteworthy that her work is much more of “fun” than of Debord’s apocalyptic loftiness. She also substitutes Debord’s dialectical mechanism of escaping totality by her circular automaton of infinite repetition within the limitless w/hole (dark room as a dark w/hole represents reality in the work).
A dark room seems at first glance to be rather unspectacular a place by definition, but it is endowed with a soundtrack that sounds like a “trailer” of the present time, or a short sound-narrative of the actual, a holistic one, though. It brings to mind a tv or radio news-show with its musical components as well as rhytm and inner discontinuity, but it is also a symphony based on found footage sounds and fragmented, re-mixed music (mainly orchestral) pieces that both illustrate and narrate the story which anyway is perfectly familiar to us. The familiarity of almost all these sounds and melodies is purposeful, as it should trigger the automaton of our imagination and make it produce the expected, associated images. The track consists mainly of pieces of film music as well as news and quotations from Debord which are selected and reassembled together by the artist following several principles that both differ from and re-capture the mechanisms of infotainment. The illustrative and moving music that accompanies the words is at times contrasting them or commenting them, while in general being also a kind of amplification and intensification of the news. In a dark space of this intense “broadcast” the audience become by themself spactators, as their brains, receiving the audio impulses, start producing automatically the images that are already associated with these by the regime of tv-infotainment. What we hear automatically turns into the visual, so strong and endurable these connections are. We don’t have to see in order to be immersed in the image. Our imagination is colonized by the images that have repeatedly stimulated us, and Hirszfeld’s installation is using on its own this colonization, both unmasking and triggering it. Although we are in the middle of the dark, the sounds imply a narrative of diverse scenes from the contemporary world, like in a video-clip. But these scenes and events have no connection other than that they are the icons or common places of our collective consciousness. There is no chronology, no genuine history, just an ever re-mixed totality of the circular, as the symphony never ends, always resuming itself, in an eternal da capo. This is how we are determined by infotainment, which is excactly what “infotainment” is trying to make us realize by confronting with the dark w/hole.
There is also a lightbox in the dark. It is the only visible point there, a light-house, a guidance to those in the dark. It suggests a reference point which might explain or give ultimate sense to the sounds. It looks familiar too, but it is hard to tell what excactly it resembles. It is a mix of popular icons, we suddenly realize. It combines a clown, Marylin Monroe, Einstein, and a few others, perhaps. However, it is no reference point, no guidance, it only refers back to the sounds; forming a complex circularity of references without the object, without any ultimate meaning. Thus there seems to be just a closed system of double circularity where no sense can be established while everything is so well known, so many times heard-of, iconic and repetitive. Displayed in a limitless dark of the room, all these familiar impulses turn into something amazingly alien and distant.
The experience produced by “Infotainment” in the spectator is thus one of distancing oneself and becoming aware of one’s being colonized by the power mechanisms of infotainment – and in this way, perhaps, identifying with the clown’s awareness of the ridiculous sadness of our everyday condition as those submissed to the all-mighty spectacle.
dr Jacek Dobrowolski