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The above two frames are excerpts from the Propagate film discussed in the article. Click below to see the 40 second sample.

Propagate [Quicktime 9MB]


By: [sic]

Marshall McLuhan once wrote, "the electric age gave us the means of instant, total field-awareness...in the electric age, we wear all mankind as our skin." Decades later, humans exist in the electric nude, networked with our machines and each other, unprepared for the raw expanding shockwave of the information bomb. Within the shockwave, news and advertisement, truth and spin, interaction and transaction instantly intertwine in complex spirals of exploding information. The irony of our age remains an accelerating human entry into a networked life, minus the psychic training to properly navigate its complex environment. In a media-saturated environment, where all messages are tagged with commerce, our psyches struggle to swim in pools of persuasion.

This Western commercial experience is now sharpened and polarized within the post-911 environment. Inside a burgeoning surveillance culture, fear is one of the hottest catalyst products on the information market today. As the Brave New World merges with 1984, networked free thinkers operate outside the bubble, forming new dynamics beyond national boundaries. New and old forms of resistance coalesce in asking ironic but serious questions. Who is watching the watchmen? Why are freedoms limited in the name of "freedom"? On February 15, 2003, over 10 million frustrated citizens converged on urban centers worldwide, in unified protest against the American and British war machine. These "smart mobs" represented a new birth of linked social operation beyond borders, a globalized democracy of resistance merging the digital commons and the street.

From this worldwide state of emergence springs the [sic] and Obey Giant film collaboration entitled "Propagate", a film designed as beneficial virus for propagation within the Western nervous system. Within a hyperlinked consensus reality approaching Hollywood's Matrix, Propagate operates as detournement, shattering the spectacle of mediated experience. My primary challenge in writing and directing Propagate is the merger of vision with Shepard, graffiti print culture meets new media cinema. The following is the transcript of an August 2003 chat in which the small Propagate team met online to discuss the challenges of executing the Propagate concept. In order of appearance, "pjrich" is Peter Richardson, an animator who helped bring much of the Propagate creative vision to life. "Phenom" is [sic], writer, director, and animator of the film. "K" is Polar, Norwegian musician and sound designer, who is creating the custom soundtrack for the film.

Within the conversation, specific sound files, URLs, and animation samples are referenced as realtime scenes in development, while the macro conversation remains focused on the overall creative message and drive of the film.

pjrich: yee-haw! improv media art
Phenom: no doubt
Phenom: emailed K to come on so we can do sample/city thing now
pjrich: which samples are we choosing from?
pjrich: or is it from everything in tests/audio
<<< K has joined >>>
<<< 11:55:28 AM >>>
pjrich: is demo-006 the latest?
K: yes , well thats the latest thats usable i guess
Phenom: peter, did you grab the samples from hotline yet, the ones of all the people gathered so far?
K: there's also hrmph
pjrich: i haven't heard it, in general are you timing to the animatics? because sfx are easy to put in later, i'm thinking it might be easier for us to edit to music than for you to try to compose to video
pjrich: i haven't heard any of it yet except a couple of the demo animatics w/music
Phenom: might want to download some as we talk cuz then we can pick em out quick and have graphics and samples done for that scene pjrich: downloading now
Phenom: i agree with peter, k makes overall music to current visuals/animatic, fills in rest, we adjust, then sfx are added in at end
pjrich: do we have any jesse jackson clips? he has some great samples i've heard elsewhere
Phenom: i really want the "i am somebody" speech from wattstax, no clips now, as far as i know
K: i sendt you a list of links a little while ago where I think it might be
K: witha bunch of political speeches
Phenom: i can't surf now cuz of downloading. the only one i found in skimming was democratic national convention speech which sux
Phenom: did you find "i am somebody" for sure or is it possible it's in there?
K: i just recall seeing a few jesse jackson speeches in there
K: they were just named after time and place
Phenom: we want his old school speeches when he was a real person, as depicted in shep poster
Phenom: peter, do you have any names, places, or years in mind? helps w/ search?
pjrich: did you send the list of links to the mailing list? i can't find it in my inbox
pjrich: for jesse jackson clips? nope
Phenom: will forward it here, hold on
Phenom: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/jesse/speeches/index.html
Phenom: http://www.authentichistory.com/
Phenom: http://www.americanrhetoric.com/newtop100speeches.htm
Phenom: http://lib.berkeley.edu/MRC/audiofiles.html
Phenom: http://www.nps.gov/edis/politspeech.htm
Phenom: http://www.webcorp.com/sounds/nixon.htm
Phenom: http://www.law.harvard.edu/studorgs/forum/audio.html
Phenom: http://www.hpol.org/byspeaker.asp?t=browse
Phenom: http://stalin.hotmail.ru/
K: no i sendt it to your regular email , i have it here
K: oh there it us
Phenom: i see nixon speeches. we have nixon posters. he's a bit cliche, but we can do him pretty easy
Phenom: lsd, methods of control by timothy leary on that harvard site
pjrich: demo-006 makes me happy. this shit is tight
pjrich: the chopped-up radio trafficky noise over the bombers is a nice touch
K: what do you think of the beats before the bomb drops , the kind of half tempo variations
K: we discussed those before , just curious what your thoughts
pjrich: i think it's appropriate, the hi-hat variations suggest the doubled speed, create tension and anticipation
pjrich: same with setting up the combination of the synth+bomber noise as the background and then dropping it for the zoom into the goggles
K: the idea was to have some effects or maybe even speech right there with the google zoom-zoom
pjrich: something WW2-era maybe, an FDR speech, war-related
Phenom: but easily applicable to modern info war
pjrich: or something more sinister?
K: I've been thinking sinister all along , but seth thinks something more with a sense of "hope" or feelgood , try to explain again seth ?
pjrich: hm, ironically?
Phenom: exactly
Phenom: enough to make people want to join the cause
Phenom: but what's the cause?
K: to obey resposibly?
pjrich: like a ww-2 recruitment radio ad?
K: responsibly
Phenom: obey with caution
K: right
pjrich: "join now for your country"
Phenom: join now for your culture
pjrich: a new life awaits you on the offworld colonies
Phenom: lol
Phenom: underworld colonies
pjrich: http://www.earthstation1.com/Radio_Propaganda.html is buttugly but looks like it might have some good source material
K: so what do you think seth , should I go back to demo-006 and try to make it more ..............ironic?
Phenom: it should be ironic but not sound ironic, if that makes sense
K: :(
Phenom: like when people see Shep's work...
Phenom: "oh, he's using Russian constructivist propaganda to say...?"
Phenom: "let's see, obey"
Phenom: "obey what?"
Phenom: "there seems to be some winks in this stuff."
Phenom: "that's ironic"
pjrich: right, but he uses the form pretty much straight up, and the question is asked outside of the piece. so we should appear straight up serious
Phenom: right
Phenom: it's after absorbing it all with some time and context that they get to irony of it all
pjrich: plus i think the images and speech samples will be "hella" ironic by themselves
Phenom: `it's postmodern, man, whooooah
pjrich: i don't know, i really like where demo-6 is heading, if it were up to me i'd say keep it up
Phenom: at this point, we pretty much have to
pjrich: and as long as we get the right samples and images in there it'll come off right
K: isn't it sort of ironic in a way alredy that we're shoing all this ww2 type graphics and playing 2010 style music to it , or is that not enough irnony
pjrich: it's another angle of contrast
Phenom: it's a good start
Phenom: on contrast tip, that's my area of comment
Phenom: the graphics are dark and foreboding
pjrich: because the idea of ironic propoganda is pretty modern still
Phenom: so if we can match that plus throw in a curveball with that "go get em" propaganda feel, it will be a bit better, imho
pjrich: ..although i have to say i find the guy holding his head to be pretty funny
pjrich: there's some good churchill stuff on that site
pjrich: although it's on the ironic border: "they're afraid of words, information"
pjrich: i put one up in tests/audio
pjrich: though a bit muddy
pjrich: could be cleaned
Phenom: i think we should avoid WWII peeps and go with mass media type noises and words, or go in route of advertising, maybe a twisted chomsky
Phenom: cuz first part of this thing is to say we're in information warfare, especially in ad space, where shep is playing around
K: check /diddy 001.mp3 before I go back to demo-006
K: little bit on the same tip as everyday
Phenom: i like it
pjrich: i'm cool with adspace stuff, do we have anything besides what already on hotline to pick from?
K: how much do you like it
K: is it closer , or close enough
Phenom: much closer
Phenom: it makes me bounce, want more
Phenom: i want to hear that dnb layered over it
Phenom: so that's all good signs
K: <insert large poop sound here>
pjrich: sort of a weird tempo to layer w/dnb
Phenom: your relief signal, i presume
pjrich: maybe some belgian hardcore
K: ok let me try to copy it over the dnb beat
Phenom: chomsky is only adspace stuff that comes to mind
Phenom: here are some good text quotes
Phenom: Blank Walls Are Political Silence.
Phenom: Not Many People Get Heard Over the Billboard Noise.
Phenom: not to be used necessarily but influence
pjrich: heh, it won't be irony if we agree with it
pjrich: right
pjrich: what do you think about actual advertising samples? e.g. radio ad stuff, not necessarily product-specific
Phenom: yeah, perhaps mix up a few chomsky words w/ ads...
Phenom: i am thinking very minimal here, almost like you're not going to get it
Phenom: stuff that leads through to printing press/radio waves/computers
Phenom: to point where we dive into rorschach psyche stuff
Phenom: never quite answering any questions or making obvious statements
Phenom: my reasoning is because we are setting stage and there's no obvious visual connection, so samples should be atmospheric and almost like the music and sound effects to start
pjrich: could be, but as long as the samples aren't talking about bombers at the beginning it won't be obvious what the connection is until the bombs drop, if even then
Phenom: would be good to have the sample be about information
Phenom: whether straight up or implicit
pjrich: it could be a 60's era educational film voiceover talking about computers or something, the information age
Phenom: i think that might push the border
pjrich: good or bad?
Phenom: the hip-hop heads have plundered all those samples to death
pjrich: true
Phenom: tho i like them
K: hang on a few secs I think I have something like that thats not been used
Phenom: how about hal 9000
Phenom: i think robots and info age! stuff is redundant tho
Phenom: at this point, we are the machine and deep inside the info age
Phenom: so to try and step outside like those in the past is eluding the gist of where we're at
K: give me 10 mins and I'll upload a few speech things
pjrich: okay, i follow you
Phenom: everybody in robotics is furiously trying to make robots not seem so binary and artificial, speech recognition and logic is jumping hurdles...
pjrich: ...i thinK: so that narrows it down to modern speakers who are sincere about a revolutionary cause?
Phenom: the main thing now is how we think and act, either as human, robot, or cyborg
Phenom: i think it's the ideas themselves, rather than how they're
Phenom: but saying nicely is good too, of course :-)
Phenom: i mean, robot voices, and future projective radio voice stuff
Phenom: as wired says "tired"
Phenom: same thing w/ all those modem noises you hear in songs, etc.
Phenom: always find that soooo funny, love the sound, but things are so transparent today
Phenom: makes it hard for someone to say, okay, "this is the internet" "this is the robot"
pjrich: i guess the problem is that it's much harder to find things in this vein that don't have that style, or haven't already been used
Phenom: how about "this is an ad. buy. thank you."
K: you could get that text-to-speech program on the mac to say it
K: i got one sample that might not apply to this part but maybe somewhere else "we're the ones in control , thats the whole point"
Phenom: yeah, but revolutionaries never say that
Phenom: it tells the Man too much and scares them into squashing them
Phenom: scares him, sorry
pjrich: we could just do it all in russian
Phenom: i think it would be good to mix up and give audio examples
of what we don't want to say in words at first
Phenom: like get a bunch of different languages and mix them in like a transmission jump
Phenom: japanese to german, russian to english, french to swahili...
Phenom: cuz this whole thing is kinda like we're hacking a signal transmission and broadcasting this propaganda video over normal channels
Phenom: so maybe like we're having a bit of signal bleed...
Phenom: those radio transmissions already, w/ bombers, are good start
Phenom: it's like we're Echelon, you guys know about Echelon?
pjrich: yep
pjrich: (be right back)
K: no sorry
Phenom: Echelon is run by England, Australia, US, and possibly others
Phenom: It's an information co-operation far beyond the CIA, KGB,
Phenom: they use planes, internet snoops, satellites, code breakers, everything
Phenom: to hack into worldwide signals
Phenom: they used it after 911 to intercept ALL satellite phone transmissions in trying to find Osama
Phenom: it's been around and building since WWII, England only just admitted to it's possible existence a year or 2 ago
K: i thought he was having tea and crumpets at the bush ranch on 9/11 ?
Phenom: i think bush was inserting said crumpet into his sphincter actually, but that's just what i read in the ny times
Phenom: so planes are both dropping info bombs and hacking at the same time
Phenom: the goggle guy represents the human operator guiding operations and also seeing all things
Phenom: planes are gathering and rebroadcasting, we're not out to hoard the information, just out there to absorb it and rebroadcast it with the truth filter on
Phenom: do you have a truth filter on your audio program?
K: the hum from the planes is interfearing with the music ,
Phenom: in new ditty?
Phenom: i like the hand-clapping type stuff in bagrd of the overall beat
K: it sounds cool with the photeky beat , let me send you a clip
Phenom: maybe you could start with that part, more emphasized, maybe cut up and flipped a bit, while planes are droning, etc. then bring in beat and lead to the keys part (melody/harmony...) when planes peel off?
Phenom: cool, let me know when it's up
K: raggamuffins.mp3
K: i gotta get some breakfast , be right back
pjrich: actually, me too, i'll be 20 minutes, i'm putting citytest2.mov up now
Phenom: cool. K, that's great! i like it a lot.
Phenom: i have sick classic reggae bassline i can play or sing (ahhh!) to you that may match the not and chord structure on keys, i think you'll like it
K: i bet the ricky soundtrack would be perfect for this
K: rocky
Phenom: eye of the tiger!
Phenom: i keep seeing this tiger in this saturation, it's starting to scare me
Phenom: plus the screaming black lady in the middle of the moth
K: is the sauration going to be pulsing like it is now ? like "flash flash - flash flash"
Phenom: ricky martin vs. mr t, let's get ready to rumble!
Phenom: some of the loops pulse, a lot of that timing is your processor choking while playing the swf tho
Phenom: it will look more smooth and faster as video
K: i had this idea if it's pulsing , what about a loud heart beating, and some pzycho-deli tinkels in the background
Phenom: lol
Phenom: that sounds good
K: so are you content with the last music clip
Phenom: the vibe is nice
K: cos I can add stuff to this offcourse i just wanted to get the vibe down
Phenom: i would try to get a fat bassline in there, and also, if you have time, try to develop a further line with the keys and strings, that jumps off into a hook that people will remember and sing
Phenom: propaganda!
K: i'll just have a pack of ladies sing "we love to obey"
Phenom: oh yeah!
K: like the mcdonnalds commercials
Phenom: and they need the kool-aid guy to jump through the wall and say aahhhh-bey!!!!!!
K: mayeb I should try to tie in the aaah bey
Phenom: with an acid sheet on his tongue
Phenom: you read my mind
K: with an acid sheet on his tongue
K: see , I'm the one in control , thats the whole point
Phenom: :-0
Phenom: <saliva dripping from corner of seth's mouth>
K: ok hooks are hard cos they often get cheesy , but I'll see what I can do
Phenom: we'll yank it if it sux
Phenom: a good hook is the biggest challenge
K: are you cool with the intro beats ? pieter seemd to like them
Phenom: yeah, it's cool, i like the shifty beats behind the diddy you did, reminds me of timbaland
Phenom: if you can get that kind of thing in, that would be cool
K: aah bey
Phenom: baaaah-bey said the sheep
Phenom: in wolf's clothing
Phenom: ahight, nuff talk

Clicking on the video sample below, it is possible to view a small section of the film sample created during the time of this chat:

PROPAGATE excerpt   
[ Quicktime 9MB ]

Note: If you would like to be kept abreast of activities on this project, please email the email address listed at the top of this article.


© 2003 21C Magazine