I’ve been putting off this post, hoping it would coalesce into something more intelligible, but I am realizing now I just have to go for it…
I have been admiring Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s media mash-up project hitRECord for over a year now, so when I heard he was bringing a live show to Seattle, I jumped at the chance to see him live and learn more about the endeavor. Beyond being a fan of his work (and, ahem, his visage…) I am in awe of what he is doing. Here is an actor who could absolutely rest on his laurels, or spend his days in a money-fueled narcotic haze, but here he is, earnest as all get out, making art and encouraging others to do the same.
From the very start, the show was crackling, effervescent, emotional and more than anything, fun. I found myself trying to categorize the beautiful short films so I could explain the project to others, and so I could start to get a toehold and contribute myself. I couldn’t do it, and moreover, I realized that it didn’t matter. The work is alternately whimsical, hilarious, political, stripped down…most of all, the work is in a liminal state, all of it subject to remixing and reiteration, open-ended art in progress. To quote a hitRECord, I love living in the future!
The themes at work at hitRECord are themes that I’ve always been interested in: originality, ownership, creativity, reference, and of course, bricolage, but there is a bracing positivity that permeates this work. Whereas Guy Debord and neo-Situationists like Kalle Lasn take culture and détourn it by adding a cynical or didactic spin, hitRECords seem to emphasize simultaneously personal and collaborative work. In a time of intellectual property battles and homogenization in every sphere, the work that comes out of these collaborations feels honestly new.
That’s not to say it is without flaw! There is something übermeta and almost stifling about recording every movement, but here it seems less about broadcasting minutia and more about collecting observances. JGL acknowledges the need for things that are special only in the moment by playing music that can’t be used on his site, i.e. Lithium by Nirvana. These records still end up on the web, but I really like the sentiment.
An interesting side effect of the project is the commentary it prompts on Internet friendships in general. Since the project is basically a digital bee, it’s natural to assume that participants are the kind that prefer to work in solitude, who are socially maladjusted in some way. Quite the opposite: being in a room with people who use the site or intend to was thrilling. I went alone, but ended up connecting with a Twitter friend (who wrote a thoughtful write-up here) and three others, all of them delightful, smart people.
Beyond that heartening experience, I noticed that the nucleus of the project himself was setting an awesome example of what it means to be our age (30-ish) right now. I’d wondered whether MR. JGL was merely "narcissing" himself with this undertaking, but he seems genuinely committed to pulling stories out of other people, which is something I thought our generation had forgotten how to do, something I thought the Internet killed. As I Tweet and blog and blather, I remember something from the Almost Famous screenplay:
103 INT. HOTEL ROOM -- DAY 103 They sit together, hair askew, in sunglasses, resting against the headboard. Carefully, Russell identifies his thoughts. RUSSELL I feel... like his parents. Penny runs a worried hand through her hair. PENNY I know. RUSSELL I wonder how that happened. PENNY You ever notice that all our sentences begin with "I?" RUSSELL I hadn't, no. PENNY 'Cause we should work on that. He looks at her, plays the guitar a little.
JGL and his growing legion have taken up the challenge, and I’m ready to join them!