We Live In Public
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The filmmaker Ondi Timoner seems destined to have made this documentary, about the profligate and elusive Internet pioneer Josh Harris, because, as her film reveals, she was a participant in some of its most dramatic events. Harris, who was a lonely child obsessed with Gilligan s Island, understood the Web s transformative promise as early as 1980, and, in the nineties, founded Pseudo.com, a New York-based blend of streaming video and original content, for which he hired a horde of downtown artists and turned them loose in an environment that one observer likens to Andy Warhol s Factory. The film s turning point comes when he tries to realize his plans for interactive virtual reality in a basement commune which he compares to a concentration camp where volunteers would move in and sign themselves over, allowing their every move, including bed and bath activities, to be recorded. Timoner was there, and is captured in Harris s disturbing yet fascinating archival footage. He took the notion a step farther in his next venture, as he wired his home with cameras and mikes, locked himself in with his girlfriend, and interacted online with viewers, who quickly moved from being spectators to being participants in the couple s life. Harris, in Timoner s privileged view, is graced and cursed with a visionary strangeness; artist, con artist, and businessman; genius, clown, and control freak he nonetheless brought forth dark wonders, which the director thankfully rescues from oblivion. --Richard Brody, The New Yorker
Flickr and Facebook have nothing on the social networking experiments of pioneering Internet guru Josh Harris, whose ingenious and unsettling exploits fall under documentarian Ondi Timoner's penetrating gaze in WE LIVE IN PUBLIC. Like Timoner's DIG! this astounding new docu burrows into the thin and darkly funny spaces between artistry and vanity, isolation and community, collaboration and exploitation, sanity and madness. Although the Warhol-esque Harris may put off some viewers infuriated (or intimidated) by his immodest brilliance and borderline sadism, others will be turned on by a provocative pic that deserves an audience as expansive as MySpace. Timoner, a bright young docu talent, seems to share the obsessive artistic methods of her eccentric subjects, including the dueling pop icons of DIG! & WE LIVE IN PUBLIC, edited for maximum pulse-quickening by Timoner and Josh Altman, is culled from thousands of hours of footage collected over a decade. Some of this material was originally captured by Harris, a compulsive videographer who suffered a nervous breakdown at the tail end of his own wired "Truman Show" -- the 24-hour-a-day multicam Internet broadcast of his stormy relationship with live-in g.f. Tanya Corrin. PUBLIC also makes extensive, bone-chilling use of Harris' other major work: the late-1999 New York underground hotel-cum-performance space that, complete with surveillance cameras, interrogation rooms and live gun range, he operated under the name "Quiet." Officials shut it down in the first hours of the new millennium. Timoner's portrait of the visionary Harris grounds his main theme -- that humanity will soon become a race of gadget-obsessed, agoraphobic zombies -- in the artist's own lonely, TV-saturated '60s childhood. But the viewer's sympathy for Harris often is strained by his use of friends as virtual-reality guinea pigs. Some will feel that just desserts have come to the control-freak streaming-video innovator who squandered an $80 million fortune on bacchanalian "aphrodisiac parties" and ill-advised business decisions as the dotcom bubble burst. (Harris, aside from venturing to Sundance, has been in semi-seclusion for the better part of a decade.) An intensely immersive, even draining film, WE LIVE IN PUBLIC which doubles as a short history of the Internet, is technically tops on every level -- including its volume. Much of the film is set to an ear-splitting cacophony of moody pop-rock, as befits a character as loud and abrasive as Harris. Pic's end credits find Harris thanking fellow art-pranksters Marcel Duchamp and Ray Johnson, who might well have appreciated his prescient vision of the virtual world run amok. --Rob Nelson, Variety
Top Customer Reviews
At the center of Timoner's film, which is more or less a biography on the life and times of an idiosyncratic entrepreneur (Harris), are two bold experiments examining what the increasing role of technology in our lives does to our privacy and our personal lives. In the first, a bizarre projected dubbed "Quiet," Harris spends upwards of $2 million to house 100 people in an underground bunker in New York City for the last 30 days leading up to the turn of the century. Now, housing 100 people in a bunker doesn't sound all that bizarre, but the truly ground breaking part of the project is that the 100 participants were being filmed at all times (eating, sleeping, showering, and even in the bathroom). Each bed (or "pod" as they are called) is equipped with a display monitor and a video camera so that at any time any other person can watch and communicate with you on your "channel." Still, this doesn't sound that bizarre, right?Read more ›
If one day, dear reader, you wake up and after tea, coffee or whatever breakfast nutrition takes your fancy, you suddenly experience a deep and abiding desire to plumb the worst excesses of the dot com craze, including the subsequent crash and burn that cut the market value of the Nasdaq in half from a level it hasn't even begun to approach in the years since the Spring of 2000, and if along with this sudden urge to revisit the destruction of enterprise value, you also have a hankering to see the corresponding human wasteland and the complete and utter debasement of individual self worth that money can be induced to create, well then friend, you are indeed in luck and We Live In Public is precisely the film for your viewing pleasure.
In glorious and living color, this film will show you the self abuse and degradation highly talented individuals who should have known better willingly subjected themselves to in the belief (misguided as things turned out) that the Internet is one big friendly global village that can provide for our every need, want and whimper for the amazingly low price of nothing down and nothing to pay. Ever. The leader and chief flutist of this Scheherazade was a man named Josh Harris who convinced his deluded minions that "Everything is free, except the video we make of you. That we own." To their enduring chagrin, they discovered that everything wasn't free, that psychic and emotional scars remain even after the cameras stopped rolling.
Strangely, the filmmakers interviewed no one from the New York City police department, the Mayor's office, or the leading press organs. There is a snippet of tape from a New York Times journalist, other than that, the film consists of sound bites from a coterie of Mr. Harris' family, friends, and former inmates at his asylum who still believe they were involved in something wonderful and precious.
Precious. Now that's a film worth seeing.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Not so well known story of the first reality show/pioneer of the internet.Published 10 months ago by Nubian Princess
Scary as hell. The man who foresaw it all- reality TV and the internet as an integral part of our lives is part genius and part mad man. Great to show students.Published 16 months ago by inner city teacher
Crude and Rude as well as nostalgic. It needs to have a rating of XPublished 16 months ago by David P. Mays
I love this film. I saw this twice. This film evolved over 20 years and I heard the director speak about this film. Read morePublished on June 11, 2014 by Creative Guy
Genius? Crazypants? Lonely guy? Arrogant bastard?
Ondi Timoner captures every facet of her subject, Josh Harris, and his complicated relationships with tech, art, and... Read more