Wax, or The Discovery of Television Among the Bees ★★★★½

And they say ZDF only makes Television for old people...

Yeah I'm not done being astonished as to how David Blair got german public television to co-produce this yet. Apparently it was also the first film on the internet - and in a way it is to the 90's what a film like Out 1 is for the 70's, a hypertext about a generation, a society and the world it exists in, the material circumstances that impact it and lead to what is commonly understood as an era, a timeperiod defined by one or usually multiple different outside circumstances. These eras are themselves a product of accelatory economics. In the middle ages when Thomas Aquinas declared prices to be eternal and interest a product of the devil, it was not uncommon to live essentially the same life as your parents, over and over again bar some surface changes. For the preceding ages this is even more true. With faster circulation of money and information (which go hand in hand) this has changed and a lot of people will probably find more ways to divide the 20th century than the last 1000 years. What plagues these modern eras is the perpetual sense of utopia in the past or in the future. For the 50's it were the suburbs, for the 10's & 40's the end of the war, for the 60's counter culture. An accelerating body has no constancy, no direction, these confined utopias are of course much like gated commuties a dispicable and comforting illusion, a lie.

So yeah, the 90's. Each revolution brings forth it's own forms of communication, which can divide and multiply as by cell division to ever more obscure and fragmented forms of communication. For the 90's this was video art and the internet. This communicative vacuum is the world this film inhabits and it buzzes with strange sounds like the vengefull underbelly of a civilisation, the voices of the dead of past or future. Paradoxically new and more advanced forms of communication, or warfare, or agriculture lead us to fragmentation, not unification. Leopold Kohr, the austrian anarchist-philosopher (and lawyer and economist) described in his book "The Breakdown of Nations" how once an institution reaches critical power it will spontaneously explode, just like an atomic bomb. Kohr coined this "the atomic theory of social misery" and further specified: "the most dangerous source of brutality is not professional or institutional, but physical. It is bulk -- sheer physical bulk. For bulk, size, mass, not only leads to power; like energy it is power -- power congealed into the dimension of matter".

David Blair said about his film:

"Bees apparently make wax and then make accurate hexagons from it by standing a certain distance apart from each other. When I looked up bees in books at the library, there were an indefinite number of oxymoronic pairs of opposing metaphors drawn from these social relations… in seventeenth-century England, they were used to explain why the monarchy should be abolished, but also why it should be restored.

If, retrospectively, I am to make a connection between these two facts, I can only guess that I and others always stand a certain distance apart, in relations that lead both to endless transmission and contradictory reception of all kinds of images on all kinds of screens, mainly mental but made from plastic and metal, and that this must go on until communal thinking replaces all of this somehow, and all paradoxes are absorbed. I am told a quantum age will do this for us."

Before we go any further can we take a second to marvel at a quote from 17th century England about Bees I always found sounded exceptionally bonkers:

"Those who have handled sciences have been either men of experiment or men of dogmas. The men of experiment are like the ant, they only collect and use; the reasoners resemble spiders, who make cobwebs out of their own substance. But the bee takes a middle course: it gathers its material from the flowers of the garden and of the field, but transforms and digests it by a power of its own. Not unlike this is the true business of philosophy; for it neither relies solely or chiefly on the powers of the mind, nor does it take the matter which it gathers from natural history and mechanical experiments and lay it up in the memory whole, as it finds it, but lays it up in the understanding altered and digested. Therefore from a closer and purer league between these two faculties, the experimental and the rational (such as has never yet been made), much may be hoped." (Francis Bacon, Novum Organum)

Yeah, maybe I have a weird sense of humor but what Blair and Bacon are onto here is dialectics; discourse between 2 opposing viewpoints (thesis and antithesis) to produce a result (synthesis) that can resolve the paradox; in this case the paradox of communication (or in Bacon's case science).

Solitude is very easy; it is social collission that produces friction. A swarm, if organized in the right way (i.e. the wrong way) can quickly reach the critical mass to spontaneously explode, be it via predator drones or carpet bombings. The fascist tendencies of mass media only accelarate this problem and further develop explosive allgomerations but little in the way of true communication.

Ironicly it is precicely distance and fragmentation that produces peace and not agglomeration as Blair also noted above. Ceaseless agglomeration could only be death from the future (as Hivemaker theoriezes about the explosive reproduction of his bees). Later on Jacb Maker notes how this world had become twice as large, twice the houses, twice the time - and it was useless. Kohr noted in his book:

"Power and aggressiveness are inseparable twin phenomena in a state of near critical size, and innocence is a virtue only up to a certain point and age. If there ever should be a powerful country without any desire to lick and dominate others, it would not be a sign of virtue but of either overage or mongoloid under-development. In the United States, neither is the case. So, unless we insist once more that Cicero's definition of man does not apply to us, the critical mass of power will go off in our hands, too."

Solace is to be found in the small, not the bulk. A lesson we will never learn and haven't learned from the Persian Empire, Alexander's Empire, The Roman Empire, the Abbasid Empire, The Ottoman Empire, The British Empire, The American Empire. With increased volume of communication if anything Empires have become even more ruthless. Or if you want Blair's more hopeful remark to end this: "this must go on until communal thinking replaces all of this somehow, and all paradoxes are absorbed. I am told a quantum age will do this for us.". Note that a quantom is the smallest possible unit, an indivisible unit, note how big empires hate communes wth a burning passion.

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