ND/NF Closing Night We Live in Public: Everyone is famous now (like it or not)
It’s amazing how much of our lives we share online. YouTube, Twitter, MySpace updated from your iPhone to represent your iLife as you send regular status-updates/tweets/voice-or-video recordings of your current physical/emotional/technological situation–it almost makes blogging seem hopelessly archaic. But it’s this obsession with our rapid technological melding that informs We Live in Public, a documentary by Ondi Timoner.
Ostensibly, the film follows a “dot-com-kid,” Josh Harris, through his meteoric rise and fall through the dot-com boom/bust of the late 90s and, seen through one prism, We Live in Public could be seen as a sort of bio-pic. But really what we are seeing is beyond any one person, even one as fascinating as Harris. For as Josh forgoes the “second cars and second houses” of his millionaire buddies, he instead invests in alternative-art parties and cult-like experiments using human “rats.”
His projects involve trapping people in a pod-like “hotel” where they sleep, eat, fight and screw with impunity in front of thousands of cameras watching their every move. He’s so interested in this, in fact, that when his first try is busted (by the Giuliani administration), he turns the camera on himself. The result in both cases is relative disaster. After a short period of time, a televised life becomes one of exaggerated drama, performance, where people are alienated from themselves and others. Eventually, even Josh’s own ties with reality, which were tenuous at best, are severed as well.
This would all seem like a morality tale, except that the future for Josh Harris is now and the bulk of the film takes place before anyone even knew what “MySpace” was. Instead, at it’s best, We Live in Public plays like Shakespeare; it gives us a tragic figure to illuminate the folly in our own lives. For if we can intuit from the film that a world where we are all in the public eye is one doomed to failure, then we must wonder what sort of world exactly we live in now.
-Nicholas Feitel, ND/NF New Voice