Saturday, March 25, 2006

I don't exist (until you see me)...

Los Angeles is full of people who yearn to be discovered, to have their existence validated by the gazes of as many people as possible. Staring is not impolite, it is currency. Out here, film and television are understood to be ways of brokering massive channels of visual attention (thereby creating fixed corridors in which to hang as many-money making billboards as possible in the spectator's line of sight).

This is the exact opposite of Sartre's gaze. "Hell is other people," he famously said. The gaze of "the Other" annoyingly robs an individual of their perceived freedom; it interrupts one's private worldview with another unknown private worldview, and is therefore comes across as a threat (this is one possible explanation for a lot of the weird looks and cold stares one might encounter in Europe). Of course, you have to have a private worldview to be robbed of it. Which brings us back to Los Angeles. Here, it seems, many people sacrifice their personal worldview in order to study the external flow and complex patterns of gazing so that they may position themselves as close as possible to (if not inside) the attention pipeline.

(photo by Paul Gachot)


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