A Lecture on Identity, Dolls, and Robots
Below is a link to a lecture I gave back in 2016 at Swiss L’Abri called Conceptual Humanity. It was a difficult lecture and has taken me this long to get around to editing it, complete with dozens of photos and videos for illustration. Since one of the key subjects in this concerns the problematics of a new view of dolls and robots, both subjects adjacent to puppetry, I thought I’d go ahead and risk putting it up here for your delectation. I didn’t make this lecture to get on anyone’s list of politically/non-politically correct topics. Don’t expect to agree with me. Go in very skeptical, see if I prove my points.
I came up with this lecture because over the years I’ve been noticing the long term effects of living in a narcissistic culture where following your dreams, your desires, your heart, ends up in a chaos meanings and identities. This is a probe of some of the further reaches of identity where the traditional notions of what it means to be human no longer apply. Where everything can be deconstructed and reconstructed according to only one principle… I am myself.
To be clear I am motivated by something quite different. Obviously as a 21st Century person (who can remember the last century with clarity) I am an individual as much as anyone else. But I agree with late great Russian filmmaker Andrey Tarkovsky who wrote in his book Sculpting In Time:
Art is born and takes hold wherever there is a timeless and insatiable longing for the spiritual, for the ideal: that longing which draws people to art. Modern art has taken the wrong turn in abandoning the search for the meaning of existence in order to affirm the value of the individual for his own sake. What purports to be art begins to looks like an eccentric occupation for suspect characters who maintain that any personalized action is of intrinsic value simply as a display of self-will. But in an artistic creation the personality does not assert itself it serves another, higher and communal idea. The artist is always the servant, and is perpetually trying to pay for the gift that has been given to him as if by a miracle. Modern man, however, does not want to make any sacrifice, even though true affirmation of the self can only be expressed in sacrifice. We are gradually forgetting about this, and at the same time, inevitably, losing all sense of human calling.
In other words life isn’t about me, my vision, my self expression, important as it is to express a personal vision. And the same goes with how we move through this world. It isn’t about the mirror, the photo, the selfie, the ‘Likes’. It’s about what we see in the world and choose to give to others. And in our desperation to prove ourselves (I am certainly no stranger to this temptation) we find ourselves diminished in the paucity of the substance of our own identities. Hence we, rather than simply being whatever it is we are (a truly terrifying idea), we adopt masks, that, as in the old 1964 Twilight Zone episode called The Masks, shape our faces to our self-absorbed disguises and desires.
So take some time if your are so inclined. Get ready for something that, I think no matter who you are, will give you pause to think. And, if you can, download it. I suspect I may have material in here that someone may want to claim for copyright purposes.
More puppet stuff coming soon!
And support this work through PayPal. Keep me afloat out here in Georgia.
Pretty please with honey on top?
And for the first essay where I dealt with these strange issues go here: