Issue #5: Blockbuster
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A long time ago....

The term BLOCKBUSTER first appeared in the 1940s, coined by U.S. print media outlets to describe a new design of large, aerial bomb capable, upon explosion, of destroying an entire city block. By the 1970s, BLOCKBUSTER had been appropriated by the entertainment industry and was used by reporters and reviewers to hype awesome audience responses to movies like Jaws and Star Wars, which subsequently ballooned the Hollywood landscape into a mass-market cultural phenomenon.

In the decades since, the meaning of BLOCKBUSTER has transformed yet again. The word now connotes marketing rhetoric, and is deployed as much by Pharmaceutical companies to sell drugs—like the osteoporosis “bone blockbuster” Denosumab—as by producers to sell tickets. The BLOCKBUSTER, no longer descriptive of destructive potential nor viewer response, has become a directive to consumers: A Must See command.

Today, with the rise of instantaneous and participatory media, this BLOCKBUSTER entertainment experience has been divorced from an exclusive relationship with theater and is quickly creeping inside public institutions like Art and Science. We find ourselves unable to turn our attention away from James Cameron on the ocean floor, tweeting “Hitting bottom never felt so good”; or The Hobbit on New Zealand Airlines flights; or Roger Ebert’s death atop headlines; or Tilda Swinton in the MoMA and Kubrick at the LA County Museum of Art and Herzog in the Whitney. The BLOCKBUSTER experience is crowd-sourcing, and everyday life is, more transparently, an act of audience.

 

A long time ago...

An ancient Buddha—or was it Laurence Fishburne?—proclaimed that "A painted rice cake [i.e. a painting] does not satisfy hunger." Dōgen, a 12th century Japanese Zen monk, explained:

"There are few who have even seen this painting of a rice cake and none of them has thoroughly understood it. The paints for painting rice cakes are the same as those used for painting mountains and water. If you say the painting is not real, then the material phenomenal world is not real… Unsurpassed enlightenment is a painting.”

Where can we see such rice cake paintings? The experimental space, we think—whether cinema or surf club, or even an individual’s mental awareness—invites a distance from more habitual roles of paying attention and, in doing so, offers a theoretical canvas onto which the “paints” of the illusory BLOCKBUSTER might achieve an intelligible dimensionality. 

The BLOCKBUSTER, therefore, will be the theme for the fifth issue of INCITE. We turn to the BLOCKBUSTER to better examine today’s rice cake; to confront the relationship between T.S. Eliot and E.T.’s Elliot; to ask, in the words of Robert Langdon, The Da Vinci Code’s fictional Harvard academic, “How do we penetrate years of historical distortion to find original truth? How do we write our own histories, personally or culturally, and thereby define ourselves?” What borders today frame Dōgen’s landscape? Would you direct the next Hobbit if given the chance? Our awareness hungers for enlightenment—our attention for entertainment.



 

 

 

 

 
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forthcoming issue
issue #7: sports

past issues
issue #1: manifest
issue #2: counter-archive
issue #3: new ages
issue #4: exhibition guide
issue #5: blockbuster
issue #∞: forever


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