Better Living Through Circuitry

Jul 12, 2000 at 12:00 am

The sight and sound of the mother beat – a thousand flashing lights, a thousand pumping speakers. Technocratic shamans – DJs – lay hands on turntable altars, turned on, tuning in, dropping that beat. This ain’t your papa’s trip. It’s a brand new bag. And what’s in it? The beat. And it descends like the Pentecost on the raving faithful, their bodies speaking in tongues. If this ain’t heaven, then heaven can wait. It’s Better Living Through Circuitry.

In Circuitry, director Jon Reiss presents rave culture as a techno-theocracy: a religion of the senses amplified by technology (electronic, pharmaceutical), uniting true believers into one global nation under a plugged-in groove. Circuitry is both manifesto and evangelism in documentary clothing. When the DJs, musicians and graphic artists talk, a political lesson or a catechism often lies between the lines. Genesis P’Orridge of Psychic TV talks about rave against the bourgeois machine. DJ Spooky conceptualizes a digital Shintoism. The ravers, born again in the beat, give testimonials on how a DJ saved their lives from boredom and alienation.

Is living better through circuitry? The word "empower" seems to be on everyone’s lips. Technology empowers. "DIY" – Do It Yourself. Digitally sample the "reality" sold by mass media into your black box. Twist the knobs. Dice and slice. Splice the pieces into a new world order. Empowerment is spiritual, a permit to transcendence.

Better living through pharmacy? Reiss confronts the issue of drug use at raves uniquely, from a point of view that hasn’t been represented by TV news.

Though Circuitry’s digital video camera is our cybernetic eye into the rave experience, the actual rave scenes are too short to satisfy with their sweetness. Reiss also teases with short tastes of computer animation. This is a film ironically richer verbally than visually, a film of ideas mostly from talking heads.

"Energy," the theme word passed from the hippies to the New Agers, rediscovered, tuned in and amped up, pumping a thousand lights and a thousand speakers. The revolution has been televised. And the sound track’s the bomb.

E-mail James Keith La Croix at [email protected].