iara lee interviewed by Giannis Papaioannou for OXY Mag (Greece)

18 June 1996 – iara lee interviewed by Giannis Papaioannou for OXY Mag – Greece


1. What is the main idea behind a film like “Synthetic Pleasures”?

When I first heard about the giant indoor beaches in Japan, I was totally fascinated. It dawned on me that we are adapting the environment to suit our own needs; unlike the rest of the animal kingdom, we are able to manipulate nature according to our desires. Initially I intended to make a short film, but I quickly expanded the idea to include controlled environments, bodies and minds, and the project became a full length film.

2. Describe the visions the film reflects. Are they connected to present or future realities and environments? Does it concern us or the future population of this planet?

I believe the future is now. What you see in the film is not science fiction, we are living it right now. It is transition time. Technology is so ubiquitous and a catalyst of changes. All established values are now up for grabs, we are reevaluating our ideas of nature, reality, life. As Jaron Lanier says, ‘We are writing the constitution of the future, and everyone must help write it. We must not leave it up to our leaders’.

3. How do you envisage the Future? How safe and secure would you feel in this Future? Are there any fears facing new kinds of pain and pleasure in the near future?

The future has always been and will always seem scary. What is most scary about the future is just that it holds something different in store. With this fast paced society, I hope we can still afford taking risks. It will be sad if everything became just a controlled experience. I hope people won’t stop experiencing the unpredictable.

4. Is there something that you don’t like about computers and technology?

I have a love/hate relationship with computers. On one hand they make me much more efficient, but on the other hand they tend to bog me down and keep me chained to them all day. I treat them respect and do not think humans are more special than machines. I really do believe that computers have souls.

5. Is there a brand new synthetic world out there, waiting to be discovered by the masses?

The world is already synthetic. What you see in Synthetic Pleasures is not really about the future, it is about the present, except we don’t realize it yet.

6. Is style important in creating this synthetic brand new world?

Definitely. Plastic is a very hip material in the fashion world. Top designers have been using it for years, and we stylize it in many ways. Computer music, too, is very fashionable. Nowadays, musicians can write, record, edit, sequence, mix and copy a CD right in their bedroom. The music these musicians make is very cool.

7. What does it mean to enjoy something that is synthetic?

The line between the natural and synthetic worlds is getting very blurry for me. That is what’s interesting about the film for me – the fact that the difference between intelligence and artificial intelligence; reality and virtual reality is becoming questionable.

8. As a person, what do you miss mostly from life ( idea, value, state, machine, anything)?

I miss having more time to get my creativity in action. There are not enough hours in a day. Despite all we’ve been able to do, we haven’t been able to stretch time. I tend to be very stingy with my time – I never have enough.

9. From all these synthetic places in your film which one is your favourite? Which one was the funniest filming?

The time when I first met Orlan sticks out in my mind. When she came to be filmed for her interview, I noticed the implants she had in her forehead, and I wondered if she had been in a fight! I think it is mind-boggling that she didn’t just have the idea to alter her appearance to how she wanted, but that she actually went out and did it is really wild.

10. How old were you when you sent your first e-mail?

Believe it or not, I am not a cyber-girl from way back. I still feel like I am always trying to keep up with new technology. Years ago, a computer was just a typewriter as far as I was concerned. I was really introduced to the many other aspects of it through the making of the film.

11. How do you explain the popularization of the Internet?

The Internet creates a virtual community, where you can represent yourself exactly how you want to, and it is a great way of being in touch without exposing your vulnerability. Hey, but don’t forget that the physical world exists! One should not hide behind virtuality, but use it to enhance human contact. The net is also a simple way of accessing a whole world of information – great for research.

12. What do you think will follow after the Internet?

The regulation of the Internet is next, in fact it has already begun. Corporations are becoming interested in tapping its potential. There will be no more free-for-all. I worry about it.

13. Why did you choose a techno soundtrack for your film? Can you describe how this kind of music fits in future environments?

I think the most suitable music for a film about computers is computer music. The whole standard of making music has changed, and a whole new set of skills is required. Now you have to know just as much about computer programming as you do musical scales, if not more.

14. Do you have plans for a sequel?

The way I see it is that Synthetic Pleasures is a brand name. There will be follow ups, but probably not in the form of another film. We have already expanded on the concept with the CD soundtrack, the book, the fashion and the web site. There are still plenty of areas we can explore that have been untapped. All we have to do is find them, and Synthetic Pleasures can live on indefinitely. Who knows, maybe in the future you’ll be seeing Synthetic Pleasures brand frozen food, shampoo, kitty litter and restaurant chains!


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