Godfrey Reggio on Singularity 1 on 1: We Are in the Cyborg State!

Godfrey Reggio

Godfrey Reggio
photo©ErlingMandelmann.ch

Godfrey Reggio is an inventor of a film style which creates poetic images of extraordinary emotional impact for audiences worldwide. Reggio is prominent in the film world for his Qatsi trilogy - Koyaanisqatsi: Live Out of Ballance, Powaqqatsi: Life in Transformation, and Naqoyqatsi: Life as War, essays of visual images and sound which chronicle the destructive impact of the modern world on the environment.

Thanks to my friend Tom Lowe, I was very fortunate to attend the premiere of Godfrey’s latest film - Visitors. In my view Visitors is one of those fundamentally important films that one simply has to watch. If you are fortunate enough to see the film the way I did – in glorious 4k and accompanied by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra live performance of Philip Glass’ original music score, then I guarantee it will be a movie experience like no other. And chances are that it will touch and move your heart even if it doesn’t do so for your head.

I would also suggest that you must go and watch at least Reggio’s first film - Koyaanisqatsi. [If you can also see Visitors it will be even better.] Otherwise it is unlikely you will get many of the references we are discussing during the interview.

At any rate, during our 1 hour conversation with Godrey Reggio we cover a variety of interesting topics such as: why he is a refugee from another period who had the opportunity to live in the middle ages; the guiding principle behind his life and work; why and how he got interested in film-making; his Qatsi trilogy as another way of seeing the world and how it was adopted by popular culture such as MTV;  Visitors and shooting both 4k and Black-and-White; the evolution of Reggio’s ideas and his take on the technological singularity

My most favorite quote that I will take away from this interview with Godfrey Reggio is:

“It’s our behavior that determines the content of our mind. [...] We become what we do; we become what we see; we become the routine that we are a part of…”

(You can listen to/download the audio file above or watch the video interview in full. If you want to help me produce more episodes please make a donation!)

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Who is Godfrey Reggio?

Geoffrey_ReggioBorn in New Orleans in 1940 and raised in Louisiana, Godfrey Reggio spent 14 years in a Roman Catholic religious order of men (the Christian Brothers) — living in community, dedicated to prayer, study, and teaching. Based in New Mexico during the 1960’s, Reggio taught school, lectured, and co-founded Young Citizens for Action, a community organization project of juvenile street gangs. Following this, Reggio co-founded La Clinica de la Gente, a Santa Fe community medical clinic, and La Gente, a community organizing project in the barrios of Santa Fe.

Based in new Mexico during the sixties, Reggio taught grade school, secondary school and college. In 1963, he co-founded Young Citizens for Action, a community organization project that aided juvenile street gangs. Following this, Reggio co-founded La Clinica de la Gente, a facility that provided medical care to 12,000 community members in Santa Fe, and La Gente, a community organizing project in Northern New Mexico’s barrios. In 1972, he co-founded the Institute for Regional Education in Santa Fe, a non-profit foundation focused on media development, the arts, community organization and research. In 1974 and 1975, with funding from the American Civil Liberties Union, Reggio co-organized a multi- media public interest campaign on the invasion of privacy and the use of technology to control behavior.

Koyaanisqatsi, Reggio’s debut as a film director and producer, is the first film of the Qatsi trilogy. The title is a Hopi Indian word meaning “life out of balance.” Created between 1975 and 1982, the film is an apocalyptic vision of the collision of two different worlds — urban life and technology versus the environment. The musical score was composed by Philip Glass.

Powaqqatsi, Reggio’s second film, conveys a humanist philosophy about the earth, the encroachment of technology on nature and ancient cultures, and the splendor that disappears as a result. The film focuses on the modern way of life and the concept of the Global Village, entwining the distinctive textures of ancient and Third World cultures. Powaqqatsi was co-written, co-produced and directed by Reggio and composed by Philip Glass between 1985 and 1987.

In 1991 Reggio directed Anima Mundi, a film commissioned by Bulgari, the Italian jewelry company, for the World Wide Fund for Nature which used the film for its Biological Diversity Program. Accompanied by the music of Philip Glass, the twenty-eight minute Anima Mundi is a montage of intimate images of over seventy animal species that celebrates the magnificence and variety of the world’s fauna.

In 1993, Reggio was invited to develop a new school of exploration and production in the arts, technology, and mass media being founded by the Benetton company. Called Fabrica – Future, Presente, it opened in May, 1995, in Treviso, Italy, just outside Venice. While service as the initial director of the school through 1995, Reggio co-authored the 7 minute film Evidence which provides another point of view to observe the subtle but profound effects of modern living on children.

Naqoyqatsi, the final film of the QATSI trilogy, chronicles the most significant event of the last five thousand years: the transition from the natural milieu, old nature, to the “new” nature, the technological milieu…

Godfrey Reggio is a frequent lecturer on philosophy, technology and film. He resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

 

Visitors Film Trailer:

Remember – no actors, no acting, no plot, no script, no dialogue…

Thirty years after Koyaanisqatsi, Godfrey Reggio – with the support of Philip Glass and Jon Kane – once again leapfrogs over earth-bound filmmakers and creates another stunning, wordless portrait of modern life. Presented by Steven Soderbergh in Black and White digital 4K projection, Visitors reveals humanity’s trance-like relationship with technology, which, when commandeered by extreme emotional states, produces massive effects far beyond the human species. The film is visceral, offering the audience an experience beyond information about the moment in which we live. Comprised of only seventy-four shots, Visitors takes viewers on a journey to the moon and back to confront them with themselves.

 

  • Terrence Lee Reed

    Interesting. No, I don’t mean the interview, merely how you came about having Godfrey Reggio on your podcast. The only thing I can think of is that you are trying to be more like TED and include the arts as well as science. I think that is a noble aspiration even though I found Godfrey’s comments ultimately void of meaning. I do respect that he does not want to expose himself online, he does not have to worry about that from me at least, I have utterly no interest in knowing anything more about the man that what I just heard.

  • http://www.singularityweblog.com/ Socrates

    I appreciate the feedback Terrence, though for the record, I am not trying to be like TED, just to bring in a variety of interesting people with interesting experiences and opinions. Some work better than others, and some work better for one person rather than another…

  • Knotanumber

    I have enjoyed the recent interviews with artists such as
    Godfrey Reggio and Stelarc, even though, at the outset, I found myself asking: “Why
    are these guys on the podcast? And when do we get back to the
    techno-entrepreneurial-visionary types?” By the end of each interview, however,
    I thought that my perspective of technology and progress had been stretched and
    enriched. I think creative artists have a unique and often unorthodox mindset
    that challenges our worldview and calls into question some of our basic
    assumptions. And this challenging and questioning is a good thing in my
    opinion. I believe it’s important to broaden the singularity debate so we don’t
    fall victim to a sort of groupthink promoted by the techno-optimist futurists,
    of which I count myself a member.

    Godfrey Reggio hit on several points that I think could be
    the basis for entire dialogues…

    What he refers to as the “mass-man”, referring to great
    human collectives such as governments and corporations that are capable of
    launching men to the moon or terraforming the planet. In building systems of
    large-scale organization and governance, has mankind created a sort of hive
    mind?

    Technology trade-offs and the technological imperative (the drive
    to pursue more technology in order to alleviate the ill effects of previous
    technologies). Godfrey himself seemed deeply conflicted over the use of
    technology in his craft.

    The loss of diversity. How commoditization and globalization
    are creating a mono-culture, represented by a single, blue, undifferentiated sphere
    (the image of Earth from space).

    Imagery as the basis for a common, affective language. Turning
    the tables on the anthropologist. What would primitive man have to say about
    modern society and how would he express his thoughts sub-linguistically?

  • http://www.singularityweblog.com/ Socrates

    Thank you very much for your comment friend – I am very happy if I am able to break the mold a little bit by bringing diverse points of view within our discussion. This is one of my main goals and I am happy if you feel that you have benefited from watching these interviews ;-)

  • dani pettas

    Awesome interview.

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