The Cinematic Smart Phone: The Analysis of Truth Or Dare by Jonas Lindstroem
The piece of work that I will be analysing in this essay is a poster advertising Jonas Lindstroem’s 2017 short film, TRUTH OR DARE: 21 Performances. I will be questioning if various factors of the film contradict its political message, and whether Jean Baudrillard’s theory on the hyperreal is essentially visualised. The film is meant to be a hyperbole of the content found on smartphones through 21 global narratives, each with an independent theme such as homosexuality, violence, pornographic content, police brutality, and euphoria. The work originally featured as a 15-minute film installation, which premiered at Johanne König’s Original Space in Berlin; a condensed 8-minute version was also uploaded online. This is the version I will be analysing. I can only speculate that Lindstroem included footage he considered to successfully convey these narratives, due to it being shortened. As well as my interest in the artist’s work, I selected this artefact because the poster features imagery which remarks strongly on this generation’s current relationship with social media and provokes thought.
I plan on asking three key questions; the first being whether Lindstroem is contradicting the subject matter of his film by the visual appeal of his work. Is it hypocritical or satirical to employ film as a medium when commenting on our fascination with screens? The second section of my essay will be a direct analysis of my visual artefact and its similarities to a piece from Banksy. Lastly, I will be exploring Jean Baudrillard’s theory on the hyperreal and how it relates to my visual artefact.
[Figure 2] TRUTH OR DARE – 21 Performances (2017) [online]. 0.35 [screenshot]. Directed by Jonas Lindstroem. Germany: Jonas Lindstroem Official Webpage. Available from: http://jlindstroem.com/ [Accessed 15 March 2018].
[Figure 3] TRUTH OR DARE – 21 Performances (2017) [online]. 5:20 [screenshot]. Directed by Jonas Lindstroem. Germany: Jonas Lindstroem Official Webpage. Available from: http://jlindstroem.com/ [Accessed 15 March 2018].
[Figure 4] TRUTH OR DARE – 21 Performances (2017) [online]. 6:24 [screenshot]. Directed by Jonas Lindstroem. Germany: Jonas Lindstroem Official Webpage. Available from: http://jlindstroem.com/ [Accessed 15 March 2018].
One thing that contributes to the aesthetic of the film is the attractiveness of the cast. As the film is meant to reflect millennials, it’s essential to depict a diversity of people for an accurate representation of the current demographic. Minorities are characterised, but each character is visually appealing which is also an unrealistic reflection of society. This could be argued to glamorise social issues raised. In an interview with contemporary culture magazine 032c, Lindstroem justifies the decision behind his choice of cast, explaining; “The truth only matters anymore if people click on it”  Lindstroem, 2017. This statement also suggests that he acknowledges visual appeal to be important in attracting an audience. In 2008, biologist John Medina stated that we are 65% more likely to engage with visual material compared to text and speech. This means that producing exciting visuals is an effective way in being political, as people are more likely to take an interest. Furthermore, it creates a platform for conversation. In the same interview, Lindstroem also expresses his reasoning for choosing to base his film around the subject of technological obsession, stating, “When you’re on the bus and zone out into that small, shiny surface in your hand, you aren’t really there.”  Lindstroem 2017. However, this comment is a contradiction due to the distribution of his work relying so heavily on online activity. It questions the authenticity of his concern over the impact of social media.
[Figure 5] TRUTH OR DARE – 21 Performances (2017) [online]. 4:00 [screenshot]. Directed by Jonas Lindstroem. Germany: Jonas Lindstroem Official Webpage. Available from: http://jlindstroem.com/ [Accessed 15 March 2018].
Regardless of Lindstroem’s true political stance, the images featured on the poster provokes the viewer to self-reflect and ask questions. The above image which features on the poster, could be argued as one of the most exciting visuals in the film. The narrative features exactly halfway through the film, which may have been done purposely to signify a pinnacle point. As for what is being portrayed, I have two theories; the man is recording the fire behind him or the man is unaware of the fire due to being immersed in his phone. I’m also left questioning who started the fire? I can recognise similarities between the above image and the 2003 mural by political street artist Banksy.
[Figure 6] Banksy, (2003) Flower Thrower [graffiti] At: Jerusalem: West Bank Wall [online]. Available from: https://www.michaeloart.com/banksy-his-most-powerful-pieces/ [Accessed 18 March 2018].
Both men wear black, a colour affiliated with protest. The fire in the background in Lindstroem’s work could also reference rioting. There is also a juxtaposition between unrest and calmness prevalent in both images. In Banksy’s work, the flowers are a symbol for peace, whereas the man’s relaxed posture in Lindstroem’s work suggests nonaggression. It is possible that Lindstroem could’ve been influenced by Banksy, however this could also be said about many other artists that contain a political undertone. Nonetheless, I think it’s interesting to compare both images.
During an interview with Claude Thibaut in 1996 on the topic of new technology, Baudrillard states that it is plausible “for the machine to metabolise the mind”  Baudrillard, 1996. Two years prior, Baudrillard wrote explicitly on the hyperreal in his book entitled “Simulacra and Simulation”. The term Simulacra derives from “Simulacrum”, which means to make a fake copy of something. According to Baudrillard’s theory, living in a heavily mediated culture distorts our view of the world because we’re retaining most of our information from virtual means (simulacra). This ultimately leaves us with simulations of reality; we’re not authentically experiencing anything. Our actions and reactions are almost always influenced by technology and those around us.
[Figure 7] TRUTH OR DARE – 21 Performances (2017) [online]. 0:26 [screenshot]. Directed by Jonas Lindstroem. Germany: Jonas Lindstroem Official Webpage. Available from: http://jlindstroem.com/ [Accessed 18 March 2018].
This theory could explain why the man in Figure 5’s possesses an unphased attitude to the fire behind him. As a viewer, this desensitisation is applied to us when looking at Figure 7. The image is presented artistically, which could be argued to trivialise the topic. The screen we view from distances us greatly from the tragedy. Would we pull out our phones at the sight of a man falling to his death in real life, or would it evoke a different reaction from us?
Whilst retaining Medina’s writings on the way our brain absorbs material in relation to imagery, as well as Lindstroem’s own comments on what he thinks consumers want, there’s strong evidence to suggest that he’s fuelling the internet habits of those who watch his film. Unfortunately, this also happens to be the most effective way in distributing information, as people are scientifically more likely to engage with visual work. Lindstroem as a result is hypocritical, but any artist who’d create work in a similar way would be too. In conclusion, I’m left with one final question; does the message he conveys outweigh his contribution to the problem? I think yes, because he seems to demonstrate a genuine interest in the social issues he discusses in his film, so his intentions are coming from a place of sincerity. In Lindstroem’s own words, “The truth only matters anymore if people click on it.”
TRUTH OR DARE – 21 Performances (2017) [online]. Directed by Jonas Lindstroem. Germany: Jonas Lindstroem. Available from http://jlindstroem.com/ [Accessed: 15 March 2018].
JONAS LINDSTROEM Uploads Our Fantasies in the Film TRUTH OR DARE (2017) 032c [online]. 15 February. Available from: https://032c.com/truthordare [Accessed 15 March 2018].
Lindstroem, J. (2017) JONAS LINDSTROEM Uploads Our Fantasies in the Film TRUTH OR DARE. Interview by Eva Kelley. 032c, 15 February [online]. Available from: https://032c.com/truthordare [Accessed 15 March 2018].
Medina, J, J. (2008) Brain Rules (Updated and Expanded): 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School. Reprint. Seattle: Pear Press, 2014.
Banksy: His Most Powerful Pieces (2015) Michael Owens: Artist For Freedom [online]. 14 April. Available from: https://www.michaeloart.com/banksy-his-most-powerful-pieces/ [Accessed 18 March 2018].
Baudrillard, J. (1994) Simulacra and Simulation (The Body in Theory: Histories of Cultural Materialism) Translated from the French by Sheila Glaser. Michigan: University of Michigan Press.
Smith, R.G. (2015) Jean Baudrillard: From Hyperreality to Disappearance: Uncollected Interviews. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. VLeBooks [online]. Available from: https://www.vlebooks.com/vleweb/ [Accessed 18 March 2018].