Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Green House, Gas

Gordon Matta-Clark
Splitting, 1974

When Big Brother premiered Sunday night, I felt myself being drawn in again against my will and better judgement to watch the damn thing. When the franchise contaminated the globe as a pioneering instance of reality television's banal biopowers some seven years ago, I must admit I was transfixed, lulled into a narcotized state. Reality and panopticism was being streamed (somewhat) live and for like at least Andy Warhol's famous fifteen minutes I was hooked. But that was then, this is now. I haven't watched it since, well, not until I found myself hypnotised on Sunday night by what appeared to be Gretel Killeen's botoxed forehead.

The cast of clones assembled for this season's turkey-slapping marathon appear to be predominately conveyor belt Caucasians – they're that generic. The girls are blond and pretty in that puked-up Supre kind of way, while most of the boys pass the dumb hunk honours with flying colours. The brunette barmaid from Darwin is there for a bit of rum-n-coke realness. There's also a self-confessed male nerd whose only claim to a six-pack is perhaps drinking one, while you could cut glass on the rest of the lads' torsos.

I'm not even going to bother outlining any more of the housemates. I'd rather die with shit in my mouth. But what did pique my interest is the excessive extent to which the show's producers have scripted sustainability and social responsibility into the design of the house. You see, this cast of whiteys get to compete and do whatever they do in a house designed on Green principles. Big Brother's executive producer Tim Tori said in a
news article, "Big Brother is a reflection of society so like many households around Australia this year we are going green". Tone Wheeler, an architect and educator who was a consultant to Big Brother during its re-design has said that the Big Brother house could be a leader in showing Australians how easy it is to make a house green. Among its features are an air-to-water purifier which transforms water from thin air. Then there are design features throughout the house made out of recycled refuse.

The Heineken World Bottle

Why didn't they just try and revive Heineken's World Bottle? As legend has it, the beer entrepreneur Alfred Heineken commissioned an architect to design "a brick that holds beer" after witnessing a Jamaican beach littered with beer bottles in 1960. The "world bottle" was manufactured (but never released) by Heineken as bricks that could make a Green house. Because Heineken bottles are green, the eco-design of the Green house visually suggests a botanical greenhouse.

The beer is more plentiful in Queensland than water so surely a Heineken house would have been suitable? Due to harsh water restrictions housemates can only shower for a few minutes at a time. It probably doesn't stop the show's producers changing the water in the jacuzzi regularly. Surely the jacuzzi will become one big alcoholic punch of rabid STDs. So congrats to Big Brother for being so green; something has to balance its promotion of mindless consumption. Just check out the ridiculous merchandise and product placement tie-ins you can purchase at the online Big Brother shop. Bumper-sticker ecology has never looked better than it does on Big Brother t-shirts. One of them reads, "The Grass is Always Greener on the Inside".

There's even art made by some environmental artist featured on some the walls inside the house. According to Gretel, the artworks are being auctioned at the Big Brother website. I couldn't find information about these artworks at the website, but why would you want them anyway? Bits of organic materials encased in glass - you can buy that shit at Ikea. Big Brother's producers should have instead commissioned an artist to remake
Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty in the yard? Or do a Gordon Matta-Clark by cutting the house in half? Such artistic interventions would have been much more interesting than framed pebbles and sand. I really don't think Big Brother viewers are creaming their jeans over an artist's work being featured in the house.

If the Whiteys get to hang out in the Green house, the ethnics (minus a blond white guy whose dreadlocks probably make him black on the inside) get to hang in a mysterious white room – a kind of reality TV purgatory where the last of the four to survive its sensory deprivations can be allowed access into Greenland. It's so colour-coded, so complex! What's more the white room can be viewed on a Plasma screen, making the white room a kind of Big Brother within Big Brother. This babushka doll simulacrum makes sense because the housemates are so clone-like in appearance that they may as well be carbon copies of each other. Pity Baudrillard died before he got to see this.

Speaking of carbon copies, you can't help but wonder if the house and its adjunct white room are carbon neutral. Does that Plasma screen give off carbon emissions? It appears the white room doesn't even have the same green features as the house, and if it does, Gretel couldn't be fucked talking about it. Regardless of whether the house is green or gold, white or black, trash or treasure, its attempt to buy into the whole eco mindset is as sincere as the mobile phone advertising inundating Big Brother. Does 3, the mobile phone company sponsoring Big Brother, really care about the environment? Last time I checked, phones were one of the major causes of landfill. Big Brother is basically a floor plan for planned obsolescence. If the show survives another season, this time next year the house will have been knocked down and redesigned according to the whim of a twelve year old's distracted attention span. Surely the poster children for sustainability.

One such poster child


Skanky Jane said...

Excellent post Artswipe - cracked me up - from you'd "rather die with shit in your mouth" to "The girls are blond and pretty in that puked-up Supre kind of way" and "babushka doll simulacrum"! Rippers all.

I haven't watched Big Brother since Baby Jane's one time obsession with the bunny-eared, bum dancing Sara-Marie Fedele.

I love Matta Clark's work - what a great idea to resurrect him for a Big Brother intervention.

The poster child is scarey - summoning visions of a Pol Pottian (albeit "caucasoid")regime and armageddon-ripe world in which an army of litl'ns reduce all adults to soylent green.

I'm going to comfort myself by getting a Big Brother housemate I can love - one of those Casamania GIGI dolls!

Great 'A' Day reading - thanks Arty!

SJ xx

Anonymous said...

artswipe you are fucking brilliant thanks for the analysis and the memories
go artswipe go

OneLessCarOneMoreVegieGarden said...

rising temperatures = rising number of people searching for a way to make a buck from global warming
check the shipping news

"who gives a shit about a few bears if we can drive a boat through that shit."

"i'm doing something about global warming, i own a Che Guevarra T-shirt and my hummer runs on biodesiel."

Anonymous said...

by the way what about teh STARBURST golden key entrants - amazing all blonde ladies when we could have had fat pat to rock the house but instead the 5 finalist were like carbon copies of people already in the house - they are all bottled so the next weeks the true stripes will come through

Skanky Jane said...

I caught a bit of some new reality TV show recently while channel surfing - I think it's called Pussycat Dolls - or some such thing. The contestants (all female) are urged to find thier "inner doll". I can't tell you just how many performance art scenarios THAT inspired!

SJ xx