The Telegraph – “Exoptic Fields aims to repel TV audiences” Jan. 2001

“Culture Schlock” Friday column, Nashua, NH

by Darren Garnick
Chances are, if you are reading this column in the newspaper, you believe in the power of the printed word and watch TV at least 10-15 minutes less each day than the average person. Chances are, if you work a white collar job, you spend much of the day staring a computer screen before you go home to stare at the TV screen.

And chances are, even if you occasionally pick up a book, go jogging or take clarinet lessons, you will admit to yourself that you spend way too much time with electronic media.

I know I do. That’s why Exoptic Fields, “the video to end all videos,” sounded like an appealing tape to pop in my VCR. An advertisement in The UTNE Reader, a countercultural magazine for smart people (very low circulation), seemed tantalizing. Using the powers of “visual deflection,” the 60-minute video claims to “intensify off-screen sensations” and provide “temporary relief of chronic malaise due to TV-world vs. nonTV-world confusion anxiety.”

Blind Eye Media, the New York production company behind the project, defines “exoptic” on their VHS cover as “the negation of the sense of sight in one or more areas in any given field of vision.” Their logic is simple. TV, as it exists today, is visually stimulating to attract our attention. But if TV were visually repelling, people would turn away from the screen and discover new ways to enjoy their leisure time. It’s like giving a dieter yucky-tasting ice cream.

I popped Exoptic Fields into my VCR with much curiosity. What could be so visually displeasing to make me walk away from the cultural epicenter of my apartment? Could it be like some of that Japanese flash animation that gives children severe headaches?

All the marketing hype and pre-viewing anticipation came down to this: Exoptic Fields is 60 minutes staring at a brick wall with no sound.

The black and white wall slowly takes on a subtle shade of blue — and then slowly returns to its original state. As an added visual bonus, there is a slight wave motion to the picture, as if you are viewing it underwater.

Confession: After two minutes of brick wall euphoria, I hit fast-forward till the end, occasionally pressing play to see if there was a change of pattern. There wasn’t. That’s not surprising, because the point of the video is to quickly repel viewers. The loop-to-loop reel guarantees to do the same to anyone who stumbles in the room. If an eccentric billionaire bought up some late-night infomercial airtime, this video could do some serious ratings damage.

Andy Warhol tried this stunt before, making a 5-hour and 21-minute long film called “Sleep,” featuring nothing but consecutive footage of one man sleeping. Released in theaters in 1963, the flick has had no lasting impact in repelling Americans away from the movies.

But boring bricks are not the message, according to producer Scott Holmquist. “This video is an extremely ambitious project,” he says in a marketing letter. “Its intent is greater than its content, however good I think the content is. Because inciting conversation about media deflection and reversal is more important than the video content itself.”

Blind Eye Media must care about de-mediafying America, because they aren’t getting rich on exoptic technology. Not including shipping, they charge only $14.55 per video, a gesture honoring the year the Gutenberg Bible was first published (a date widely regarded as the birth of print media).

The same price is charged for a sister exoptic video called “Blind Heat,” meant to “intensify physical passions.” No nudity here, just pulsating red shapes set to a synthesized drum beat.

Intellectually, Blind Eye Media has a hit. Their videos are perfect starting points for conversations about sensory overload in the Media Age. But unless you live with a college philosophy major, those conversations just don’t happen at home. In the living room, we’re all just too vulnerable.

I learned that when the VCR rewound my “Blind Heat” tape and the television automatically popped back on. It was the warm soothing sound of “Entertainment Tonight,” which was reporting on how Kelsey and Camille Grammer decorate their home. “By the way the property is so big, Kelsey and Camille have a golf cart to help them around.”

“I miss you,” I thought, longingly staring back at my restored TV. “I miss you SO much!”

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For more information, visit www.exopticfields.com or www.blindmedia.com. For immediate degratification, the first reader who e-mails me at the address below gets a free copy of the “Exoptic Fields” video — the ideal conversation piece during half-time at your Super Bowl party.

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Darren Garnick’s “Culture Schlock” column appears every Friday in The Telegraph’s “Encore” magazine. Feedback and ideas are welcome via e-mail at cultureschlock@yahoo.com or by writing to: P.O. Box 132, Hudson, NH 03051.