What’s your pleasure?

Holon’s Print Screen Festival provides plenty of food for thought – on the way we consume, have sex, sleep and dream.

‘Garden of Emoji Delights,’ in a wink at Hieronymus Bosch’s ‘Garden of Earthly Delights.’ (photo credit: CARL GANNIS)
‘Garden of Emoji Delights,’ in a wink at Hieronymus Bosch’s ‘Garden of Earthly Delights.’
(photo credit: CARL GANNIS)
The Print Screen Festival has dished up all manner of intriguing and thought-provoking fare since its inception five years ago.
The sixth edition of the digital arts and culture event, which will take place at the Holon Cinematheque June 22-25, proffers the oft-bandied but seldom seriously considered concept of pleasure.
Is pleasure “derived from our control of devices or rather from losing ourselves in an ocean of visual distractions?” poses the festival website. “How does the constantly evolving connection between the human body and digital technology change the way we consume food, have sex, sleep and dream? And does technology make us addicted to self-pleasure or rather deprive us of it in the name of productivity? “This year’s festival will raise new thoughts regarding these questions, with a wide selection of curated works, in four nights that will push all of your trigger points.”
As teasers go, that’s quite a doozy, but 32-year-old festival founder-artistic director Lior Zalmanson, who earns part of his crust as a researcher of art and technology at New York University, believes there is a real need to get into the topic from all sorts of angles.
“When you look at technology, and you look at the media and, in particular, at festivals similar to ours around the world, you see there is a sense of loss, of what we in fact are losing out on because of technology.”
That’s a fascinating and highly relevant point, in this day and age when technology appears to offer us so many pleasuring options – from sharing fun stuff on Facebook to pornography, watching old shows or keeping tabs on the music scene on YouTube.
The subject of the nefarious uses that can so easily, and glibly, be made of the anonymous Internet is tackled in one of 10 movies that will be screened over the four days of the festival. Tzachi Schiff and Duki Dror’s Israeli-French coproduction Down the Deep, Dark Web, which is in Hebrew and has English subtitles, looks at how all sorts of good souls do their utmost to keep the unsuspecting surfer safe and sound from operators lurking in the darker recesses of the Net.
Nobody in this country needs reminding that eating is one of life’s great joys, and the edibles of the upper social echelons are addressed in a consummately aesthetic manner in the English-language Swedish-Dutch coproduced Foodies.
Meanwhile, celebrated surrealist Czech animator Jan Svankmajer’s Conspirators of Pleasure is a wordless take on sexual fetishism and fantasy that draws on an eclectic swathe of inspirational figures, the likes of Sigmund Freud, French philosopher the Marquis de Sade, Spanish filmmaker Luis Buñuel and Dadaist and surrealist artist Max Ernst. The film is, naturally, riddled with dark humor.
The four-day shebang kicks off with a bunch of discussions, video clips and performances on the topic of pleasure in the digital world. The multisensory opener features vittles prepared by robo-chefs, with Chicago-based neuroscience and business lecturer Moran Cerf taking the audience through the mysteries of dreams. Also on the opening bill are Florida performance artist and filmmaker Jillian Mayer, who will offer an intriguing look at post-Internet art, with chef Eyal Shani putting in his gastronomic two cents’ worth.
He may be erring on the side of the dystopian view of life – Polish anyone? – but Zalmanson says that, in general, we have a tendency to view the empty half of our glass. “We tend to go for the suffering artist rather than the artist who is having a good time. If you suggest taking a look at new areas of pleasure, you may sometimes sound a bit narcissistic.”
As Zalmanson and his festival management colleagues delved deeper into the subject of pleasure, they began to home in on the subtopic of control. “We looked at a lot of works, and we saw that many artists examine the twinning of pleasure and control,” he explains. “We started looking at whether our pleasure comes from loss of control – letting go – a bit like with psychedelic experiences and various narcotics, or having an orgasm, or whether using technology sometimes enhances pleasurable senses, or whether we can use computers to upgrade these experiences.
We also looked at whether pleasure is actually the product of having control over something or someone else.”
The evolution of the Internet, social networks and other virtual sources of information and communication also come very much into the festival fray.
These days, you don’t have to physically encounter another person in order to access forms of pleasure. “There are works in the festival exhibitions which address the idea of the individual whereby the user experiences something in front of a screen, or there is interaction with a performer who could be a very robotic or computerized performer. The issue of the computer as something which provides us with pleasure in a way that doesn’t require the participation of other people is one of the areas the festival examines.”
There will also be more social-friendly items on display.
“One of the strengths of some of the works is the fact that they bring the spectator into contact with the human ‘other,’ or with a group,” Zalmanson continues.
The Print Screen roster includes several promising panel discussions, such as the quality of companionless pleasure as opposed to that achieving tandem with others.
“There is a psychiatric phenomenon – and this does not necessarily refer to sexual relations – whereby people define a relationship to be romantic when they use technology. They have a relationship with something inanimate which is subservient to their every wish and desire.
Are they not, on some level, really having a relationship with themselves?” According to Zalmanson, there is a downside to the go-it-alone ethos that goes far beyond the sphere of sexual and/ or romantic pleasure. “In this individualist era in which we are living, there is an abundance of phenomena of misunderstanding others. We tend to sacrifice less and less for the good of others and devote more to our own pleasure and happiness.”
Sleep is also a major theme of the festival and a burning issue. In many places around the world – New York and Tokyo, to name but a couple – competition is the driving force behind many a corporation whose bosses encourage their employees to work ever-longer days.
Then again, quite a few members of the rank and file in Sweden and the Netherlands work a six-hour day and receive the same wages they got for an eight-hour day.
Studies have shown that productivity has actually risen as a result. Zalmanson says he is all in favor of rising and retiring with the birds.
“A few years ago I spent some time with a tribe in Tanzania,” he recalls. “There was no electricity there, so we went to bed when it got dark. It was strange, to begin with, to go to bed at 8 p.m., but I soon got used to it and felt good with it.”
As each year, next week’s Print Screen attendees should go home with plenty of food for thought. 
For more information: (03) 502-1555 and www.printscreenfestival.com