To See or Not to See, 2020, directed and edited by Diana Ellen Rivera, is a 15 minute film-collage of edited clips on time, persuasion techniques, and sneaker culture. The film mixes modern advertising, cinema, and news clips with vintage educational stock footage to a hypnotic effect. This use of appropriation provides an experience that most closely represents memory: a constant and innocent theft of ideas and merging of timelines, offering membership to a more universal story. Differing sources confuse the space of representation, and with seamless transitions, the viewer’s discernment between where the editor’s hand began, and where the original context of the clip ended is disturbed. The film asks the viewer to at once accept vision as their primary means of observation, the force through which they discern their desires, while revealing it’s nature as the easiest sense to manipulate.
The piece was conceived as a response to this year’s West Hollywood Aesthetics and Politics (WHAP!) lecturer Robeson Taj Frazier, Associate Professor at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, USC. It engages with Frazier’s idea of social information gleaned from a global mosaic of “underground”, and even occult, sources, and how inclusion in this “scene” renders one elite, and provides a source of identity. It is a desire for status through something accessible and socially powerful enough to represent the freedom to be who or what ever the individual wants. In this case sneakers. Even the most marginalized of us can find a way to afford a flash pair of Nike’s, and feel a part of something bigger. This is the illusion, acting as a rice-paper thin band-aid over economic reality, and what the film attempts to reveal.