Near the beginning of Where the Night is Going, Mike Hoolboom’s sophisticated eight minute essay film, a subtitle announces “On the other side of the camera Guy Debord told me this secret: Form is Violence.” We’re looking at a splashy tech/media event where glittering guests are arriving, garishly colored lights serve to transform a warehouse into an “event space,” and laptops and screens abound. Blurry and blown-out, the images look as if they are shot with a camera with a plastic sheet over the lens. People pose for photos with VIPs and performers move through the crowd, dressed as a burger and fries. The subtitled narration reads:“We can never challenge any form of social organization without taking apart its forms of language.” Debord, the maker of Society of the Spectacle, challenges the narrator to abandon the aggressive power of social forms, even while he is immersed in an elaborate spectacle meant to celebrate an industry made powerful by its mastery of signs.
In a dreamlike development, the narrator (speaking always through subtitles) describes a desperate sexual encounter with Debord, in which he suddenly understands “love and its necessities” when he finds himself signaling his raw, animal need to “a man who no longer cherished me.” While we read this we’re watching the industrial stage show, in which scantily clad dancers act professionally sexy for strangers. Tranquil music contrasts with images of guests and hosts boogieing down together under the disco lights, trying to convince themselves they’re having fun.
Where the Night is Going takes the viewer into an over-controlled environment, a tawdry celebration of the ability to congeal form into money and power. It’s a place where many people would find themselves asking “what am I doing here?” The kind of place where by squinting the right way and looking through an alcoholic haze can you convince yourself you’re having a good time. Translating the experience into a dialog of desire, Hoolboom finds a complex and contrapuntal film form to vividly describe a form of seduction which we are all vulnerable to.