We absolutely love the music video you did for Röyksopp's single Remind Me. It's brilliant, to say the least. And to say that we've seen it on YouTube dozens of times and then many times more afterwards would not be an exaggeration.
We also love the commercial you guys made for the French energy conglomerate Areva. We're not huge fans of nuclear power plants, but watching how uranium mined in Canada ends up lighting a dance floor somewhere in China via maps, graphs, isometric projections, sectional cut-outs, flowcharts and systems diagrams — all to the groovy disco beats of Funkytown — really made us want to buy shares in the company.
Have you seen the parody that someone made of the ad, by the way? If not, you guys should really check it out. It's hilarious.
Funnily enough all three videos remind us of our childhood — those groggy Saturday mornings waiting to see if ABC might again broadcast Conjunction Junction or any of the number of Schoolhouse Rock! cartoons showing us how the various parts of our bodies work; and those halcyon after-school afternoons watching Mister Rogers tour a factory and learn how familiar items like crayons, stuffed animals, spoons, and zippers get mass produced in a sort of mesmerizing Fordist ballet.
But we're not writing this open letter to tell you guys all about our television staple when we were
About 20 seconds in Remind Me were devoted to it, but we think it deserves a longer treatment, if not a full cinematic homage to the diagram. Don't you agree?
No doubt you are quite familiar with what goes on, but for the unenlightened, here are the search results from Google Images for “wastewater treatment” and “sewage treatment”. Additionally, this Wikipedia entry gives a nice introduction, although some parts might be confusingly too detailed.
Most people don't know much about what goes on at the treatment plant. For one thing, they are generally zoned out to the urban periphery. The more segregated they are from the populace, the better. The more they get unnoticed visually, aurally and olfactorily — again, the better. And yet sewers practically underpin modern civilization. Without them, it would be hard to imagine how megalopolises like New York City could have come into existence and then thrived. Their importance is such that people should sacrifice a virgin every year among the filtration towers, aeration tanks and Daphnias. Or to absolutely ensure that no empires and nations will crumble: two virgins.
Oh, sure, our readers will remind us that Chicago has a recycling facility located right next to the city's most popular tourist destination and in the shadow of Oprah Winfrey's palatial condo, but it's so unassuming, so pedestrian that it hardly draws much attention to itself. New Haven, Connecticut had the right idea when they asked Stephen Holl to design their facility. So many people wrote about it, most recently in Wired. Herbert Mushcamp wrote about it in the New York Times way back in 2001, calling it “poetically expressive”, but on Michael Van Valkenburgh, Holl's co-designer, he judged him to be “a splashy form maker but not a sophisticated thinker.” Ouch! Muschamp was probably right, but we've always wondered whether Nicolai Ouroussoff inherited his philistine indifference towards landscape architecture from his predecessor.
We're sure you don't give a fuck about Nicolai or his myopic architectural reportage, but we can't remember the last time people's shit (as a spatial concern) got this level of coverage. Ideally, the process alone should generate mass enthusiasm, but it seems celebrities need to be involved to stir interest. And even then that kind of attention is always fleeting.
And another thing, a lot of people have yet to fully grasp the often monumental task of channeling our shit from anywhere in the city all the way to these treatment plants, something that always boggles our mind. Sewers are understandably hidden. There's the issue of public health, for one, and there's also the matter of property values — Not In My Backyard, that sort of thing.
But apart from manhole covers and storm drains and maybe a bump in the road where a pipe got too close to the asphalt, there isn't a lot of surface evidence. They're everywhere, rhizomatically entrenched, and yet only when a main sewer line gets clogged and stinks up the neighborhood or when there's an outbreak of cholera or when some photogenic kid falls in and an entire nation becomes hysterical, engrossed by the endless media coverage of the heroic rescue, does this all-pervasive subterranean landscape momentarily reveal itself to us, and we wonder then where our shit actually ends up. But such contemplation should be performed on a daily basis.
So this is where you guys come in. An H5 music video (avant-doc?) will certainly get copious amount of airplay on MTV2, even if it's about sewage. Your style is eye-popping, though definitely not intellectually vacuous; it is so hyper-slick that it will inject some glamour to an otherwise unglamorous subject. Predictably, someone will upload it to YouTube, where millions will watch it. Many more will embed it on their blogs or use it to further disfigure their MySpace pages. Bored interns will e-mail it to everyone. It'll be the new viral video, ingeniously parodied endlessly by yet more bored interns. One such parody on the near nonexistent wastewater treatment of Mumbai will appear on VH1's Best Week Ever, E!'s The Soup, Bravo's Outrageous and Contagious Viral Videos, and several other pop cultural affairs programs.
And then joy upon joy, the appalling state of ignorance and popular apathy towards wastewater treatment is reversed.
So how about it? Let us know.