Synthetic Pleasures

Director: Iara Lee

Institute History


Iara Lee’s Synthetic Pleasures opens up the much-traversed arena of new technologies and cyberspace into a fascinating exploration of the transforming impact of the Brave New World on our everyday lives. Using a cascade of imagery, reportage, interviews, and special effects, Lee portrays a future that is no longer over the horizon but is with us now, especially in twenty-first-century technoworlds like Tokyo. From virtual reality simulations to artificial beaches and mountains, from advanced plastic surgery to cryonics and cybernetics, from the internet to computer-generated universes and “realities,” Lee integrates the full range of the futuristic trends of the technological revolution into this very compelling documentary.

Structured into three sections, “Synthetic Environments,” “Synthetic Bodies,” and “Synthetic Identities,” Synthetic Pleasures offers us a view of both the present and the future and of the desire, often the obsession, that many people have to transcend everyday existence. Questioning, presenting, and exploring the effects of technology on mind, body, and the construction of reality, Lee’s work is neither a hyperbolic endorsement nor a Luddite-provoked critique. Instead, using interviews with such “voices of the future” as John Perry Barlow, cofounder of the Electronic Future Foundation; Orlan, a French performance artist who “adjusts” her body through plastic surgery; Steve Roberts, a self-styled high-tech nomad who traverses the country on his computer-laden bicycle; and, of course, Timothy Leary, Synthetic Pleasures is an absorbing and informative report from the future.

— Geoffrey Gilmore

Screening Details

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