It’s not exactly fiction and it’s not exactly fiction.
I can’t recall exactly the moment I saw the name “Illegal Civilization”, but I knew I liked it instantly. (Note: I wrote this in 2017)
I can’t recall exactly the moment I saw the name “Illegal Civilization”, but I knew I liked it instantly. Quick search and then I was adding Instagram accounts to my feed. There are quite a few regular members of this new civilization, and it does actually feel like a new civilization. But where are they? And what do they do? How do they eat? Is it a commune? Can skateboarding and tee shirts and movie making and traveling around fill a life? Fill a bank account? Is this some sort of BitCoin fantasy?
Just chill out, old man. Don’t be a pigeon. Nobody actually said that, but somebody could. Okay, so, why do I care — I study Shakespeare and the Beat Generation. And I always knew there had to be a reincarnation of the Wandering Bards to meet the new ‘today’. Illegal Civilization is it, my friends.
So, yes, they do seem to fill their days with making movies and skateboarding and designing clothing and traveling from town to town. WHAT AN AMAZING WORLD WE HAVE THAT THIS CAN BE TRUE!
They also embrace people like me in the new civilization who have shown up to hunt and gather and dance and skate and talk and think and dream. It is not a fiction. And somehow it is not quite real either, though it most certainly is happening in real time and space. They have a mastermind, Mikey Alfred, who, as far as I can tell, is interested in a deeper vision that uses fiction while living outside of fiction or adjacent to fiction in pursuit of a new form of fiction that draws the willing participant closer, closer, closer, in. Closer in perhaps to a multiverse of stories and emotions held close to the hearts of Mikey and the original Civ members, or perhaps to something else yet untold, but nevertheless, once you take notice and pay attention to the simulcast narratives, it will unravel around you so that you too can join. Maybe it’s a participant fiction that he’s after.
So, I say it again: Illegal Civilization is not exactly fiction and it is also not exactly fiction.
Ha, yeah, sure, I can hear the argument, it’s a bunch of cameras and young people being young people with cameras, but that’s just you sounding like a pigeon, old man. This time it was me who said that. To you. Don’t argue. You missed the point. Fiction always was and always will be a medium to help the audience see themselves. And fiction that knows it’s a fiction is a medium to help the audience see both themselves and the bones of fiction-making. But fiction that tries to blur reality and fiction is not exactly fiction. And it is also not exactly fiction.
Slow down to read their film, “Summer ‘17”, and you will see ripples of ideas and memories that feel like your own mixed into a story that could be yours but somehow isn’t. Familiar and lonely. 50s classic cars traded in for skateboards. Adults hanging without kids who are busy hanging without adults. Reverent musical soundtrack impossibly bridging the decades. Steady framed shots capturing more of what’s already there or passing by than the staged actors. And the actors betray themselves by already having revealed their off-screen lives via Instagram (on screens worldwide). This one is your clue. They wear Illegal Civilization street wear in the film to embed the watchful eye of the camera inside the film itself; this motif blurs nicely the classical distinctions between reality and fiction.
In negating itself, it can ‘not be’, or if you read that out loud, it cannot be.
Illegal Civilization, by name, is against the law and also the ruling class which writes the law. If their films don’t bend you towards this understanding, then look at their graphic designs which all indicate this intentionally created internal conflict. Hand drawn colored pencil wiggly characters and objects portrayed as serious confident art school inked final drafts.
And still, it’s for fun! To create good vibes! To push forward to the next project! To keep the civilization productive and vibrant! This central attitude, this essence in IC comes through all they do, even the hardcore stuff. Their events are cool and their films are cool and their approach is cool. But, trust me, there’s more. Mikey Alfred is after something that is coming into shape.
The story of the uncarved block. Tune in and you can witness it. The sculptor approaches the block of wood in order to carve a design. However, if the sculptor understands that the block of wood itself has its own potential, then the sculptor can help to reveal the true design that the block of wood was intending to display — what the uncarved block was supposed to become. This too is not exactly fiction. Whether or not Illegal Civilization is the uncarved block or the sculptor or both will be for your own interpretation.
Either way, they are standing at, nay, transforming the crossroads where they stand.
Thank you, Illegal Civilization! You inspire me!
Yes, that’s me. Long Live Illegal Civ! There’s lots of new stuff since I wrote this. Go, look, now!