X Factor

This week’s Net Office spot went live today. Read it raw here, or edited here.

Just who or what is to blame for the X Factor? Step up, the worldwide web. Not only is the sixth series sponsored by a broadband company, TalkTalk, but the format is clearly a desperate bid for survival by the last producers afloat in the little boat Broadcasting, cast off from the cruise ship Mass Media as it lies sunk against a great, unanticipated iceberg of new technology. X Factor and the many shows like it which now litter our schedules employ every trick last century’s one-to-many medium has over this century’s network of ends.

First, there are the stars. But even Simon Cowell tweets now. More, it is the spectacle, the occasion. The web is not made for occasions – you don’t pop corn to surf the net. Then, there is the voting. This is the fantasy interactivity of the TV executive – no messy comment pages, no trolls and flamers – this is a National Verdict. Bash our codes into your keypad, take part, you decide. But the only real choice on offer is the one to consent to this gaudy homogeneity in the first place.

Not always. The TV talent show is a franchise – another archaic channel through which the money of old media still flows – and the “Got Talent” franchise, for example, has sold to nearly 30 countries. One is Ukraine. The winning performance of the first series of Ukraine’s Got Talent has been posted to YouTube, and has attracted over 8 million viewers since the competition concluded this Summer. 8 million is the web’s version of a mass audience. At least for a video of something that isn’t a cat.

Kseniya Simonova is a performance artist who works with sand. That is, she is a sand artist. She won Ukraine’s Got Talent with a piece depicting the experience of Ukraine during the Second World War, when one in four of the population lost their lives. To a specially-commissioned soundtrack, Simonova stands at a giant light-box-table, an image of which is simultaneously being projected onto an immense screen behind her. Wearing a customarily daring outfit, she deftly weaves a succession of emotive scenes from the sand that lies scattered in front of her. The result is strangely breath-taking. If, during the run up to the X Factor final you require a little reassurance as to the delicacy of the human soul, watch it here.

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