If Koyaanisqatsi was meant to strike us with fear about the perils of “moral corruption” and a “life out of balance,” then Jesse England’s contemporary remake does one of two things: It is either a hilarious, antithetical tongue-in-cheek reflection or a grim outlook of modern day life. England’s aptly-named Koyannistocksi comprises the same shots as Godfrey Reggio’s original, with the comical twist of only using stock images.
Released in 1982, Koyaanisqatsi showed us images of nature, technology, and human interaction. Without any narration, it was accompanied only by a score by composer Phillip Glass that wouldn’t be out of place in The Da Vinci Code. Together, Reggio, Glass, and cinematographer Ron Fricke’s creation created a sense of impending doom. To summarize, Koyaanisqatsi intended to prompt viewers to reflect on how, in Reggio’s words, “technology has become as ubiquitous as the air we breathe.” The trailer for Koyaanisqatsi can be seen above.
The demolition of the Pruitt–Igoe housing project in St. Louis, Missouri was one of the first scenes filmed once production began in 1975. The building was only completed in 1956.
Now, some 24 years later after the films release, Jesse England has taken a satirical side-swipe at Reggio’s cult classic. Remaking the trailer without spending a single cent on footage, England uses stock images alongside Glass’ infamous score.
He appears to proudly display his lack of effort to buy the selected shots by keeping the watermarks on display, with “iStock” or “Shutterstock” emblazoned unceremoniously across the screen. Koyannistocksi is hence born. Rather than reflecting on Reggio’s work, is he instead building on it? Is he proving Reggio right? Unlike the naturally shot predecessor, his trailer’s characters and interactions on display in Koyannistocksi are all staged, planned, and acted-out.
Does this mean that we have come full circle? Our obsessive interaction with technology has rendered life fake and meaningless, stock footage being the best appropriation of modern life.
(Courtesy Jesse England, Vimeo)
Perhaps that may be delving a tad too far. England is notorious for his quirky creations: a comic sans typewriter and a camera that shoots images with a Google Streetview template are some of his other works. Speaking of Koyannistocksi, he says on his Vimeo page that it is a “testament to Reggio’s influence on contemporary motion photography, and the appropriation of his aesthetic by others for commercial means.”
This isn’t the first time the film has been the subject of satire. Glass’ soundtrack can be heard in an episode of the comedy show Scrubs.