Josh Harris: The Warhol of the Web

Andrew Smith writes in the Guardian:

I couldn’t have been more surprised to find Josh Harris in Ethiopia. In Manhattan in the mid-1990s, he had been “the Warhol of the Web” — one of the first internet multimillionaires, who took the $80m fortune he’d made and started to explore the possibilities and implications of this new technology, to the point of self-destruction. In the process, he became the focal point of the downtown New York scene that, for heady extravagance, rivalled anything from the 1960s or 1970s.

His Millennium Eve party, called Quiet: We Live in Public, ran for over a month, during which an ad-hoc community of human subjects lived in pods in a six-storey Broadway warehouse, each pod wired up and effectively functioning as a TV channel, streamed live to the web via Harris’s online TV portal at Pseudo.com. It was 1,000 times more vital and acute than the still-nascent Big Brother. “Don’t bring your money,” Harris said. “Everything here is free.”

Quiet featured a shooting range you could hear from the street, a banquet hall, theatre, temple, club, giant game of Risk, and a public shower area, all covered by cameras. But more than anything, it offered its residents complete freedom. There were drugs and public sex — at one point, Harris, in the guise of a clown called Luvvy, attempted to coordinate simultaneous orgasms between three couples.

Just about anything that could happen did happen, and many people have called it an experiment. But Ondi Timoner, director of We Live in Public, a Sundance-winning documentary about Harris that opens in the UK next week, shrewdly calls it a metaphor. My feeling is that Harris wasn’t saying, “This could happen” but “This will happen”. This is where the technology is taking us; and what’s more, it’s where we want to go.

More in the Guardian. Here’s the trailer:

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