My video “Do Great Things» remixes Georg Scholz’s painting “Industrial Farmers,” replicating its visual composition, but replacing its characters, props and scenery with those of tech hippie culture. Instead of a German priest and his wife, there is a mid-twenties San Francisco tech couple. And in place of the Bible, the techie holds Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. The military bust in the anterior is replaced by a bust of Steve Jobs. And out the window is not a machine and a man, but a recreation of an actual Burning Man sculpture around which a 3D model dances on a loop.
This video is part of my ongoing investigation into the tech world’s assimilation of leftist aesthetics and 60s utopian dreams. In 2015, I visited a Mission District-tech commune where a group of extremely wealthy 20-somethings live collectively, sharing food, wearing beards, jamming with guitars, planning hallucinogenic trips and dreaming of raising families together. And yet it was obvious that just below this hippie veneer was a clear, overwhelming capitalist agenda. A handwritten list in the communal kitchen, entitled “What Should We Do With Our Money,” listed: “1. Add a sauna to the house … 3. Get a private concert from Paul McCartney … 8. Get a baby pool and fill it full of $100 bills.”
When I researched the $300-million co-founder of this commune (the inventor of Facebook’s Like button) and other tech hippies, I noticed a pattern throughout: a desire for tech to simultaneously «save the world» while producing immense profit. Here progressive ideals and leftist aesthetics seem to be more about marketing than political action. Instead of protest and grassroots movements, these hippies see companies and IPOs as the solution. My video’s title comes from the last line of a speech called “Do Great Things,” a manifesto on profitable tech progressivism by the inventor of the Like button.