Cavalier of the Month
Well, it's true that he looks like a businessman. From the tips of his wingtip shoes to his threepiece Compleat Everyman suits to his steel-rimmed honest pharmacist's glasses. He is quiet in manner and so straight looking that you could transpose him to one of those Norman Rockwell pictures of a guy in a V-neck sweater sitting in an old armchair smoking a pipe and listening to an FDR radio broadcast. If you wanted to. Brockman is into some business all right, even big business, but he isn't selling your usual stocks or socks or even Good Humor (perhaps especially All American Smiley Good Humor—to imagine John Brockman laughing seems outside of the realm of possibility).
If you want to know the facts, or a certain set of them, Brockman is twenty-seven, a graduate of Columbia Business School, a former china buyer and investment banker, who began a career in the early sixties as an impresario for underground films. Later, he moved into intermedia—that environmental meeting place of artistic disciplines—to produce a series of avant-garde events for industry, museums, and an arts council. Just as he had helped to bring underground films above ground, so his work as an intermedia entrepreneur put the concept of intermedia, first as an art form, then as a more general method of multi-sensory communication, on the map. Brockman conceptualized and set up Murray the K's World discotheque, produced a media show for the Jewish Museum and an overstimulator environment for Scott Paper Company. An environment he engineered with the USCO group made Life's front cover and he was offered more work than he could handle.
John Brockman Associates (the firm that made him one of the hottest young names among industrial consultants). I want to be just John Brockman." As just plain John Brockman he's writing a book. What is it about? Ethology? Communications theory? Cybernetics? It's about philosophy.
So let's forget about that old John Brockman businessman. Let's just say that John Brockman is a process in the new mentality, an arrangement of sensory inputs and feedback that stands this tall, that wide.
A non-linear romp and stomp with JOHN BROCKMAN AND THE SIMULTANEOUS INVISIBLES. . .
SEQUENCE IS SIMULTANEITY
MAN IS A RELIC OF THE INSTANTANEOUS PAST
PROCESS IS OUR MOST IMPORTANT PRODUCT
MAN IS DEAD
POST McLUHAN THEORETICS AND IMPLEMENTATION
Brockman on the new mentality. "It's like a conversation between two men. One is saying, 'This thing we've been doing—it's talking.' And the other replies, 'What're you talking about—talking?" ■
Published by Cavalier magazine, February 1969.
It's harder and harder these for an honest soul to put words to paper. As we become more and more involved in the awareness of multi-level, non-linear thought, the strictly linear functions of straight writing seem awfully inadequate.
It might not be quite so bad if you were writing about a financial wizard, a boxing champion, an aging movie queen—though, that, too, leaves the writer wishing for an environment, a sudden flick of visual imagery to spring from the page and create the confrontation that printed words in our newly visual awareness seem to lack. And it's tougher than ever when you're writing about a guy like John Brockman, when you want to do what is absolutely within the limitations of the printed page, to show simultaneously the facets of a personality who came to McLuhan fest with an appetite and stayed to pop some media pills of his own into the stew. Who is John Brockman? See his picture over there? That's what he looks like. The photograph is of a poster Brockman created to publicize Columbia Pictures' movie Head, a psychedelic, non linear parody of old Hollywood scenes and a blast into the perils of Pauline in the new technology. So is John Brockman a movie star? Is John Brockman a threat more deadly to the security of our minds than the Red Menace was in the fifties?
You tell me. Lots of people say that John Brockman is Just a Businessman—like, stand back and take a look at that plastic, kids, could you believe it from the word go? People call him things like the P.T. Barnum of intermedia, or intermedia's intermediary. They say, "John Brockman? Why he doesn't know anything, he's not an artist. He's got no aesthetic, for chrissake!"