Original Audio Works: John Goss.
Text/Voice Excerpts: Don DeLillo, Americana, Chinua Achebe, Arrow of God, Salman Rushdie, Ingeborg Bachman, Louis
Sullivan, Secretary of Health, ACT-UP, San Francisco, Diderot and d'Alembert The Encyclopedia (1747-1765).
"Diderot and The Last Luminare" attempts to give new perspective on the aims, processes and structures of the
Age of Enlightenment by skewing underlying similarities and examining the evolving differences between the scientific revolution
of the past and contemporary nostalgic constructions of the notion of "progress" tinged with fear and desire.
Diderot's writings on the function of culture and politics in society and his concept of the distribution of knowledge
are made manifest in the plates accompanying the Encyclopedia. These plates structure the video. His subversive model of
visual knowledge, designed to democratize information, is used as a springboard to examine current concepts of knowledge control,
dissemination and threatened collapse. The tape is an "updated" 20th century encyclopedia with all of the attendant
impossibilities, a ludicrous desire to interrogate larger questions through the structures of the past. In a sense it longs
for the speculative order of the Enlightenment while realizing the impossibility of its replication. It is about the gap
between these two impulses.
The original Encyclopedia (1747-1765 ) was broken down into categories that ranged from fishing techniques to geology.
It occupied the greater part of Diderot's life and was sincerely designed to be functional. This "update" is
a speculative project that could exist indefinitely, or could end tomorrow. It is a desperate electronic stand-in, comprised
of inherited categories of knowledge which pretend inclusiveness, both comfortable and dangerous. The encyclopedic system,
its privileged iconographic representation of labor and craft, and its visual and theoretical 20th century legacy coexist
in visually speculative juxtaposition that posits a famial resemblance between our cultural industries, humanist impulses
and one of the earliest "modern" compendiums of what was considered necessary human knowledge - Diderot's encyclopedia.