In the future, Miranda July, who is a filmmaker, performance artist, musician, and writer, Aquarius, webmaster and blogger, would like to be better at not making things. “I’ve been such a like, worker bee since I was 16 that I’m starting to realize that oh, it’s not like this stops at some point, especially if you don’t know how to do anything else, so I’m feeling like that gets to happen soon, or I’m working towards that.” It’s not going to be easy.
Lately, she’s been busy promoting her second remarkable film, “The Future,” in interviews with people like us, at festivals, and on the busiest place of all, the Internet. The latter is a familiar – and sometimes uncanny – space for July: she purchased mirandajuly.com in the late 90s (and festooned it with “artistic scribbles”), launched a wonderful collaborative art project-turned-website, Learning to Love You More, in 2002, and, through her artwork and films, explored the peculiar intimacies and estrangements that come with life online. In “Me You and Everyone We Know,” an affair between a haughty museum curator and an imaginative 10-year-old begins in a sex chat room; in “The Future,” the web looks more like a pressure cooker, a discomforting window on the world and a burden for the artist.
“The obvious negative is that it makes it harder to make art, harder to have new ideas, because the new ideas come out of kind of the unknown and the spaces where you don’t know what to do with yourself,” says the real-life July. “And now I tend to just go online when I don’t know what to do with myself instead of enduring not knowing. So that impact on art is pretty much bad.”
“The Future,” which is a portrait of an early onset of midlife crisis in lonely Los Angeles, interspersed with existential narration by a cat and a moon, evidences that web anxiety. At one point, July’s character has the Internet shut off so that she and her boyfriend can actually get something done. It’s a tool July borrowed from her own real life getting-things-done toolbox. Getting off the Internet can help with productivity, she says, but it also provides a kind of private space, away from the companies that know what me and you and everyone else is doing. “It’s a weird world in the world,” the web. “I have to say when I do unplug it, my immediate feeling is kind of a relief… When you clear your history, you think, ‘are the people at Google seeing how much I Google my own name? Like, can’t they tell? And there’s probably some pretty cool people at Google like, who I might even know one day and they’re gonna be like, we know all about you!’”
For those of us who don’t work at Google, July tells us she is an Aquarius, and she feels in a kind of “crisis” all the time, and she loves the movie, Beginners, and also, the director, Mike Mills, is her husband. It’s no coincidence that her movie features a heart-breaking talking cat and his a heart-breaking talking dog. The cat was more symbolic, she says, and the dog based on a real dog they lived with, the dog he inherited from his dad after his death.
“We did choose each other to spend the rest of our lives with each other,” she says, “so it would make sense that we have a similar sensibility.”