Koyaanisqatsi attempts to reveal the beauty of the beast! We perceive our World, our way of living, as beautiful because there is nothing else to perceive. If one lives in this World, the globalized World of high technology, all one can see is one layer of commodity piled upon another.
In our World the original is the proliferation of the standardized. Copies are copies of copies. There seems to be no ability to see beyond, to see that we have encased ourselves in an artificial environment that has remarkably replaced the original, nature itself.
We do not live with nature any longer; we live above it. Nature has become the resource to keep this artificial or new nature alive.
Koyaanisqatsi is not so much about something, nor does it have a specific meaning or value. Koyaanisqatsi is, after all, an animated object, an object in moving time, the meaning of which is up to the viewer. Art has no intrinsic meaning. This is its power, its mystery, and hence, its attraction.
Art is free. It stimulates the viewer to insert their own meaning, their own value. So while the producer, the director, the artist might have this or that intention in creating this film, any meaning or value Koyaanisqatsi might have comes exclusively from the beholder.
Koyaanisqatsi is to provoke, to raise questions that only the audience can answer.
This is the highest value of any work of art, not predetermined meaning, but meaning figured out from the experience of the encounter. The encounter is your interest, not the meaning.
If meaning is the point, then propaganda and advertising is the form. So in the sense of art, the meaning of Koyaanisqatsi is whatever you wish to make of it. This is its power.
It is not for lack of Love of the language that these films have no words. It is because our language is in a state of vast humiliation. It no longer describes the World in which we live.
Koyaanisqatsi premiered at the Santa Fe Film Festival on April 28, 1982. The film’s initial limited release began in San Francisco at the Castro Theatre on April 27, 1983. In the same year, the film was entered into the 33rd Berlin International Film Festival.
In 2000, Koyaanisqatsi was selected for the preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being ‘culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant’.
According to Hopi Dictionary, the Hopi word Koyaanisqatsi is defined as ‘life of moral corruption and turmoil’ or ‘life out of balance’. The prefix koyaanis – means ‘corrupted’ or ‘chaotic’, and the word qatsi means ‘life’ or ‘existence’, literally translating Koyaanisqatsi as ‘chaotic life’.
The film also defines the word as ‘crazy life’, ‘life in turmoil’, ‘life disintegrating’, and ‘a state of life that calls for another way of living’.
If we dig precious things from the land, we will invite disaster.