Photography would seem to preserve our past and make it invulnerable to the distortions of repeated memorial superimpositions, but I think that is a fallacy: photographs supplant the past and corrupt our memories.
When we talk about the 1970s for instance, they think about ABBA as one of the icons of the decade. They don’t know that ABBA at the time was considered to be extremely bad taste – vulgar and completely unfashionable. ABBA was still wearing platform shoes when everyone else had already moved on. What I mean to say is that it’s not always the best versions of the past that live on.
I don’t go for nostalgia. I try not to. It’s so easy to sentimentalize the good old days, but I don’t ever do that. I’m aware that things have changed, but I try not to go there. It’s very easy, and you get sort of a mental diabetes.
I also liked this:
If you do enough reporting, then you don’t have to gush about the emerald field, the white streak of the ball, and that.
There was a time when just about anything — dumb commercial entertainment, ugly clothes, the weird dishes your grandmother used to serve — could be appreciated and appropriated in quotation marks. Strained pulp is not quite that — its celebration of the formerly marginal and disreputable is serious and sincere. The condescension is not overt but is latent in the desire to correct and improve the recipes retrieved from the past, to finish vernacular artifacts with a highbrow glaze. We’re going to make ’em — movies, cocktails, regional dishes, zombie novels, garage-rock anthems — just the way they used to, but a little bit better. This strikes me as a form of snobbery. But then again, maybe I’m the snob.
Instagram filters are just how we’ve convinced ourselves to put up with looking at each other’s inane snapshots.
Essentially, we become our own documentarians and archivists in order to impose meaning on daily life, to show that we are honoring moments with the seriousness we are told they are supposed to possess, and to preserve that honor for posterity. We once did this in the semi-private realm of our families and social circles. Now we do so on a larger scale.
The bogus religiosity which now surrounds original works of art, and which is ultimately dependent on market value, has become a substitute for what paintings lost when the camera made them reproducible. Its function is nostalgic. It is the final empty claim for the continuing values of an oligarchic, undemocratic culture. If the image is no longer unique, and exclusive, the art object, the thing, must be made mysteriously so.
Can you see what is happening here? It is the return of the aura, of the unique and irreproducible artistic work. Across the artistic spectrum, we are starting to see a turn toward forms of aesthetic experience and production that by their nature can’t be digitized and thrown into the maw of the freeconomy. One aspect of this is the cultivation of deliberate scarcity, which is what Alec Duffy is doing with his listening sessions. Another is the recent hipster trend to treat the city as a playground—involving staged pillow fights in the financial district, silent raves on subways, or games of kick the can that span entire neighborhoods. This fascination with works that are transient, ephemeral, participatory, and site-specific is part of the ongoing rehabilitation of the old idea of the unique, authentic work having an aura that makes it worthy of our profound respect. But in a reversal of Walter Benjamin’s analysis, the gain in deep artistic appreciation is balanced by a loss in egalitarian principle.
What high-openness liberals feel as mere nostalgia, low-openness conservatives feel as the baseline emotional tone of a recognizably decent life. If your kids don’t experience the same meaningful things in the same same way that you experienced them, then it may seem that their lives will be deprived of meaning, which would be tragic. And even if you’re able to see that your kids will find plenty of meaning, but in different things and in different ways, you might well worry about the possibility of ever really understanding and relating to them. The inability to bond over profound common experience would itself constitute a grave loss of meaning for both generations. So when the culture redefines a major life milestone, such as marriage, it trivializes one’s own milestone experience by imbuing it was a sense of contingency, threatens to deprive one’s children of the same experience, and thus threatens to make the generations strangers to one another. And what kind of monster would want that?
Of course it’s a little strange if there’s another player that usually beats the best player ever. This debate is funny, and not just because it’s impossible to compare players across generations. It’s an attempt to make the present eternal.
The Faux-Vintage Photo: Full Essay (Parts I, II and III) » Cyborgology. On social media and “nostalgia for the present”. (via)
Faux-vintage photo will no longer be able to conjure the importance associated with physicality if the vintage look begins to be more closely associated with smartphones than old photos.
The famous saudade of the Portuguese is a vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist, for something other than the present, a turning towards the past or towards the future; not an active discontent or poignant sadness but an indolent dreaming wistfulness.
(via molly lambert)
Tom Phillips: Paintings and Drawings: Oh Those Reds. Acrylic on canvas, 122 x 25.5 cm, 1969-72.