Monday, September 13, 2010

nostalgia is a digital sickness and we are all infected

In case you haven't seen this, which has made the internet rounds this past week. (Works in Google Chrome or Firefox only.) It's the first instance I've seen of the internet's full utility deployed in the service of art. Kudos to filmmaker Chris Milk and Arcade Fire.

When I worked at the nation's broadcaster I used to hear a lot of buzz about "user generated content" as the next wave of...content. The phrase never impressed me. This film, or digital experiment / interactive media experience, on the other hand, did.

Notes on affect // I don't claim to understand affect

This film's emotional affect may depend on one's generation, and socioeconomic background, and/or whether or not you think Arcade Fire is "over." Are you motivated by a desire to return "home."? Does your childhood home continue to give you nightmares? Psychoanalysts go nuts for this shit.

Alternately, did you grow up in the suburbs at the height of the suburbs? Do you find it passe to critique "the suburbs," or does the topic still hold critical relevance for you? Etc.

I watched it four times, keying in the house I lived in from 9 months to 9 years, the house I lived in from 9 years to 18 years, (incidentally that rock garden appeared after my time) the school I attended from kindergarten to grade 6, which was bordered by the backyard of the house I lived in from 9 years to 18 years, and the house I lived in from 18 years to 23 years. It never failed to produce a lump in the throat or a sense of vindication when the trees sprouted up from the streets. Watch my alienation grow with the size of each subsequent house.

Nostalgia is a sickness // I don't claim to understand sickness

The success, as a project, of this film is that it comes close to representing a collective experience, that of disaffected youth.

9 years ago I workshopped a poetry manuscript about the city of Calgary and living downtown vs. living in the suburbs. One common critique I received was that my poems were not representative of (the commenter's experience of) Calgary. Then a friend came over to my parent's place, from the lower-middle class surroundings of the University, through downtown, to the leafy upper-middle class suburbia that raised/constrained me, bordered by Fish Creek National Park, a highway and the Tsuu T'ina Nation. My friend said, "You should bring the whole class here. Then they'd understand your project."

I suppose I could have. But I took it for what it was; a failure of the poem to communicate.
This film communicates to me, because it produces an experience that I tried but failed to produce.

As an interactive media experience, this film has a terms of service agreement that is 3,950 words long.

This film is a "Chrome Experiment."


You acknowledge and agree that Radical makes no representation or warranty regarding Content on the Services...

You acknowledge that you will not distribute, publish, exhibit, or otherwise use the Services, or any portion thereof, in any manner and for any purpose not expressly permitted under this Agreement;

6. Your Submissions Are Not Confidential.
You agree and understand that messages and other Content submitted by you are not private or secure and may be viewable by persons other than intended recipients. You agree not to submit to us via the Website any Content that you wish to keep private.

But what are we collectively looking for when we look at art? Is it only to see ourselves reflected? Is it only to hear "You turned out a-ok"? What happens after the death of the subject?

When you press

Nikki Reimer is the author of one book of poetry, [sic]. She writes poems in Vancouver.


Ray said...

My postcard read "Everything will turn out alright."

I'm a little blown away by the service agreement.

nikki reimer said...

That postcard wasn't mine..I stole it off the internet. Google "the wilderness downtown" images and you can see various postcards that people have created, all variations on a theme.

I prefer Kathy Slade's current installation at the Audain Gallery:

To Be

nikki reimer said...

Claire Lacey / Poetactics recent review of Lisa Robertson's _Office for Soft Architecture_ on 95 Books Blog also speaks to this post, the suburbs and the city:

Claire Lacey said...

Great post, Nikki. You raise lots of good points. I'm currently thinking about how interactions with space / memories of space are experiential. You mention socioeconomic background & generation, and I would add ability, which impacts level of access to place. How does one's relationship to one's own body affect one's understanding of place? What about those of us who relate more closely to digital communities than local ones? Does nostalgia for "home" become obsolete?

Lemon Hound said...

I think I would rather read your failed poem, Nikki. The video did nothing for me, alas. I don't want my memories being plugged into anyone else's interface, I suppose...or if I do, I don't want it to feel like my experience resembles a shopping mall.

Of course it does...but I'd rather be in Lisa Robertson's mall...

Great post though, and yes, I think the question of digital image as necessarily nostalgic is an interesting one for sure.

Stil, I want to hear more about that failed poem, and your subsequent attempts to elucidate that moment.