|December 21, 2012|
Nostalgia No. 3, Ma Leonn, 2006
Throughout the 20th Century, the preservation of individuals’ memories became cheaper and so more ubiquitous, but it wasn’t until the last decade that the seamless interconnection of mobile recording devices with the world wide web allowed for the retention of the past almost in its entirety.
It is well over a decade now since the philosopher Jean Baudrillard began arguing that reality itself had been fundamentally altered by a highly mediatised world – indeed, that there was no objective reality anymore, only a reproducible simulacrum, the nature of which is determined by large-scale corporations and their allied governments.
But the world of photo-messaging and Facebook, of YouTube and Google, is not one defined by the manipulation of the masses alone – rather, it is conjured up by the digitations of the great mass of individuals.
Perhaps the reason I feel quite so liberated from the present while more and more attached, not to individually-recalled “good old days”, but to a collectively attested and ever-present past, is because the hard drive of my computer is overloaded with digital images of the places I’ve been and the people I’ve met, all of them time-coded to a 10th of a second. There are also audio files of conversations I’ve had, and an email trail leading back to 1996 comprised of many, many thousands of ephemeral traces.
In this brave old world, I can employ a few keystrokes and so correlate my personal recollection of what was happening on that day, at that very hour, with public events in Birmingham, Bratislava or Beijing.
Because of this, it seems to me that in the past decade or so, the half-life of our memories has become artificially extended. Instead of curling photographs and yellowing newspapers, we are possessed of a shiny and permanent now, one we flit-click about and so delude ourselves as to our own eternal youth – until, that is, we look down at the wrinkled and liver-spotted hands that rest on the keyboard.
After forty, all life is a matter of saving face. For those whose successes have run out early, the years are measured less by the decreasing increments of honors achieved, than by the humiliations staved off and the reversals slowed. Among our canonical twentieth-century writers, none suffered this pronouncement—one avoids labeling it a fate—more than F. Scott Fitzgerald.
How Western Europe Developed a Full Scientific Method
The lone survivor of traditional Western European ‘scientific’ culture is science. It has survived because it is now the handmaid of technology, without which contemporary civilization would collapse utterly. Anyone who doubts this should try to get a research grant for genuinely “pure” research.
William Kentridge and The Benefits of Doubt
He had started the series from inside Plato’s cave, so when William Kentridge launched his sixth and final Charles Eliot Norton Lecture with a retelling of the story of Perseus, he gave familiar things back to his audience — the myth itself, and art’s gesture of circling toward origin at closure.
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There is a cat that sits on the sidewalk in front of the bistro Chez Bébert near the Gare Montparnasse in Paris (I snapped his picture just yesterday). He does not greet visitors, but he does give them to know, in his silent occupation of that crucial space before the door, that this is his bistro, and that, whatever the surrounding humans may call him, he is Bébert.