The past always glows

“It’s hard to think about the present because the past always glows…

“In the good old days before cappuccino and sushi and ruccola went global. Well before red peppers spiced up our salads. Before adventure became a sport, and nature became a spot. In the good old days the Paris Metro smelled like cigarettes and lofts were reserved for only the New-York elite. Before seat belts beeped when they weren’t fastened and spies really did come from the cold. Before cell phone conversations were banned on trains. Before Googling became an aspect of human behavior. In the good old days when every second person was not a hero and every third was not a victim and every fourth was not stressed. Before we had an identity on line. Before toll-free numbers were delocalized and sent to Africa or India. Before the idea of a preemptive war existed. Before we thought there would never be any billionaires in Moscow. Before beach volleyball and snowboarding became Olympic sports. Before fusion cooking and before liquid nitrogen was used to make minute ice cream. Before you could get an espresso in Hamburg or Milwaukee. When Thai food was exotic and cholesterol a curious word used only for Scrabble games. In the good old days when people walked on the moon and snow covered London for weeks during Christmas time. No, it’s too far away, I don’t remember all that. It never happened.

“A time when things were not weird, but strange, and then they were really strange, a David Lynch kind of strangeness. In those disconnected days before Blackberries and SPVs. Before voicemail became the interlocutors in our lives. Before Godlum appeared on the screen. What a great actor. Before the Euro and before a wall was erected in Israel. Before democracy and free market became the only alternative. When New Zealand was not yet known as the set of The Lord of The Rings. Before people started using “like” to make similes about anything and everything. Before Shrek appeared on screen and everyone loved him because like us, he doesn’t understand any metaphors. When you could smoke in bars in New York and Los Angeles. Before the Bush Dynasty. when Schwarzenegger was the Terminator and not a governor. Before IPods, EBay, Viagra and spell-check. Before Western architects were lining up to build towers in China. Before people start ordering salads at McDonald’s. Before music became our soundtrack. Before clothing became a costume. Before we start looking at the world as a standing stock of material. Before the word “tree” did not mean “wood”. [1]

“Every technology is a metaphor. That much is clear. The difficult matter is to sort out whether this is a primary or secondary function. Which is to say, did we initially make this universe of instruments, machines, tools, and devices as a way of talking about our condition, only then to discover, post hoc, that all the amassed hardware also proved useful for solving various practical problems (washing dishes, killing neighbors, etc.)? Or did it work the other way around? Did we set out to kill our neighbors, say, and then notice that the sword was a lovely way to say “violence”?” [2]

[1]. Philippe Parreno & Rirkrit Tiravanija, Stories are Propaganda. Original Soundtack text of Stories are propaganda, a film by Philippe Parreno and Rirkrit Tiravanija, shot in 35mm in China in 2005, transferred on DVD and of a duration of 8’40”.

[2] Yara Flores, Spirit Duplication, Cabinet, Issue 39, Learning Fall 2010.

Image: The destruction of Neo Tokyo from Katushiro Otomo’s Akira. Via Sci-Fi-O-Rama.

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