Saturday, July 13, 2013

vampires of time

Digital native and millenial-not-millenial Lindsay Zoladz writes about the phenomenology of online existence a/k/a atemporality as everyday experience in her Pitchfork column Ordinary Machines:

"This was the year, let's call it 2010, that I first felt my sense of time breaking down completely. It was, not coincidentally, the first year I had a desk job and thus the first year I spent eight-plus hours a day in front of a screen. The days lapsed in disorienting flickers in the bottom right hand of my screen: 9:51 a.m. turning to 12:33 p.m. and how did it get to be 5:36 p.m. in what seemed like a couple of blinks. But even when I looked up from my monitor, a shift seemed to be happening on a larger scale, too. For one thing, the nostalgia cycle was all out of whack. The 90s were back, but simultaneously so were the 80s, and the 70s, and the 60s-- and the 1890s. Mythic records and out-of-print cult movies I'd spent half my life searching for were now available in a single, anticlimactic click, and the Willy Wonka-brite buffet of the internet meant that everybody was gorging on the recent past, but perhaps at the expense of the now. The wheels of time started to resemble a jammed cassette: The past was coiling over on itself in such a tangle that it didn’t feel like there was much room for the present. And maybe that was part of the reason why I found the vague idea of “millennials” so difficult to identify with, to claim as my own."

Actually the column is mostly about Vampire Weekend's new record as an expression of “millennial unease”. 

That's VW who I held up in Retromania's conclusion as prime example of pop atemporality that works, that feels fresh and original.  

Must say, though, I don't care much for the new album - some nice twirls of melody and vocal bits, but overall feels like the sound they've developed has neither the spare freshness of the debut nor the thick NOW!ist gloss of Contra,  the subject matter isn't resonating with me (everyone quotes that lyric about "age is an honour but you'd trade it for youth"-- well yeah I recognise the feeling but the expression feels clunky), don't know why a Souls of Mischief reference is any sort of big whoop,   and, yeah, dunno...  not grabbed, basically. Will persevere, though, as everyone under the sun seems to think it's the towering achievement of their mature artistry, even people who didn't rate 'em much before.

But Zoladz does intrigue me into wanting to digging deeper, identifying in VW new songs not just the atemporality of musical and lyrical references they've always revelled in, but a new preoccupation with atemporality as an ontological condition.

"One particular thing that strikes me every time I listen is how often it references time. From the persistent second hand tick in “Don’t Lie” to the way the refrain “there’s a lifetime right in front of you” becomes, in a flicker as unceremoniously devastating as a lost afternoon lapsed on a digital clock, “there’s a headstone right in front of you.” There’s something strange, illogical, and uneasy about the way time passes on this record; you could definitely say it’s on some Benjamin Button shit."

Reference to that movie reminded me of an interesting-looking book I came across just recently: Out of Time: Desire in Atemporal Cinema, by Todd McGowan, published in 2011, and exploring "the emergence of a temporal aesthetic in cinema that arose in response to the digital era. Linking developments in cinema to current debates within philosophy, McGowan claims that films that change the viewer’s relation to time constitute a new cinematic mode: atemporal cinema. In atemporal cinema, formal distortions of time introduce spectators to an alternative way of experiencing existence in time—or, more exactly, a way of experiencing existence out of time. McGowan draws on contemporary psychoanalysis, particularly Jacques Lacan, to argue that atemporal cinema unfolds according to the logic of the psychoanalytic notion of the drive rather than that of desire, which has conventionally been the guiding concept of psychoanalytic film studies. Despite their thematic diversity, these films distort chronological time with a shared motivation: to reveal the logic of repetition. Like psychoanalysis, McGowan contends, the atemporal mode locates enjoyment in the embrace of repetition rather than in the search for the new and different."

Zoladz herself references another interesting looking book, This Is Running For Your Life by Michelle Orange, for the line "in a time that is no time and only time and all times, all the time.”   

So many interesting-looking books, so little time... 

1 comment:

  1. This is so fascinating! And so true, I really wish this generation could find the courage to face our times and be original and ingenious about it, but until more people know that this is happening, I don't know where this will lead to..