Travels in Hypernostalgia, 2014
5-channel video, 4 audio installation
wall-mounted camcorder, tube TV, projections & flatscreen
This project is a reflection on personal video recordings from the spring of 2003, the start of the Iraq War. The wall-mounted camcorder contains raw tape from which the other images have been extracted. When installed, the footage is available to scroll through—a small window into this personal, cultural, and technological nostalgia. The below text is installed as intermittent voiceover, occasionally disrupting the videos' ambient sounds. Travels in Hypernostalgia has been titled after the essay by Umberto Eco, Travels in Hyperreality.
"Slogans and billboard ads mix in the landscape. A close-up of a police officer. A close-up of someone singing. A shop clerk watching the parade. There are rhyming chants, sounds of drums and shuffling feet. A woman cranes her neck to glimpse over the crowd. Images of cameras. Pamphlets and flyers are on the ground—club promotions, bible passages, niche causes.
Memory and image conflate. High school history class, Hollywood depictions, stories we've heard. In Montgomery, civil rights marchers turn the other cheek, Christ-like, as police use brutal force. In Chicago, an anti-war protester places a flower in the barrel of an officer's gun. Images are made. They present a binary: black or white, good or bad, for or against.
We move slowly in riot-police regulated pens, a tactic to gradually contain, divide, and diffuse. People watch from brownstone windows. A woman holds flowers in front of a line of police. Lawyers in neon hats give legal advice. We anticipate, we experience, we reflect. We make small talk. We photograph people in costumes. The ambitious carry megaphones. The chants: "Whose Streets? Our Streets!" and "No Blood For Oil!" and "We Don't Need a Permit!"
There are directions we may go and directions we may not. Most cooperate. Some antagonize, hoping to incite arrest or disturbance. A man sets off firecrackers and is arrested. We've come to see these things; to see ourselves as part of these things. We watch ourselves protest. We move through the crowds. We assume we move gradually toward the center of the event—the climax of the spectacle.
I go over and over these images from February and March of 2003. I watch myself protest. I insert myself into this narrative. I construct a history. I look for expressions of sincerity and apathy. I analyze the points of view, the information, the zooms, the degrees of simulacra and authenticity they reveal; reliving and re-analyzing the ways in which the images read.
I am comforted by anonymity, by invisibility, a single eye within the mass. "Authenticity in not historical," as Umberto Eco writes in a critique of American culture, "but visual. Everything looks real, and therefore it is real; the fact that it seems real is real even if, like Alice in Wonderland, it never existed." We are nostalgic for images and tactics we have seen mediated, not experienced. This is hypernostalgia.
I remember the protests—the trips to New York and Washington. The barricades, the slogans, the fuzz and din of congregation. The futility of the echo chamber. We lament the binary that never existed.
A man sits cross-legged in the street. An American icon of the 1960s performs. Police on horseback clear the streets. Someone yells to free the horses."