Nostalgic For Nostalgia

February 22, 2011

From Kane to Crystal Skulls, And Beyond the Post Modern

A few years ago at Korea’s Pusan film festival, painter-turned-curmudgeon Peter Greenaway declared cinema officially deceased.  Time of death: September 31, 1983, the result of “remote control zappers” being introduced to living rooms across the globe.  “Cinema is [still] predicated on the 19th-Century novel,” Greenaway lamented.[i]

The Prototype: Faceless Inquirer reporter Jerry Thompson wanders the long corridors of a vast warehouse, his search for “Rosebud” having come to an anti-climactic end.  Massive stacks of crates sprawl towards an impossible vanishing point.  They disappear into stygian obscurity faster than they can be counted thanks to the cinematic trickery of an elegant matte painting.

The Parody: Forty years later, Indiana Jones stashes the Arc of the Covenant in an equally vast warehouse for safekeeping.  Though the MacGuffin has changed, the matte painting is virtually identical.  Steven Spielberg has conjured the ghost of Orson Welles, visually equating Kane’s fate with the fate of the world.  In true postmodern fashion, Spielberg imitates “dead styles, [and speaks] through the masks and with the voices of the styles in the imaginary museum… the imprisonment of the past.”[ii] Rather than attempting to create an aesthetic representation of his current (1981) experience, Spielberg falls back upon a forty-year-old image to conclude his film.  The parody is charmingly ironic given the subject matter—Jones has quashed the potential threat of a tangible historical relic and the world is once again safe because we have locked up history and forgotten about it.

The Problem: Thirty years later the warehouse lights flicker on once again.  A crowbar pries open a large crate, clumps of excelsior brushed aside.  Within: The corpse of the Roswell Alien, and the start of a new adventure for our intrepid archeologist. The act of unearthing the mythic, extraterrestrial relic evokes the resurrection of the Jones series itself, the lore and mythology of which is similarly steeped in America’s consciousness.  One need only mention the word “Roswell” to evoke images of aliens and government conspiracy, just as the sight of a dusty brown fedora screams “Indy”.  .Boasting a familiar structure and recognizable faces, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull attempts to pick up where the original series left off.  But the overwhelming consensus is that the film scarcely glimpses the artistic success of its predecessors.  Aesthetic considerations have changed, yet we are still in the same damned warehouse!

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Flashbulb Flashback

February 8, 2011

With digital technology fast becoming the gold-standard for modern media, it’s easy to forget that celluloid was, in fact, the only option just a few years ago.  In the spirit of nostalgia, here are a few scans of some good old fashioned prints I made during my high school days.  All double-exposure effects were produced by sandwiching negatives in the darkroom.

The tactile memory of producing these photographs far outweighs their (dubious) artistic merit, but so be it. There was something mysterious and wonderful about the high school darkroom: The distinct smell of photo-chemicals, the slow methodical click of a anachronistic bakelite egg-timer, red light that was somehow both soothing and volatile.  It was sanctuary, a last bastion of privacy in an otherwise painfully public place. Arcane, alchemical, and cool–Where anybody with a camera could go to make art, make out, and find a little peace and quiet.

Drawing Under The Influence

February 3, 2011

Drinkin’ Jack Daniels, Thinkin’ Jack Kirby…