“In the middle of a desert colossal neon-lit fountains incongruously spit blasé displays on the hour, every hour, fifty …
Living in the memory of our future selves
They will stop doing things, instead preferring to watch themselves doing things. They will film themselves, they will record their thoughts in text messages and group chats, and they will take countless photographs. Imagery will pass from the physical to the digital, and the potential to archive will no longer be reliant on spatial restriction.
They have already heard of one guy that has given up physical contact with other people, for fear of it bringing him into the moment.
Data will carry the same emotional weight as was once given to second-hand, sat-on-a-shelf-by-the-fire-for-thirty-years, hardback books. The emphasis on storing for posterity will become everything – yet none of the old stuff will ever be revisited – it will be enough that it is just there.
There will be a need to experience things as they are in the now and as they were in the then, simultaneously, so they will already have experienced them as memories the first time they live them.
They will spend most of their time watching other people’s lives being lived out as pasts.
This is not reverie, this is not living the memory as the moment: this is living the moment as a memory.
In the real moment, as close as we could approximate its occurring, we always did the things that our instincts told us that we would one day want to have done. They finally realised, or admitted, that experience is better enjoyed on reflection and so everyday events were skewed towards memorialisation.
Everything for posterity. Everything for the memory.
Everything is better in its absence.
Maybe we’re here [TITLE?]
“In the middle of a desert colossal neon-lit fountains incongruously spit blasé displays on the hour, every hour, fifty year-old palm trees grow thick with green, and 28oz beef steaks and buttery lobsters ooze over thousands of platters all day and all night.”
Against a narrative of constant setbacks I maintain control.
There are hillsides in the Lake District dedicated to maintaining ancient stock, including a breed of sheep whose fleece is worth less than 20p, and whose meat has long since fallen out of fashion, because I say so.
We have designed a world in which the natural is unclean and savage, exotic and distant, managed, and irresistibly consumable. From shopping malls inside cavernous casinos our most selfish desires are accommodated. I amass endless credit from shelves forever stocked, in supermarkets that never close. I have accepted that the oil will never run dry, and the mango tree will continue to drop fresh, ripe, Turner sunset-coloured fruits straight into my lap, year round.
We no longer need to watch the rich and famous living out our fantasies. We can stay at home, on the sofa, at the dinner table, and watch ordinary people instead. The fantastical and unrealistic is tantalisingly close. The screens tell me that everything is a little bit more real; a little more achievable. Perhaps if I watch enough other people doing it, one day it will be me on that tiny cell phone or jumbotron, doing those things to that pornstar while gambling everything I borrowed on the hope of being able to do it all again tomorrow.
Even when we lose we feel like we are winning.
Accompanying text by Trevor H Smith
Poster by Garry Edison Cook
A gathering of thoughts
Text to accompany the work of Tom Johnson..
A world view is encoded via the tools through which it is realised before exploding in myriad directions. Repeatedly it manifests in the contentious pairing of analogue and digital, a digital which – by virtue of its flawlessness – absorbs the analogue, tricking the eye into reading colour gradients and spray-painted zigzags as fictions; as digital effects.
Through selection and placement of colour, landscapes are rendered placeless by pixilation, their narrative sufficiently disrupted, they invite further interpretation while remaining firmly within the language of The Landscape. From classical scenes to video games, these locations cannot help but feel familiar. Likewise, the tablets bear a language not quite hieroglyphic: we may never before have seen these artefacts, yet we feel that we were somehow already aware of their existence. These and other MDF pieces are machine cut, using a CNC router which works on the same principle as a printer, transferring a digital line-drawing into the surface of the board. Dulux paints provide an analogue finish while overly complex fixings ensure these objects are firmly grounded in the material realm. Untreated timbers, bolts, and other industrial elements remind us that even a digital image must exist in the physical world if it is to be perceived.
Thought processes converge in collage, revealing the origins of the code through which the rest of the work can be deciphered. The collages function between the lines; between the pixelated symmetry of digitally routed MDF and eroded layers of household paints; to provide a snapshot of the moment of convergence and creation. Through relics and ancient symbols, geometric shapes, and industrial processes set against scenes from natural history, we sit in on the distillation of experience and access a world view that draws on the language of landscape, evolution and creation. Which pits so-called endpoints in civilisation and knowledge against the precarious certainty of the digital.
Trevor H Smith, 2013.
Excerpt from an unwritten memoir
By Trevor H Smith, for PAST PERFECT, and exhibition of contemporary art centred around nostalgia and memory.
I waited until the height of summer before going back. In the middle of a heat-wave I stood on the corner watching strangers drive up and down the road I used to live on. I watched people going about their business – tending my old garden, going in and out of the door to my house, carrying their weekly shopping back and forth to my kitchen. Through the window in the hall I watched them head upstairs to mine and my sister’s bedrooms, my parent’s room, and the bathroom I had taken a thousand showers in.
I turned again to face the street, and saw that the lamppost that I had crashed into on the day I learned to ride my bike was still there. Accounts of the event came to mind – my little sister at the garden gate, cheering then concerned. My dad, who had secretly let go of the back of my seat, watching me panic as I realised this, and not quite getting to the end of the line ‘watch out for the…’ and my mother, who tended to my wounds on my arrival, in floods of tears, into her busy Sunday kitchen. I could no longer recollect the tale from my perspective; the story had been told so many times by its witnesses and participants that my version of events had become wound up in theirs, and lost. No longer a memory, the day I learned to ride a bike is now a story that I understand as having happened around me.
The suburban architecture intensified the heat of the midday sun. Surrounded by concrete, metal, and glass, I ventured out into the now much quieter road. The scent of soft, sticky tarmac grew stronger, and as I reached the middle of the road I looked down to see the penny that I had fixed there a quarter of a century ago, the day the new surface was laid.
I considered peeling it up and taking it home with me as an emblem of closure, but I resisted the urge. Squatting down to inspect it, tarmac filled my field of vision and I found what I was looking for. The lamppost and its stories, the old house with the same front door that I closed for the last time half a lifetime ago, and the battered street sign – PATIENCE AVENUE – they were but corners of pages, folded for ease of reference. The real memory was the glare of the high summer sun, the squinted eye, the temperature, and the scent of melting tarmac; all of these things could happen anywhere, and have many times over, but this particular arrangement was uniquely mine. The brand new penny that I plunged into this very tarmac on which I now stood was a solid foundation, a memory of who, when, and where I once was.