The 19-seventies had its personal distinctive aesthetics, questionable although that interval’s types have typically appeared to subsequent generations. So, in stark, jagged, neon distinction, did the eighties. These of us who got here of age within the nineties have, in recent times, come to understand that feel and look of what then surrounded us, which appeared each bland and exaggerated on the time. However across the flip of the millennium, one thing basic appears to have modified. The temporary “Y2K” period could now formally be retro, however how totally different was the model of the two-thousands from that of the following decade, or certainly one after that — the one during which we discover ourselves proper now?
To place the query extra bluntly, why don’t a long time really feel culturally distinct anymore? “The dimension of the longer term has disappeared,” British theorist Mark Fisher as soon as stated in a lecture. “We’re marooned, we’re trapped within the twentieth century, nonetheless.”
To be within the twenty-first century is nothing greater than “to have twentieth-century tradition on high-definition screens.” Although Fisher died 5 years in the past, his observations have solely turn into extra related to our cultural situation. We’re nonetheless experiencing what he referred to as “the sluggish cancellation of the longer term,” a phenomenon defined in the Epoch Philosophy video on the high of the submit.
“The best way we expertise inventive time intervals is dying as we converse,” explains the video’s narrator. “In our present state of this new postmodern social existence that we see within the West, historicity is gone. The best way we work together and expertise time is beginning to fade away right into a confused jumbled mess of aesthetic chaos.” The perpetrator, in Fisher’s view? The triumph of capitalism, and extra so the “capitalist realism” that closes off the potential of even imagining various social and financial orders. “Through the age of social democracy, Britain funded artwork applications and movie facilities,” leading to “experimental classics” and “extraordinarily inventive British TV.” These and different mechanisms maintained a “elegant worth round artwork” that protected it from “the whims of the market.”
At the moment now we have solely “a hyper-commodified sphere of artwork, the place the first purpose is now making a revenue — not essentially out of pure love of revenue, however the realization that your skill to be an artist will die with out tangible gross sales.” Therefore the “recycling of previous artwork” in varieties as numerous as “music, TV, movie, and even video video games.” This absence of the actually new, to Fisher’s thoughts, implied the demise of the very concept of the longer term, of enchancment on or at the least a break from the current. Irrespective of our political beliefs — or our skill to digest Fisher’s use of Derridean phrases like “hauntology” — we’ve all felt the reality of this in our cultural lives. As expertise marches on, we indulge ever extra deeply in nostalgia, pastiche, and retro-futurism. Maybe we are able to get away of this cycle, however Fisher, secure to say, was not optimistic.
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Primarily based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and tradition. His initiatives embrace the Substack e-newsletter Books on Cities, the guide The Stateless Metropolis: a Stroll via Twenty first-Century Los Angeles and the video collection The Metropolis in Cinema. Comply with him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Fb, or on Instagram.