Whatever you now find weird, ugly, uncomfortable and nasty about a new medium will surely become its signature. CD distortion, the jitteriness of digital video, the crap sound of 8-bit - all of these will be cherished and emulated as soon as they can be avoided. It’s the sound of failure: so much modern art is the sound of things going out of control, of a medium pushing to its limits and breaking apart. The distorted guitar sound is the sound of something too loud for the medium supposed to carry it. The blues singer with the cracked voice is the sound of an emotional cry too powerful for the throat that releases it. The excitement of grainy film, of bleached-out black and white, is the excitement of witnessing events too momentous for the medium assigned to record them.
On a certain ordinary night,
between a humdrum Friday and Saturday,
they suddenly appeared exactly as I wished them.
Seen in a dream, they yet seemed freed from dreams,
obedient only to themselves and nothing else.
Wislawa Szymborska, from “Memory at Last,” translated by Robert A. Maguire and Magnus J. Krynski.
A poem about seeing her dead parents in a dream. What we wish — our subjective will imposed on others through magic, though powers that vitiate the will of others. Yet what we want of the people we really love is their subjectivity, their them-ness. I am a big fan of keeping the dead alive in one’s heart, but it can feel lonely, especially if they never change.