On the unknown
In 1996, I was five, and already greatly in love with small molded plastic pieces known as Legos. Then, for a reason I forgot, my mother had gotten the chance to cross the Atlantic and go to New York City. Then our home had no internet. A house phone, no cell-phone, and people still met up by setting a time and a place. Being the wonderful mother that she still is, she asked me if there was anything I wanted from NYC…
I just thought of this instance by chance a couple of days ago. What may not seem obvious or even possible anymore, is that american Legos were different, wrapped in a fog of mystery. This fog was quickly dissipated by the internet, equalization, popularization, globalization.
Now all Legos are the same for the average consumer. What tears my heart is to realize that such globalized blend-ness can very easily be linked to a sense of liberty, and equality, of democracy: allowing the citizens of the world to have equal access to services from around the world. Democracy has become access to, not the right to, but the ability to have access to… is that liberty?
In Fatal Strategies, Baudrilard describes the process by which in the past decades we have carefully severed the umbilical chord that linked space to time. Was space too immobile? In doing so, “many” have granted themselves the right to apply what Baudrillard calls “ecstasy” too all sorts of things, making geography less relevant and their control of time the main factor of change, excitement, and ecstasy.
I found the reading from this week incredibly interesting but also hard to piece together. The emphasis this week was on the Beat generation, the United States, cars, motion. In the excerpt from “On the Road,” a few unfamiliar expressions came up:
“The one noble function of the time: move.”
“The purity of the road.”
“Why think about that when all the golden land’s ahead of you and all kinds of unforeseen events wait lurking to surprise you and make you glad you’re alive to see?”
These phrases do not have the same ring anymore, much like the USA were the land of unknown LEGOs then, before that the roads, cities themselves hid from one another, allowing the car to become this great symbol of the power of freedom. But now?
Baudrillard understood this concern for what has been lost. In both Fatal Strategies and Simulacra and Simulation, he dissects the mechanisms of the illusions the society of consumption have created to feel the gap felt as “But now”?
Now, nothing, now fake, now illusion, what is the true value of the car anymore? Where has the purity of the road gone? I have great respect for the ardor and passion the beat generation is fired up by. However, I feel like I am tainting it by saying such things. Who am I to respect embracing fear, danger, and praying life will be even more beautiful tomorrow?! Who am I to “respect” the horrors many lived through, the pains Ginsberg describes in howl? Who am I?!
A time tourist, the child of a complacent generation addicted by the state of artificial ecstasy, in which driving in a car isn’t as good as imagining people driving in a car, or watching people in a car. This is the generation of the hyper-real as Baudrillard describes it.
As a designer, I hope to find ways to create new value, value inspired and filled with history, without the slightest hint of nostalgia. Value powerful enough to make today’s generation excited to be alive in this new century rather than the guilt of not having existed in another.
In closing, I’d like to make a note about a Design Storm I took part of last week. I was invited to take part of a team of about 15 students and work with an amazing architect (and character) named Enric Ruiz-Geli. In the process however I realized that Art Center, to me, was flawed in its motivations. Instead of striving for the useful, beautiful and inspiring, we are taught to run away from the useless, ugly, and uninspiring. This creates, as proven during the workshops, inventive designers SCARED OF BEING INVENTIVE!?
Society, Moloch, has found a way to impregnate our minds with a fear of trespassing into what may seem inoffensive: the unappealing. Unfortunately, this fear is more destructive than destruction because it annihilates creation.
Our international culture needs a good pat on the back, a bit of confidence to be genuinely different in their own way, so we can once more have something to discover, build new roads, metaphorically or literally, so they can regain their “purity”. In other words, nothing that can’t be done!