Memory machines

August 4, 2007

Retro Junk aptly proclaims itself as “Your Memory Machine”. This obsession with the “retro” is one of the defining cultural trends of the last 15 years, currently spearheaded by Youtube, Family Guy and Robot Chicken.

This wave of ’70s and ’80s nostalgia will likely roll forward in time with each generation, but the charm of, say, this CBS “Special” Ident, for me is the fact that it was completely lost though dimly remembered for many years:

No subsequent generation is likely to experience such a large, sudden cultural recovery. I thought I would probably never see the ident again, and finding it on Youtube was an experience somewhat like Proust’s tasting of the Madeleine — immediately I was back in December 1980, on an orange shag carpet, up past my 8pm bedtime for the Charlie Brown special. But again, the effectiveness of that clip as a memory machine depends on the fact that it was lost for so many years — otherwise it would have become spread thin over many different times and memories. Always having something at hand allows us to force new associations and obscure older ones, (re)appropriate bits of culture, even.

It’s not the soup can that matters but the world that is referred to by the image. If certain words or symbols are banned/repressed, this will tend to hold still the world that produced them.


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