Thursday, September 1, 2011

[ 0 1 ] t h e r a i l w a y j o u r n e y

I feel as though I'm the child of a steampunk movement reading this book moment A and typing about it on my charged laptop moment B. Every passage of the 'Journey I interpreted as an allegory for the way all humans share a developing world, whether online or on the streets as always, and how we're on this shadowlit train to success. Or failure. However doomed one felt after the chapter discussing crashes and trauma. When the reality of times destruction meets a mind well in cognition with that reality, is how it hit me.

An interesting matter came up in discussion pertaining to relevance of art to The Railway Journey. Things came up such as influences of Impressionism when the proscenium arch (window) between the audience (passenger) and the performer (landscape) was too blurry to even have any semblance of a contour line. It was as if railroad travel itself had become commodified after its invention so where this invisible, unnamed artist of railway travel began to experiment with its capabilities and came up with a more ephemeral mode of expression. I suppose with the destruction of time and space between two areas, there's less time for classical romantic expression (i.e. reality) and emphasis on immediacy and availability (a strange kind of fantasy we're being indulged in). On that note, I couldn't help but think of what other forms of art would be inspired by this 'proscenium arch'. Immediately it came to mind : music. The quarters. The fourths. The rhythm that exists not in mundane reality but exists in a construct of our aching mind to see the world differently. Its a quite beautiful display. The human body is trapped in a vessel for hours. Through a 2 x 2 window, thus begins a sonnet or a number to dance to. Check it out- Michael Gondry directing the Chemical Brothers. A nice collaboration if I say so myself.

From the same guy who directed Eternal Sunshine.

We tend to adapt very maternally to any/all resources at hand. After all, life has its unavoidable difficulties which exist for some caveman and his spear, as for the backpacking adventurer with a water bottle. Why not make life easier? Why not use a tool at our disposal to eventually get to our personal nirvana? That is of course the mantra of being an artist, in using what is just tools/medium to paint a personal vision. I've seen photographers throw paint around like fireworks, and destructively, vice versa. So what's the danger is over adaptation? Crashing. Trauma. And for starters, devotion to a monopoly of sorts. Keep in mind that the railways are for the most part a single way street. How many buyers do you think can co-exist at once? Funny enough, with the destruction of space in between cities we see the expansion of space within the walls of metropoli developing at these hot spots (usually selling us something; anyone want an iTouch?).

As a digital artist I began absorbing the book as a relevant means to my practice. The people kept crashing. They kept relying on the train. Safety was undercut by the desire of the public (something I believe Walter Benjamin will get into later). What modern relevance does this have? Two words : PSN hacking. Or rather, PlayStation Network hacking. What happens when millions of gamers across the globe are suddenly without a "free" service for a few weeks, something mind you was unavailable at the turn of the new millennium? Riots. On message boards. Inaction. To courter further inaction as the result of a network being down. And Sony gave every member of its network two free games after the dark period was over, and further bonuses which were (as a consumer of its wares) bogus. Even the games are arguably satisfactory (a title called Infamous was on the free list, while guess what, Infamous 2 released a week later). Not minding the 6 day period Sony waited to tell all its customers their credit card information had been compromised.

The face of evil. The group called 'Anonymous' whom hacked Sony.

Bullet point : Companies know we're desperate. They know we're on a train in between cities and that we don't wanna take the bus cause its slower. Months later from the incident, and Sony is back on top. I'm not kidding, years before Microsoft released entire consoles that broke down within weeks and Nintendo has unsuccessfully established itself as a heavy hitter as far as tech advances go. This is in reference again to only so many companies being able to own a 'one way street'. Who's gonna be a fourth challenger? Sega? Don't make me laugh. How about Apple? Their treasury is worth more than the US Government now. Maybe new management will see to new possibilities...

Then this harrowing idea that crossed my mind, more or less pertaining to art : the idea (then) of giving each passenger their own room or quarters to sleep in. Sort of like a hotel on wheels, which funny enough, was also said about the stagecoach (proof that we're often over romantic about dubbing new inventions as saviors to us all). It reminds me of Facebook, Myspace, or even Youtube and how we're each given our own little room to live in. Connection? Killers in the hey day were given preparation time to locate and kill high level monarchs while the high officials were trapped on a moving train and the killers had somewhere to hide. I suppose the moral of this display is know when to turn your head 180 degrees backwards and forwards while on this 'eternal train'. They may not be pulling an Anonymous on you, but it may be destructive all the same to a possible hiring or relationship if the wrong thing goes live.

In closing (or to be continued), the book was a journey to say the least. Its a bit of wind beneath your feet to see that history is on the same continual path and development as it was 1.5 centuries ago. We're still a part of that era, no matter how many rockets are launched or iPhones are sold. We're on this train together heading for something, and passengers have been 'getting on' and 'getting off' for a while now. I just enjoy it when trains stop long enough for the impressionistic view to become a classical view. But not too long.

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