Deborah Aschheim: Nostalgia for the Future

View::Nostalgia for the Future

Lately I have been thinking about memory and place and the idea of the future. When I was growing up, the future was limitless possibility, jet-age, space-age techno-utopia. “Modern” meant new. Now, modern means old and the future I grew up seems dated, irresponsible, obsolete.

I miss the old future and newness of the modern buildings that are old now.

The obsolete future is inscribed in the landscape of the cities where I spend my days and nights. Certain idiosyncratic, semi-iconic mid-1960’s buildings evoke in me an almost overwhelming nostalgia for the future that didn’t happen- some un-minimalist Edward Durrell Stone buildings, Bertrand Goldberg’s public housing projects for Chicago, the few built examples from the Japanese Metabolist movement.

Some of these monuments to the future that didn’t happen have already been torn down, or renovated beyond recognition. Some, like Philip Johnson’s Tent of Tomorrow, built in Queens, NY, for the 1964 World’s Fair, are in virtual ruin (this site is on the world monuments watch list,) while others inspire dramatic battles between preservationists and developers. That is not what it is about for me.

When I encounter these endangered or ruined monuments to the future from the past, gutted or restored or covered in scaffolding, I am moved beyond anything I can explain. I have a feeling of time travel. I feel sentimental about buildings I am not sure I would have liked when they were new.

I have been urgently seeking out the buildings, flying and driving and taking trains to them before they are erased. I don’t want to go inside the buildings. I circle them, trying to understand them before they are removed or renovated into the present. It is a strange way to feel about architecture. I am drawing them and building them, somewhat inaccurately and not to scale, entombed in imaginary scaffolding.

I am the same age as the buildings. It is a kind of self-portrait.


Lisa Mezzacappa: soundtrack to Nostalgia for the Future

The soundtrack to Nostalgia for the Future combines processed, edited and reconstructed recordings of my chamber ensemble Nightshade performing live, combined with recordings of analog sound sources (rotary telephones, cassette players, typewriters) whose tactile, textured voices as objects have rapidly disappeared from our daily soundscape. As an instrumentalist who traffics in futuristic digital technology for recording, composing, and disseminating my work, for me there is still poetry in the bare beautiful sounds of acoustic instruments played by people together in the same room.

Cory Wright, clarinets
John Finkbeiner, electric guitar
Tim Perkis, electronics
Kjell Nordeson, vibraphone and percussion
Lisa Mezzacappa, acoustic bass