in the File 81the series produced by Netflix and inspired by a famous podcast of Mystery, Dan Turner, a culture-fascinated archivist vintage, is commissioned to restore a video collection damaged by fire. Recorded 25 years ago by a young film student, the tapes involve the investigation of an old Manhattan building and the strange events that culminated in the building burning and the filmmaker’s disappearance. During the restoration process, Turner will reconstruct the past and follow in Pendras’ footsteps, but most importantly, he will discover that the tapes contain something else: the presence of a dark and evil being who intends to return to the real world.
Aside from the show’s questionable quality – which was not renewed for a second season – or its hackneyed storyline about satanic cults, File 81 is a perfect example of the nostalgic drive of much of contemporary entertainment. And it is that its eight episodes are above all a homage to video culture: to cassettes, covers, players, cameras and all sorts of gadgets that populated our homes three decades ago and that from one day to the next were out of our lives expelled. A technological system that shaped our visual experience in the 80s and 90s and that, paradoxically, is gradually being rescued from oblivion in recent years.
[La nostalgia] it is a defense mechanism in times of accelerated life and historical upheaval.
If we think about it, this salvation is related to two fundamental issues affecting contemporary culture: a striving for materiality that seeks to counteract a world in which everything solid vanishes into thin air, and a need to travel to the immovable paradise to return to childhood, a time when everything goes too fast. The first of the situations is perfectly described by Byung-Chul Han in his essay nothing: world bankruptcies today. For the South Korean philosopher, we have reached the end of the era of things to enter the era of data. Are let us know and we have lost physical relation to material objects. Perhaps, therefore, we must return to the magic of things and reclaim a material experience such as he seems to have himself with the jukebox to which he devotes the end of the essay: a perceived “means of presence”. a body.
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The return of video undoubtedly has to do with this physicality of things. The physicality of the image itself, with its imperfections, interferences and noises, but also that of its “thing carrier”, the place where the image is located almost like a relic: the ribbon, the case, the label, the case… everything , what surrounds it, including the physical place that contributed to the social experience of the image: the culture of the video store in glorified by Xavi Sánchez Pons The Video Almanac or by aarönsáez in his novel video clubin which a group of friends tries to reconstruct the analogue paradise of childhood.
Along with the yearning for materiality, this yearning for video, like that of many other obsolete technologies, must also be understood in the context of the nostalgic epidemic plaguing contemporary culture. JanThe future of nostalgia, Svetlana Boym observes how this emotion, considered a disease in the 17th century, is now reaching an unprecedented spread, “a defense mechanism at a time of accelerated life and historical turbulence”. When everything changes so quickly and reality shifts, we look for references and fixed points somewhere in the past. Because although the origin of the term has to do with the longing for home – the pain (algia) around the house (nostos)—, That place to return to is actually a time: the eternal and happy present of childhood.
Nostalgia has become a central tool of emotional capitalism today. The affective trade in memories that leads us to consume what has been consumed before. The memory of the happiness of paradise lost and the opportunity to own it again. A recreation that has also become a strong political emotion: the construction of a mythical past to return to, the lost glory of an empire that must be made great again, or even, more humbly, a simple Arcadian happiness like that, that they had parents or grandparents.
In the last build neo-rancids, coordinated by Begoña Gómez Urzaiz, accurately reflects the dangers of this nostalgia – which Boym termed “restorative” – and the ways in which it can lead to immobility and the attempt to recreate an idyllic world that only existed in the imagination. Because if something characterizes nostalgia, it is precisely that, the construction of a space-time that never existed as we imagined it to be. Perhaps that is why many of the returners to the past also end up raising spirits and removing all the hidden and complex universe that beats beneath the imaginary paradise.
It’s odd that many of the nostalgic productions set in the 80’s and 90’s also feature a traumatic and paranormal past. series like stranger things, Dark, Fair: the darkest light either paradise Work this way in the recent past. And in many of them, the video – the film or the camera – becomes the witness or container of the trauma. It happens in file 81, where the ribbon, like a kind of wondrous lamp, acts as a container for mystery, an animated fetish. The tape, but also the picture on the TV, with its characteristic noise, vibration and interference. The rift through which the monster sneaks. White noise, flicker, the precariousness of the image that, compared to the purity of high definition, is still synonymous with visual authenticity to this day.
The technologies that used to make us happy come back later to torment us. The happy world nests in them, but also the traumatic past. Perhaps this vintage horror serves to counteract a certain nostalgic naivety and show that paradise wasn’t such, that only our memory turned it into Arcadia. The image of the past is full of cracks through which ghosts slip. That’s how we should probably see it. Looking at the fabric with its tear, the beautiful dress with the hidden tension of its seams. Perhaps only in this way, recognizing the cracks, the roadblocks, happiness as an unfulfilled promise, can we gain a moment to change the present.
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