Tuesday, September 9, 2008

deferred materiality/materiality

We have real stuff. objects. physical things. We like real stuff. eBay is a remarkable example of our requirement for things. Revenues went from $47 million in 1998 to $749 million in 2001. On the other hand we have digital fragments of things that aren’t real. They may become real – like chair real or not. deferred materiality.
I’ve recently moved from the metropolitan Detroit area to Boston. I used an online quote to secure a moving company. They arrived a day late in a shiny 18 wheeler. I’m now in Boston, a month later with no stuff. When I tried contacting them online – phone calls led to unbearable holding patterns and no returned calls – they were tagged with a warning label from Better Business Bureau. I remember seeing all my possessions boxed up on the sidewalk and thought how unreal – everything that is me is in those boxes. Now I have the image of all my stuff vibrating with the select all key being deleted. gone.
deferred materiality in reverse.

The film, American Beauty, seems to be a video surveillance about a slow motion, car crash of middle age turmoil. Maybe - it’s about suburbia as a metaphor for quiet imprisonment. The more I think about it, it seems like it’s about evaporation. It’s about putting a face on pleasure, happiness, or fear; and ultimately having that face- blown away. What this present generation seems to be searching for - is the face of a new, pragmatic humanism.
What is our American Beauty? We are at the most dramatic crossroads of our existence. We have, in effect two different worlds we exist in. Like Madonna said, “I’m a material girl and I live in a material world.” That material world of representation and “stuff” is linked to a place of less material, - what I’d call - deferred materiality. The influence of the digital and virtual has effectively eroded our navigation of narrative, linear time. We live in the fragmentation of moments of hovering above certainty.

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