Caught in Suspension
“Nostalgia, it’s delicate, but potent, it’s a twinge in your heart, far more powerful than memory alone. This device isn’t a spaceship, it’s a time machine. It goes backwards, forwards. It takes us to a place where we ache to go again. It’s not called the wheel, it’s called a carousel. It lets us travel the way a child travels around and around, and back home again, to a place where we know we are loved.” —Don Draper, pitching a campaign to Kodak in an episode of Mad Men
Sometimes it’s the crisp morning air as I leave for work; I take a deep breath, inhaling a memory lost in time. Other times it comes with the music, the melody triggering something deep in my bones, reviving a distant memory. There are only brief moments in life where one feels they are in the right place, at the right time, and with the right people. It’s these moments that remind us what it is like to be alive.
We long to hold on to these moments, but we’re caught in the suspension of the present—hanging between the past and the future. Each moment that passes is gone forever, never returning to us. Times doesn’t return. All we can do is move forward.
We make art to imagine a better tomorrow, to build new worlds, to anticipate the future, but in the process of making, we end up documenting our histories. “The moment just past is extinguished forever,” wrote George Kubler, “save for the things made during it.” Our art eases that suspension, delicately balancing our history and our future. And maybe that’s the paradox of art, it’s created to give us a glimpse of the future, but is forever locked in a moment just past. Our art, then, becomes mile markers in our stories, keeping record of where we’ve been, creating a carousel, allowing us to travel backwards and forwards all at once.
It’s like when you scan your bookshelf and realize the tattered spines tell just as much about your story as the author’s. Or when that song comes on and you suddenly find yourself somewhere else. The things we surround ourselves with—our books, our music, our art, our objects—they all hold a piece of our story.
Time may never return and memory can be fleeting, but the art we create allows us to hold on to that nostalgia, to keep it close. As I was preparing images for my new portfolio site a few weeks ago, I found myself looking at work I’d done years ago and photographs I forgot I had taken. I was reminded of the late nights in college, hunched over my computer perfecting each project. I could feel the Spring air as I would walk to class each morning, as I prepared to graduate. These pieces are now forever tied to a memory, to a specific time. The art we make become much more profound when we realize they are the only tangible items we have to mark our journey.
The weather has been unusually warm in New York this week. I left my apartment building for work on Wednesday morning and as I stepped outside, a sense of nostalgia swept over me with the same Spring-like air I felt looking at my old work just a few weeks earlier. The past and future coming together in one instant. I breath in and am reminded of what it feels like to be alive. As I walked to catch the train, the sound of birds singing rose higher than the morning commute traffic.