Film Muse: Electric Earth

A lot of times I dance so fast that I become what's around me. It's like food for me, I like, absorb that energy, absorb the information. It's like I eat it. That's the only now I get. 

 That's the only now I get. 
 That's the only now I get.

After writing my "Stillness" post I couldn't quite get it out of my own head. If you haven't read that post I probably just sounded incredibly narcissistic (go read it here and then come back). Regardless, I still needed to understand why I felt so drawn to those images and those moments I described- beyond noting that they had a certain "stillness" to them.

What makes stillness?

I'd recently been studying Doug Aitken's work and felt like I was on the edge of dissecting this unnameable concept. Then, a mini epiphany occurred when I saw one of Aitken's short films called Electric Earth (1999)

(link to short film - don't tell the cyber police)

Doug Aitken is a multimedia artist now parked in Venice/L.A. He has done some really cool multi-projection installations like Migration and Sleep Walkers (Tilda Swinton literally on the MOMA building). He has a really beautiful method of showing human consumption, everyday habits, and the energy that is still left behind after them. He thoughtfully breaks down patterns, nostalgia, and forgotten places instead of leaving them at surface level consumption. Stylistically, I saw a bit of Gregg Araki (and maybe a little Kubrick) in this particular film. I say that because Araki often searches for some type of raw truth in his works by taking back the scope and sharing a more existential perspective which I think is worth pondering on. 

Electric Earth is a short film about a man who doesn't have much of a pull except a drive for dancing. He finds his purpose in the broken down molecules of life: a bottle cap spinning in circles on the cement, the pulsing motion of a washing machine, and the jamming of a dollar bill in a Coke machine. "That's the only now I get" he says. The places and things he finds inspiration in seem desolate and void of recent human contact. It seems like flickering neon lights and pixels are the only objects that keep him company.

I noticed that these places were almost all self serving, literally and metaphorically: the laundry-mat, car wash station, convenience store, vending machine. They are the everyday spaces that we all monotonously use and abuse until they become out of date, vacated, torn down, and replaced. It is only when we don't occupy or use these spaces that they suddenly appear strange and off balance ("stillness").

Why is it that we always deem a man-made place "alive" and "normal" if it is occupied by numerous humans themselves? Like when you visit a strip mall along an old highway. It's usually seems so dumpy and hollow that you can't even imagine spending more than 20 minutes there, let alone fathom how a couple people spend their lives there working alone. Why does it feel so foreign and askew?

And then why are there those who are so attracted to these nebulous feelings (raises hand)? Why do we find such spirituality in these places, such nostalgia for something that we've never experienced?

This film answers it. The feelings of fascination, of nostalgia, and melancholiness comes from the untraceable energy of life itself.  

It's like at the end of The Virgin Suicides when you see the deserted house that once occupied the Lisbon family. It seems so cold, yet still full of unexplainable ghostly energy.  The carpet, the paint on the walls, they are still vibrating with life even though every explainable sign of it seems to be gone.

I think we feel this way because we are tapping into something more universal than we are taught. I can't even explain it correctly here because it's not in our language (or way of thinking) to comprehend it smoothly. This character in Electric Earth has transcended the typical way of experiencing life. 

Everything has frequencies running through it, but it isn't until we are gone (or when our presence is removed) that we actually mourn it. I mean, think about it: we build these grand places and memories only to leave them behind and then reminisce about them- as if our presence could only bring them back to life.  I mean, how narrow minded is it to think that just because our human presence leaves something that it becomes a dead object? A dead memory? A dead path and end to it's purpose? 

Or like when Jessica Lange's character in American Horror Story: Murder House (S01E6) is explaining to the supernatural to Violet:

"You're a smart girl! How can you be so arrogant to think that there is only one reality that you're able to see?"

I suppose this feeling of "stillness" I've been trying to get at is more than what I thought it would ever be. Trust me when I say I don't want to be an existentialist, nor do I want you to view this as a negative confrontation of life. Yet when discussing the roots of "nostalgia" and "stillness", we have to start to think that maybe these feelings are so ghostly because life itself  keeps going on in ways that we can't understand when we aren't present. It's more than just a "soft grunge" or "retro" photo you reblog on Tumblr. These places, pictures, and video leave energy and influence in the universe. We shouldn't mourn them, we should learn from them. I guess I'm starting to learn that every action and object we create serves a purpose and lives on in ways that we will never completely understand. 

-Lauren Rose
Curbside Fashion

(no, I have not had a recent acid trip)

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