Babel, Cildo Meireles, 2001 | Tate Modern, London

London. Clear skies and a high near sixty degrees. The sun goes down at 6:11pm, and the moon is full.

I can’t stop thinking about this 11-year-old I met the other day. “I’m interested in old stuff,” she said. “Everything seemed better a long time ago, like in the 90s.” I gasped for air and did the math. Good god, I’m old. But also, why wasn’t this kid interested in the future? It broke my heart a little. 

As we move through classrooms, C. and I have met quite a few nostalgic students. They’re making video poems to the 1990s. They deliver speeches in auditoriums about the stress of screens. They rhapsodize about a simpler time, and they sound like ancient poets, pining for a lost golden age. Days spent playing outside. The days when our telephones and screens were chained to walls and the world did not follow us around, haunting our thoughts.

In the 1990s, I was bent toward the future, moving from hip-hop to electro to techno. The 1960s and 1970s did not interest me: those times were dead. The future was the sound of a screeching modem. I believed in compact discs, sky pagers, and dial-up. Of course, the liberating, polyglot promise of the internet would soon turn sour, poisoned by money and our worst emotions. But it was nice to believe in the future for a little while, and I’m grateful I get to carry this sensation with me.

I recently saw Cildo Meireles’s Babel at the Tate, a mammoth tower of twentieth-century radios that fritz and skip through stations. Meireles was concerned with the cacophony of the modern world. He built Babel in 2001. I wonder what he would build today. When I encountered the tower, the radios were tuned to Journey’s 1981 hit, an anthem we knew as well as our names, singing don’t stop believin’ through the static while we stood in a circle, taking pictures.

Not Waving – Believe

Animals | Diagonal, 2016 | Bandcamp
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