Nostalgia of the Infinite
Nostalgia of The Infinite is painting by Giorgio de Chirico, finished in 1911. The painting depicts a large tower in the center of an open space inhabited by two faceless figures. The buildings in this painting are large geometric shapes that are adorned with Greco-Roman arches and columns. The strong lighting obscures the figures that cast long shadows across the empty space. The angular evening lighting in De Chirico’s paintings define many of the vast and empty landscapes found in the metaphysical and surrealist paintings. I am interested in referencing De Chirico’s paintings because I think they have an interesting reference and reflection to how individuals interact with technology within an isolated melancholy setting. Many of De Chirico’s metaphysical paintings were vast and empty locations that look like they were built for people to inhabit in large numbers; but instead, the paintings are devoid of human subjects. The architecture and objects seem to reference humanity through an allegorical placement of objects and marble statues. A common trope in these paintings, are small locomotives traveling in the distance. A train sends large plumes of smoke into the sky in the paintings, yet the trains are represented by silhouettes on the horizon. De Chirico’s metaphysical paintings mirror some of the themes, images, and ideas that were used in the conception of my film Nostalgia of the Infinite. The video begins with a synthetic sunset: orange-pink-purple clouds slowly floating across the screen. A synthetic voice reads a few lines from Alternate Forms of Communication. Alternate Forms of Communication is a text file that was developed through a performance involving online multiplayer video games and live streaming. This written portion is created through playing an online multiplayer game, recording the game as it progresses and uploading this recording to YouTube. YouTube’s transcription algorithm creates a text file (with time stamps) that is based from the provided phonetic speech happening in the video file. I found that YouTube’s Algorithm, combines words, distorts concepts and mistakes sounds. Most notably in this text file, YouTube’s Algorithm mistakes videogame gunfire as ‘applause’ and ‘laughter’. The synthetic voice is speaking in English with a heavy quasi-French accent, the words are muffled and almost unrecognizable and obscured. Written by technology, spoken by technology.
De Chirico’s painting: The Song of Love. The painting is placed on top of itself, in the background cropping architectural features and placing the audience in the empty gaze of the Greco-Roman marble face. The painting placed on top reveals other details. In the bottom left corner there is a silhouette of a train with a single cloud of smoke in the sky. I reveal the next painting, this is another piece by De Chirico: Piazza d’Italia, 1962. This is another painting that has very intentional lighting and shadows that blanket the image in a poetic way. In the center of the painting, De Chirico paints a reclined Greco-Roman figure, facing away from the horizon. To the left and to the right are two building facades that are characterized only by their arches, windows, and geometric design. In the center of the image lies the horizon line with the silhouette of a locomotive, with a single plume of smoke coming from its exhaust. As the scene pans into the train in the distance, there is a short glimpse of two faceless men shaking hands next two a third mysterious shadow.
A train then passes from the right side of the screen to the left. This train passing has a meditative and almost endless effect. There are no recognizable people in this scene. It’s a nameless locomotive traveling on its path. A webcam is broadcasting its existence from a fixed point above the path. There is strong directional light that defines the large traveling geometric shapes in the darkness. The live feed that has been recorded on OBS (Open Broadcast Software). With this software I am able to capture and record live moments that are happening on my computer monitor and use them as a source for inspiration.
The next scene takes place within a simulation. A long flooded hallway with a floating monitor at the end. This space is inspired by a common trope in dreams where one is drowning or cannot breathe. The time outside has been shifted to a later afternoon hour, the sun is near the horizon and is about to set. Inside the structure there is a cool-temperature light emitting from the ceiling and the flooded floor reflects the pink hue on the monitor. The viewer is then taken into the scene. There are waves crashing and folding into themselves almost defying entropy with endless energy. Vertically there are amethyst crystals on the screen folding into themselves within a neatly packed boundary. The song playing is from Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Greudo Valley. The song is slowed down, through the process of emulating an N64 game on an Audrino chip lowers the frames per second, causing a distortion in actions and sounds. The sound clip from Greudo is actually a computer’s CPU struggling to render the game’s files.
The next painting is Breaking Waves with Distant Ships, 1836 by Johann Wilhelm Schirmer. Schirmer is most notably known for his romantic gardens, and classical but empty landscapes. There is a feeling of loneliness and sadness in the landscapes he paints. Again there is the use of statues, architecture and technology in place of human subjects. This is included in the film as another short taste for an image. Schirmer I believe was one of the inspirations on the Metaphysical painting movement. In Schirmer’s painting, there are waves lightly crashing at the shore, there are ships at located at the top of the painting on the horizon. There is a feeling of endlessness and loneliness. Arnold Bocklin, the Swiss Symbolist painter was a student of Schirmer. I use Bocklin’s painting Playing in the Waves for its unusual composition. There is a baptism of subjects in this painting. Waves are uncontrollably turning the subjects. Another live stream presents itself again. This time it cuts to a camera positioned over another rail yard. This time the image is obscured by the weather patterns affecting the area. There are spheres surrounding the image. The ambient sounds are the become some of the only recognizable forces in this composition. Arnold Bocklin’s painting: Moonlit Landscape, 1849 the plays on the screen. This is another example that presents itself in painting that shows an obscured human subject and elevates architecture and landscape to the main subject. The images then fades into De Chirico’s painting: The Mystery and Melancoly of a Street. In this image there is an obscured human child playing alone in the street. The child is surrounded by large empty arcades of arches on endless geometric buildings. The wheeled storage container next to the subject contains almost no objects inside.
The viewer then pans over to Erangel, a vaguely soviet-post-apocalyptic map that takes the main stage for the game PUBG. In this game 100 players parachute onto an empty island, the players then scavcange the landscape for weapons and supplies. The players are forced into more confined spaces as the match progresses, causing encounters between players, forcing them to fight against one another until the last team or player remains. The map plays as much of a role in the game as the players do, with distinct locations for players to meet and fight within. The game lends itself to completely uninhabited and untouched locations on the map while the game happens. Most of the battlegrounds footage are from live matches with randomized sounds and inputs from other players, this causes a form of ambient sounds being performed by players. These are digital spaces that are meant to be inhabited by people playing the game, but are left empty. I find it interesting and poetic that a digital space is created for interactions, but it remains unused and uninhabited.