Common ground: Holly Herndon in conversation with James Bridle

Our desire for control is precisely the problem. We are never going to understand the world more broadly. We’re not going to be able to talk to trees in the way that we talk to one another. But we need to be able to live meaningfully, equitably with them and with all other natural systems.

James Bridle

This conversation between two artists whose works I admire has it all. Both Holly Herndon and James Bridle’s perspectives on technology and how they’re using that perspective in their works is inspiring. When they both came together, it turns into a conversation you want to quote most of it.

For the first timers, you should definitely listen Holly’s latest album PROTO and read James’s book New Dark Age. Maybe do it both at the same time.

Against the Pop Culture Nostalgia

I mean, the stuff that’s going on right now is insane, and we need people to be responding to it. If I can’t hear the present or the future in culture, I feel like we’re doomed to repeat the past forever. We’re not opening up that kind of mental space we need to move forward. It’s like that Mark Fisher idea of capitalism—it’s easier to imagine death than life after capitalism. That’s how I feel when I just see things like Stranger Things on repeat all the time. I get it, that stuff is fun to watch, and I also like ’80s movies, you know what I mean? There’s a time and a place for that. But when all of culture feels like that, it makes me nervous.

Holly Herndon – On collaborating with machines and humans

This from Holly Herndon is on point. Maybe I can’t fully get this because I was out of that loop in sense of both time and geography but similar things happening around here creates the same reactions from me too. Something about all this nostalgic stuff feels problematic to me and I think Holly clearly explains it why.

It feels escapist. Instead of dealing with what we have right now, all of this is an attempt to return so-called better times. Which, if you push it too hard, can easily turn into a mindset which wants to make stuff great again. And we all know nothing was ever great before and it’s just a shortcut for many reactionary stuff. We all know who are the poster boys of this pop culture reactionary movements *ahem Gamergate ahem* and what they actually want. And how far they can go for their desires to recreate those “great times.”

I don’t know. Maybe I’m overthinking this and it’s all just simple fun. But, like Holly says above, when you start to see it everywhere something feels off.