NO FAKE FLOWERS: JUST FAKE TEARS FOR MY MULTIPLE DIGITAL DEATHS
I was asked at a conference if I had ever celebrated the death of my hard drive after it suddenly collapsed and years of accumulated memories and work were lost.
The celebration – if it could ever be called that – was characterized by unmentionable swearing, pounding on the table, threats issued to the dead shell of what had been my companion on long nights and travels, but all this – although having happened several times – could not be defined as a ceremony of farewell.
There have always been several feelings strongly linked to the disappearance of my digital existence – either a website crashed or a hard drive suddenly dying off on me. These were a) the feeling of being betrayed by my technological mistress and divinity to which I pay homage everyday with the wonder of a child; b) the awful sensation of having lost some important stuff that cannot ever be recuperated and that may have been important in the development of my career and finally – late to arrive but always welcome – c) the feeling of elation at the realization of being finally free from all the junk, the work and the past accumulated on the digital mental hard drive that I carry constantly with me.
This last sensation of elation has always been more important to me than the feeling of loss. I have burned my material artworks several times in the past without remorse – and every time a destruction of the artworks happens, be it digital or physical, I feel elated, joyous and marvelously happy for not having all of that stuff, both useful and useless, with me.
These destructions are cathartic and – although I cannot scientifically prove it – I am pretty sure that they are also ‘good for you.’ Every time a crash happens the body feels better, the mind relaxes and with a certain joy I look at my manageable hard drive that I can quickly scan through. I am sure that my tears are tears of joy biochemically different from the tears of sadness.
My questions on the issue of death in a digital era are: do we really die digitally? Or is it our sensation of attachment to all that is material – and the digital is material – that restrains our behavior and thinking? Are we really getting freer by not carrying all of these networks, connections, memories and notes of our lives digitized in a myriad of electronic formats: .avi, .doc, .jpg, .psd, .mov, .tiff, etc.? Or are we actually dying off through the creation of this content while the digital survives us?
Artists have destroyed their artworks – contemporary artists in particular – but is there an emotional link with our world of the digital? Is there an emotional reciprocation from a digital hidden consciousness that loves and hates us back and that may be happy to see us die while the screen switches off and the digital consciousness continues its existence without being reminded of us any longer?
Hard drive, digital crash, digital death, memorialization, representation, visual culture, destruction, ephemera