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Culture, Reality

Musica is a Museum

by Brandon Edmonds, image by Black Koki at Love and Hate Studio / 09.03.2010

The Waterfront is a re-purposed commercial zone. It used to be exclusively about ships and shipping, and now you can shop, date and see movies there. (All made possible by a dubious Dubai consortium, of course). Anyway, commercial re-purposing of surpassed industrial sites is universal. San Francisco, New York, Singapore, London. Cape Town. Not Detroit. Poor Detroit.

These are places where work happened that’s no longer viable thanks to the international division of labour – global investment (remember that?) logically chases ‘opportunities’ in countries where the workforce is oppressed into reproducing itself on a pittance. We’re looking at you, China. Hello, Mumbai. A unionized labour supply up to date on its rights costs more than rural adolescents new to the big city, with zero awareness of the tangled, rousing history of labour battles and victories won in their name. So capital flows to those far flung locales where bodies and minds are cheapest. This is the basic engine of the global economy. How those far flung States negotiate and control what’s extracted and what multinational corporations put back is the reality behind most every debate you’ll hear at the UN General Assembly. Thank god for Bono.

So while buildings are built in swarms in Beijing, a construction boom unrivalled in modern history, places and communities where work used to be done are dying. Michael Moore’s only film really worth seeing remains Roger & Me which details the devastation de-industrialization wrought in his hometown of Flint, Michigan. Shutters go up. Streets die. The marginalized make do with what’s left. A ghost town emerges. If a place is ‘lucky’, new social types move in with disposable income.

Re-development ensues. Warehouses become galleries. Workshops become hip sub-lets for urban professionals. A factory becomes an organic market. Entire neighborhoods morph from meatpacking, say, to couture. And on it goes, until cities the world over take on a homogenized, same-same quality, studded with brand outlets and consumption nodes, designed and intended for carefree shoppers who know who the 3 tenors are and have very strong opinions on Windows Vista.

Commercial re-purposing of surpassed industrial sites. Remember? Well, I’m suggesting the advent of P2P file-sharing and its mass global use now means we, as consumers, must re-purpose surpassed commercial outlets for ourselves. Anything downloadable free, ought to be treated nostalgically when sold offline, in ‘reality’.

We can think of Musica as a museum!

Allow me to explain. I dissed Korea in an article recently (the one with the Tokyo nurse who got away), and it is an awful place to live, but for chronic down-loaders like me, it’s the Promised Land. Unlimited broadband is around R80 a month. I ran a speed test on my connection over there and it came in at just under a megabyte per second. This means a movie at 800mb took around ten minutes to download on a good torrent platform. Ten minutes.

I remember reading about The Dark Knight online and started downloading (an admittedly shitty camcorder copy) – I had it before finishing the article. It was bedazzling. Music was instantaneous. I’d raid the Pitchfork “best new music” section and swallow it whole! My iPod heaved with painfully hip bands. Youtube was immediate. I do not remember waiting for a single page to load in Korea.

It was internet as it ought to be. (I still can’t believe the shit we put up with here. If Telkom operated like it does in Korea, there’d be violence. It is an extortionate, wasteful drain on our resources and directly stifles our developmental potential every single second it exists).

Anyway, I downloaded every quality film I could find. Obscure 60s new wave titles from Czechoslovakia. Everything Luis Bunuel ever made. The entire Tarkovsky canon, all of Satyajit Ray, everything by Wenders, Pedro Costa, Costa Gavras, Paulo Sorrentino, Antonioni, Fellini and Godard: that was just for starters. I checked out every Cannes winning film going back to the 50s. Got them all. The whole Criterion Collection. Classic American TV like the Honeymooners and great Japanese films, everything by Ozu, Mizoguchi and Kurosawa. Everything HBO ever did. I enjoyed hundreds of hours of great television, downloading entire series, from Arrested Development to Cracker to The Mighty Boosh. Classic 70s Italian ‘giallo’ horror, rare sexploitation flicks, everything by Jacques Rivette and Robert Bresson. I was my own film-school. It was great. It’s all online if you seek it out.
You simply need to be deaf to the claims of copyright and have more bandwidth than NASA. I filled 500gig portable hard-drives on a weekly basis. It was cinephile heaven. Then I came home. Where bandwidth is outrageously over-priced. You simply can’t build a purloined library here. It costs the same to torrent a film as it would to go and buy it. Online life is slow, slow and set at a price severely curtailing our surfing. There was recent media babble of new fiber cables and faster speeds at lower cost but who knows when? For now they’ve got us by the tender bits.

Wandering Musica knowing its entire inventory is a few button squashes away is a very 21st Century experience. You’re almost nostalgic for the act of buying a tangible CD. It feels quaint. Let me exaggerate. You have no muscle memory of the gesture. Buying a CD is akin to basket weaving or dialing a phone. It is an antique behavior like butter churning and doffing a cap. It’s how I feel around typewriters, Rubik’s cubes and old people. There’s a dreamy, cancelled quality – a sense of redundancy, the sadness of a lapsed vitality.

Musica is a museum.

We should treat it as such. Walk in with our mouths open. Ask questions, like what is he doing? Oh, he’s buying a CD. Pardon? Take pictures of it. Maybe buy the T-shirt. Look on people who work there with pity and embarrassment. Don’t they know!

Hey what other examples of surpassed commercial outlets can you think of now that content is ostensibly free? What else should we memorialize as spent behavior?

Image © and courtesy BlackKoki at Love and Hate Studio

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