Fetishization of the Past

Modernity. The now. The blinking neon lights of 2023, suffused with technophilic fantasies. Are we really supposed to be the generation whose heads may only look forward?  To stare straight ahead into the abyss of the future? Can we not swivel on the axis of our necks for one last longing look towards the past? Must we be shackled to a world where the metaverse means “home” to us?

I’ll correct myself there. Put myself right. Set myself on the straight and narrow. “Shackled” was the wrong word to use. I’m sorry. The future is not torturous at all. It is very important and exciting and all of those things. But, as an ad student who has pored over piles of D&AD annuals from long ago, I face a real dichotomy. See, I’ve been seduced by the “good old stuff”.  The questionable yet elegant seventies. The decade of art direction defined by lustrous negative space and crunched up type. I swoon over the likes of George Lois, Paul Arden, John Hegarty and Helmut Krone. They would wrinkle their noses if they saw some of the stuff out in the real world today. Is that due to a generational difference? Or was it really that much better then? (Yes).

The other day I was rightfully told by a mentor that a few of my posters were too “retro”. I realise now that my partner and I had fallen victim to the youthful curse of fetishizing the past. A past that is now long gone. We can’t be tweeny fangirls of a zeitgeist that has no real place in the present. We can still worship them though, of course. Don’t get me wrong.

That was how they did it back then. So, let’s find a new way to do it now. Learn from the great advertising gods & goddesses, but don’t let them get under your skin. Swoon over their work from afar. Pin it up on your wall, keep it in your wallet, get it tattooed on your skin. Eat it for breakfast, lunch, a midnight snack – but don’t regurgitate these tasty morsels. Find the new way to do it. Be original and fresh. Don’t forget about them. Just know what came before you. And then you will know what comes next. I think.

I want to make stuff that no one has seen before. I want to hit myself over the head with originality and freshness and be unpredictable and be volatile and yeah. Maybe if we all do this then our grandchildren’s children will be lusting over our work? Maybe. I’ll say yes.


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