by Tim Soter

I’ve slowly become somewhat obsessed by the ‘before and after’ corresponding to the birth of the internet and ultimately what boils down to analog vs. digital time periods.  Recently I found myself somewhat profoundly connecting with a scene from ‘Crocodile Dundee’ (1986) where the lead character finds himself trapped with the locals late at night in a NYC bar.  Having lived in New York, pre-digital era, I was reminded of what that experience felt like.  The doors might as well been locked because without cell phones, the people in the bar were your cast and crew for the evening; the deck you were being dealt from and you had to make something out of what (who) was there.  This environment had the potential to force you into conversations or situations that you might not have expected you’d be involved in.  There was an un(der)appreciated freedom to being truly unreachable and this wonderful feeling is probably best documented unintentionally in Hollywood movies of the time.  With today’s digital disconnect, one may all too easily find themselves pressing a magic button to “phone a friend” instead of engaging in a conversation with your barstooled neighbor.  And while the argument could be made that one could choose to leave their devices at home, who would?  What a paradox – by disconnecting from your portable communication device you have a higher probability of truly connecting with someone.  Relating this to the creative process, often times a lot more creativity can generated within parameters (“you have to make X within this radius, with these items, in this amount of time.”)  When one has limitless possibilities it’s easy to get stymied, lazy or simply overwhelmed.

I’d like to say that I’m simply working to figure out what systems work best for me, so I can be happy (and connected) and make the best work that I can make – that I’m not making a value judgment.  But that’s not really true.  I’ve spent a good deal of time excitedly documenting people who make things and contribute culturally.  I believe that cultural life is richer when people are truly connected and when there are parameters and hierarchies; when artists try to best each other without the constant distractions of remixed digital nostalgia. I have a vested interest in what the new guard generates, I want the bar to be just as high.

Currently I’m making decisions on how to present a body of work I made which documents NYC nightlife from 1994-2001, the period just before the internet and digital technology starting changing the idea of subcultures, presence and connectivity.  More on that project as I develop it but this is definitely a lead in.