When I was twelve I started my first band. I was in a punk band and it was called Lost Image. And it was terrible. But it was fun. The four of us had a good time, and while we had a good time we would record the practices we did on a Sony tape recorder in the humid garage we practiced in. Somehow I became the holder of the band memories and had all the tapes. No one wanted them. Eventually, as I had other bands, they went from their place in my tape collection to hidden away in storage. But I still have them.
Two of the members have passed away. The original vocalist drove his car as far ashe could into the Florida Everglades and walked out into that giant wetland never to be seen again. The original bass player died in a motorcycle accident five years ago. When I want to think about them I’ll put on those cassettes we made. Something in those sounds makes me embarrassed but also makes me ache. When I feel that incision I think of Roland Barthes’ idea of the punctum from his famous writing on photography, Camera Lucida. The punctum—that accident of the photographic detail that wounds us—can also apply to sound. Through this act of listening I can act as a necromancer. I can communicate with the dead when I listen to the sounds I made with my friends on this tape. That buried beneath the hiss and crackle are ghosts I have access to. This is precisely because it wounds me with its technical errors.
The desire for posterity is one of the many symptoms of grief, I am thankful I held on to those horrible cassettes because I can open that wound and peer inside. The cassette was my archive of these people and our shared memory—though the medium has grown somewhat obsolescent in the dominant music culture. I’ve had the opportunity to digitize them but doing that would erode that ritual of pressing play or the scent of ancient White Out I used to coat the tape shell and scrawl our band name on it. I would no longer have to handle the yellowing j-card. There’s something there to me that honors that time.
Obsolescence is important to me because it signifies a certain kind of death. This is a death that happens all of the time. When we get concerned with technology, one version destroys the past. One medium is better, more accurate, and another must fade away. Or be resuscitated from the brink. In my art I spend a lot of time destroying cassettes and reconfiguring their entrails into something new. I’ll collage the tape itself and adhere the tape and peel the mylar backing off to expose only the magnetic dust into a geometric mass of information. My hope is that it enhances a sense of the uncanny in its presentation of the media as a flat surface to gaze upon so we can reconsider informational time. In this reconsideration I tend to think it can draw into question the ways with which we archive, memorialize and mourn.