Nostalgia is described as a sentimental longing for a period in the past. This can be seen as in both a positive and a negative lights. Zoe Williams, from an article in The Guardian, states that ‘Ideologically, nostalgia is a retreat from a frightening future.’ which may be true within politics, especially as we can often cherry-pick certain positive aspects from a time in the past meanwhile forgetting the negative aspects which were most definitely there at the time. For example, in America, the 1920s was a prosperous time for some but for others it was riddled with unemployment and poverty, yet when we think of the 20’s we think of flappers and the glamour of it all.
However, when she describes The Great British Bakeoff as “saccharine, as old-fashioned, perhaps, but mixing in the disproportionate glorification of a timeless craft that, however dauntingly complicated it becomes, will never deliver anything but simplicity.” If baking is a timeless craft and many still practice it today, why is it wrong to glorify it? but baking is not ‘a thing of the past’, is it? Why is it so wrong to glorify a ‘timeless craft’, because it is infact timeless. ‘McTaggart argues that an event can’t be in the past, in the present, and in the future’, so really none of this matters lol
In addition to this, nostalgia can inspire works of art and for this example I use Frank Ocean’s debut mixtape ‘Nostalgia, Ultra’. Frank expresses his nostalgia by telling stories. An online magazine describes his work ‘Even the interludes on his records — the whirring cassette players and analog alarm clocks and recondite movie audio — are of an era that Ocean was mostly too young to have experienced directly, as are the old BMWs he rebuilds with such care. But he longs for these things just the same, and his creative triumph is that he has found his own musical and lyrical language to express that longing.’ In this case, I don’t think that there is anything wrong with being nostalgic. Frank says himself “Art’s everything we hope life would be, a lot of times,” and if it inspires beauty, like the stories he tells, in the form of an artwork, what is wrong with that?
Slightly differently, retro suggests not a ‘wistful affection’ of the past, but rather an imitation. Retro is like the baby of nostalgia and pastiche, combining the love of something which is passed and manifesting this by recreating it at the current time. For example, Elizabet Guffrey (2006) argues you can see many similarities between Art Nouveau and Psychedelic Art (as pictured below).
In conclusion, of course it is most important to embrace the present and where we are at this current moment, but so much, if not all, of what we do now can be attributed to the past. Rather than conclude I think I am going to have to end this post with a question, is it wrong to take inspiration from the past, not necessarily because it was ‘better’ but because it resonates with you and God forbid, you like it?