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Melanie Bonajo

Progress vs. Regress

AKINCI, Amsterdam

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Artist
Melanie Bonajo
Title
Progress vs. Regress
Year
2016
Duration
51 min
Format & Technical

Single channel, HD video, colour, sound
5 + 2 AP

Melanie Bonajo, in this experimental documentary, explores the transformation of social relationships and the new forms of subjectivity that arise from the intermeshing of humans and technology in late capitalism. The video navigates the testimonies of elderly people, who have witnessed the vast acceleration of post-war technological innovation and the account for the rise of commodity culture. Progress vs. Regress also reflects upon recent networked digital culture, whose nature these old men and women completely fail to grasp, as they are radically excluded from it. Then, the asymmetry of knowledge and access to these always evolving new forms of media between the elderly and younger generations becomes evident as Bonajo opens up a dialogue between them. Having never experienced a pre-internet reality, younger generations –also known as the so-called digital natives– are intrinsically intertwined with digital technology on a subject level. Some of the questions that arise here and elsewhere in Bonajo’s video revolve around the near-prosthetic relationship with digital technology, its subjectivizing processes, but also its isolating effects: “Will emojis replace body language?, Am I a cyborg or an animal?, Do updates make me happy?”. These apparently tongue-in-cheek questions account for the complex affective and subject, producing dynamics at play in the usage of these new technologies that shape our experience.

In Progress vs. Regress the excessive investment in these tools is also reflected upon on a formal level. The first-person testimonies are intersected with a plethora of imagery and elements taken from contemporary digital culture: computer interfaces, notification sounds, social networks, emojis… A gesture that not only mirrors the dispersed and fragmented phenomenological experience linked to the always on-demand consumption of infinite digital content and media, but can also be read as a self-reflexive nod to new reception modes that video consumption in an online context brings about.

As sociality shifts from actual shared physical spaces to digital networks, empathy and affective connection seem to have become scarce goods. A final fictional sequence shows us the video’s elderly persons in their spaces within a retirement home. The delirious sequence stars a DIY-crafted, cyborg-like geriatric nurse, who lovingly gives them the attention and physical contact they need. Saturated by neoliberal and individualist imperatives of late capitalism, maybe in the digital future affective labour will be relegated to robots or cyborgs, as Bonajo’s video ironically suggests.

Maike Moncayo

 

 

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