Richeille and I are taking a few years to explore the deeply misunderstood phenomenon “Nostalgia”, using it as a source of inspiration. Feelings of sentimental longing, of pleasure and the wistful affection we have for the past or place.
We salvage artifacts of the past for entertainment, to calm present anxieties. We discuss the present in terms of the past, and we judge the present by the standards of long ago. Discussions of movies and television and music tend to begin with the question, “Remember when?” Those words summon happy thoughts. Or perhaps we return to the past because we are expert in it. Nostalgia waxes as the traditional understanding of time wanes. Human beings are temporal creatures. We need ways to understand and to order the past, the present, and the future. Nostalgia, most truly and most meaningfully, is the emotional experience—always momentary, always fragile—of having what you lost or never had, of seeing what you missed seeing, of meeting the people you missed knowing. Even though the self is at the center of the story, nearly all nostalgic memories involve close relationships, and so nostalgia also boosts our feelings of connection or belongingness. Nostalgia also increases a sense of meaning in life, and this is because most of our nostalgic memories are cherished memories. They’re the life experiences that help us feel like we’ve lived a good life. So you look at the past and say, “Hey, I had good things going on then. I should be able to have good things going on in the future.” So, nostalgia also increases optimism. When life is uncertain, or we’re not really sure which direction to take, we need to find clues, right? We need help in making decisions. Nostalgia gives us wisdom. It gives us motivation to take on the challenges of the present, and to pursue goals in the future.
Are we Nostalgic because we are unhappy with the present chaos and our minds drift to the past for comfort or are we miserable because we are stuck in the past? Through art we hope to unearth these fleeting feelings that overcome us, and to create work that connects us.