I was thinking they felt nostalgic but was trying to think what of: phosphorised flags of hyper-dimensional critters at some doof maybe; or an air-brushed car bonnet mural spied from the balcony of a room above a pub; even something tough sprayed on the wall that I’d kick a soccer ball against. They’re familiar without grounding any particular memory. As if the memories belonged elsewhere. And not even necessarily from before. Like apparitions on the prairies of Solaris where the fog fucks with your memory too.
Dan’s hauntological landscapes feel temporally ambivalent, like mourning a future that never was, and reflecting from this speculated future upon a past that may have grounded some lost utopia. They’re not seething with hope or anything, but just presenting what was not and will never be in light of what was and could only ever be. Never settling on a present, but maintaining some parallax view. They have something of a magical realism to them, but empty, without the bother of political allegory. They don’t represent a past to croon over, nor anything to desire in the future. They’re like imagining the former from the vantage of the latter, when now is always never.
There was a moment in Western artistic production that was obsessed with the ‘now’. Presented as the tip of the temporal trinity. As if un-concealing the present offered insight into some purer state of being. In front of a painting we were supposed to feel the disjunction of determinate thought, and the suspension of utility. Somehow it was thought that abstraction negated, if not evaded, commodification. As if immediacy were anathema to novelty. The aleatory artist surprised even themselves with their failed presentation of the unpresentable. What was really at stake was what to do if something actually ‘new’ happens, do we subordinate it within what we already know, or allow it to poison hubris?
To be sure, I’d follow Heraclitus before Parmenides over the cliffs-edge. But, the spectre of ‘now’ has given up its haunting, unconcealed only as a purring refrigerator in the night. Most of that stuff was a cold war soft-power plot anyway, testimonios to the supremacy of the liberal subject. Now is not the time for 'now'. It’s been evaluated and rendered useful. Each ‘now’ contributes to self-certain stable identities; fallen sway to toxic positivity, to being-in-the-moment as if we had something to do there.
- William Bennett