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Same needs, different decade – Tom le French appropriates yesteryear's gadgets for today's technology

November 6, 2018

Nostalgia is a potent emotion, very different from the exercise of plainly reminiscing. With nostalgia, you get as much pain as you get pleasure out of memories. It's as much remembering as it is grieving – a momentary mourning of a time that will never be again. This may be the reason the word 'nostalgia' has been forsaken for the term 'throwback' as a social media tag tool. The former is too complexly laden with bittersweetness to be so ubiquitously used, and also not phonetically-friendly with any of the days of the week.

 

But Tom le French's latest collection of images belongs distinctly under the umbrella of nostalgia. It reimagines gadgets from previous decades as vehicles for today's most widely used entertainment and communication technology. By playfully merging the past with the present, it defines precisely a feeling of nostalgia for a time gone by – because we can all look back on these gadgets with both fondness and lamentation.

 

Cover image: Facebook, RE:BIRTH, Tom le French

Spotify RE:BIRTH, Tom le French

 

A pager, a walkie-talkie, an Etch-a-Sketch, a disposable camera – these are a handful of the eight items Thomas Ollivier – artistic director at Tom le French – has borrowed and re-identified in RE:BIRTH. Each of the individual gadgets retrospectively lays claim to hours of our youth spent in technological reverie, pouring over whichever contraption most fittingly spoke to our interests and dreams. Chances are, whichever retro object you recall being most connected to probably rings true for its corresponding present-day technology. This is where Ollivier's project strikes a gleefully simple yet ingenious chord – in its illustration that, no matter what, some things never change... that much. 

Instagram, RE:BIRTH, Tom le French

Instagram, RE:BIRTH, Tom le French

 

On a more didactic note, this project can be read as the visual equivalent of pleading with everyone to calm down about the horrors of social media, streaming, hyper-communication, and so on. It reminds us that the so-thought evils of today's world are not so far removed from the ones our parents so feared throughout our childhoods. If seen in a more apocalyptic light, one might interpret the project as a comment on the monopoly of human consciousness by the world's most omnipotent service providers. But its upbeat, positive name suggests otherwise. And who would want to go down such a dark road anyway?

WhatsApp, RE:BIRTH, Tom le French

Adobe, RE:BIRTH, Tom le French

 

Aside from hurling us into a puddle of pop-cultural wistfulness, RE:BIRTH forces us to remember the downfalls of outdated technology, the inadequacies, the inefficiencies. It shows us that even though little changes by way of our recreational desires, a lot needs to in terms of the technology that feeds them. RE:BIRTH reminds us how important nostalgia is, as it forces us to propel forward in a bid to create fitting realities to memories that are still waiting to be formed.

For more on the RE:BIRTH project and other works, visit the Tom le French official website.

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