Ravensbourne Postgraduate | Sangwoo Lee – Nostalgic Irony
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Sangwoo Lee – Nostalgic Irony

Sangwoo Lee’s MA Moving Image project Nostalgic Irony is a creative film using projection mapping techniques to appropriate video effects and styles of the 80s. Lee looked at stage design and live performance to see how people interact with older media to refine his study. Underpinned by an understanding of what ‘glitch’ has come to mean in the wake of new digital technologies, Lee’s work makes a ‘set design’ from old analogue technology. Telephones and computer monitors, for instance have been painted white, and piled up to serve as a blank surface to project onto. Using projection mapping to layer images and effects onto the mountain of old hardware, Nostalgic Irony highlights the timelines of tech that has filtered into everyday ubiquity, the strength of classic design and the sway of emotion in the marketplace.

Often, nostalgia is thought of as an unhealthy attachment to the past; a longing for what we can’t have, or is suggestive of a past that was better, with the present a pale comparison. Though, as shown in Lee’s work, nostalgia can be leveraged differently. Instead, it might be in the honouring of what went before, so as to improve our experience of now.

Lee states that as vintage products have become more desirable in the digital era, that this tendency towards wanting what is no longer available, made rare through technological obsolescence or simply discarded through the tides of fashion, might be driven by our emotional relationships with objects and the memories we attach to them. Fashions return, styles become of interest of again, but nostalgia has been back in a big way recently. Take the pleasure of watching Stranger Things, a series built on the premise of recognising 80s sci-fi film references. For a generation having grown up in the 80s, the show’s success is an example of how the comfort of nostalgia is bound up even in the most pop cultural of references. Nostalgic Irony follows suit with a catalogue of abstracted retro references, like a field guide to 80s media and technology, a great many of which played a huge part in the new horizon of possibilities for music, fashion and art of the time.