Handful of Fantastic ZoologyMarch 18, 2007
“By treating the things of media–the artifacts, the technical apparatuses, the material texts as if they, like living things, have lives and therefore potential biographies, we can trace their paths as they pass across social classes and from newness to obsolescence.” (Michelle Henning, New Lamps for Old, Residual Media, 2007, p.50)
Sifting through schlock at the Picadilly flea market today, I found two portable CD players. I’d been eager to find some working devices so that I might embark on a laser guided derive along the lines of Michael Oster’s CD Trauma techniques. “The CD players work,” the man at the flea market told me, “twenty for the pair.” It’s been hard to find CD-players, as the iMperial pods flood the mainstream market. The CD players I found are transanimals, hybrid electronics that play CDs, CD-Rs and MP3 data discs. Transanimals are a nano-niche disappeared in the blink of an eye. Hybrid moments are ultimately futile strategies as “survival of the fittest” is out-done by the latest. It’s not about survival so much as being physically fitted for always-already planned obsolescence.
In the nooks and crannies of culture is where by-gone media resides. Transanimals frequent this terrain. I found my CD players at the flea market today, but no sign of audio cassette tapes. A stray AC/DC or Quiet Riot album, sure. A Tom Clancy book-on-tape, yes. But no more the menagerie of home-made obscurities, the box loads of miscellany on audiotape. Those marvelous creatures with hand-scrawled text. The mezmerizing strangeness of travelling through time via a tape player left on in a boring room, a vacation journal, answering machine, or an impromptu verse.
Tales become taller. I sense mythologies creeping in, as I recall my second-hand hunting through flea markets of yore. “Once I even found a…,” as my anecdotal story starts. There is cross-over here with the crypozoological pursuit, a deep personal conviction that the age of discovery still exists. The golden age of discovery is as convenient as eBay today, although such armchair adventuring begs the question “what now?” The thrill of the hunt, spirited haggling and chance discoveries become extinct. Even the typo-farming folklore has become business as usual. In regards to eBay’s impact, as John Richards notes “It is not a question these days of getting hold of something, but rather what to do with it” ( 32kg: Performance Systems for a Post-Digital Age ) Perhaps, off-world adventuring, a la circuit-bending, in an electronic elsewhere opened up within the abundance of residual media?
Cryptozoologists Loren Coleman and Jerome Clark recall the golden age of zoological pursuit “In the beginning, as explorers trekked to new lands and listened to local informants, they were led to remarkable new species…Cryptozoology keeps alive the tradition of discovery and recognition of new species of animals (cited in Dendle, Peter Cryptozoology in the medieval and modern worlds, 2006)