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CRT as a Retro-Futurist Symbol of Space-Age Digital Rebirth
by Kate the Cursed
From time to time we will aim to crosspost articles from artists or have them guest write a piece as we did with Jeremy Torman last week. This one comes from Kate the Cursed and first appeared on her Medium page here.
Why do I use outdated cathode ray tube screens to make art?
Well, when I first posed this question to myself, all I could think was, “it evokes a sense of naive wonder.” I hope most artists can say the same for their medium of choice, but that’s not a very satisfying answer…
So the question I found myself grappling with is: Why do CRTs evoke a sense of naive wonder? Is it nostalgia, or something else?
I think it’s really about the association with discovery of something new for me.
When 600 million people tuned their television sets to watch man set foot on the moon in 1969, they viewed it on a CRT screen. When the Commodore PET, Apple II, and TRS-80 brought the power of micro-computers to the individual in 1977, they were plugged into CRT screens. When people first accessed the world wide web in the early 1990s, they viewed it on CRT screens. In 70s and 80s sci-fi, CRT screens, monochrome vectors, and physical storage media populate the desks and spaceships of the future.
Throughout the space age, the cathode ray tube became ingrained in popular culture as a representation of this amazing technological future.
The way I see it, the internet is a form of collective consciousness. Every screen is a window to somewhere or something else, allowing us to be interconnected in ways never before thought possible. I mean, tapping into a worldwide network of energy to communicate sounds like fucking magic. The CRT screen was humanity’s first look into this new dimension of global thought, and everything seemed so bright.
The cathode ray tube screen, the bulky workhorse of the analog era, has come to serve a dual purpose now. It’s more than a tool or medium, it’s a powerful symbol of pioneering the non-physical realm. It doesn’t just ‘evoke wonder,’ it’s come to invoke that naive promise of a brighter future. It invokes the forging of a digital rebirth for humanity. For one brief moment in history, the age of information seemed absolutely beautiful.
That moment came and went before I was born. My earliest memory is literally 9/11. I’ll spare you the details, but optimism for the future wasn’t an abundant commodity growing up.
Through using CRTs in my art, I’m channeling that sense of retro-futurist optimism that I only got to experience in fleeting moments of my childhood through already-outdated media. I’m turning back the aesthetic clock for myself and, subsequently, the web3.
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