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Open Access Locating vintage

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Few issues are as pertinent today as the relationship between old and new, past and present, obsolescence and progress. Contemporary culture is increasingly characterised by a heightened awareness of the past through a revaluing of old styles, artifacts, and aesthetics. From vinyl records and super 8 cameras to iPhone apps and second-hand clothes, vintage and retro increasingly permeate our collective conscious. But how can we parse and understand these overlapping practices of looking back? This introductory essay acknowledges the ambiguous terrain of vintage and the blurred distinction between authentic appreciation and stylistic appropriation. It locates the vintage phenomenon within Walter Benjamin’s dialectical image, arguing that current artistic engagements with outmoded technology might be seen as productively activating the past in the present and exploring the new in the old. However, the simultaneous explosion of vintage into mainstream consumer habits requires a broad examination of the term in order to draw out its contradictions and complexities.
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Keywords: Jean Baudrillard; Walter Benjamin; analogue; hipster; nostalgia; retro; vintage

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Kim Knowles is Lecturer in Film Studies at Aberystwyth University and Experimental Film Programmer at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. She has published on historical and contemporary avant-garde film, poetry, and photography, including the monograph A Cinematic Artist: The Films of Man Ray (Peter Lang, 2009; reprinted in 2012). Her recent work deals with technological transition, the aesthetics and politics of obsolescence, and analogue film culture. She is co-founder of the arts collective and analogue film resource Bristol Experimental and Expanded Film.

Publication date: September 1, 2015

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  • NECSUS is an international, double-blind peer reviewed journal of media studies connected to NECS (European Network for Cinema and Media Studies) and published by Amsterdam University Press. The journal is multidisciplinary and strives to bring together the best work in the field of media studies across the humanities and social sciences. We aim to publish research that matters and that improves the understanding of media and culture inside and outside the academic community. Each volume includes feature articles, a special thematic section, a video essay section, and a reviews section that covers books, festivals, and exhibitions. NECSUS is targeted to a broad readership of researchers, lecturers, and students, and will be offered as a biannual open access, online journal.

    The journal is published in Open Access, with the following Creative Commons copyright license: Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0).

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