I’ve been thinking about the word fugitive, lately. Not the Dr. Richard Kimble variety, but fugitive in the fine arts sense. Sometimes these effects are unintentional. Works that don’t use lightfast pigments can change colour or fade completely, while poorly produced paper can suffer damage even from a reader’s breath. Of course, sometimes the artist’s purpose is to create something temporary, as in Richard Long‘s environmental sculptures. What’s been bringing the word to mind lately, though, is the thought that we’re moving into a fugitive age, spurred by the digitization of cultural production.
Call me a Luddite, but I don’t believe that having music, books, film and television available for download or streaming can take the place of record stores, bookstores and video stores. The Amazon glitch that caused them to delete all gay and lesbian titles is an example of why I’m cautious. A more important consideration for me is my reliance on the idiosyncracies of the people who staff brick and mortar stores. Their recommendations and conversation can lead to amazing discoveries. But regardless of my objections, the tide is turning.
On May 5th, the owners of Videomatica, possibly the best video store in Canada, announced that they will be closing by the end of the summer. They’ve probably found a home for their massive collection, but it’s still a loss to our community. Don’t take my word for it, though, when you can read this eloquent piece by Darren of my local video store, Black Dog.
Not even libraries are reliable repositories for cultural production any more, as Nicholson Baker raged over in his book Double Fold. The deaccessioning craze that’s taken hold of libraries seems to be in the same vein as the narrowing of focus found in big box bookstores and online video providers. When most people want only a small portion of the newest productions, what incentive is there to carry the old, the obscure and the rare?
I’m going to continue to support the independent stores as much as I can, for as long as they last. I don’t want to think about a world in which I can’t spend time in my favourite shops, browsing through stacks of books, thumbing through cds and records, or scanning the back of dvd cases.
And that’s Ms. Luddite, to you.