- Re(-)presentation of Time, Memory, and Urban Space in Synecdoche, New York and The Truman Show as Critique of Mediatisation and Virtual Space in the Digital Age
- Tutor(s): Eneken Laanes
The point of departure for the research is the premise that the inherently reciprocal processes of memory and space have gone through a change in the digital age. The goal of the thesis is to show that mediatisation and virtual space are the most evident factors which have shaped the perception and re(-)presentation of time, memory, and (urban) space in contemporaneity. In an attempt to explore these viewpoints, the thesis analyses two films, Synecdoche, New York (2008, SNY), and The Truman Show (1998, TTS) through the method of close reading. The analysis is carried out on two levels, where the films are read as both reflections of the inherently reciprocal social processes of memory and space, and as commentaries on mediatisation and virtual space in the digital age.
First the thesis establishes that the social processes of memory and space are reciprocal: both bound up with time and continuous, memory and space cannot exist without the simultaneous relationship between: first, the perception of time and space, which relies on materiality; second, the thought concept where tropes work as symbolic reference points; and third, the lived social experience. These processes have changed during the digital age, which has merged the temporal and spatial dimensions, and consequently turned memory and time spatially traceable via virtual space. As a result, there are two dominant memory practices and temporalities in society and culture: retrospect and presentism. More importantly, in the world of prefabrication and reproduction, retrospect and presentism obtain a monetary value and become lifestyles which mediatisation and virtual space propagate, while also altering the function and the re(-)presentation of time and space in the digital age.
After underlining the reciprocity between the processes of memory and space, the thesis scrutinises the representation of time, memory, and urban space in the diegetic cities of Synecdoche and Seahaven. With the help of the aforementioned concepts, and by including the concept of nostalgia, the thesis analyses the films on a metalevel and restates the influence memory and space have on each other: primarily, where for SNY it is memory which serves as the point of departure for producing the space and spatialising time, then in TTS memory is the product of surrounding temporalising space. In addition, by incorporating two sets of cultural tropes into analysis – spatial “metaphor” and “metonymy,” and mnemonic “(total) recall” and “(total) amnesia” –, the thesis interprets the space in Synecdoche as a metonymic copy with a restorative impulse (thus subscribing to retrospect and total recall), and the space in Seahaven as a metaphor for clichéd or even imagined past (subscribing to presentism and total amnesia).
Moving from film analyses back to the conditions of the digital age, the research claims that the tropes both films use – total recall and total amnesia, reproduction and prefabrication, absolute truth and singular narrative, spatialising time and temporalising space – concur with the sociocultural and -political tendencies evident in the digital age: digital remembering, influx of information, immediacy of re-presentation in attention economy, and virtual space. In such way, the thesis stresses that Synecdoche and Seahaven function as artistic microcosms, where abstract ideas and cultural tropes find manifestation in urban form and memory-narratives. Although neither of the films really belong under the science-fiction genre – nor can they be seen as totally realistic – the thesis nevertheless asserts that the absurd, abstract, and ambivalent re(-)presentations of time, memory, and space in SNY and TTS mirror the equivalent aspects of contemporaneity, where the perception of time and space is dictated by technology and mnemonic devices. One of major points that the thesis makes is that in the mediatised digital age there is a need for critical spatial and temporal perspective to overcome the retrospect-presentism binary that plagues the mediated public consciousness. Ultimately, the thesis claims that the trio materiality – trope – social experience that constitutes the processes of memory and space has changed in contemporaneity: materiality now can be comprehended via virtual space, tropes can be in the service of mediatisation, and social experience can be embedded in imagined nostalgia.