Walking Behind Old People

Walking Behind Old People

The Walking Behind Old People video begins with the granulated, greyscale display of a faucet. A drop slowly formulates then retracts, setting the immediate mood of agitation and frustration. As the water drop monotonously forms and regresses, an unimpressed text face, comprised of “:I” slides across the page. The montage of cringe worthy moments continues as a thumb frantically flicks a lighter, releasing nothing but unsuccessful sparks. A colon paired with a bracket “: {“ repeats the same motion as the previous text face, inching its way across the bottom of the screen. The posterization of the video combined with the use emoticons and dull color palette creates a truly discomforting viewing experience for the audience. The piece continues as a hand with two outreached fingers madly attempts to flush the toilet. A shot of a rubber duck floating in the toilet bowl interrupts the aggressive pressing of the handle. The piece resumes with a stagnant “ System Error Restart” page. The grey pixelated background paired with a cartoon bomb placed next to the text reverts the audience back to a time of slow, and incompetent computers. This feeling is later reinforced by a loading bar that displays a quick progression before displaying an equally quick regression. The agitation builds as a fly beats its wings. While the video lacks sound, the image of the fly recalls the entirety of the experience, as the audiences own mind creates the loud buzzing sound accompanied with the fly’s existence. Along with the repetition of the clips previously discussed, the movie is completed by shots of an egg teetering on a table’s edge and a measuring cup filled to the absolute brim. The final shot reveals the same “System Error Restart” page, leaving the audience with a looming fear the video might restart to reveal the same sequence of uncomfortable events. The indefinite loop confirms these fears and enforces the unending concept of agitation. The film is accurately subtitled “things that make you go ‘ARRRRRRRRRRGH!’” This paired with the title, Walking Behind Old People, is completely encompassing of the tension that exists when attempting to watch the entirety of the piece. The piece purposefully maintains an asymmetric rhythm, causing the audience to find artistry in the midst of agitation.  

Created in 2000, this piece represents the transition into the 21st century. The century categorized by its promising future of technological advancements and high-speed progress has transformed the once revolutionary concepts of the 20th century into outdated and irrelevant ideas. This begs the question, what must be sacrificed to achieve the unconfined potential of the 21st century? Rafael Fajardo often explores the concept of design and functionality in his work and teachings. As the leaky faucet drips, the lighter flickers, the toilet refuses to flush, and the loading bar is only met by a “System Restart Page,” the audience is forced to watch the painful series of flawed designs resulting in a complete loss of functionality. A loss of functionality entails a loss of purpose. This theme prevails as society experiences the turn of the century. The 21st century marks a time to fix what is broken, to better what needs improvement, and to completely abandon what doesn’t work. If the 21st century is meant capture the scenes promised by the Jetsons and Back To The Future then a pixelated image of a leaky faucet encapsulates everything society must abandon to reach the new frontier. When evaluating the piece, one must consider the cinematography decision to antiquate the media. The granulated, greyscale visual is particularly frustrating because it defies the high resolution technology that exists today. The audience has become accustomed to world built on seamlessly functioning gadgets, yet the piece attempts to evoke the sentiments of agitation and unrest when the flaws in this world are brought to attention. As referenced in Cultural Code,

the goal of realism was never really to create a one-to-one equivalent representation of the world, but rather to critically evoke a world through subjectively selected representative elements.
— Phillip Penix-Tadsen, https://books.google.com/books?id=3T2QCwAAQBAJ&pg=PA211&lpg=PA211

This overwhelming agitation and frustration felt by the audience grants insight into the American lifestyle in the 21st century. Why is a leaky faucet so agitating when the underlying implication suggests a system of running water? The audience is perturbed by a toilet incapable of flushing, yet the privilege of indoor plumbing is rarely appreciated. As the U.S. marches towards a new technological horizon, the problems experienced by a first world nation become increasingly relative in the grand scheme. In the year 2000, only 61% of the world used safely managed drinking water services, while 2 billion people lacked adequate sanitation provided by plumbing infrastructures. This combination results in countless deaths from dehydration or contaminated water supplies. This piece offers perspective into what bothers Americans on the brink of the 21st century, and the relativity of those agitations in retrospect. While this piece could easily be mistaken for a simple montage of frustrating events, the audience must dissect their emotions to find the root of their frustration and analyze it from a global approach.

When evaluating this piece it becomes necessary to consider the “defiantly anti-art” movement described as “a tidal wave of satirical, absurdist art.” Fajardo ironically utilizes a grainy, black and white movie as his contribution to the start of the 21st century. Walking Behind Old People sought to juxtapose the expectations of what digital art should be in the 21st century, and alter the assumption completely. Created in 1917, Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain sought to accomplish the same shakeup of expectations as a urinal becomes the entirety of the art piece. Much like Fajardo, Duchamp plays with the functionality of the object. A product associated with human waste, yet named “Fountain,” creates a similar feeling of unease as the purpose of the urinal is met with newfound ambiguity. Using ordinary manufactured objects to accomplish an artistic goal is a style accomplished seamlessly in both pieces.

 Courtesy of The Tate-http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/duchamp-fountain-t07573

Courtesy of The Tate-http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/duchamp-fountain-t07573

On a similar note, The Gift by Man Ray seeks to modify household appliances in order to create a work of art. Also playing with an item’s functionality and intended purpose, Man Ray aligns a row of brass tacks onto a metal iron. An appliance once meant to perfect an article of clothing will now be used for destruction. When evaluating this piece, one might be frustrated with the pointlessness of a once useful product. Fajardo utilizes the same technique as he seeks to question both the design and functionality of appliances rarely overthought. By just placing nails on an iron, the mood of the appliance is completely altered, if not created altogether. Something as simple as an iron can now have negative connotations paired with a conceptual darkness untouched by household items in the past. Fajardo utilizes this transformation process to create the level of discomfort and agitation unreached by appliances in an everyday atmosphere.

 Courtesy of The Tate Museum-http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/man-ray-cadeau-t07883

Courtesy of The Tate Museum-http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/man-ray-cadeau-t07883

         A quote from Rainbow Rowell’s novel, Eleanor & Park, eloquently captured Fajardo’s Walking Behind Old People piece stating,

art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.
— Rainbow Rowell- Eleanor and Park
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