Sacha van Alfen
Internship: Studio Thonik
Nostalgia is paradoxical. While longing can make us more empathetic towards others, it can also divide us based on idealized notions of who belongs. The promise to return to a ‘pure’ and ‘perfect’ state lies at the core of many powerful and violent ideologies today.
This project aims to contribute to a more nuanced understanding of nostalgia by introducing two fictive characters, Nostos, who represents the longing to reconstruct the past (a restorative nostalgia), and Algia, who represents the longing itself (a reflective nostalgia). Giving shape and meaning to longing, these characters represent tendencies rather than absolutes. Through a chatbot they enact the two sides of nostalgia to demonstrate the paradoxical nature of this mental state.
Inspired by my work as a hostess in a nursing home along with the text I read for one of my philosophy classes: Nostalgia and Its Discontents by Svetlana Boym, I decided to base my thesis on the topic of nostalgia. Longing for a home that no longer exists or has never existed. Nostalgia is a sentiment of loss and displacement, but it is also a romance with one’s own fantasy. The danger of nostalgia is that it tends to confuse the actual home and the imaginary one. In my thesis I am exploring multiple answers to the question: how did nostalgia’s meaning develop from the coined moment of the terminology, and how has this concept been experienced in Europe since the 2000’s (with special focus on the period from 2010-2020) in comparison to the 17th century? By combining personal memoir/experiences and philosophical/historical analysis, I tried to find answers to this question. Nostalgia underwent some particularly significant metamorphosis’s. From a curable disease to an incurable feeling of longing.