Every artistic period in the history of New York was the most important the city had seen. Every artistic movement was the first to to truly capture the soul of the city. Every generation of newcomers arrived in the city just before the era peaked. Every group came just as the era declined. Every artistic movement was the first pure people's movement, unsullied by commercial concerns. Every era learned an important lesson about sacrificing art for commercial gain. The same is true for every city that has ever existed.
Watching Celine Danhier's captivating documentary on New York's No Wave film movement of the late seventies-early eighties, Blank City I experienced quite a sense of deja vu. The story told here was one I'd experienced ad infinitum, involving various artistic movements in various locations, in damn near every doc I'd ever seen on artistic movements. I thought there had to be a common thread. And there was. The artists featured here—as well as those of [insert your favorite artistic movement for your favorite city]—all experienced their best years when they were in their late teens to late twenties. In other words, being young is awesome.
And I couldn't agree more. Yes, we all look with nostalgia on the past. Even when those years consisted of wasted potential. Case in point: me. This specific time in my life was a dead end. I did naught but drink and maybe, occasionally, write a little bit. Still, these were some of my favorite years. Why? I suspect part of it is nostalgia for being young, but I think there's a bigger reason. This is a transitional period, a time of new-found independence. It is during these years when we must finally fend for ourselves. Our personalities are becoming slightly less malleable; we're beginning to come to grips with who we are. In other words, these are some of the most important years in defining who we are to be in the ensuing how many years we will exist.
And so Blank City made me nostalgic for, not only the past of the No Wave movement (one I never experienced firsthand), but also for my specific past. For, you see, one of the biggest motivations for my moving to New York (aside from the public transportation system—I have no desire to drive) was a romanticization of this era in New York's artistic life. I had no idea what I would get out of it, but I knew I had to move here. And this time in my life would prove to be, not only the most important one in determining who I was to be, but also my particular artistic bent. And all I did was live vicariously through another group's artistic flowering.