Enter the Soft Museum: Meditations on 8-Bit Bling

7:00 pm. The outskirts of Santa Fe. A drive past aluminum structures, cumbersome and nondescript—carbon copies on an industrial block. A search for a unit number. The foil of February darkness. After several k-turns, I produce my cell phone. The convenient safety of binary limbs. I dial and wait, tentatively imagining the nocturnal passages of unknown ancestors, the cautious push through sepulchral shadows. The ability to empathize with an ancient routine strikes me as deplete, a predicament banished from the First World. All I really have to go on has been passed down from the pages of books, the flicker of silver screens. Perhaps I am unfortunate in this regard.


“I’m lost. Everything’s the same”

“Be right out.”

Stray thoughts on modern conditions: light pollution, prescription drugs and toxic debris. Do cell phones really give you cancer? My mind jitters as I roll down the block, seeking the wave of a familiar hand. I am about to arrive at the residence of Nico Salazar and Autumn Dawn Gomez. They are friends with whom I have shared and discussed. However, the purpose of my journey goes beyond the realm of affectionate visitation. There have recently been sightings of strange talismans around the necks of electronic music aficionados. Unsuspecting nightclub patrons glimpse fugitive nostalgias, pixilated and dashing. Familiar faces like Mega Man, Super Mario and (my personal favorite) Sonic the Hedgehog compose the dappled surface of these charms.

Nico ushers me into the Soft Museum. As I enter, it becomes evident this outpost was groomed by a pair of rambunctious pop artists. Curious objects inundate the warehouse: giant canvases, esoteric deities and an assortment of masks. There’s even an inflatable ape clinging to the branches of a potted tree. Tethered blankets form flowing partitions; the creation of makeshift rooms. There’s a sort of joyful clutter about it, a childlike panache that hangs in the air like pollen.

Autumn reclines on a sofa… or maybe it’s a chase lounge. Clusters of texture and color hinder all attempts at inventory. Cambodian rock music radiates from a laptop: Ros Sereyothea, a likely victim of the Khmer Rouge. I roam freely, carefully exploring little eccentricities. This is a place of tri-optic teddy bears and lasers beams.

Pop art exists as an examination of the surface; the familiar as the profound. Well, at least that’s how I would construe it. But I introspect compulsively. Art that exchanges the “inner” for the “outer” frustrates me. And don’t get me started on post-modern diatribes. From personal experiences, artists (as well as writers) are shameless. Don’t expect straight answers. However, when I inquired about the inspiration for the 8-bit medallions that are becoming increasingly visible in the New Mexico electronic music scene, Nico simply explained that, “We live in two worlds now.”

Since the proliferation of the internet, we slip between worlds, convoluting what is real and what is contrived. Children born in the 70s and late 80s served as test subjects for this rift. Unless you had card-carrying members of the video game Gestapo as parents, formative interactions with technology involved triangles that discharged dashes, or Italian plumbers disappearing down wells. I suppose it may be difficult for someone born prior to this to understand, but some of us maintained an emotional curiosity for computer-generated worlds.

When I was a kid, I convinced myself the world was going to end by the year 2000. This was the result of flippant adult remarks in conjunction with a decade-long television campaign aimed at scaring the piss out of every sensitive crumb-cruncher in the world. Compound this with an awareness of serial killers, senseless wars and a breed of “bad people” who yearned to do something terrible to children that I could never quiet put my finger on, it’s astonishing that I didn’t grow to develop more complexes than those already acquired.

Lucky for me, escapism was only a game cartridge away. Video games were an aegis, a comfort best savored when you realized how small you are. Becoming a hero in a quest provided a sense of control that seemed unobtainable in the adult world, a childish rapture. I’m not trying to suggest that I spent my childhood within a fetal curl, but sometimes I needed a fiction in which I could participate, a shade to block the glare. At times, I even fiddled with the notion that my 8-bit adventures might induce an applicable bravery. As I grew, the outcomes of such whimsies were negligible. But when I was little, I felt that way.

Grownups cannot dodge mortal vulnerability, or hide from the tragedies of a tainted life. Self-forgetfulness is not an option. There are rights and wrongs in this world that we must address, explain and monitor. But our vigilance is also our amnesia. This is why I praise the efforts of the Soft Museum and its proprietors. They have restored an attention to a species of color and imagery that some might lose in a cynical haze. Their work is jaunty and impish, yet drenched in symbol and myth. And though their work may not be for everyone, it seems quite befitting for a generation that worships synthetic music and laser light.

Miscellaneous Theories on Time – Directed by Andre Ross

While grieving, reality abides by physics all its own. Memory becomes sense. Sense becomes time. Time becomes scene. Please take a moment to check out my latest short film. This film along with other work can be viewed by following the PORTFOLIO link above.

Rose Colony – Directed by Andre Ross

In film school you are constantly bombarded with questions pertaining to the subject matter of any given work. What’s the message? What are you trying to say here? Blah, blah, blah. This question is even more prevalent in the world of a documentary film. Be that as it may, I feel the best documentaries show the subject for what it is, without alluding to subtext or bias. With this in mind, understand that I did not make the following film to prove a point or plead a case. Agendas aside, I made “Rose Colony” simply to showcase an individual that I found interesting.