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July 7, 2013

Screen shot 2013-07-07 at 3.22.03 PM

On Sunday morning I awoke at 9:30am from a very clear dream. In the dream someone told me about a new internet subscription service called Omafy: a twist on Spotify, where instead of playing music on demand, it plays random quotes of wisdom from grandmothers (Oma, in German) indexed by theme. In my dream I thought this was genius. “Omafy! Of course! I need to bring this idea back to America! It can be called Grandmafy!” I was so excited when I woke up that I told my friend Dinah about it right away, not realizing until I put it into words how ridiculous the idea is.

Ridiculous? Or brilliant?

It gets stranger. A few days later Dinah sent me a link to something called Machina Recordatio. I was flabbergasted. It is Omafy! You can go to the site, enter a search term (acceptance, relationships, raising children, etc.), and it will play a series of recordings of old people talking about that topic. It even tells you the first name of the speaker, the year he or she was born, along with hometown and a list of other themes on which they’ve ruminated. Apparently this site is actually just the digital manifestation of an actual exhibition that was recently on display in Berlin. A box you could go into and submit a topic and then be surrounded by the comforting sounds of the wisdom of old people. I cannot begin to express how much I love this idea. I wish we had one in English.

I went ahead and translated the “about” page from the site into English, for those of you interested in reading it. I gotta say, I’m not the biggest fan of their explanation. The actual project is completely amazing, but something about the info page makes me uneasy… I’ll let you read it and then share my thoughts at the end.

The MACHINA RECORDATIO is an advice-machine for life’s daily questions. Be it difficult career decisions, relationship questions, or every day problems, the MACHINA RECORDATIO has the answers from life’s experts: seniors.

Knee-deep in debt again? The kid won’t sleep? Lovesickness, existential crisis, or simply don’t feel like working anymore?

All the questions you don’t want to ask your parents or friends, or that you would have liked to ask your grandmother were she still alive, can be answered here.

Forget the therapist and ask the elderly!

Simply enter in the search field a word or phrase related to your question and listen to the clips that result. If you want to hear more from a particular person, just click “Mehr von…” beneath the clip.

Can’t find the answer to your question? Then submit your question under “Fragen”. At our next interviews we will try to find the answer for you and if you give us your email address we’ll let you know as soon as it’s online.

 About the project:

 Our society has over the centuries generated a collective wisdom which has been constantly improved, specialized, and refined. Wisdom is no longer for the elite, but rather a quickly available resource. But it’s not necessarily true for the individual values of a life. What was perhaps earlier preserved in the togetherness of a large family will today be less communicated, as the medium for such tradition is missing: community life.

 Can we afford to do without the experiences of the elderly? The many people who live in retirement communities and nursing homes have already experienced what happens when one worries about the future, or what it’s like to be left by one’s partner. Does sadness, death, or existential worry feel different today from how it felt in the past? And wouldn’t it be comforting to know that we don’t need to start from square one with our problems? And couldn’t it maybe be helpful to hear the opinions of another generation in order to form one’s own position? What can we learn? What do we want to learn?

 In recent months we have interviewed seniors in Hamburg, Berlin, and Dresden and asked that they describe their experiences. Because when they go, so too goes their voice, their story, and their experience. All questions that are not asked before then will remain unanswered. What would they have said, if someone had just once more asked? If someone had just asked them to leave their recommendations for the younger generation?

 The MACHINA RECORDATIO holds tight to what soon will no longer be, and brings the voices of the old into the open. It is an interactive database of individual legacies and advice meant hold the answers for the restless in the chaos of daily life. It enables us to ask the few who know. It enters the world of those over 80 and their serenity.

There are no wrong questions, all is allowed.

Beginning in April 2013 the MACHINA RECORDATIO can be experienced as a large installation in various cities. In April and May in Hamburg, and from the middle of May until end of June in Berlin, and from the beginning of August through September in Dresden.

MACHINA RECORDATIO is the first part of the project DEM WEGGEHEN ZUGEWANDT  which premiered at the Kampnagel (Hamburg) in May 2013.

Again, like I said, amazing project. I’m proud to have dreamed about it before having heard about it. But I get the vibe from this text that the project is intended less as a tribute to the elderly than as a service to them. As in, “we’ll record you so your thoughts don’t die! Then we can benefit from them!” I don’t know. I guess there’s no way around that accusation. I suppose I would just prefer if there was no explanation of the project at all. People derive value from such things in whatever personal way they do, just like they’ll find the answers they’re “looking for” not in these recordings but rather in themselves.

Still, awesome.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 8, 2013 16:57

    So interesting! Thanks for sharing! Three cheers to grandparents.

  2. July 8, 2013 20:09

    Yeah I can see what you mean by you’d rather not have an explanation for the project. I think people would figure out themselves what the website’s about without consulting an info page, and when they did, naturally they would know to use the archive to find things that are of their interest. Having that pointed out to you kind of diminished the zeal.

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