Adam Nash introduces and unpacks some of the deep and complex themes explored in Chris De Souza’s new album “Solastalgia”
As a I child I moved a lot. With a new school in every year of my first eight years of education, life was filled with transition and movement. In the midst of change, I did what most of my peers did. I played outside, built forts, biked trails, ran, hiked, and adventured exploring the green spaces and parks close to home. My backyard did not end at the property line, it expanded beyond into creek beds and the local ski resort that hung on the horizon.
Later, I found out how normal and important my exploration and play was. Researchers and educators have been inquiring into the connections between personal identity development and one’s environment and space. “Place-making”, now a buzz word and an emerging field of research, is bantered alongside other words in an effort to capture the knit of identity and landscape that informs the health and well-being of who we are, the communities we create, and environments we call home.
Parallel to the further and recent developments in how we understand place is a reality check. Perhaps our connection to place was largely perceived, then popularized, because of a recognition of our growing loss and fragmentation to it. In the swirl of emerging globalization and technical modernization many have felt disconnected and isolated from themselves, each other, and the landscapes they exist in. Additionally, alongside our awareness of alienation has come more reasons for anxiety as ecological and social crises grow in severity and occurrence. Our disconnection has created a reinforcing feedback loop of sick and fragmented people damaging places and systems that anchor and sustain, thus worsening the initial anxiety and malady.
Solastalgia is a new word born in Australia, created by philosopher Glenn Albrecht, to help us grasp at capturing this loss, disconnection, and fragmentation. The word takes its roots, form, and meaning from a combination of words.
Nostalgia forms the foundation, “nostos” conveying home or native, and “stalgia” relaying pain and sickness. The prefix “sol” is connected to a few english words. Desolation connotes devastated landscape while the personal dimension of the word has a feeling of isolation and abandonment in its meaning. Another word, solace, alludes to the comfort and strength that can come from people or places. And, as the comfort and strength from these places is often blocked because places change and are not available to be experienced in the same significant way there is often pain – algia. All these words combine to inform a brief definition “… a form of homesickness one experiences when still at home.” (Albrecht)
Solastalgia, like any new word, helps to give light to terrain that has been felt, grappled with, and stumbled over. Art and song helps further the illumination giving insight into the interior contours. Navigating is only part of the journey.
This project is an exploration of the many dimensions active in the term solastalgia. Port Kembla and it’s people have an ache beyond a hope for the good ol’ days to return— as if there were only good days in the past. The space—now a place—has memories, both good and bad, and now the aches rest in the fragments, tensions, and challenges in restoring wounded parts and celebrating enduring connections and resilience.
As you listen to the rhythms and melodies may your eyes be opened to the many complex (dis)connections that weave, and may there be courage to walk the path of reconciliation and re-connection in a more engaged way.