The Joy of Watching Old, Damaged Things Get Restored: Why the World is Captivated by Restoration Videos

The inter­net has giv­en us a few new ways to watch things, but many more new things to watch. It’s not just that we now tune in to our favorite shows online rather than on tele­vi­sion, but that our “favorite shows” have assumed forms we could­n’t have imag­ined before. Thir­ty years ago, if you’d gone to a TV net­work and pitched a pro­gram con­sist­ing of noth­ing but the process of antique restora­tion — no music, no nar­ra­tion, no sto­ry, and cer­tain­ly no stars — you’d have been told nobody want­ed to watch that. In 2020, we know the truth: not only do peo­ple want to watch that, but quite a lot of peo­ple want to watch that, as evi­denced by the enor­mous view counts of Youtube restora­tion videos.

At Vice, Mike Dozi­er pro­files the Swiss Youtube restora­tion chan­nel My Mechan­ics. Its “videos don’t just appeal to peo­ple inter­est­ed in antique restora­tion, which they sure­ly do, but many view­ers watch because they find the process relax­ing.”

Some come for the tech­niques and stay for the “hyp­not­ic qual­i­ty — the sounds of clink­ing met­al, the grind­ing of sand­pa­per and the whirring of a lathe pop­u­late each video. And watch­ing some­thing, like a rusty old cof­fee grinder, come back to life, shiny and look­ing brand-new, is unique­ly sat­is­fy­ing.” This verges on the new­ly carved-out ter­ri­to­ry of “autonomous sen­so­ry merid­i­an response,” or ASMR, a genre of video engi­neered specif­i­cal­ly to deliv­er psy­cho­log­i­cal­ly pleas­ing sounds.

In Korea, where I live, ASMR has attained dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly mas­sive pop­u­lar­i­ty — though not quite the pop­u­lar­i­ty of muk­bang, the style of long-form eat­ing-on-cam­era video that has gone inter­na­tion­al in recent years. One the­o­ry of the appeal of muk­bang holds that it offers vic­ar­i­ous sat­is­fac­tion to view­ers who are diet­ing, broke, or oth­er­wise unable to con­sume enor­mous meals them­selves. That may also be true, to a degree, of restora­tion videos. To bring a 19th-cen­tu­ry screw­driv­er, say, or a World War II mil­i­tary watch back to like-new con­di­tion requires not just the right equip­ment but for­mi­da­ble amounts of knowl­edge and dex­ter­i­ty as well. Click­ing on a Youtube video asks of us much less in the way of time and ded­i­ca­tion. And yet, among the bil­lions of views restora­tion videos have racked up, there are sure­ly fans who have act­ed on the inspi­ra­tion and built old-school skills of their own.

In our increas­ing­ly dig­i­tal age — char­ac­ter­ized by noth­ing more acute­ly than our ten­den­cy to spend hours click­ing through increas­ing­ly spe­cial­ized Youtube videos — skilled phys­i­cal work has become an impres­sive spec­ta­cle in itself. As every­where on the inter­net, sub­gen­res have pro­duced sub-sub­gen­res: take the vin­tage toy restora­tion chan­nel Res­cue & Restore or art restor­er Julian Baum­gart­ner (who pro­duces both nar­rat­ed and ASMR ver­sion of his videos), both pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture. If those don’t absorb you, have a look at Cool Again Restora­tionIron Man Restora­tion, Hand Tool Res­cue, MrRes­cue (a mod­el-car spe­cial­ist), Restora­tion and Met­al, Ran­dom Hands… and the list goes on, giv­en how much needs restor­ing in this world.

via metafil­ter

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch Bat­tered & Bruised Vin­tage Toys Get Mes­mer­iz­ing­ly Restored to Near Mint Con­di­tion

Watch an Art Con­ser­va­tor Bring Clas­sic Paint­ings Back to Life in Intrigu­ing­ly Nar­rat­ed Videos

How an Art Con­ser­va­tor Com­plete­ly Restores a Dam­aged Paint­ing: A Short, Med­i­ta­tive Doc­u­men­tary

Watch a 17th-Cen­tu­ry Por­trait Mag­i­cal­ly Get Restored to Its Bril­liant Orig­i­nal Col­ors

The Art of Restor­ing a 400-Year-Old Paint­ing: A Five-Minute Primer

The Art of Restor­ing Clas­sic Films: Cri­te­ri­on Shows You How It Refreshed Two Hitch­cock Movies

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

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  • Alexov says:

    I watch some of these shows because they show us how incred­i­bly smart we have been in the past, and still are. We’re the only ani­mals on this lit­tle blue and green plan­et to make such objects, involv­ing skills and tal­ents that come from edu­ca­tion and expe­ri­ence, and it’s amaz­ing to watch these things be restored.

    Homo Sapi­ens!

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