Cyberspace, otherwise known as ‘a notional environment in which communication over computer networks occurs.’(Wikipedia 2018), has facilitated the birth of many weird and wonderful things, including an entirely new culture with new ideas and perspectives. This can also be understood as Internet culture which includes various takes on areas such as interior design, music, art and even forms of language. Today’s youth are the primary consumers of this culture, eating it up like a dog eats up…pretty much everything:
Internet art, as previously acknowledged, is a direct result of internet culture. Although most are created using some kind of computer software/programming, internet art can be anything that is uploaded through a web browser e.g. ‘images of paintings uploaded for viewing in an online gallery.’(Wikipedia 2018).
Vaporwave is an internet art movement with a distinctly different look. It initially began as a meme and form of electronic music that took the internet by storm in the early 2010s.
For the purpose of my project I will be focusing specifically on the visual component of vaporwave.
It is yet another result of people creating surreal works, uploading them to the net and having them become viral phenomenon. Most art is created to spread a message or to change perspective, but in the case of vaporwave, it is purely
A E S T H E T I C
Or at least I think so…?
This image is the artwork for ‘Floral Shoppe’ (2011) the very first vaporwave album by Ramona Andra Xavier who goes by the pseudonym ‘Macintosh Plus’. This depiction of individual images recontextualized to create something visually different set the bench mark for the characteristics of vaporwave art.
Most vaporwave artworks are characterised by the following elements:
- flat landscapes
- set colour palette (bold, highly saturated, neon colour gradients)
- cool background contrasted with sharp images in the foreground
- random objects: ‘…Grecian busts, palm trees, dolphins, skyscrapers, pyramids, floating cubes, 3D bubbles and marble columns.‘ (Jurgens 2016)
- Computer graphics
- Themes: escapism, nostalgia, pop-culture, consumerism, globalism
- 80’s–90’s influence. a promising age of revolutionary computing advances
- Dystopianism—the irony of pre-dot-com bubble Utopian dreams
- Digital editing flaws as part of the artwork. An extreme take on McLuhan’s ‘The Medium is the Message’ in the digital era
- Web 1.0–2.0 web design and design flaws
- Japanese influence
- Non-basic Unicode characters and punctuation—often Asian characters, computer code influenced
- Non-standard spelling and grammar. Remix culture even permeates grammar, where an extreme Descriptivist philosophy treats typos, grammatical errors, mistranslations and linguistic code-switching as art
- Maximalism—there is no subtlety in relation to the themes or the artwork itself. All meaning is literal or through direct metaphor.
- Disregard for sophistication and ‘high art’. In the post-everything philosophy of Vaporwave and our internet culture, the prestige of ‘high art’ has gone out the window. Vaporwave stylised the trashy aesthetic of low art.
- Cyberpunk influence.
- VHS, cassette influence.
- Glitch art.
Ultimately, the result of most of these elements coming together in one piece presents a complete jumbling and remixing of symbols. Some may say that this is a comment on the breakdown of language in contemporary society due to internet culture, or is the true purpose of this to create something that means nothing? This seems quiet fitting especially as we live in a world where advertising disperses thousands of messages everyday that may have a huge influence on our lives and decision-making.
In this way, vaporwave art can be understood as a critical yet nostalgic reflection of mass consumerism through our ability to recognise all or most of these objects despite them being recontextualised in an unfamiliar setting so that they appear meaningless. If this is the case, vaporwave is not the first art movement to have done this. Marcel Duchamp successfully challenged the conservative ideas of art by signing and dating an an upside down urinal and submitting it to the Society of Independent Artists’ salon in New York. Through Duchamp’s recontextualisation the message in the piece became about the concept, not the object.
The way I hope to mesh the internet art vaporwave aesthetic into my digital artefact is by creating an art series called ‘Vaporgong’. My approach to do this is to work with mixed media in order to create my pieces. I aim to take photographs of recognisable places around Wollongong; buildings, parks, restaurants etc, and turn them into vaporwave landscapes using adobe illustrator.
The coupling of images with computer graphics by Fei Alexeli in her artworks is one I feel very inspired by. Personally, her works feel influenced by the vaporwave aesthetic, particularly with the colour scheme, the displacement of objects and their recontextualisation in an almost futuristic setting.
The purpose of my idea in relation to cyberspace is ultimately to present Wollongong in a way that people do not see it everyday; as a vaporwave paradise. I want to create mixed emotions of familiarity and estrangement and depict landscapes that somehow show a visual bleeding of cyberspace into reality. If I can also find a way to mix online promotional activity, such as social media sites and tourist information, about Wollongong into the artworks I believe this would have an interesting effect on my audience. The cross over of internet culture, including visuals and language, into an everyday Wollongong setting will definitely arouse feelings of estrangement. Both these places, cyberspace and reality, are familiar to people, however, when visually put together why do they appear so strange? After all, we are living in a time where we are constantly switching between online and offline worlds every minute of the day.
Cyberspace, Wikipedia, viewed 16 March 2018, < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyberspace >.
Duchamp, M 1917, Fountain, photograph by Stieglitz, A, image via Wikimedia Commons, viewed 23 March 2018, < https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Duchamp_Fountaine.jpg >.
Glitsos, B 2016, ‘What Is Cyberculture? – Why Is The Internet So Weird? – What Is Vaporwave? – What Style Is In Fashion On The Internet?’, Digital Editions, 30 September, viewed 16 March 2018, < https://digitaleditions.dlook.com.au/2016/09/what-is-cyberculture-why-is-the-internet-so-weird-what-is-vaporwave-what-style-is-in-fashion-on-the-internet/ >.
Internet art, Wikipedia, viewed 16 March 2018, < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_art >.
Internet slang, Wikipedia, viewed 16 March 2018, < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_slang >.
Jurgens, G 2016, ‘Why Won’t Vaporwave Die?’, Format Magazine, 29 July, viewed 16 March 2018, < https://www.format.com/magazine/features/art/vaporwave >.
Stone, ML 2017, ‘The future of art – in pictures’, Guardian, 5 October, viewed 16 March 2018, < https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/gallery/2017/oct/05/the-future-of-art-in-pictures >.