What is visual Vaporwave? You get a sense of it from browsing the images people put up online. 4chan's own /wg/ board does a good job of summarizing the aesthetic in higher-res (itself almost a contradiction in terms, but more on that later):
A pretention to magnetic/digital/compressed decay is evident throughout, layered over yet another filter of 90s consumerism, rad-ness, and postmodern technological optimism salad; a sort of visual recompilation of that decade's corporate attempt to co-opt "cool" from the subculture(s) that can look back on that era's boogie-man (the evil corporation) with a bit of soft nostalgia, safe in the knowledge that technology's acceleration of time has also accelerated the decay of that vision. What companies once thought to commit to the immortal 'net is now the quaint flotsam of Web 1.0, VHS tape records, and woefully outdated tech demos which now, inverted from their temporal position at the cutting-edge, ensconce their product referents in the obsolescence of the past.
- "web-friendly" images
- magenta filters
- "digitized" reality/tron-ness
- pop-culture references (muscle cars, personal computers, VHS tapes, "miami aesthetic")
- corporate allusions
- the mixing of "high" culture with "low" culture
- conversion of human/natural into technological/synthetic
These are the hallmarks of the aesthetic in the above images, themselves a sort of curated sampling of the art as it is presented to me by 4chan, selected on the criteria of what I feel best embodies the aesthetic. The semantic process each of these visual elements produce in us is worth a whole different post, but my own response may be best summed up with the keywords nostalgia, decay, comfortableness/fuzziness, warmth, technological/digital naiveté, and perhaps past ambition.
Why am I commenting on this now? What relationship does this have to the thematic restriction of this blog (SF, futurism, etc.)? Mostly tangential. I have recently commissioned a logo for my own custom computer building service, which I (appropriately enough) advertise through another Web 1.0 site - Craigslist. You can take a look at my logo here and judge for yourself how close to the mark it is, and why I would want to associate a high-tech service that I spend a great deal of time keeping current with this nostalgia-fest:
|If you want a quote on a custom computer HMU @ firstname.lastname@example.org|
I do think this also has a little to do with futurism. Not that I'm saying anything particularly new here, but our retrospection on the dawn of the information age is itself a reflection of our current attitudes toward its ongoing evolution - there is a sense of paradise lost, a feeling of the inevitable erosion of time that we now know creeps through even our most bit-perfect incarnation of our own culture (the digital web). Vaporwave is a reminder that the present becomes history - even the present this generation used to know. Indeed, it seems to indicate that technology's Moor-ish rate of progress is going to press historicity on past moments sooner than before. The illusion of control over technology and culture is eroding. The sooner we realize that we don't really control our own products so much as we exist in a maelstrom of recursive iteration, the better we will have aligned ourselves with reality.
Remix culture is not new, but our awareness of it is.