& I am Writing to the Future Children of God
Roxanne, it's the 23rd of March, Nineteen Ninety Nine, &
when I feel disillusioned I turn into someone else for a moment. A form of respite. Most of the winter months are filled with whatever substance I can afford and a feeling of profound ennui with how the world is progressing, how media, art is progressing. I’ve been listening to a lot of radiohead recently, specifically OK Computer which I was given on CD when I was very young. I never liked it until this year, decades later. Something about its theming and the dogmatic fervour with which it’s performed shakes me. I think in general it’s easy to grab the lowest hanging fruit and simply describe it as ‘ahead of its time’ but it feels prophetic in many ways. Our relationship with media, with capital, the development of technology, isolation, weariness.
In general the media of the 90s seems to be making a come back and there’s this potent dichotomy between the return of the commercial and the borderline suicidal. Maybe it’s my own insulated perception of the world but I’m noticing younger audiences being exposed to works like Era-appropriate Anime, Geocities, Lowpoly Aesthetics, Surge (ok maybe not that one… but I have a friend who makes a pretty accurate recreation of it), and the revival of rave culture (which many would argue peaked in the ‘90s). Only some of these large-scale swathes truly matter to me, there’s only a few ‘household’ anime series I truly enjoy, kids are interesting in the aesthetics of websites but not the actual coding and groutwork that would make for a meaningful revival of that practice, the revival of lowpoly aesthetics is often woefully one-note- being forced into a binary of ‘PSX-horror’ or ‘Sexless eroge,’ and rave culture is returning without an understanding of the fundamentals of PLUR - leading to bickering and infighting between fags who want to kill a yellow dog and fags who simply want to live. The popularisation of something that should be of interest is always tainted by the modern, violated by it to an extent.
Some of the more niche things are nice I guess. Jungle and Breakcore are ‘back’ (read: never left but this does mean more frequent newcomers to the scene and more of a chance for pressings), I’m seeing more critical appreciation for artists whose work was most popular in the 90s, and there is a small subsection of devoted nerds taking up the html mantle with the fall of Twitter (although, there’s always been a small subsection of devoted nerds taking up the html handle since it was invented). At this point I’m grasping at straws when I was already kinda grabbing at thin air to an extent. Revival of rave culture is more intertwined with the early 00s and a generation of people interested in the scene and emo extension of these ideas, aesthetics, not a broader zeitgeist and return to the underground club, and most of the things I’m meaningfully interested in have never left my periphery nor have they gotten any ‘bigger’ with this nostalgia for the 90s. *waving my hands in the error* Uhh furry MUCKS, suicidal online girls are back in style, Evangelion, something something there’s totally a pattern.
I think I’m coming off more cynical than I wanted to be, because I mainly wanted to talk about the return of this quasi-suicidal malaise that often, from my view, infests some of my favourite works from the 90s, and how I see that being reacted to by a more pedestrian audience. The largest reason I wanted to talk about all this was a newfound interest I’m seeing from people regarding Nekojiru, which as a fan of her work for many years, I’ve always regarded as abnormal due to her cult status and how the circulation of her art was avoided after her suicide. Fitting from someone who requested the world "Forget [she] even lived," and broadly, how I thought it always was going to be. I once fielded interest locally in the museum circuit to have reappraisal and translation of her work due to its artistic significance and the interest many institutions have in JPN Pop-art and its offspring, the Superflat movement and was told there was no real interest; either by virtue of her works being seen as too vulgar, ‘low art’ or due to the fact that contacting a rather obscure (at least in the West, especially Canada) artist’s estate, paying for translation, purchasing works, if they even still exists, risking an exhibition, etc would simply be too big a risk. This was a few years back now, and I was very inexperienced, but even then the online knowledge and appreciation for Nekojiru was pretty low. I got the posthumous OVA’s original run in the US for around 30$ CAD plus shipping, and now it’s sold somewhere in the realm of 200$ CAD. I see more fanart, more tribute sites, playful reference to the wide-eyed creatures, and some people outright mimicking her style, presentation, and personality.
It feels weird to describe it as such, as I often make little tributes to her work and have for some time, whether it’s the Neko Hell game that never hit the wider web in playable form, paintings, zines or comics that are explicit in the evocation of her work, but recently I’ve been seeing a form of evocation, mimicry, that sits heavy with me. I think in particular it was a tweet recreating a page from Jiru-Jiru Diary which is often reposted on many sites, with the creator redrawing the panel with the cat that they use as a bespoke avatar as opposed to the original, the banners found in the original Diary being roughly recreated and used as a template for future works, now being their default form of online communication. It unnerves me, and caused me to stop working on a tribute comic I was doing to Nekojiru’s work which I was periodically releasing pages for.
I’ve spoken about this a bit with a friend whom I hold a lot of respect for, and generally consider a form of critical or creative counsel when I need it, the great Chuuniologist Merilynn Paisley who was at one point exploring the subject, asking publicly if there are ‘commonalities r with ppl who clearly imitate a well known style i.e hajime ueda, tsukumizu or cate wurtz’ The question itself really lept out at me as a fan of Ueda and Wurtz, and the ability to apply it to an artistic fixation of my own. Meri touches on a few things here in my opinion, the fandomification of artistry that is emerging via the modern social reaping machine, the lengths with which people will copy their idols, and the way that that practice can sometimes take over the very being of a person, leaving nothing but an imperfect homonculic reflection that I would assume eats away at a person. I’ve seen this in a few places, the swathe of 4lung clones that tried to capitalise on the internet hating the original, waves of Wurtzians that pop up every few years and fade back out, people (including myself) riffing off of the notes of Kikiyama, and of course, the aforementioned Nekojirians. It’s a bit cold to write off every single one of these artists by putting them into a box labelled ‘clone’ and I moreso see it as spectral in nature. You have outsider artists on one end, slowly fading into the average artist who has inspirations like most people do, slowly fading into the vessel, which merely seeks to create the most accurate visage it can to the idol it devoutly worships.
It’s not a perfect visualisation, and the nature with which the concept of the artistic movement has almost hypermicrocosmised complicates it further but it’s what I’ve used to reckon with a lot of these developments and the way in which the far end of the spectrum seems to almost fandomise human existence. I’m of the belief of art as a coping mechanism, semi-automatic, potent in its ability to heal but fundamentally a natural reaction to continuing to exist in the world. It’s how we cope with joy, loss, sex, isolation, and ranges from creating the most beautiful fresco to coming up with new and inventive ways to say the word ‘faggot’ on sites with more Orwellian content moderation. To an extent it makes since that public art would produce a following, it has for years, look at Lascaux or any other work of ancient art which was effectively dudes finding a cool rock and making it cooler, thus attracting generations of future dudes to do the same and revere the ‘early works’ citing how they really were ‘prophetic’ and ‘surprisingly ahead of their time in the way they put picture on rock’. But I think in the modern age the way in which art is publicised is so, omnipotent, and personal. I make the choice to publish my work online, but even if I didn’t, my face, being, graffiti, and general existence would be broadcasted on the web without my consent. I know of three local groups cataloguing and posting my graffiti online, I have had people upload pictures of me going home from work on the bus, things as innocuous as the music reviews I gave artists from like 2016-2020 have been catalogued and put on RYM lists. The internet feels almost as if it’s entering a postconsent era. A lot of my colleagues have felt the same way, with people taking pictures of them at raves, furcons, callout posts fashioned over irl breakup drama that should not enter the digital realm. It’s kind of a unique hell in and of itself. Ironically I riffed on this concept from a broad sense 5-6 years ago with the below spritecomic which was originally labelled ‘moderninternet.gif’
It makes me afraid of the future, but motivated enough to put my own work out there and exist uncompromisingly because otherwise it’ll be someone else putting my shit online under some ‘freak of the week’ thread. Maybe someday I’ll even make a bit of money off my original works that pays for more than 5% of a 6 pack of Rolling Rock. It’s weird for me to even think about, talk extensively about, because I love art, I love art history and regularly incorporate a sort of collagelike style that meshes inspiration with original creation and tribute in a Dargeresque manner, and often I get a lot of comparisons to this sort of triumvirate of Thecatamites, Wurtz, and Nekojiru which means my three biggest inspirations are easily spotted with a close look, but then on the other hand I also get a lot of Toejam, Omocat, or some new tiktok sensation named Eyespleen Cutecore which often has me like clutching my forehead and questioning how people even get there. I don’t even have anything against any of these artists or hypothetical strawartists but like sometimes seeing a comment comparing my work to something I have never seen before in my life and on precursory google search has nothing in common with what I do but in the grand scheme of things, the minor hiccups like these are like a puff of smoke to the broader fires I find myself worrying over.
I’m getting more attention and sometimes it makes me contemplate whether or not I’ll end up taking the same route as Nekojiru. I already am pretty unstable and hermitic, just want to make art unimpeded by capital or deadlines, hopelessly naive and periodically suicidal. If I get too much attention with that one-hit-wonder game, album, comic, etc and I kill myself, what happens then? Will I be swept under the rug and forgotten for 20 years? Will I be looking down from Nirvana seeing some person wearing my skin and using it to make posts about ‘waif shit’ and ‘coquettefaggery’? Oh god oh fuck oh god oh fuck no no no no no no no.
And then I remember that the beauty of the internet is my ability to turn it off, and pretend it doesn’t exist for a moment. Listening to an old CD on a busted player with a Hello Kitty sticker on it.
Maybe in 30 more years that won’t be an option anymore, and the USB ports in our arms will bleed as the feed infests our lives and the being-born police register all the new users at 2x the rate they did last year.
Tra la la la la la la la la laang.