ZEITGEIST: Heading for the future/now – a naïve attempt at encircling the present and opening for utopias:
Here is a possibly very banal attempt to pinpoint the differences between the non-ism of our times and an emerging thing in chart form. Oddly, the present time has no name – I dub it the almost unpronounceable DIGI-POPOMO™ (post–post–modernism x/+ digitalization) opposite the antidote, Next™ (in lack of a better name) – Next™ is what I sense is simmering in the crystal ball, what is blooming at the edges of todays spectacle society´s bursting bubble. Naturally, it is hard to describe the current structural stagnation without sounding like a creepy spin doctor, a mediasexual, a coach or a communication-consultant. Likewise, it is hard to describe “the new” using a language that is so devalued as our language of 2014. Perhaps it is not a dialectical ‘either/or’ but a web of asynchronous layers moving against and with each other. But please play along when I attempt to offer ways to move on from the not-so-quicksand of our age: The Digi-post–postmodernism™ of present day vs. the emerging Next™ moment.
Where am I? From want position do I write this? Two years ago, I quit the rat race, having naïvely thought that my bosses where able to handle satire directed at themselves and the top of the pyramids, but no. Punches cannot be directed upwards, only downwards, exemplified in the “happy it´s not about me/happy that I’m not the biggest looser” – reality tv mecanics. I couldn’t live in that chain of command. I quit, but as a revenge of the supposed damage to their delicate personal brands when I called their bluff, they launched a virus about my disobedient (meaning too creative) nature, rendering me career-wise radioactive and thus utterly penniless. After this rude transition, I learned to appreciate not sitting sleepless in taxis wearing new Margalia suits, sipping Cristal between incestorous networking-“parties”. It was time to take a walk, cooking brown rice, talking and sensing people face to face – as people and not positions – or stories for me to use in my media circus.
I dropped out, even minimizing the use of the (a)social media´s dollhouses. Fuck my “brand”. I became like a Jesus in the dessert, a drifting blue sadhu monk.
What will happen when I turn off the two engines that power us – attention and money? How will I experience the zeitgeist, when I am standing outside of my own cultural forest of mirrors, having been freed like a feeble-minded, drunken, instinct-governed fool? Everything seemed unreal, except the signals of my body. No more stress, coming from constantly thinking in crisis-mode, resulting in depression and leading into comfort seeking retro-conservatism. No matter what, we do survive here in the industrial world. No one will win in 2014´s insatiable retro-futuristisc consumerism-carneval. We can never be seen enough, acknowledged or rich enough anyway. Sitting on your yacht, you’ll be dreaming of a private jet, the grass is always greener somewhere else. You can never be too smart, fêted, skinny or young. You are doomed to lose and your eternal insecurity is played upon by advertising and our dear leaders, so that you’ll work harder – to consume more. But try for a moment to give up, shut off, drop out and breathe. The old games don’t work anymore; you have become insatiable. We have to recognize that the crisis is (kept) more or less constant and that sitting on our hands and waiting for the capital’s next rhythmical 7-year pendulum-counter-swing. It pays to cut budgets so the rich get richer, and you – who are probably a middle class westerner – risk ending up as a vagabond if you don’t work very hard and do as you’re told, because the economists have figured that we will only need two thirds of the work force, and the last powerless third will spread along the outskirts, kept hungry, passive, stunned on pills, pasta, TV and cheap liqueur. This very real horror movie keeps the rest of the work force on its toes in an eternal game of musical chairs around the golden calf. Time has come for action, and not just waiting around for the phone to ring or for life to really take off from some mystical event. The late-modern carelessness and the accompanying nihilism, in which all “great stories and utopias” die and consumerism’s and the market’s total greedy penetration through all of society’s mental, social and economic spaces won’t make us happy – seeing the world through and excel-sheet is not nice, and a new datamining iPhone every year doesn’t make us happy anymore. Even dating feels like a job interview. When we look at groceries in the supermarket or at hip new art work at a gallery; the basic structural story is the same – a striving for attention and money. But the thrill is gone. Whoever dies with the most treasures in his coffin doesn’t necessarily win. It may be “practical” and “strategic”, but how does it FEEL right now? Mentally, the “society drug” doesn’t work any more – work for consumption. If we look at the theatre of society as a drug or medicine for the basic human problems, it still does relieve, although it doesn’t cure our fundamental hunger for purpose and drive. The game only exists because it regenerates and all alternatives are stillborn from the beginning, being recuperated to feed the same marked. Despite the fact that we see cracks in the system everywhere, from hooliganism, poverty, addiction, the end of the welfare system. 2014 artwork shows this in its shaddows: we dance to crush the porcelain of already crushed dreams, we produce visual furniture, style-pointers, symbols of class or intellectual superiority, pastiches, identity-talismen or simply art as investments in a casino. Fashion always has borrowed from and envied art and culture, but culture has to an increasing degree been created and marketed like fashion, since this heightens market action, but unfortunately removes the visionary, personal, utopian, critical aspects of art. And media debate has been reduced to a reality show between self-branding media persons brands that represent various interest and target groups. This means that even here in the world’s most fortunate countries – according to magazines that you don’t buy, but are sold to advertisers – we are not happy, having the record in addiction, suicide etc. We have less sex and take more medication. We don’t live in a time of information, but a time of fragmentation and good old alienation. We’re told that anything is possible but do what is planned, because we buy the lucrative dreams of others. Let’s turn this around by shutting off the noise, feeling ourselves and each other again and take control. Because the system is not working; our faith in democracy, country, family, church and media is little but as no one’s offering an alternative we carry on as addicts, still fixing to cope – but no longer getting high from it. We repress ourselves and each other through the entertainment-industrial complex. Media is made, as everything else, in Excel with focus on the bottom line first, but ends up as fast food, something anyone can eat for the memories and placebo, but nobody actually digests properly or receives any nourishment from. Media in 2014 is carbohydrates, not protein. Maximum bandwidth for everyone, but no depth, sense of history or attentionspan; everything is turned into advertising/ entertainment, not tools for living or manuals for life.
The internet-present has superseded a continuing history; especially everything after circa 1996 is ready to become present now by a click. But what happened to the future? Faith in the future probably vanished around Manson, Vietnam, Watergate, 1973 oil crisis, and the discontinued space program, that connected the world into one. In the digital domain it isn’t ‘either/or’ but a having of both ways. We have everything in the width, but no time to go deep. Our attention span is reduced; we trot around in other people’s data mining-rings as insatiable, anxious caffeine-pacmen; we run around in the hamster wheel by what came after the “it-society”, “the competition society”. Data mining unfortunately leads to the ‘more for most possible people at the least possible cost’ –feeding the lowest common denominator, killing the natural chaos that has always driven forward evolution and created new exciting mutations. We see ourselves as micro brands in a war for money, attention against other people-brands. Our masks become our faces; our friends badges on our jackets, supporting our brands; our consumption tells the story of who we are in order to distract from the fact that we actually have very little to do or say anymore. Friendship has become networking – what can you offer in exchange? No more exciting people from other segments; no more wasting time with faulty aromatic old school friends, in the time of lucrative alliances. We even view ourselves as products on the shelves in the super market of life, which causes an exaggerated focus on wrapping. Narcissism is no longer a diagnosis; it’s just normal. And neurosis communities become communities of consumerism. But behind the veil, all the anxiety about not belonging, not being invited or seen is fear of death, fear for the sole unknown but irreversibly safe thing in this world. A method of overcoming this anxiety is to relativize the ego. To recognize that we exist on many levels, and that our egos are not us, and that we are not isolated islands but interacting, and the world is in us, is us, and vice versa. Even though the speed of history seems immense and we are brainwashed to continually feel like we are three steps behind history, we can’t seem to remember what the politicians promised before the election last week, total amnesia. Apparently a lot happen but actually it is just chameleon-like manifests of the same basic challenges that we’ve always had: food, home, love, work, rights of property and a search for the sense of purpose. There are always new wars, more blurry than ever before, but isn’t it essentially the same war? Inequality is growing but doesn’t it originate in the same flaw in the system? In the long run, wouldn’t it be cheaper to BUY the countries we bomb than to destroy them? Despair and confusion is growing and that comes from the market profiting from this in order to create new needs and divide and conquer? The world is simpler and less chaotic if you can see the function of the ‘news’, wanting to appear as anxiety riddled repeats. The world is governed by the same ideas and types and they’ll only change the status quo when it is really profitable for them. The Internet will make us believe that it is an unending scroll of news, where identical entries push down incomplete debates and entries.
We live in a time that confuses post-production with production, retro with inspiration, remixing with composition, coverage with journalism, sampling with invention. We’ve focused on the DJ, the stylist, the curator, the host, the actor, the model, the mask, not the content, the idea or the creating mind behind it. Retro is the enemy that makes us forget that we have the power to shape and live in the future, but retro is comforting, market-driven mechanism killing the future. I miss the days when futurism was more than the idea of what the new iPhone can do. Like the days when music was the soundtrack to a potential future, a sonic oracle, not choreography in a music video full of products. There was a time when music made new mental and social spaces instead of just allowing the retro-rush of recognition. This ironic retro-strategy is a safety measure, ensuring that if you fail in your choices, it was just ‘for fun or ironic’. In this way we are always on the winning team. In return, everything is fake and tounge in cheek. And the person who can fake and lie the best wins. That is why everything seemingly is possible within the frame of a very simple omni-penetrating but invisible web of control. All rebellion, creative or concrete, can be made into lifestyle or turned to the advantage of the system. Take normcore as an example: an amusing game about simply buying the absolutely most boring, normal, super market clothes, a concept inspired by the failure of fashion to produce any new feelings (fashion is the new porn, magazines have slid from the coffee table to down under the bed in shame; nobody dares speak of ‘important shoes’ anymore). Normcore was originally a concept about having mastered the art of individuality (within the confines of a very limited palette, of course) and now it is time to embrace the normal (the style is taken from the surveillance-angst activists who blend in by dressing anonymously as tourists) that is, if we are self-confident enough to dare breaking out of the artificial decadent image-economy. This is the most radical thing in fashion since punk, but immediately the original core idea – that merely points out that most normal people already think fashion is decadent foolery for insecure hair dressers that pollute the world – and distort it into… you guessed it… another branch on hipsterism; just another list of must-haves. The cliché of the current generation, the hipster, was just a superconsumer who exchanged the mall for the flee market; in fear of facing his own banality and impotence, he distracts himself with hoarding, collections and consumerism; ‘whatever you like, I might have liked yesterday…’ until you end up collecting pure rubbish to have some fake consumer-identity to yourself. The function is the same as the suits desiring the new Mercedes, as the beards desiring the new Mac/fixie/drug/record or whatever it is they can individualize themselves with and grant them the short-lived rush of purpose and ID this week. A new type of activism is needed: street fighting causes more anxiety in the media, more money for the control system that is obsessed with rebels instead of solving the real threats to society. Perhaps internet activism and boycotts are the future, perhaps we just need to be aware that everything we say, buy and do affects a whole, affecting us in return. We need to relearn to feel freedom by taking responsibility, instead of allowing the society machine to run after we voted for shades of light blue-red every four years. You are in charge if you bother and dare. Daring to dream a future with no boundaries once again… your own future, not at series in a life style magazine. You are what you do – and especially what you feel, not what you buy or what you’ve collected for your personal brand. Spend 5 minutes every morning and night meditating on how you want to live if it was ONLY your decision; who you would want to work with, doing what, where you would live and what you would eat in the ultimate not-externally controlled world without rules. No more shitting our own pants to stay warm; if we all practice daily we may be able to recapture the utopia and the future?
Morten Vammen 2002