Belief Beyond Belief: On Fashwave’s Esoteric Future Past
Keywords:4chan, Vapourwave, Deep vernacular web, Alt-right, Traditionalism, Esotericism
This essay looks at the use of vernacular web culture by the new right. Specifically it focuses on how, in recent years, the new right appropriated a genre of web aesthetics known as ‘vapourwave’ to create the sub-genre of ‘fashwave’. Like vapourwave before it, fashwave taps into web cultural imaginary that is nostalgic for an imagined ‘cyberpunk’ past future — but while the former has been the subject of a monograph (Tanner 2016), very little has yet been written on the latter. Largely ignored within mainstream popular culture, these ‘—wave’ aesthetics flourish on the ‘deep vernacular web’ (de Zeeuw & Tuters 2019) of imageboards and web fora. As trivial as many fashwave memes may appear, this paper argues that they can be understood as the aesthetic manifestations of a contemporary renaissance in esoteric “traditionalism” — a discourse that posits an alternative theory of western culture, and which was influential on 20th century ideologues. The essay argues that fashwave transposes traditionalism’s fantasy of imagined past glories into an imagined future — one that is informed by the vapourwave’s distinctly vernacular nostalgia for masculine cyberpunk aesthetics.
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Copyright (c) 2021 Marc Tuters
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