The propagation of memetic artifacts
The propagation of historical information through memetic artifacts
The propagation of interstitial historical information through mimesis
Mixtape of the Lost Decade
Rob Beschizza, University of Rockall
The Phantom Time Hypothesis, developed by Heribert Illig, proposes that error and falsification have radically distorted the historical record. In his analysis, we have dilated the course of true events, so that they appear to cover far greater lengths of time than in fact passed. The so-called dark ages, for example, only appear that way because those centuries were mere decades.
Respectable historians give this idea no credence. Rightly so, because the truth is even stranger. It is not the case that we have invented historical periods that do not exist. In truth, there are ages which we have so completely forgotten that modern textbooks exclude them entirely. In our research, we have identified at least three such periods.
Firstly, there appear to be several decades unaccounted for during the fifth century A.D., which may reveal the true circumstances of the Western Empire's final decline. Secondly, it is clear to us that the Mongols invaded northern Europe and conquered the Holy Roman Empire in the 13th century. The astounding deathtoll, and that of the crusades that subsequently dislodged the invaders, is now attributed to the plague.
Finally, evidence is mounting that points to a "lost decade" between what we now remember as the 1970s and 1980s, a time whose full cultural trauma and resulting suppression from memory was so complete as to effect itself even on the living.
Some of those who have recovered seek to reveal the secret history through unusual media such as fashionable tumblogs and private filesharing forums. By sharing elements of an intricate and rigorous symbology drawn from this interstitial history, this cabal works quietly to prepare us to learn the truth and its astonishing consequences.
Here for the first time we believe we can tentatively identify but a few of them.
Röyksopp of Norway presents itself as a successful electronic music duo, releasing a string of international hits, often in collaboration with other artists. Just as arab scientists carried the torch of classical knowledge during Europe's early medieval period, scandinavian electronica—especially that produced on home computers—offers the most durable thread linking our modern dark age with the lost secrets of disco.
Close readings of videos such as Eple help us trace the outlines of events that occured between February 28, 1978 and December 15, 19831, the time span at hand (i.e. it is currently 2017 — not 2012 — if for the sake of illustration this period is taken to be the only "lost" span of years).
Their achievement here is more than mere technique. There is no greater vantage point than the cultural periphery, where one may absorb and reflect the character of the larger society upon whose fringes one stands. Just as Kasuo Ishiguro's insight into the English psyche offered Remains of the Day an incisive simplicity sharper than any native text's, Röyksopp's Epie is both medium and method, illustrating a pattern of rediscovery, of moving between moments in search of all that we have lost and missed. It embodies the intermediary nature of memory.
The artwork of James White, all neon boldness and sharp contrasts, has a powerful appeal to those already drawn to the past. A fastidious draughtsman, his intent goes beyond mere appearance; the work, once fully understood, will yield a trove of detailed information. White's secret history is encoded as complex crypographic patterns of colors, shapes and vectors, and is yet to be completely deciphered. That said, he is more than willing to hide stark truth in in plain sight. One series, for example, openly references well-known events of 2005 under their true date.
Perhaps the most surprising and instructive work is the footage referred to as DVNO, which purports to be an ironic meditation on classic logo design. It is in fact nothing less than a systematic catalogue of suppressed psuedo-corporate indicia. This roadmap to the past reveals not just the dramatis personae of the "lost decade", but the nature of their attack on the status quo.
It hints at a greater picture: the rapid growth of a revolutionary-semiotic front which explicitly mirrored the plutocracy that it sought to replace. But why? Though surely funded by foreign interests–the Soviet Union's "precipitous" economic decline corresponds intriguingly with the lost years–the movement and its offshoots display an ineluctably homegrown character. Moreoever, the utter completeness of the establishment counterrevolution is testament to the power of vested interests. But for whom did DVNO act? Who, indeed, was Printed in Gold?
WE HAD TOYS BUT YOURS WERE DIFFERENT
Unlike the chan network's conversation-driven culture, canv.as's impetus to remix or the intracontextual nature of services such as mlkshk and imgur, the contemplative landscape of FFFFound is not fertile ground for action. It is instead a place to explore, imposing an almost numinous quality upon the act of looking at stuff on the Internet. Thumbnails offered beneath each image guide the consumer through a garden of forking clicks. Carefully arranged to encourage an awareness of its secrets, all click-paths at FFFFound lead eventually to a final, astounding revelation that makes sense only after repeated failed expeditions. A stopping point on every route, however, is Vincent Viriot's 3 wolves with laser background, a critical memetic staging point on the road to enlightenment.
The space: do we not all feel it? The space. It may be said that the consumer cultures of the 1980s and 1990s, successively exhorting us to embrace artifice and then soul-crushing blandness, were manufactured to "cure" the residual confusion and cultural inconsistency that resulted from the methods used to effect mankind's collective psychic displacement. The hidden "space," however, manifests itself in curious ways — the obsession with youth and physical condition in those born in the 1960s and 1970s; oddities in climate change data; the apparently freakish pace of economic change in what we believe now to be the 1980s; and so forth.
Seen in glimpses between the lines of works by Sakke Soini, patterns of light and shadow reveal themselves as mere reflection and void. Though the affect of his work exalts the presumptively geometric nature of space-time, the closer one approaches, the less tangible it becomes: surface becomes light, form becomes space, and intricate structures fall away to a tantalizing illusion of self-similarity.
Though he may present himself as a crass, arrogant, self-indulgent, pompous, vain, irritating, clueless, and profoundly daft pop star, Kanye West's video productions present the cabal's most subtle critical structures. Most intriguing is the Welcome to Heartbreak video presentation, in which our easily-corruptible apprehension of history is illustrated as a tangle of shifting and decaying visual impressions, an insight into the mutability of knowledge itself. The inherently lossy character of compressed data is seen to become its own essential nature, transforming from defect to design as it is destroyed and remade in increasingly confusing and hypnotic patterns. Likewise, no-one familiar with the Lost Decade hypothesis can fail to grasp the religious significance of shutter shades.
IT KNOWS AS IT GROWS
The pyramid is the movement's central motif, represented in both its shorthand name — the 19A0s2 — and in countless examples of cryptic artwork. In this collaborative rendering by Jonathan Mitchell and James White, mankind's greatest symbol of historical permanence is captured at a moment of explosive self-reproduction. At first blush a statement on the crude reproductive character of mass culture, it also serves as a warning about what allowed the lost decade's final psychohistorical destruction: stagnation after revolution, the failure to remix. The now-supernumerary pyramid no longer changes, even as it iterates uncontrollably, embodying the destiny of fractal cultural artifacts insulated from the need to mutate. Crushed by its own infinite potential, all that is left is to utter a desperate paradox: "Stop the monuments." Until, finally, they are gone completely.
It is true, however, that the suppression is incomplete. Cultural product strongly flavored by the 19A0s lurk either side of it within the realm of permitted history. This may be due to the necessary rapidity with which the suppression was accomplished, but is more likely a considered effort at "smoothing out the meat" with a sufficient quantum of 19A0s culture. It is all too easy to inoculate collective memory from digging too deep into the spaces between sanity, madness, and radically bad taste.
MOST SUCCESSFUL GAMES OF 19A0
1. The terminus ad quem of the interstitial history is identified by the earliest-dated reference to it the esoterica: footage broadcast in the early hours of the morning on an obscure television station to commemorate (in the 'new' timeline) the date that the "lost decade" was brought to an end.
2. Finally revealed, terms such as "19A0s" can now be searched for and uncovered in countless seemingly innocuous documents archived online, exposing them as critical ciphertexts of the movement.