I just learned something I wouldn’t have expected even a week ago: that someone has asked permission to feature an American Dirt photo in a vaporwave video. Not something I would have ever expected, but here it is.
At first blush, it might not seem like much: nothing more than a lingering, static view of the food court to the now-defunct Summit Place Mall in Waterford, Michigan, courtesy of a blog article I wrote a few years ago, when the mall was still in its final death throes.
And it really is pretty mundane. But that’s the point of vaporwave. Cynicism induced by alienation (or vice versa) through total immersion in the banality of consumer culture—which, due to its ubiquity, is already impossible to avoid…thus the cynicism, and the alienation, and the banality. Its sonic equivalent is monotonous electro-lounge (chillwave), easily evoking the muzak one might expect to hear in a mall—but particularly a dead or dying mall, when that may be the only thing audible. And since many, many malls are dead or dying, this art form may eventually devolve from a curiosity item to a genuine, broadly recognized subculture—a shift that would cheapen or even ruin the typical artistic movement in the eyes of most of its progenitors, except that the cheapness of vaporwave is its essence. Some of the foremost artists in vaporwave include Dan Mason, Blank Banshee, Saint Pepsi, Macintosh Plus–and all those others your grandpa used to tell you about.
I’ll stop trying to sound like Robert Christgau, or—even worse—like I really yet even know what I’m talking about. I’ve only been recently baptized in the vaporwave font, so I’ll let readers use the links above to explore and learn more about this emergent aesthetic…in tandem with my own growing knowledge. This almost definitely won’t be the last time you see American Dirt’s photographic foundation venturing into various vaporwave vectors.