1. bookVolume 17 (2021): Issue 1 (December 2021)
Journal Details
First Published
15 Dec 2017
Publication timeframe
1 time per year
access type Open Access

Celebration of the Hyperreal Nostalgia: Categorization and Analysis of Visual Vaporwave Artefacts

Published Online: 15 Nov 2021
Volume & Issue: Volume 17 (2021) - Issue 1 (December 2021)
Page range: 113 - 134
Received: 20 Apr 2020
Accepted: 05 Aug 2021
Journal Details
First Published
15 Dec 2017
Publication timeframe
1 time per year

Vaporwave grabs the attention of internet voyager with harsh collages glued together in a technically primitive manner. It’s a cultural phenomenon which both originated and is active solely on the internet. In the context of general internet culture Vaporwave is exclusive in its aesthetics due to the domination of violet and pink colors, technically primitive quality of texts, fetishization of 8th and 9th decade mainstream commodities and acute nostalgic undertones. Vaporwave has been mostly explored as a music genre or sociological phenomenon, while its visual aspect has mostly remained unattended. This article seeks to analyze the conceptual aspects embodied within Vaporwave visuals, to briefly compare them with music, and to unpack the mechanism of nostalgia as an affective entry point to the movement. The interpretation is mainly lead by Jean Baudrillard’s theory of hyperreality, and interpretational principles of hermeneutics. Five Tumblr blogs were analyzed. Hermeneutic inquiry into the texts yielded seven distinct symbol categories differentiated by the affect they generate: nostalgic commodities, idyllic classics, melancholic landscapes, harsh distortions, gentle geometry, depressive texts, and ecstatic brands. Each of these categories here are elaborated in detail finally summarizing the multilayered symbolism of the movement. It can be described as nostalgically challenging visual conventions through harsh technical quality and opposing codes of behavior through open expressions of depression and melancholy, thus exposing the doubts of individual imprisoned in postmodern society. ’80s and ’90s here become hyperreal fantasy lands of the past where a nostalgic individual can find refuge. In comparison to music, the visual aspect of Vaporwave highlights the technology as central artefacts of nostalgia, introduces new ways to analyze late capitalist consumer culture, and brings an intimate dialogue with hyperreality to the front. The article suggests that Vaporwave is a post-ironic art movement which both celebrates and criticizes capitalism, finally remaining vague whether there are ways to escape the system, and whether these ways should even be looked for.


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