I’m no artist, nor a scholar of art. I can’t analyse images to pick out patterns. Heck, I think an image is well-crafted only because those commentators I trust have said it. My admiration of formal art is only by proxy, and will stay that way. However, I have an admiration of art that is my own – as we all do – born not out of historiographic analyses but of catharsis. Where I, as we all do, consume a painting or an illustration or a piece of music based on how it makes me feel right away, not how it makes me feel after it has suitably pickled in my consciousness.
For a long time, or at least for as long as I did, that’s how I would compose fantasy – by looking at novel constructions of geometric grammar, staring at strange images absorbing its essence in ways that I saw fit, in ways that pinged my waking mind. And for these exercises, I relied on a few carefully curated group of suppliers: Depthcore, But does it float, Ffffound, Justin Maller, Superfamous.
Fans of any of these creators and aggregators will immediate recognise the aesthetic at hand: moody, feverish, arbitrary, sometimes avant garde. Decidedly situated in the 21st century’s ways of life and meaning, in its offhanded glamorisation of the postmodern. Unmindful of rigour for its sake, and of formal processes and utilitarian order. Mindful of the niche fictions in a world constantly obsessed with waking up to reality. Where even pisspoor handwriting when repeated across the full face of a page is pregnant with beauty.
But there are still rules here, something at work, a fluid electric fence of sorts that keeps images from getting out of control. Perhaps it’s the hand of white people at work. I don’t know.
Ardent fans might even recognise the names. Maller. Vesna Pesich. Alex van Daalen. Ehren Kallman. And of course Folkert Gorter.
I hadn’t visited these parts of the web in a while, perhaps a decade, and decided to return to them today. I was disappointed to find Ffffound had shut in May last year. The others are still active, creating away.
Thomas Manuel once told me a little story about China Miéville. It seems China’s wife was telling him one day that the fridge people were en route to fix their broken appliance. In China’s beautifully fucked-up mind, it seemed as if walking talking refrigerators were coming over.
I love reading Paul Feyerabend because of his dashing style as well as because of his stand against method. An advocacy of unbridled creativity finding place in the practice of science because that’s where unorthodox ideas, solutions untethered from the chains of tradition and principles, are birthed. Not in the confines of method itself.
Beholding the works of the artists named above, and others, and disciplining your mind to come deliberately unhinged, to bring not simply new perspectives but as much as new nonfictions to be… to discover new modes of catharsis, as it were. Their works were the gateway drugs to new. I still remember the high I used to get in college, sitting by my room’s sole window, doused in darkness, looking out into the nowhere where our dorms were, a desert rimmed by city lights in the distance. Soaking in the memories of those images, listening to synthwave or psy trance. Or Rammstein’s Spring on loop.
Das alte leid. I yearn for those days, and so often that what pieces of them I remember have become mangled by repeated recollection, vandalised by the search for meaning.
… what every artist should attempt to do is shovel down into their own minds, excavate past the sediment of Western civilization that amounts to yet another, larger, school of art, and keep scraping deeper and deeper, all the way back to the beginning. In this view of things, each and every artist crafts a unique creation narrative, chronicles the birth of his or her own private aesthetic. Hence, the best work is not adult, intellectual, and informed; it is primitive, and childish, and raw.
*– *J.C. Hallman