Situated Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of End Times

Vaporwave helps us to arrive at an understanding of situated postmodernism (Situ-PoMo), which has a generally brutal, pessimistic, dirty and realistic overarching view of our society’s disintegration and degeneration, with the simultaneous featuring of bubbles, nooks, pockets, etc. Vaporwave takes the comforting noises and imagery of the 1990s and distorts it into a cheap veneer that simultaneously induces nostalgia and garners our disdain for the unfulfilled promises and abandoned hope of the pre-9/11 era. These two evocations are something that the subgenera distroid separates out into two distinct layers (each of which corresponds to one of the heterogeneous halves of situated postmodernism): on the one hand, the saccharine, “sugary onslaught” that is popular music in 2018 (and taken to its extreme by artists under the PC Music label, for example), and on the other, the dark, dreary, tired, echoing mechanical sounds of disarray and degeneration (many of these having been pioneered and disseminated by dubstep and its predecessors). Situ-PoMo theorizes the cultural logic of stepping over homeless people on your way to the brightly-lit sushi restaurant with the pleasant atmosphere and the USB charging ports. It theorizes the experience of listening to Taylor Swift in the Uber through the Tenderloin, or enjoying a concert with your friends during the Trump presidency. It theorizes interstitial “me time” and “self care” doled out by highly precarious immigrants, and the moments of hope, joy and nostalgia that animate the lives of those living through the end of the American Empire. Little islands of comfort and joy in a dystopian sea of global chaos.

    There is a right-wing situated postmodernism, which idolizes the escapism of nooks (they are not entirely wrong: it is impossible for individuals to hold it together today without those enclaves of safety and comfort), a pseudo-progressive liberal Sutu-PoMo that imagines nooks as a progressing development of society (solarpunk fits into this category, with its naïve reformist utopianism), and a left-wing Situ-PoMo, which problematizes the overall situation of disparity of experience and safety, and bridges the critical and the affirmative—locating each of these within the other. In this is embedded the central question posed by the authors of Communization and its Discontents (and which its editor Benjamin Noys poses against accelerationism): are there good reasons to embrace the affirmative and the prefigurative? What is the value of communization (as the left-wing practice of generating postcapitalist enclaves)? Should communization build alternatives or only challenges? Situ-PoMo is the cultural logic of a world whose future looks bleak, and whose citizens distract themselves from this forecast.