Polish “aesthetics”: Vaporwave outside the center

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Vaporwave is an artistic movement, developed under the conditions of global capitalism, which functions in the space of global Internet. Piotr Płucienniczak – author associated with electronic literature, but also with Polish redefinition of vaporwave aesthetics, emphasizes that vaporwave is, on the one hand, an international cultural code, and on the other hand presents critically and ironically "goods inaccessible to us, poor people". I would like to discuss this paradox in my speech based on the analysis of the Polish postvaporwave projects. The western, American vaporwave is generally described by its critics (also in Poland) by means of hauntology, accelerationism and nostalgia. The Western vaporvawe expresses nostalgia for the 90s – a time of utopian thinking about timeless prosperity and development of technology. I put forward the thesis that these categories (especially nostalgia) do not quite match the Polish varieties of vaporwave aesthetics. The most recognizable, comprehensive and well thought out Polish vaporwave project is Z U S w a v e. It was created by the Rozdzielczość Chleba group (a creative collective and a publishing house, producers of cyberculture, mostly cyberliterature). Z U S w a v e. is a transformation of the western aesthetic phenomenon and its critical potential into the Polish symbolic field. With Z U S w a v e., its creators look at the western original trend from a peripheral position – culturally, geographically, politically and economically. Z U S w a v e. is also postvaporwave and metavaporwave. The project was created in 2015 – the year of the diagnosis of vaporwave death, therefore their authors refer critically to the trend itself. Polish vaporwave focuses instead on „non-places” such as shopping centers, as well as a very specific institution – ZUS – a state institution responsible for social insurance in Poland. In my talk I would like to reflect on aesthetic, symbolic and metaphorical differences in Polish and Western visual and textual vaporwave works, for instance analyse which elements have been preserved and which have been legibly replaced by local equivalents. I will also try to answer the question - is there a place for nostalgia, a child's perspective in Polish vaporwave? Does the Polish vaporwave, like the western one, miss, aestheticize and idealize the past? What is the reception of the local vaporwave in Poland and is it read in the same way as the original trend? The symbolic layer used by Polish creators of vaporwave refers more to the present, suggesting that since the 90s, little has changed in Poland. Z U S w a v e. is strongly entangled in the most current problems of Polish people. Polish cybernetic poets notice the ominous imagery of the computerization and virtualization of the state institution and in the face of the realities of Polish employees who cannot count on retiring in the future.

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Vian Rasheed