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/work/ - Lukas Engelhardt

✌︎ Graphic Design etc ✌︎
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> The New Right Aesthetic
> Booklet
> Edition of 20
> 2017
> Photos by Katarina Juričić

The New Right Aesthetic documents the discursive and visual aesthetic of the alt-right on the internet with a focus on neo-right-wing meme culture. Formerly anarchistic and left leaning imageboards like 4chan have become a hub for conspiracy theorists and white nationalists alike in recent years. The birthplace of meme culture now produces and strategically places around the internet, racist and sexist propaganda, subversively packaged in the form of jokes or memes. While a deep mistrust of the establishment, general fear of immigration and perceived endangerment of ones status certainly make up the root of these developments, they were only the beginning: revivals of 20th-century fascist pseudo-scientific theories about racial biology and cultural dilution form the fundament for a deeply antisemitic worldview in which zionists are actively committing genocide on the white race.

The users that laid the base for movements like Anonymous just a few years ago now fight a different battle, dubbed the Great Meme war in characteristic fluctuation between dead-seriousness and ridicule. It came to a preliminary climax when the alt-right’s choice candidate Donald Trump won the 2016 US election. The digital inhabitants of 4chan’s political boards, and it’s more extreme offshoots like 8chan claim today that they significantly influenced the outcome of the election in their favour through the deliberate spread of misinformation and, most of all, memes. And studies show that 4chan, one of the most frequently visited websites in the world, has an non-negatable influence on the rest of the internet.

But some claims go even further. Based on a number of considerably odd coincidences, a new occult of chaos has been born on the fringes of these boards. It’s followers claim that memes can not only change public opinion in the form of classical propaganda but reality itself. They claim to have stumbled upon the reincarnation of an ancient Egyptian goddess, the bringer of chaos and light, in the form of a frog meme personified by Donald Trump. Their theories claim that each human thought has the power to change reality, and that collective thought, as it occurs, for example in a meme that is shared millions of times all over the planet is exponentially more powerful in doing so. These self proclaimed practitioners of so-called meme-magick create entities loaded with intent and emotion, manifested in a sigil (or meme) that feed from the crowd’s attention. The outcome of the 2016 election, Trump’s victory and equally Clinton’s defeat are just a small examples of events they claim to have summoned through their wizardry.

An anonymous imageboard like 4chan cannot be understood as a homogenous place, neither ideologically nor in it's intent. Arguably it could never be defined as a single thing; it is facetted and impermanent, chaotic, and while it would be almost impossible to understand it from an outsider’s perspective, it is questionable whether anyone at all could ever grasp it as a whole. As a result, any attempt to reduce it to a single thing, like this very text, is doomed to remain grossly oversimplified. The culture surrounding these image boards feeds of their impermanence and ambivalence, where threads with thousands of replies and original content will inevitably be deleted after only a few days, replaced by hundreds more, and information is buried under layers upon layers of irony, jokes and obscure references—cryptic to the uninitiated.

However, as a result of this impermanence, many archives have been created, in which screenshots of threads, memes, people and events and their history are documented and registered. An example, though not technically an archive, is the Encyclopedia Dramatica. Originally born out of frustration with Wikipedia’s strict editing rules, it’s a wiki dedicated to "drama and lulz" and became closely tied to the meme and internet culture surrounding imageboards. Similarly, since it can be edited by any visitor it is not possible to directly connect Encyclopedia Dramatica to any one other platform, ideology or intent, though the shift towards the far right was present here as well. Today (17.01.2017, 02:42AM) the page for the Holocaust on ED calls it "the most ridiculous story ever made up until JEWS DID WTC."

For my book, the New Right Aesthetic, I downloaded all images uploaded to 8chan’s /pol/ board, one of the biggest and most hard-liner right-wing image boards around. When memes have measurable effects on global politics and supposedly even magical powers, a graphic designer must self reflect. What is the value of permanence in the form of a printed encyclopedia in a world of Nazi frogs and masturbating wizards? The New Right Aesthetic explores the visual aesthetics of this world, and yet became obsolete the moment it was created.


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