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Grafton Tanner

Babbling Corpse

Published by Zero Books

Oct 10, 2016 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Babbling Corpse takes a look at vaporwave, a relatively recent artistic movement that purposefully remixes elements of pop culture until they are ghostly echoes of their initial creations. The concept is elusive and perplexing precisely because it defies interpretation and meaning, but author Grafton Tanner mindfully navigates the cultural landscape that gave rise to such a movement. So what’s at the heart of this enigmatic counter-genre? Nostalgia, capitalism, and the ghosts of pop culture.

Tanner proposes that vaporwave is the logical extension of rampant consumer culture and nostalgia, stripped from all pretensions of entertainment. It is an internet-born subgenre of anti-music, mashups of poorly executed samples remixed haphazardly by anonymous producers. Vaporwave is often less about individual expression, and more an expression of an exhausted, overworked, technological society. In other words, vaporwave is here to haunt us, to remind us of the discarded fragments of culture. According to Tanner, vaporwave is an art movement that reflects the merge of nostalgia-driven commodities-movie remakes, TV reboots, etc-and remix culture. If nostalgia is the act of looking at the past through rose-tinted glasses, vaporwave is the embodiment of all the trash those glasses leave out.

Babbling Corpse is quick and academic, but it still stands sturdy as a deconstruction of an enigmatic and confounding artistic movement. It is thoroughly researched and rich in source material, yet also engaging, especially for readers familiar but perplexed by the haunted wells of pop culture.


Author rating: 6/10

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