A Discussion of Mimesis on the Polder-net or: You Have No Chance to Survive Make Your Time
When one thinks about mimesis in its classical context, bereft of the weight of the memes and tropes that pervade internet culture, it is apparent that the contemporary idea of mimesis is not necessarily conducive to the critical engagement with internet based / internet aware / post-internet works of art.
In the classical sense, mimesis was adaptive. Contemporary mimetics, as defined by Richard Dawkins, rests on an analogy of Darwinian evolutionary theory, yet is presented within the context of reproduction/replication. The Greeks viewed mimesis differently, as more of a translation (albeit with the aim of reproduction) than the contagious spread of discrete packets of cultural currency. To an extent, the structure of contemporary computing works against the evolution of data, yet excels at the dissemination and replication of information. With the transmission and replication of data so readily available, the traditional ideas of mimesis have been usurped by the internet-epidemic model of akin to the spread of ZeroWing from 2000/02.
Across the board, autocorrect, spell-checker, and program based dictionaries suggest that I write Internet rather than internet. As such, It is important to establish how the internet specifically functions in the context of this argument. A more appropriate distinction would be to define the internet as one (of many) subsets of the Internet. For example, while there is ostensibly only one Internet that is the vast sea of networked computers and server farms; functionally, there are a multitude of internets each with their own aesthetic, concerns, and semiotics (contemporary examples are 4chan, tumblr, etc.) I argue that the appropriate structure for this discussion must allow individual internets to be represented as isolated entities with individual character, yet still be connected to the broader Internet.
Enter the polder model, and the idea of the internet-polder. A polder is defined as “a low-lying tract of land enclosed by embankments (barriers) known as dikes, that forms an artificial hydrological entity, meaning it has no connection with outside water other than through manually-operated devices.” In short, the structure of the internet-polder places the role and function of individual/isolated internets within the context of an artificially enclosed system that is (and this is an important distinction from an island) isolated, rather than elevated, from the Internet. By placing memes and mimesis in the context of the polder model, we can explore and illuminate the context of the concerns of the internet while simultaneously positioning the Internet as a necessary collective space for these mimetic, temporal, and dynamic inquiries into the form, structure, and purpose of media.
The isolated nature of the internet polder allows for, and encourages, a reasonably unified voice or aesthetic that can promote significant critical dialogue – or serve to homogenize dissenting voices and shift mimesis away from its evolutionary context. While synchronicity is an undeniable phenomenon, the chorus of these voices can often emerge as a single note without regard to the subtle differences that distinguish one work from another. However, if the concern of any single voice fails to reach critical mass afforded to it by the weight of the polder (and other similar voices), it becomes difficult to engage in a discussion of the cultural significance of those ideas.
The danger lies in the fact that the internet has the potential to exaggerate our worst tendencies, forcing us into seeking constant self-validation, turning chorus into collective consciousness, mimesis into meme and potentially brilliant ideas into punchlines. This pattern threatens to turn a dialogue of what is allowed into the canon of contemporary art into the easily disregarded trope of “GreekNewMediaShit.” The transition of mimesis to meme potentially ignores the validity of this work, and silencing more thoughtful criticisms that occur incommentthreads (the internet’s most liminal spaces). This is not to say that memes are bad, but they can a black hole for critical inquiry; focusing on on small packets of easily reproducible content.
SterlingCrispin’s archive (Greek New Media Shit) is the perfect example of the propagation of meme over mimesis. While Crispin, BrianDroitcor, and the plethora of contributors to the comment thread of It’s Only Humanist, have approached the ideas of greek new media shit (quotes omitted) deftly, the primary export from this internet-polder is the diluted critique of contemporary art that takes the form of technologically mediated busts, devoid of the potential of the rich theoretical implications of this trope. As was the case with Zero Wing, a poor translation can lead to the viral spread of content but often does not do justice to the sophistication or intent of the original work.
A basic structure:
CAPTAIN: WHAT HAPPEN?
MECHANIC: SOMEBODY SET UP US THE BOMB
OPERATOR: WE GET SIGNAL.
OPERATOR: MAIN SCREEN TURN ON.
CAPTAIN: IT’S YOU!!
CATS: HOW ARE YOU GENTLEMEN!!
CATS: ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US.
CATS: YOU ARE ON THE WAY TO DESTRUCTION.
CAPTAIN: WHAT YOU SAY!!
CATS: YOU HAVE NO CHANCE TO SURVIVE MAKE YOUR TIME.
CATS: HA HA HA HA ….