It started with the birds. Or, I suppose, it ended with the birds. Beginnings and endings are almost always disguised as each other. I knew something was closing when the birds starting showing up folded and dead on the roads.
They were everywhere. The redness of their lumpy organs drying to the same black as their feathers. My cousin was the only one who believed me (that is, until I was walking down my best friend’s grandma’s driveway and someone spotted it, another one all mangled against the fence). He believed me in a kind of appreciative way. We were at a protest talking about conspiracies and I brought up the birds. It seemed fitting while Trump was being inaugurated in Washington. The vultures were out.
I have been obsessed with the early revival of Post-Y2K fashion, music, culture. Characterised by excess, bling, McMansions, oversized sunglasses, bedazzlement, denim, designer dogs, faketans, and velvet tracksuits, the Post-Y2k world was a kind of expression of neo-liberal indulgence, despite it’s opposition, or perhaps intentional disregard, of the state of politics globally. While Bush was invading Iraq we were watching the beginnings of reality TV, Paris Hilton and Girls Gone Wild, and even more pertinent now: The Apprentice, while donning military-chic and faux-patriotic US flag dresses. Architecture followed a similar trajectory. While resisting the starchitect model of the 90s, it operated as a tool for global capital, a pre-GFC, neo-liberal support system where the Bilbao-effect was the ultimate end goal. Architecture became an eraser of history under the guise of globalism.
All of this was drastically halted when everything crashed in 2008, austerity was in (and no doubt influenced pop culture – think the iPhone) and yet the arrival of a new president dictated a kind of hopeful aesthetic. Perhaps it was a reckoning, for art and architecture, albeit short-lived. But Obama-core is an essay for another time. What interests me is that Post Y2k is back early, and so many of its ingredients are rearing their heads, exaggerated in their repetition. Alternative facts is a crucial one. To suggest that post-truth is a new concept is to ignore the post-Judith-Miller world journalism occupied after 9/11. The hopelessness associated with the state of the world and its media influenced the lack of shits given (to put it bluntly) about the future by celebrity and the wider population. It influenced fashion and culture then as it will influence it now, but this time the revival will be different, perhaps more self aware, more resistant and coming from the people neo-liberalism oppressed in the first place.
So this is what was closing (because despite the revival Trump’s New Order will be its own period), an era in time I like to call Google-ism (I’m coining it now, this is it) where almost everything has been designed for and from Google. Where everything is compared to everything else, and becomes so diluted that the endless looping of history is pulled tighter. By the shortness of presidential terms, by fake news, by false history, by too much content and too little criticality and by our ever-shortening attention spans. Google is undermined by its very purpose, its naïve globalism has brought rise to an aggressive nationalism, accessibility unravels credibility, and history, despite all of it only a click away, as it tends to do, repeats itself still. Beauty is truth, truth beauty. Are we slipping into a post-beauty world?
The Google-ist era is making an inevitable shift and the answers lie in the thing which can make sense of all of this: humour – or more precisely, satire. In a post-truth, post-beauty period irony and satire become the only true and trusted forms of interpretation. Satire, despite its usual resistance of sincerity becomes ultimately sincere in its ability to represent opposing viewpoints in a single proposal. It may be the only thing that can redeem architecture and politics in a Google-ist, Post-2016/Trump’s New Order world. Architecture under Trump will revert to grand physical gestures and symbolism, to walls, monuments and holding cells at airports. So yes, let’s build a wall, but let’s put the White House, and the entire administration within it, let’s make the wall the government, or fill it with migrant accommodation, or construct it from the crumbling bricks of Detroit’s car factories.
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I was driving with my flatmate to visit our friend who had moved to Canada, burned down a house, fled the country, got break-up-sex pregnant and then married in a registry office to appease her religious parents without telling any of us. On the short drive we saw three dead birds. “What is with that?” I said it was probably me, that they follow me, the dead birds, I see them everywhere. My friend said it was coincidence bias. I googled it later.