Following the Trump era and the ‘mistakes’ made by Facebook and Google’s platform algorithms there came a resurgence of radical politics online. Communities have formed among younger generations and the working class who feel neglected by the liberal establishment and are shaping new ideologies for possible futures. Their discourses are now in the glare of the surveillance state and social media spectacle.
Originally, ‘mall goth’ was a pejorative term used by ‘authentic’ goths to shun their suburban and consumer counterparts, but in a sense, we are all mall goths in today’s climate – hybrid beings that live on the border between imagined alternatives and late-stage capital. The question remains if neo-liberalism will find a way to even churn ideologies into mere accessories, as it has with previous sub- and countercultures.
Hogan Schia is a multidisciplinary artist based in London. He recently completed his MFA at Ruskin School of Art as a scholarship recipient of Langaardsstiftelsen Art Foundation and a winner of the Mansfield-Ruddock Prize. His practice is concerned with political and cultural adaptation and struggle with globalization.
Q: WHAT WAS YOUR ROUTE TO YOUR CURRENT ARTISTIC PRACTICE?
I was always transfixed by the limitlessness with art and technology. Growing up queer in a conservative environment pushed me to seek other forms of existence online. It was there in the virtual worlds of film and video games my creativity was stimulated. Even so, as industries, these fields are restricted by creative norms and technical limitations. I strongly believe that no medium can tackle every topic. As such, I pursued a multidisciplinary art practice.
Fittingly, I took my undergrad at Goldsmiths University, a hotspot for contemporary art and media studies. The education and guidance from renowned artists like Zach Blas and Claire Makhlouf Carter helped form my practice. Our course in BA Fine Art and History of Art was as much engaged in theory, where I was introduced to queer theory, postmodernity, and the writings of Mark Fisher. My time there was spent during Brexit and the Trump era, when we saw the rise of conspiracies, the Alt-Right, but also a rebirth of ideologies online. The past games, forums and communities I engaged in had spawned a generation of radicals, on both sides of the political spectrum. I saw my chance to further study these topics when COVID hit by taking an MFA at Ruskin School of Art, when much of the world temporarily moved online.
Q: CAN YOU IDENTIFY ANY ELEMENTS OF YOUR COMMUNITY OR COLLABORATORS THAT HAVE HAD A STRONG INFLUENCE?
My tutor, Oreet Ashery’s knowledge and vision of performance art really shaped my work this year. She encouraged me to experiment with video and performance on a transdisciplinary level. Our school and studies were heavily affected by the pandemic, which presented a challenge with physical work and exhibiting virtually. My submitted work for the Class of 2021, Mall Goth (2021), was such an experiment in live-streaming a VR performance for my final assessment.
It has been fascinating to partake in the comeback of internet art and practices during covid. My own research is heavily influenced by Joshua Citarella and his studies and statistics on youth culture and radicalization.
Legacy Russell’s recently published manifesto Glitch Feminism had such an impact on my work in tackling questions around community and identity in the post-internet age. I relate to her upbringing and outlook on how important the internet was for young queer people in America. My early childhood was spent in the states, and my disposition was very shaped on the border between American and Norwegian culture. Russell really pinpointed the same questions on binary theory that has circulated in my queer community for years. Their book is an attack on the perceived gap between the virtual and real-life, as the two are so intrinsically intertwined in today’s landscape. It is with the same mindset I approach the questions of radical politics on- and offline.
Q: HOW IS YOUR PROJECT TIED TO THE CIRCA X DAZED CLASS OF 20:21 THEME OF ‘COMMUNION’ ?
The rise of youth-centred utopian discourse is most likely a result of austerity measures, economic downfall and a lack of quality of life among millennials and Gen Z. Social platforms have acted as hubs for these communities, yet there are risks to debating in the social media spectacle. The mainstream fear of the Alt-Right and extremism online resulted in a tightening and surveying of content, but this has great consequences for the radical left as well. Counterculture resistance has adopted guerilla warfare tactics like anti-recognition make-up, post-irony and finding ways to navigate shadow-bans and stricter guidelines. Other apparent risks are the tendencies to perform, convolute and accessorize these ideologies into mere product placement in an influencer culture.
Just as cultures and communities are uprooted and churned into products for consumption, so too can these online movements. The worst scenario is if the market will find a way to commodify even ideologies into mere merchandise.
Central to the project is the mall goth – a fitting entity that embodies this adaptation. Originally a pejorative term, it was used by “authentic” goths to shun their suburban counterparts who bought studded belts and eyeliner at their local mall’s Hot Topic. In a sense, we are all Mall goths in today’s climate where neoliberalism assimilates all forms of counterculture. We are hybrid beings existing on the border between imagined alternatives and consumer capital.
Mall Goth (2021) is situated in a messy teen’s bedroom – a space often perceived with utmost privacy, secrecy and identity in western culture. Yet, it has been penetrated by a 360° parental panopticon. The viewer partakes as a voyeur, observing through the lens a private communion among friends. Yet, the inhabitants seem aware that they are being watched. What transpires is a dance between cat and mouse, where the powers of gazing, signs and spectacle are constantly renegotiated.
Q: HOW WOULD THE CIRCA PRIZE OF £30,000 IMPACT YOUR FUTURE PRACTICE?
Such a prize would offer great stability, independence and time for me to focus on my projects in the coming years.
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