It’s Hipster Week at The Corresponding Society Internet Presence. Several members of The Corresponding Society have been asked to evaluate contemporary hipster culture for the purpose of better understanding the social phenomenon we are exposed to daily.
The Hipster Function
by Lonely Christopher
Hipster culture is remarkable because so few of its adherents self-identify as hipsters. The contemporary hipster is not interested in a unified movement, he is not interested in politics, he is not even that interested in individuality. The hipster is a ghost. Hipster culture has already happened and is being rearticulated as a trace; it is a collage of past styles, trends, names. The hipster does not make important contributions to the arts. The hipster has no god. This complicit relationship with cultural colonization and this erasure of being are certainly not sustainable, but sustainability probably isn’t contemporary. In reaction to generations of youth movements with countercultural stances that have been muted by failure and appropriation the hipster affects a sense of ennui and disinterest in counterculture or opposition. Situationism failed, the contemporary hipster won’t even try. It’s not valid to read the hipster as a disgraced countercultural figure; the hipster isn’t part of a counterculture, not even a subculture, but maybe the first metaculture. Hipster culture takes place on the plane of hegemonic culture, not outside it or in a niche. The Internet is integral to the hipster because it eschews centrality, even presence. The preferred accessory of the hipster is a camera, but with it he does not create art; he distances himself from being through representation. This is a striving for a mechanical sameness, a continual series of images that homogenize subjects and reinterprets the individual as a cultural function. The most graspable aspect of the hipster is his uniform: the meticulous hair, the skinny pants, the glasses, the studied irony omnipresent in the fashion. Yet, unlike the symbolic dress of more political youth cultures, it doesn’t signify anything, usually not even the evident assumption that the wearer of the uniform self-identifies as a hipster. The presentation doesn’t cohere into meaning, but neither does it offer resistance to a codifying repetitiousness that taxonomically references the ambiguous vacancy of the idea of the hipster. The hipster is absence. Maybe it’s a valid reaction to contemporary existence resulting from social adaptation. Yet the hipster function is tragic in its inability to create art. The creative expressions within hipster culture articulate the same implicit surrender to vapidity that is evidenced in hipster values; the work is nearly worthless in the context of a wider artistic discourse and, thereby, defenseless. Whereas a contemporary movement in poetics like Conceptual Writing renegotiates meaning in intellectually engaging ways, hipster art can only be self-referential in the manner it relentlessly perpetuates the same placeless, lackadaisical cultural performance. The hipster is surely an important contemporary figure, but what is significant about him is ineffable; it’s about what and how the hipster doesn’t mean.