Re:capturing the magic.txt
I don’t know about you but I’ve always had a tendency to live in the past. At least, my brain likes to think it can. I guess I’m not the only one - the 1990s and 2000s appear to be casting a floppy disk-shaped shadow over pop culture rn. Historically, it usually takes a little longer than a measly decade or two for things to become old enough to be considered “kewl” again. I can’t speak for anybody else's millennial memories - hereby referred to as ”millemories” - but I think you’re gonna wanna buckle up and get ready for a righteous trip down the information superhighway, and not just for nostalgia’s sake (pinky promise). Lemme break it down for anyone who’s so two thousand and late that they’re still waiting for ‘that’ image to load...
...we need to take it back in time, when dial-up made us all unite.
Everything up to 2k10 or so online was a blast, imo. We could sip on some original formula Sunny D together and chat about how things were once great and now suck. Let’s be real, what a boring and predictable narrative! When it comes to anything referencing us younger generations I’m sick of hearing that particular flavour of whack talk. Instead, I'd like us to revel in the things that made the salad days of the web so freakin’ timelessly good. These multimedia babies are the badass love-children of some real talented peeps and their shared fascination with all things cyber. Near, far or wherever you are - they’re gonna blow your socks off.
Re-Start by Clarice Tudor (illustrator)
Much like the beloved iPod Shuffle, this small wonder is a specially-curated selection of ideas that recall lost memories of chonky hardware and trés fragile software. A regular queen-bee of Doing a Funny in her comic work, Tudor takes an unexpected turn and uses Re-Start to explore some pretty beefy topics like anxiety, growing up and moving on while effortlessly making it engaging and relatable. If you’re a fan of killer limited colour palettes, non-linear storytelling and aching over your past and future decisions, you should probably slide some coins over Clarice Tudor's way and bag yourself a physical copy of this mini-comic before it’s too two thousand and late (this reference, like the song, will never die).
Bill Wurtz (musician)
Behold! The creator of viral YouTube wonders “the history of japan” and its ambitious sister-project “the history of the entire world, i guess”. As with any successful musician there’s more to Bill Wurtz’s work than the smash hits. What about deep-cuts like “snail time” and “gonna clean my room”, or soulful ballads such as “the moon is made of cheese (but i can’t taste it)”? Seriously, Bill’s voice is so silky-smooth and his beep-boop jazz vibes are stellar. I feel he shares an affinity with artists like Thundercat when it comes to just being yourself and expressing whatever you want. Creativity doesn’t have to be #deep to be good, often the more everyday-focused and light-hearted stuff can take on way more meaning to us because it feels so much more honest to the human experience. Also, Bill’s website is a perfect replica of everything I love about old self-made websites - this page is an especially fun virtual rabbit hole.
Kaley Flowers (ceramicist)
Let’s get into some goopy, cutesy visual art. Kaley Flowers makes what she refers to as “artefacts” of the digital age inspired by… well, whatever weird and wonderful corners of the internet speak to her. It’s easy to forget that, while not a physical place, the web is bursting with a culture that people have built up from scratch. Like myself, Flowers believes this is something worth preserving and celebrating. Throughout history there has always been a need to document culture through art. Kaley Flowers’ almost gaudy handmade sculptures are layered with markings of this particular digital language and perfectly capture that one in a generation experience of growing up alongside new technology. I don’t know what else expresses the complexity and too easily overlooked beauty of modern life quite like a smol friend-shaped vase with their virus-ridden laptop (adopt here). I think I’d live a healthier and more fulfilling life, online and afk, with an ethereal clay buddy by Kaley Flowers keeping me company at my desk.
Known occasionally by his true name, Julian Glander rocks a fisherman’s smock like you’ve never seen. He’s also a 3D artist, designer and musician unlike any other. I discovered Glander through his gem of a game Art Sqool, complete with a theme tune my cat is definitely sick of me singing at her. Glander’s YouTube channel, TikTok and Insta are all absolute goldmines of purity and bizarro content. Think Salad Fingers for the chaotic good and their wholesome pals. Everything Julian Glander makes - as well as being sickly-weird (like this) and heartwarming (this) - screams ~*a e s t h e t i c*~. Full of memories of digital communities and humour, these experimental works are guaranteed to deliver mucho serotonin. I heartily recommend the comic collection 3D Sweeties as a perfect gift for your best AOL buddy. On the other hand, if you or anyone you know has been affected by the issues raised in this economy, please watch Dolphin Poem and send it to The Man, maaaaaaaaan. Let’s call it Glanderolling (Rickrolling but for People Like Us).
Studio Cult (accessories brand)
If you are also obsessed with TikTok 90s and 00s fashion trends - I feel too old for new social media platforms and even I can’t help but be drawn in - then Studio Cult is the kool kat at the party that you need to know. I stumbled across Studio Cult’s shop when I discovered this beautifully detailed pin that I obviously had to purchase (we don’t stan capitalism but it feels inescapable sometimes, nobody’s perfect) and omg, I received it and it was muuuuch bigger than I’d pictured it in my stupid brain. Not complaining, mind you - just thrilled to have got way more than my money’s worth with this statement of a statement piece. Studio Cult’s collection just doesn't quit - from their Folder Icon bag to their Flame earrings, everything is truly iconic. Their social media presence oozes with excellent meme energy (memergy) and their blog is not to be missed, especially if you’re enjoying this nostalgia ride I’ve dragged you on. It’s like this post if it was the mall - it has sick zodiac content and artist features aplenty. Fangirl out.
Neocities (website host and community)
Did you think we were done? Hold onto your butts because it’s time to kick things up a notch. Nothing is more definitive of my own cherished “millemories” than sites like MySpace, Habbo, Piczo, Stardollz - any community space that was built for interacting, customising and exploring something wildly different to anything available to us irl. Everything appeared to exist purely for the sake of enjoyment - no catches. Nothing evokes this as well as Neocities does. I’ve spent whole entire weekends knee-deep in these wondrous experiences that people have crafted with such love. It’s the closest thing I’ve seen to what I crave from my rear view of a childhood spent peering into the lives and imaginations of others. Neocities is completely open-ended and free to use (although you can support them for just £5/month) and even includes some of the most straightforward yet extensive coding guides out there. Ideal for those of us who’ve forgotten the HTML necessary for making our Tumblr or Bebo pages anything other than the dreaded default. The continued growth and persistence of communities like Neocities is living proof that the light of DIY, just-for-fun online experiences will never be fully stamped out.
With Neocities being a thriving, shining example of this magic being too stubborn and ingrained in us to die out, this may seem like the perfect point to tie things up… and you’d be incorrect to think that (we’re close though, promise). There is still something that I think better reflects this particular past in a more accessible way. If making your own website and browsing endless others seems too overwhelming for you, I have just the remedy.
Hypnospace Outlaw (video game and soundtrack)
Strap down your mousepad, internet fiends, and get ready for the extensive, all-too-accurate 1999 future-world of Hypnospace Outlaw. This video game takes place in an alternate reality where users wear a headband in order to surf the web during their sleeping hours with the promise that users will feel perfectly refreshed upon waking up (this reminds me of these books, which I cannot recommend enough). As a moderator investigating Hypnospace users who have violated the rules you are authorised to see a lot more here than your average netizen. Those of us who have ever taken a wrong turn off the edge of a search engine know exactly what that entails.
Exploring Hypnospace is expansive and, despite the seemingly futuristic differences to our reality, brings me back to the dining chair in the hallway where I explored the frontiers of wild, wild web (Neopets). There’s so much freedom and authenticity in browsing this game’s little-big internet and the pages are full of Easter eggs wherever you click. The characters you observe and interact with are some of the most true-to-life that I’ve encountered in gaming, even though you don’t see most of their faces. In true multimedia style, Hypnospace Outlaw’s original music is also a treat - from the genuinely rockin’ Ready to Shave by Chowder Man to gorgeous spoken word pieces like Zones by Tamara Frost.
Most importantly, as a Hypnospace user you can fully customise your desktop, get an annoying skull-friend reminiscent of good ol’ Clippy, and even save your hard-earned Hypnocoins for a flurry of hotdogs floating across your screen as a screensaver. You’re missing out big time if you aren’t buying this for your console or on Steam as we speak. The game takes around 10 hours to complete and the plot goes places - even if you aren’t into the nerdy stuff, the gameplay has its tense moments and the story finds its way into some genuinely dark stuff that I absolutely did not expect but made Hypnospace Outlaw so much more than the sum of its parts. In my eyes this game is the ultimate multimedia coolpunk experience. It has made me realise just how much my early experiences with the internet have shaped my own creative interests and pursuits. Quite the epiphany to be having over a game that I made somebody else play. I feel like even if you weren’t around for the early internet days the intricate details of Hypnospace Outlaw will help you see what made this time so special and so human.
If everything I’ve discussed somehow leaves you unsatisfied and you’re feeling ready to shut down AND update your personal computer, please, I have one last plea for you. Do yourself a solid by searching for your fave angsty tunes on YouTube and whacking “amv” on the end. Enjoy the painful memories of 144p anime montages courtesy of Windows Movie Maker (hope you won’t miss your eyes much, or your dignity). My personal vices of this craze were a Sims AMV for Helena by My Chemical Romance and a Final Fantasy X AMV for The Ghost of You by… My Chemical Romance. Hey, don’t trash talk my emo phase, okay?!