Visual culture and in a broader sense culture itself is inescapable from becoming part of and influenced by everything that goes on around us today and everything that has happened before. It is constantly adapted and changed in relation the present yet constantly reaching backwards to nostalgic past which is now kitsch or retro whilst also looking forward to the "next new".
Those who say they are commenting on or parodying popular or visual culture are in fact simply part of what they believe to be looking from the outside in on. The supposed avante-guard, the trend-setters the provocateurs of the generations have check-mated us all into this trap. The hipster generation of today for example, it is impossible to deny that irony is an integral part of that entire visual culture. And when i say "entire" i don't believe i am exaggerating in the slightest, this isn't just about a sense of fashion, of course it plays it's part in the overall creation and aesthetic of this particular visual culture but it is a small part. The reach of said visual culture affects a huge array of different elements of society, the array of mindlessly created clothes we can find on the high street which prints any manner of visual material onto any item of clothing, the products we can buy, the shops that feature in our city centers, the music we listen to, the tattoos people get, the beer we can buy, the food we eat and the places we eat, these are all just small factors that create this visual culture. But even though many of these factors are ridiculous and look ridiculous we still buy into them and participate in them even if so ironically, and of course because a few "cool kids" do something many others follow suit even if it is ridiculous. And you can see it all around you, wearing woolly hats in the middle of summer, buying a beer for £4 because it's a European import which in it's country of origin cost 30p to buy and tastes crap, wearing a Black Flag or a Minor Threat or a Ramones top bought from H+M or TOPSHOP or Urban Outfitters when you've never even heard the band, it's crazy, it's ridiculous, but even the ridiculous and the crap become part of the status quo in today's popular culture.
This text is in no way an attack on the people that participate and buy into this global visual culture as i am unfortunately probably one of them also. As you may have noticed from the last paragraph many of my examples refer to a market, and that's because of course it is a market driven economy. These visual cultures are not autonomous from the capitalist system, what can be in today's society? Perhaps they were not instigated and created by capitalism but they are certainly proliferated,exploited, expanded and diluted by it. They have identified a market in a trend and will continue to churn out items and products that fit their market research mold of what people want until they don't want it, and then the next era of visual culture will surface and this same cycle will repeat itself. If this is the case then one might even be bold enough to say that it is us, the public, the buyers, the earners, the savers, the spenders who are in control of our visual culture, if it is market driven then what we buy and what we don't buy, what we watch, listen to eat all adds or detracts from the lifeline of an element of culture. Determining whether something stays on our shop shelves or on our cinema screens. But who are we kidding anything that does disappear from our gaze will simply resurface again in 10 years as the new "retro" right?
Of course all this is not only unique to a subculture, a "fad" some may call it such as the example of the hipster generation. Look at the art world for another example, it too is market driven and it too is full of a lot of crap, and lets be serious some of it really is crap and there really is a lot of it. But still we buy into it, and we pay money to look at it and pay insane amounts to own it, even though it's crap. But because certain people like or own it suddenly gives it status, class or sophistication, and we follow suit and there really is just so much of it in the world today. This is one of the problematics i think faced with when creating anything new. We are simply adding more and more all the time, displacing and diluting culture, thinning the whole thing out, devaluing it till it becomes mindless and bland. And it can't be taken back either, once it's there it's there. The mind numbing fads that are part of culture, the reality tv stars, the boy bands the fashion trends, all these things that we say will disappear over time will only become less present as they are superseded by something similar. But the impact of it will linger, of all these past popular cultures, they will be recorded and remembered, sometimes nostalgically and fondly and sometimes with embarrassment. They will be embedded in our photos and our memories and the relics of our past that we hold onto. They will be forever archived in the internet feeding into whatever is coming next. Like a stain on a carpet, the initial spill may be removed but you'll still be left with a dull imprint after.