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A Clean, White Tomorrowland: Towards A Critique of Syd Mead

RND/ To consider the recent death of ‘visual futurist’ Syd Mead and the telling lack of critical analysis of his glossy art and style.

In which its sinister underlying political ideology appears to mirror that of Disney’s hyper-corporate Tomorrowland:

In my premise [..] there were these enormous structures going up 2000, 3000 feet, and decent people never went below the 60th floor
– Syd Mead, On The Edge Of Blade Runner (1999)

Who exactly might these ‘decent people’ consist of? Perhaps William Gibson’s The Gernsback Continuum holds a clue:

But not here, in the heart of the Dream. Here, we’d gone on and on, in a dream logic that knew nothing of pollution, the finite bounds of fossil fuel, or foreign wars it was possible to lose. They were smug, happy, and utterly content with themselves and their world. And in the Dream, it was their world.

Behind me, the illuminated city: Searchlights swept the sky for the sheer joy of it. I imagined them thronging the plazas of white marble, orderly and alert, their bright eyes shining with enthusiasm for their floodlit avenues and silver cars.

It had all the sinister fruitiness of Hitler Youth propaganda.

For Gibson, the link between fascism and technological progress is clear – a clean, bold, totally synthetic totalitarianism bursting with innocent delight, entirely and proactively cleansed of all dirty human mis-relationships that decide who builds, and who gets to live within such (social) megastructures.

It was a very dim and dismal vision of what the future of America was going to be all about, and funnily enough we’re living it now. I mean, you just go down onto Skid Row and you see the squalor and the, the.. human waste that is down there, and the multi-national, multi-ethnicity of Los Angeles, is now very evident.
– Katherine Haber, Racist Production Executive (On The Edge Blade Runner)

Syd Mead’s future appears to be one entirely bleached of such multi-national, multi-ethnicity, and indeed comes across as a white wet dream – a 50’s retrofuture nightmare, as brilliantly polished as the teeth of the Stepford droids who populate it. A total, all-encompassing vision, fiercely guarded and heavily armored against outsiders, safely holding all who fit its ideal within its polished iron and Formica grasp.

Hell of a world we live in, huh? (…) But it could be worse, huh?

That’s right, I said, or even worse, it could be perfect.
-William Gibson, The Gernsback Continuum

It’s the kind of plastic perfection envisioned and expressed by rich white men of power; that 2001-esque, Dr. Heywood Floyd, All American Company Man style, all crisp, lint free and infinitely ready to take orders. Christ, what a drag.

Mead invents like Buckminster Fuller and executes his thoughts like pop art pioneer Andy Warhol. His narratives are believable and progressive. He started out with concepts ahead of their time and has stayed in front for all these 50 years. “Hypervan” (2008, gouache on paper) depicts a vehicle of serene aerodynamics and reflective surfaces, with a circular window over an inviting passenger lounge area. Elsewhere, super-fit humans are attended to by valet-bots. All of it is very convincing.
– Terri Martin, art historian and art critic

Very convincing indeed.

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Cyberpunk 2077 Is Dead (Pre-Order Hyped Up Whiteboy Edition)

RND/ to cybernetically control one’s breathing and heart rate, and consider the oh-so default (normalized) deadpan Hyper-Capitalist Cyberpunk irony of 2077’s raw videogame pre-order hype (already for purchase on Steam, 10 months before release!)

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Cyberpunk 2077 Is Dead (Pre-Order Hyped Up Whiteboy Edition)

Featuring the two dimensional action figure V – as in Vanity – the main pasty ideological front n’ centre face of the franchise, obviously mirroring CD Projekt Red’s hardcore marketing demographic: eternally adolescent whiteboyz, howling for pathological, dickgun-toting cybernetic retro 80’s jerkoff power phantasy in a laughably Dark™, neon-tinged urban setting. Why.. that’s like William Gibson on bad Chinese dog fighting steroids, man – that kinda Super Generic shit sure gets yer’ smart-plastic nads pumped for intense, hot nanomachine style action. Super maximum “New Void Amerika” fuck yeah!

In which ‘the real you’ isn’t enough, apparently – astoundingly non-astoundingly ordinary, mostly apathetic or just plain scared, largely powerless, stuck in some shit dead end job (for some, eg. evil Videogamedev Megacorporation) barely making rent; in Cyberpunk 2077’s toothless ray traced nightmare however you can over ever be entirely Hyperreal – instagib whoever you want without consequence, without mommy telling you off or demanding you come (/evolve!) out of the Gaming Culture basement, living forever through permanently plugging into the undead global System of will-to-domination.

Like a pack of spanner dumb ‘Youtube Influencers’, what’s incredible (and entirely non surprising) is the blind degree to which all relevant protagonists in Cyberpunk 2077 have already completely and uncritically assimilated themselves into the MegaBorg that is modern technological society. Like they were born to be true ‘winners’. (Shame there’s no instantly pluggable, fetishizable biosoft that makes one critically philosophical about one’s world andor worldview. “I’d buy that for a dollar!”, etc.)

Just like GTA V, the mere notion that this game or others like it somehow examine ‘just what it means’ to exist in its cardboard thin universe of casual headshots and smart drugs for storefront dummies – that it’s somehow anything more than an empty corporate ‘commentary’ on.. whatever, seems little but a self-serving, bald faced myth. Like so many others, this game’s rapidly looking to be as nuanced as a ‘second hand cyber-orgasm’. Boys and their toys; high tech, and low brow.

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Future Hashtags (Immortals Die Too)

You’re elevated power and position within such a sick society already and inherently make you a bullying, smug asshole – little more than a soulless walking credit card with legs, and razor arms.. and now you also get to exist as an astoundingly obnoxious dickhead for a thousand Roman Techno-Fascist years as well? Wow, can’t wait for that particular super-banal, doomed future to fully destiny-manifest. GOTY: pre-order today.

Noddin’ heads too hollow, forgotten tomorrow
Swallowing all that shit that’s shallow
Give the baby anything the baby wants
But that’s how them bastards get us up in them caskets
[..] If it ain’t right I don’t give a damn if it’s sellin’
– Public Enemy, Crayola (Atomic Pop Records, 1999)

Utterly hypocritical B.S disclaimer: if freelance theorist Robert What could remotely afford RTX 2080ti in SLI, he’d straight up pre-order this shit for some sweet, 4K 120hz widescreen raytraced cyberpunk consumer vibes.

P.S In which by now you’re basically sick of hearing the word “Cyberpunk.” Basta! What should be just a bad cheesy joke bursting with genuine kitschy potential still seems a perfectly deadly-serious proposition taken entirely at face value by edge-lordy Captain Tryhards who got permanent irony-gland removal surgery at vat-birth.

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