Any resident of London will surely be familiar with Cyberdog. The self-proclaimed home of “futuristic fashion”, the store’s chasmic rooms are lined up and down with rave-wear and androgynous clothing. At fourteen years old, delving through a store full of flashing t-shirts and fluorescent prints after working my way through Camden’s dusty array of incenses, counterfeit Simpsons merchandise and cannabis paraphernalia, the sensation of entering the thudding tunnels of Cyberdog genuinely felt like stepping into the future, and who could blame me? This was Cyberdog after all, the physical manifestation of Cyber Punk, the 21st century punk for the Cyber Space.
In the year 2014, a decade of KaZaA and Flash Animation behind me, I feel like what I’d actually discovered was an Abercrombie & Fitch for the 2-CB crowd, complete with the decorative in-store dancers. Nevertheless, I had tasted the future – or perhaps a future – but I’d been hoping for a bit more than “GREGK IS BAE” flashing back and forth across my chest. Is this store full of LCD panels really worthy of sharing ‘Cyber’ with the creation that brought us Napster and Second Life?
Reflecting upon this, I was reminded of Toby Feltwell’s description of ‘the failure of all available models of modernity’. It certainly seems strange to be here in the year 2014, travelling in the same planes that were in the sky when the Jetsons animators were drawing us in hovercars. Are we really here? Is this really the world of the future? Is this the life I was meant to inherit?
In the old TV shows you sometimes see, they promised us automatic houses and hovercars; lycra shellsuits and self-lacing boots. Sure, we’ve progressed and it’s an exciting new world, but doesn’t it sometimes feel so reserved? Doesn’t it sometimes feel like the further we push into the world of the future, the further we get from the world we envisioned? When did my hovercar turn into the decommissioning of Concorde? When did the Brave New World get so tame? Forget canned hamburgers, where’s my Soylent Green?
The emergence of ‘post-digital’ and ‘post-internet’ movements in recent years has been noteworthy for genuinely engaging with the idea of a society beyond the Internet. That the world has changed vastly since the invention of the World Wide Web – and even more since Web 2.0 – has been without question, but less so do we face the notion that our interaction with that world might necessarily change also.
Subtle trends give light to shifts in the way we live our lives, however – the rise of small local stores for “bits and bobs” in place of the weekly supermarket shop is one clear indicator of this, but I won’t bore you – and we now see society on a broader scale adjusting itself to a new model increasingly focused on individual wants and needs, much like the Internet itself. Similarly, the return to popularity of analog media formats such as cassette and vinyl might also give light to another reaction to the future – one of anxiety. The same might be true of “normcore”, manifesting itself as an attempt to escape the “informational universality” of the Internet; an attempt to return to a state of being “out of the know”. Is it possible that the Internet’s role is now of such magnitude that some of us regress from it out of fear?
As a result, there feels like something exciting around the post-internet movement; an acknowledgement of the change taking place around us and an active effort to continue pushing things forward, whatever that might mean. The Internet’s vocabulary of memes, images, emojis, smileys, URLs, BBcode and the like has surely given us a new language and the post-internet movement is now trying to use that language independent of its present form just as the post-modernists pushed the boundaries of their field.
Where does this lead us? Funnily enough, about twenty years back, to the pre-Internet era! In 1992, Japanese designer Kosuke Tsumura confronted similar anxieties of the future as he endeavoured to create garments suited for the world ahead. His objective was the creation of ‘a cloth that can be adapted according to need’; ‘a basic ZERO piece from which you can start’.
The end result was Final Home, a quasi-post-apocalyptic label creating survival gear for the modern age such as the Final Home survival suit. Constructed entirely from nylon, the suit’s full-body silhouette featured large pockets and storage compartments all over so that the wearer could carry all essential items with them and could even be stuffed with insulation such as newspaper and constructed as a temporary tent if needs be.
The concept won several design awards upon its release and was eventually picked up by Issey Miyake for distribution, though remained relatively niche for obvious reasons. The brand continues to operate today selling survival jackets and home pieces; the latest collection ‘On Air’ explores garments that can be assembled from singular flat sections of fabric for ease of transport, continuing some truly pioneering work.
Anybody with an eye on current trends, however, will surely recognise some of the concepts that Final Home floats around. Progressive garment forms, transparent overcoats, a dystopian feel of instability, the only thing separating Final Home from its digital 2014 counterparts is its total immersion in the physical realm, something perhaps more tangible to Tsumura, particularly in a nation that had experienced the physical horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In the relative safety of 2014.exe and the digital world that raw survivalist nature is replaced with an unsteady but conscious alienation from the real.
In this light the post-internet seems less like something entirely new and more like a new manifestion of the post-apocalyptic. Indeed, though the buildings around us are still standing, the environments being built in places like the Deep Web seem just as foreboding as any other unknown, and as our fears and anxieties evolve to increasingly include the intangible and conceptual as well as the physical, one designer’s response to the threat of physical danger might emerge two decades in the future as prospective gear to shield us as we enter the digital age. Forty years of Cold War hysteria and footage of Arnold Schwarzenegger kicking Russian arses always prepared us for the post-apocalypse, but not even the creators of the World Wide Web could prepare us for a life post-Internet.
The simulations evolve and become more real as our physical forms remain soft and squishy as ever. The post-apocalyptic has been replaced by a world where each of our new creations renders our physical forms closer and closer to the obsolete. Find your translucent coats, wrap yourself in plasma and fibre-optics and prepare to enter a life post-internet. They say a location hit by an atomic bomb will stay radiated for fifty years, but they never said anything about Wi-Fi Hotspots. Have a nice Sunday and check out more from Final Home if you get the chance (and a big thanks to Dan Doyle for first bringing FH to my attention).