Challenge 9: a e s t h e t i c headphones

by post_author

About Vaporwave:

The Internet has shaken up the art world majorly by allowing independent creators to be seen by a larger and wider audience without the capital usually required to distribute art. On top of that, more individuals are viewing more art due to the abundance of images and sharing available. Increases in development technology have made design, video editing, and photo editing software accessible to any consumer as well, making them able to create and share their work in their free time.

Vaporwave is a micro-genre of electronic music and Internet memes that came out of a nostalgia and fascination for 1980s and 90s music and early internet imagery. The aesthetic came out of a tendency to see popular culture through a surrealist or nostalgic lens, many times to critique consumer culture. It was very much a counter and sub-culture, complete with a visual aesthetic of internet imagery as well as a musical one which sampled retro sounds. The visual realm features glitch art and cyberpunk elements, including popular video game or internet image samplings. It also utilizes a surreal combination of classical statues and art with 90s computer graphics. The auditory realm took samples from smooth jazz, retro elevator music, dance music, and 90s games. The idea was to have music with looping, effects, and cuts: it was a music that took 90s sources and cut them up and cleanly produced them together. The desired effect was to regulate the mood, in the same way as done on infomercials.

The Headphones:

We chose this counterculture because it is very much a subculture today that has a small but visible following. It is both visual and musical, which makes headphones a logical product that may emerge from it.

For our headphones, we decided to make the band extremely thin to resemble the digital lines of the vaporwave aesthetic. The portion that goes atop the ears features a round segment topped by a cutout star shape. The star is a nod to the graphic, computer shapes. We decided to color the whole headphones gold to bring out the satirical consumer critique, which also makes it bold and fun.


We have compiled youtube playlist of the music for this experience, all vaporwave music that was made and shared by people of the internet: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLMvQSvYj74oHcWES6DZREUzXtl9E_-yhX&jct=1CeNX1SxFyvp0xBYYNLpW8ARySUfgg&disable_polymer=true

The Experience:

Our headphones emphasize the vaporwave visual aesthetic as well as the musical one: that of a surrealist engagement with pop culture and web design of the 90s, mixing Renaissance sculptures, outmoded computer renderings, and cyberpunk imagery. Since vaporwave is a visual and musical subculture, we wanted our entire headphone experience to be one as well.

Vaporwave is in many ways a blending of times and a satire on commercialization. Thus, our experience is taking over the sculpture room of a museum, and creating the vaporwave aesthetic within it: a semi-virtual experience in which the audience member actually gets to walk through what is typically just an online image. The museum would feature its regular classical sculptures, but we would insert vaporwave colors, the old 90s web cliches of fluorescent teal and purple. The floor would be tiled black and white, a very Vaporwave addition, and the ceiling would be a huge screen that presented a virtual mirror of the floor in the vaporwave colors. Lasers would also come from the ceiling, making the museum room into an actual technological field. Palm trees would line the sides of the museum since these trees are a common feature of vaporwave art: they would give the room that strange mixture between the real and virtual, the living and the digital.

The idea of the reinvented museum room is to place this previously niche counterculture into a widely accepted and revered space, as if elevating vaporwave into the realm of high art. The premise and argument of the culture is to separate product and commercialization and to critique consumerism; the satire and nostalgia of poorly rendered internet and web design images of the 90s adds a level of playfulness and relaxation to what is otherwise the extremely serious space of the museum.

Finally, the headphones would actually be incorporated into the experience. Not only would the headphones be designed to match this museum aesthetic – thin, digital-looking headband, and marbled ear-covers – but they would be used to enhance the experience. The headphones would be used as traditional museum guides; to emphasis the play between the old and new, serious and satirical, the headphones would play an alternation between vaporwave music playlists and audio information about the vaporwave movement and its aesthetic influences. So, the experience would be immersive, informational, fun, and ironic. The hope is that people would leave understanding the counterculture as something that actually has a serious thesis against consumerism, but also appreciative of the quirkiness and fun of connecting very different periods of art, and not take everything too seriously. 

You may also like