The internet’s potential to perform political miracles has been a source of both hope and disappointment for many grassroots movements. We remember that the Sanders campaign tried to master the meme to mobilise a young, eager audience. Equally, we ascribe Trump’s electoral victory in 2016 to seemingly leaderless internet misinformation.
Many of such events have been the subject of academic study - but research is often slow to keep up with the rapidly changing scene. If a researcher tracing the role of the meme to the politicisation and radicalisation of online communities struggles to keep up what hope does an artist have?
Joshua Citarella’s practice starts with the understanding that it is impossible to predict what the next generation of meme posters will be interested in and whether their memes will reach beyond their tiny echo chambers. What is clear is that mainstream politics, particularly the politics of the left, remains afraid of these unruly communities that can just as easily turn to the dark corners of the demonised alt-right as they are to carry the flag for Bernie.
Joshua Citarella speaks to Pierre d'Alancaisez about researching internet subcultures, playing politics with the extremely online, the multiple meanings of radicalisation, strategies for subverting right-wing content, and the role of art in internet political aesthetics.
Joshua Citarella is an artist, content creator, and researcher. Politigram and the Post-left is one of many projects he has released through self-publishing channels and directly to his supporters.
Published by Blurb, 2021
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