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Photography Sara Blazej

This show shines a light on the internet’s most eerie, chaotic corners

From Hatsune Miku to World of Warcraft, Harris Rosenblum’s Inorganic Demons explores fandoms and other alienated online spaces

A demon is a disruptive force. It is a supernatural entity that thrives on chaos, destroying the possibility of a logically consistent world. In our current political climate, the demon can be interpreted as that which fractures consensus reality. As we become increasingly alienated from the real world, technology accelerates at a rapid pace, while climate change collapses all understanding of our place in the world. “Community, religion, locality, all these things that previously allowed us to create our collective understanding of reality have less of a chance than ever at breaking through,” agrees Harris Rosenblum, whose solo exhibition Inorganic Demons is on show at SARA’S in New York. 

The title Inorganic Demons comes from Reza Negarastani’s 2008 book Cyclonopedia, an experimental text about petrocapitalism, where oil is depicted as a sentient being. “He frames Inorganic Demons as these sentient relics of ancient forces, or forces outside of time, that are able to computationally grasp the movement of reality and its inconsistencies as modes of narration,” explains Rosenblum. This subversion of conventional, human-first narratives isn’t too dissimilar from fandoms and other “alienated online spaces”, where magical thinking acts as ways to dismantle conventional ways of seeing the world, breaking away from the standard reality tunnels to forge new realities. He expands, “As the alienation intensifies, I believe there is some innate movement within us to collectively create meaningful narratives that make sense of reality.”

As a member of the internet collective Do Not Research, Rosenblum has spent years looking into fringe ideologies. He describes himself as “working at the intersection of NEETs and absolute spirit”, with a body of work that pays tribute to these online communities. “People push at the terms of service and find themselves in anonymous communities wielding immense amounts of political power. Instead of leaving the basement the NEET creates a metaphysics of a new world through embellishing a fandom wiki,” he explains. On the surface, these internet groups, or microcultures, present ideologies that can appear strange, even absurd, but they also possess an “accidental magic” that has the ability to push these beliefs on a mass scale and alter our collective notion of what’s real.

“From 4chan to Hatsune Miku composers to absolutely insane political ideologies, you get this accidental reproduction of spirit that winds up breaking out and fundamentally changing the structure of the rest of the way reality understands itself,” Rosenblum says. “It’s not a spell or anything anyone can do on purpose, it’s just the innate structure of reality that it tries to heal and clarify itself and often that happens in ways that feel miraculous.”

In Inorganic Demons, Rosenblum presents 14 sculptures using a host of source materials, from WWII trench-based artisan weaponry to raw clay harvested from a Wendy’s parking lot during construction. Plant-based 3D printing resins and material made from surplus soybean oil that is trying to mimic the qualities of hyper-compressed algae are used to produce knock-off wargaming miniatures, a reference to Negarastani’s text, while blown-up World of Warcraft relic swords are made using a combination of XPS foam, sand, and the melted relic of a cross bought on Etsy. A highlight is a model of vocaloid Hatsune Miku, arguably a modern-day icon for the internet age, rendered as an archangel above a resin altar and made from motherboard standoffs, stainless steel hardware, iridescent privacy film, and a SD card with archive Wowaka remembrance videos to commemorate the late Hatsune creator. 

‘I think sometimes seeing ourselves as fungus might get us closer to a future we have a part in’ – Harris Rosenblum

These objects function as post-capitalist relics, signifiers of a consumer society that positions aesthetics as the identity blocks from which we LARP our own realities. But they are also made from mining earth metals, which are the product of ancient algae blooms that have been compressed over millions of years. This gives the artworks a hyperstitional quality, “positing of planetary scale forces that are beyond [our] comprehension”. They are also imbued with the spiritual potential of memetic esoteric belief systems: non-natural conceptions of human nature bound to a collective spirit. “Fantasy serves as an untethered imaginative zone where that future can be radically envisioned,” Rosenblum concludes. “The post-anthropocene either will have human life or it won’t, but it will definitely have fungus. I think sometimes seeing ourselves as fungus might get us closer to a future we have a part in.”

Inorganic Demons is on show at SARA’S in New York between April 14 and May 20