Pin It
Kawaii Agency
Courtesy of Kawaii Agency

Kawaii Agency is the collective making ‘cute, cringe’ art for its flop era

The London-based art project is spotlighting a new wave of ‘yassified Gen Z’ aesthetics

It’s Friday evening and I’m en route to the private view for Kawaii Agency’s latest exhibition. Sat next to me on the bus is a person with a bag that reads, Live Laugh Lobotomy – an instantly recognisable staple of the sort of post-internet fashion that blew up last year. We exit the bus and make our way to east London’s Filet Space, where the words ‘FLOP ERA’ are sprayed in red paint across the window. Inside a performance has started: a girl with a selfie stick live streaming on TikTok against the artificial glow of a ring light. 

For those keeping up with Kawaii Agency, the London-based project – headed by Bart Seng Wen Long and Juliusz Grabianski – is behind a slew of Extremely Online shows across the city that spotlight emerging artists with a digital twist. “Kawaii Agency started as a way of giving a platform to artists whose work we love, and which feel like kindred resonances with our own modes of seeing the world,” they tell me. “It came together in our post-graduation depression era, after seeing an open call for The Wrong Biennale – we curated an online exhibition about cuteness (a shared interest between Bart and Juliusz) and put on a launch party in Avalon Cafe in south east London.”

Since then, the project has taken several different forms, from their inaugural twinkdeath party to net-werking picnics and an ongoing shitposting residency. Bringing it all together is a hyper-online approach – “kinda cute, but also kinda cursed; sorta contemporary but also sorta cringe” – the kind of “yassified Gen Z aesthetics” that pull inspiration from internet culture and meme-speak. Back in 2021, the duo created a browser plug-in extension that programmed pop-up windows at specific times of the day, spamming users with cute content across the week. Another exhibition takes cues from cursed images on the timeline, which is pretty self-explanatory. “We often talk about our curating style as shitposting, and always try to make our events as meme-like as possible, where the core concept and visual communication are easily recognisable, and have a wide bandwidth that is able to encompass a diverse range of thematic concerns,” they expand.

From a children’s motorcycle crash adorned with Hello Kitty stickers to reconstructed horse saddles and a religious ornament that puffs out clouds of vape smoke, Flop Era is a great example of the project’s ongoing ethos, which brings the URL into the IRL. Here, manmade horrors are offset with hyper-cute-isms that draw from an internet-worth of visual references: Flop Era came from an urge to re-define what success and failure are in the current,” they explain. “The show interrogates different types of flops – from the death of a royalty to dangerous one-night-stands to the car crash of youth aspirations in Asia.” I would say check it out, but the exhibition only lasted two days – which is fair given the rapid pace of online content.

Curatorial speed-runs aside, this cute-cursed dichotomy is a key characteristic of the group’s aesthetic – it invokes the same disorientating feeling as scrolling the feed, while simultaneously being bombarded with an onslaught of algorithmic content designed to deep fry your brain. “Each artist in the show manages to bring their own world into the gallery, and at the same time, offers us a critical (and cursed) perspective of it,” they say of the latest exhibition. For anyone who spends enough time online, this sort of hyper-curated approach is nothing new – but, as with all good things on the internet: Blink and you’ll miss it.

Join Dazed Club and be part of our world! You get exclusive access to events, parties, festivals and our editors, as well as a free subscription to Dazed for a year. Join for £5/month today.