The internet’s most unhinged meme account is taking the cultural discourse of our post-reality world to print in a once-in-a-100-year publication
Logging online these days can feel like stepping inside the darkest, most deep-fried corner of our collective psyche. Memes are becoming increasingly chaotic, and each day there is a conspiracy or agenda making its rounds on social media. With no time to wait for the academic world to catch up, POSTPOSTPOST is an internet-focused publication finding meaning in the chaos. “I’ve been immersed in the evershifting edges of influence between media, propaganda, art and politics,” explains Al Hassan Elwan, the multidisciplinary designer and co-creator of POSTPOSTPOST.
The publication’s inaugural issue features the multimedia contributions and thoughts of 30 new-age cultural analysts across the globe, including Shumon Basar, Jack Self and Dazed’s Günseli Yalcinkaya. “The contributors are people who believed in the PPP ethos from the get-go. I consider them early adopters, avant-gardenists, if you will,” says POSTPOSTPOST co-creator Ruba Al-Sweel. Following some intense Instagram sleuthing, they found the contributors by sliding into their DMs. “They hopped on board and didn’t immediately ghost me when I approached them with the idea. Some wrote new essays while others trusted us enough to make PPP home for existing work. No one can do anything in a silo – there’s always a whole set of ideas and people who bring about original thought,” adds Al-Sweel.
From humble finsta to niche meme page and, now, a full-blown print publication, POSTPOSTPOST want to reach into the depths of the digital zeitgeist, with a selection of “unsexy” and “un-pitchable” Insta DM interviews, Gmail poetry and schizo-thinkpieces. “We’re giving our anxieties a chance to prove themselves curiosities until this whole thing becomes boring or morphs into something else. What we’re sure of is that it’s not going to stop or dissipate,” they tell Dazed.
The first issue of POSTPOSTPOST is releasing this July – with the second issue set for an early release of 100 years time. Below, we catch up with Al Hassan Elwan and Ruba Al-Sweel about the upcoming publication, the URL zeitgeist, and what’s next for the digital avant-garde.
How did the idea behind POSTPOSTPOST come about? Why did you go for a print publication?
Al Hassan Elwan: Growing up in Cairo, especially as a very hopeful 17-year-old during the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ (the January 25 revolution), I’ve seen and been immersed in the evershifting edges of influence between media/propaganda/art and politics. In a way, what the rest of the world felt after the ‘post-truth’ era and Trump election had already been happening in Egypt four to five years earlier. The early seeds for POSTPOSTPOST came from a feeling that the prevailing intellectual and academic conversations are leaving out elements of the contemporary world’s newly emergent absurdities. But also from the feeling that there’s so much systemic oppression in the world that requires us to keep pushing, pushing and pushing.
What’s the aim of the publication?
Ruba Al-Sweel: Jokingly, I say it should be instituted in curricula worldwide, Kim Jong Un style. But in all honesty, it was to bypass the formulaic processes of publishing today. Working with editors mostly has been great and I’ve learned a lot, but others just make it a living hell, ascribing to structures that can’t keep up. PPP is a home for the most unsexy pitches that most editors I know would leave on read.
“PPP is neither theorygram nor dankmemes – it’s experienced as this self-aware epileptic quilt of screens that at once contracts and expands reality in this sick way” – Ruba Al-Sweel
Who would you say this publication is aimed at?
Ruba Al-Sweel: What’s fun about this is it taps into different interests. It gathers people who’ve read the Trump-Kim love letters and Qaddafi’s Green Book through to those in New Model’s Communicology reading group. I’m being facetious but what I mean is, through this wide net, we entertain an adversarial process rather than an echo chamber, which is a more constructive way, really, to bring about fruitful debate.
For a while @postp0stpost was an anonymous account – was this intentional?
Al Hassan Elwan: The short answer is no. I started @postp0stpost as a finsta – I even had some selfies on there and only close friends knew about it. Later when I started gaining followers I felt it would be safer to be anonymous so I could post more freely. I always had work and even ideas that I wanted to share, and the format of schizoposting really felt like the perfect medium to deliver them. I remember I made one post parodying trend forecasting that brought me some attention from brand strategists and culture-theorists and then all the parasocial relations I’ve formed kind of cascaded from there. My followers were mostly edgy teenagers but then it started shifting to include more curators, artists and writers, and that made me more tempted to reveal who I am because I was a big fan of some of them and couldn’t resist the urge to propose collabs. One of the most important of those was Ruba Al-Sweel, whom I later pitched to her the idea of a POSTPOSTPOST publication and was very lucky that she decided to hop on board. Most of the contributors in the publication are also people whom I’ve never met and only just DMed.
The publication has such a digital, internet–centric focus. What were the intentions behind making this a print publication as opposed to digital?
Ruba Al-Sweel: Print is not dead. Print is a technology we are returning to in order to avoid what writer Cory Doctorow describes as the ‘enshitfication’ of the internet. It’s become an increasingly miserable place to be, sitting at the node of ethically and legally evasive conduct and private equity interests. As of now, PPP is shadowbanned ultimately due to weird big tech dynamics that remove neutrality. Then you have the ‘physics of the internet’, which Lil Internet coined – this shapes the form and function of content: from character limits down to algorithms. Content online could for whatever reason be erased in our lifetime, but print is an inscription on stone. Plus, we wanted a tangible object for some ontological hubris.
So, what’s next for POSTPOSTPOST?
Al Hassan Elwan & Ruba Al-Sweel: PPP VOL. I is a centurial publication, so a second volume should drop in approximately 100 years. We will make sure of that. Other than that, there is a POSTPOSTPOST short film in the works, directed by Al Hassan and produced by Liam Young. There are also plans for launch events in New York, Berlin and Amsterdam this fall. Details will be announced very soon. What we like about PPP is that it doesn’t have to stick to a publishing cycle or cadence. We’re giving our anxieties a chance to prove themselves curiosities until this whole thing becomes boring or morphs into something else. What we’re sure of is that it’s not going to stop or dissipate.
Find out more about the first edition of the publication on the POSTPOSTPOST website