Non-Places in Vaporwave: The Concept and Its Aesthetics


The term "non-place" was coined by anthropologist Marc Augé to describe spaces of transience that don't hold enough significance to be regarded as "places." These could range from highways to hotel rooms, places that exist merely for passing through rather than residing within.

Imagine walking through a deserted mall. The ambient music still plays, perhaps a mellow, distorted track from decades ago. Vacant stores loom large, remnants of an era where these spaces were centers of community, commerce, and dreams. Now, it’s silent except for the echoes of footsteps, yours or another lone wanderer’s. These malls are non-places, a monument to impermanence.

In Vaporwave, the essence of non-places becomes central. The genre thrives in these empty spaces, converting the void into an emotional landscape. Every empty corridor, every abandoned arcade, speaks of times past, of memories made, and dreams shattered. The haunting familiarity of these places, the almost tangible sense of days gone by, makes them the perfect canvas for the Vaporwave narrative.

Why do these non-places resonate so profoundly with us? Perhaps because, in today's hyper-connected world, we too often feel like non-entities, drifting through life, searching for meaning and connection. Non-places mirror our inner emotional landscape, representing our fears, hopes, and the ever-elusive search for identity.

Vaporwave has indeed become an ethereal beacon in the modern age of music and visuals. The visual cues of Vaporwave don't merely exist for aesthetic pleasure; they carry a profound message of nostalgia, consumerism, and the rapid digital evolution of our age.

The iconic use of pastel hues exudes a sense of calm and serenity, almost like a mirage of a forgotten age. Roman statues, often depicted in Vaporwave visuals, symbolize the enduring nature of art and culture, juxtaposing our rapidly changing digital landscape with ancient, immutable symbols of cultural prowess[1].

The 3D-rendered graphics, reminiscent of early computer graphics, tap into the collective memories of a generation that witnessed the dawn of the digital age.

Japanese characters, frequently interspersed, represent not only the fascination with Japanese pop culture but also the global nature of the Internet, where boundaries blur and cultures meld.

However, Vaporwave doesn't just reminisce; it reconstructs. The 80s and 90s graphic design elements are reinvented, twisted, and often distorted, not merely to evoke emotion but to critique the relentless consumer culture and the ephemeral nature of modern digital media[2].

Sonically, Vaporwave is akin to a dreamy voyage. The slowed-down tracks aren't just an auditory experience; they evoke a longing for times gone by.

The pitched-down vocals create an otherworldly ambiance, and the reverb adds depth, making the music seem like it's coming from the depths of memory itself. By sampling muzak, jazz, and R&B, Vaporwave presents an echo of the past, but with an eerie twist, making it feel both familiar and alien at the same time[4].

In essence, Vaporwave, both visually and sonically, is a reflection of our innermost emotions and memories. It beckons us, urging us to traverse through the corridors of our mind, to a place where time is but a gentle stream, where memories, though hazy, are within arm's reach, and where every note and hue resonates with the deepest corners of our soul.