Is indie dead?
I guess indie is an apparent impossibility in a system where everything is laid bare and the underground is quickly vacuumed to the surface. It can be guaranteed that a major publication will blow up anything “cool” or “secret” by week’s end. Perhaps this is in part indie’s own fault: the same blogosphere that once cradled it now grinds out new “radical” content every day. Whither indie?
One evening, my friend Lauren talks about hearing an Arcade Fire song in a bar and wanting to make a joke about it, but instead she got caught up in the song itself and all of the complicated feelings wrapped up with it. So, did indie ever leave? Well, Lauren gets me thinking that insofar as indie bred itself on the concept of authenticity and sincerity, with a carefully balanced fulcrum on the spectrum of twee and irony, indie lives on.
I started doing this reading group with some friends, most of whom are around 23 to 26 years old (peak indie age?), and the first thing we read was Mark Fisher’s Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative? In it, Fisher talks about the ironic distance that characterizes our relationship to late capital(ism). Something that became clear in reading and talking together was that we were all basically starved for sincerity. We also collectively felt a pretty raw desire for something real (what?) and radical (how?).
We saw and felt Fisher’s ironic distance in ourselves and loathed it. We internally felt the push and pull between ironic distancing and sincerity. Just as in Lauren’s Arcade Fire moment, we were all teetering on that same fucking fulcrum, our own indifference and hopeless twee-ass desires eating each other alive.
I formed my understanding of my self and the world consuming blog posts on Hipster Runoff and, like, reading other people’s secrets on PostSecret while listening to Camera Obscura (the poles on my personal irony/twee spectrum), absorbing accounts from older people who could go to cool shows and parties that I was too young or too in-the-suburbs to attend. Moreover, my sense of self was largely built around being online, finding the next thing before anyone else, keeping it underground, and then eventually abandoning it when it blew up. For slightly older people, these experiences might have been merely cultural, but what do they mean for those of us who unwittingly formed entire psychologies around them? Let’s just say that incubating in pretty much untempered, heart-on-your-sleeve emo and pop-punk unfolded into tongue-in-cheek intellectualising mixed with desperately self-aware romanticism. Infrastructurally, we grew up on one commercial internet, and graduated into an adulthood fashioned around a totally different mutation of it – one that no longer rewards this kind of “individuality” but at the same time monetises the practices that formed it.
So, whither indie? Indie seems to have undergone some fragmentation or an alienation from its host body. It was birthed by people who don’t seem to care to revisit it, who look upon it and see no loose ends, yet there’s a micro-generation of people like me who can’t get out from under it – for better or for worse. Many of these people happen to be – not coincidentally – the drivers of culture in multiple spheres, from rappers to alt-right personalities. So maybe indie isn’t dead, and maybe it isn’t alive. Maybe indie is a ghost in need of exorcising, a ruin to be exhumed.
ARIA DEAN is an artist, writer and curator. She lives in New York.