Considerations | World Fair

Via Issue 187, The Critical Mass Issue!

Written by

Erica Brown

Photographed by

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Styled by

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Chiffon Thomas. “Racine” (2022). Bible Skins, Thread. 10” X 9 1⁄2” X 7.” Courtesy The Artist & PPOW.

“Hot Gore Girl: An Abridged Piercing,” a continuation of the manic pixie dream girl story, describes the new alternative ideal and she’s sexually desensitized, impervious to PC culture, and enthralled by chaos. She is the embodiment of counter culture’s code of ethics in the face of the mainstream’s hypersensitivity. Phrases like: Western culture, desensitization, violence, “today’s youth,” have become repetitive, but a through line is thickening, especially when it comes to our up-and-coming underground.

The radical crowd of our predecessors was, allegedly, inspired by rebellion of the bigoted norms of the time. These crowds experienced tragic, but well-intentioned outcomes at the hands of a desire for others or oneself to be free. Their willingness to go against the grain for a higher cause, at the cost of themselves, earned them their cool reputation. Unfortunately, all black clothing, colored hair, ripped jeans and protesting are no longer enough to cue you are beyond the fray. At this point, it’s hard to keep track of what counterculture is defined by, or what they’re even fighting for. Slowly they have found new and improved ways to deviate, but only in the interest of deviation. We seem to be going down a road of wanton acts of violence, psychological or otherwise, in order to prove individuality, or disprove privilege. Most interesting of all, these acts are typically imposed on oneself.

It appears the fringe is feeling increasingly desperate to feel desperate. A halo of glamor tends to follow those that suffer in the right way. Alternative culture has taken the essence of romanticized tragedies like Kurt Cobain and River Phoenix, and converted pain into currency. An unnerving cousin of identity politics: tragedy, violence, and mental illness can now help you earn your stripes online. Public Pearl-escent freakouts on Instagram Live definitely help to give otherwise uninteresting characters the X-factor they’re looking for. However, on less regulated platforms, the struggle olympics have gone from the ridiculous to the sublime.

The Internet is a buffet of devious fixations, hence communities like: Discord, Reddit, Liveleak, and 4chan. Due to their anonymous nature, and lack of surveillance, these communities house some of the most self-proclaimed, “savage” minds on the internet. Members of these forums tend to explore taboo topics and test the boundaries of perversion. The case of Bianca Devins outlines the story of an “up-and-coming influencer” who was violently murdered by her date and Discord follower. Immediately following her decapitation, her assailant uploaded pictures of her corpse on her heavily followed Discord server. A copy/paste of a relevant Reddit post regarding the situation is worth 1,000 words:

“Today on ‘Classic Depravities of the Internet’: Bianca Devins

Today’s topic was suggested by u/AmirRus3 and u/ LeeKay203. thank you!

It’s been a while since we did gore. Let’s fix that. 

The Murder of Bianca Devins

Thrown in a pit of cheeky usernames and Clockwork Orange profile pictures, the nauseating details of Bianca’s murder falls victim to equally barbaric commentary. Coldnessinmyheart and Kelly Ronahan mark some of the most extreme symptoms of the circus.

Coldnessinmyheart is a Tumblr sensation known for removing chunks of flesh from herself, exposing bone and muscle, and uploading pictures of the graphic scenes to her blog. Similarly, Kelly Ronahan feigned a blood infection by applying homemade acid to her legs in order to draw popularity online. Encouraged by her rising follower count, she proceeds to inhibit healing by picking her skin, and eventually muscle, off her leg. Consequently, her legs have been amputated, but not before receiving enough shock value to popularize the term “Munchausen by Internet.” Coldnessinmyheart has since passed away and Kelly Ronahan has stopped posting after losing her legs; but, that has not stopped multiple copycats from popping up in their place.

We’re All Going to the World’s Fair (2021), Spree (2020) and Sick of Myself (2023) explore similar ideas of self-isolation, self-mutilation, and the value of spectacle in 2023. We’re All Go- ing to the World’s Fair, depicts an angsty girl finding her way via Alternate Reality Game and the tangible damage its fantasy world causes. The World’s Fair is inspired by real-life ARGs, Blue Whale and the Momo Challenge. These online challenges, dating back to 2016, encourage players to stay in the game by completing assignments, and have been linked to forms of self-harm and multiple cases of child suicide. While this film describes the dangers of parasocial relationships, Sick of Myself and Spree exemplify the opposite. Sick of Myself describes a woman who disfigures herself in order to outshine her boyfriend in response to his newfound success. As outlandish as these plots may seem, they are only slightly dramatized reflections of the state of the union. Even so, reality has continued to outdo itself faster than fiction can keep up.

We have created a link between violence and popularity in a timeline that has also linked popularity and monetary gain. An emerging conversation of the effects of sensationalism looms as what’s mainstream now, was counterculture 10 years ago. Further, the rate of trend cycles are only increasing as we find more efficient ways to connect. The more comfortable the mainstream gets with the outrageous, the closer alternative gets to sinister rather than the arguably more playful, debauched.

The precise source of all this is unclear as, throughout history, humans have proven to be somewhat inherently violent. In our “civilized” New World, but the tipping point is difficult to identify. Some experts identify the late Jerry Springer as one of the 7 horses of the media apocalypse. After all, the 90s version of a traveling freak show exploited tragedy for ratings and wildly succeeded. Or maybe we should present Bhad Bhabie for proving rowdy reality show guests can go from viral, to C-list celebrity, and then viral again for her OnlyFans. It could also explore the rise of serial killings following the news coverage, and fame, re- received by serial killers of the time. While the crux is unclear, it is evident our demons will be televised, or rather, streamed.

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Erica Brown, World Fair