A Report on Freedom

You could look at what you can actually do while being immature, forever stuck in youth mode. In 2013 the trend-forecasting group K-Hole published an essay called "Youth Mode: A Report on Freedom“. They describe „Normcore“ as „a path to a more peaceful life“. Normcore as a fashion trend has never moved away ever since. K-Hole talks about the term as an attitude, rather than a fashion trend. In the idea of mass individualism we became so tired of finding new ways of defining our individuality because there are just too many to keep up with, and because it would render you into such a weirdo that no-one would like to hang out with you anymore if you would explore them all.

Normcore comes as the solution to these problems. Instead of all being special we all are the same. And because we are all the same, we are can also belong all together. No reason to stress, we are still all different, we don't have to wear the same clothes and our minds are complex. But now we have the right to wear a handlebar mustache, devote to artisanal pickling today and have a Big Mac after Yoga class tomorrow.

To be truly Normcore, you need to understand that there’s no such thing as normal.

It is important to not confuse Normcore with acting ‘basic’. That is what Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, or Doug Funnie do. Because as K-Hole says: „sameness is not minimalism“–and especially not repetition. Always wearing the same is a simple solution but opts out all the fun of the endless choices you already have in your wardrobe. Black turtlenecks and the grey T-shirts of Mark Zuckerberg stand in one line with the iPhone evolution from 2007 till now, and your never ending crave for improvement.

2016, Mark for H&M, As few decisions as possible

Your battery is empty again. The plastic brick in your palm starts getting sweaty. You are in constant need for new energy. Zarathustra is whispering in the wind. The NoPhone is the moment in which you are unsure if you got the joke. You are wondering why their makers actually have to step up on a TED stage to explain it. CChances are that most one-size-fits-all solutions will always taste more bland in the end. That goes for binge-watching, bulk-buying and pre-cooking as well as for your monthly clothing subscription. And the time you gain will be spent on making an Unboxing Video anyway. You will be the one who either makes it or watches it. Having more time is not more fun, as long as your friends still don’t have fixed working hours. Count the minutes and take a photo.

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What seems to be the practicality of that time gain, is in question. Usually the branding of these products promotes agendas as such. Less choice, less friction, less distraction, more time for leisure, more time for work, simply more time for other things. But what to do actually? Netflix does not produce fast enough for that and you are already meditating for two hours daily.

What to do? Breakfast wasn’t an issue. Neither was lunch. I had work to do, but I didn’t want to do it, so I went out for coffee. On the way there, I passed my neighborhood bagel place, where I saw someone ordering my usual breakfast: a bagel with butter. I watched with envy. I wasn’t hungry, and I knew that I was better off than the bagel eater: the Soylent was cheaper, and it had provided me with fewer empty calories and much better nutrition. Buttered bagels aren’t even that great; I shouldn’t be eating them.

Why buy it if it doesn't really matter. Prestige, statement and gesture a ephemeral. You end up with another box on your shelf. Collecting neat packaging is not only a thing amongst designers. And “Artist/designer/troll” Ryder Ripps made the branding for Soylent, a meal replacement which comes in shake form. For Abacus a dietary supplement in pill form. Where the branding of Soylent stays consistently somewhere between resembling a nutrition facts table and an Innocent smoothie, the branding of Abacus Pills feels slightly more eerie—a moment similar to the No-Phone TED-Talk. You get the full package. Self-awareness and social criticism are included. But when the critique comes from within, its direction might become unclear.


Not that it wouldn't work. You still gonna make the sprint to the checkout button as long as you have the chance to post a photo on Insta. In 2007 Net-Artist, Guthrie Lonergan made the table, “Hacking vs. Defaults”. It shows precisely that tension. Although Lonergan comments on how the “ethos of internet-based art practices have evolved”, the “???” stays open for interpretation. But clearly shows two kinds of mentalities which seem to be at work, for whatever they might be applied.

2007, Guthrie Lonergan, Hacking vs. Defaults

It's hard to pin down that "???," even within such a specific thing as Nasty Nets, and the people involved with Nasty Nets... I think a lot of these artists are going in subtly different directions, though we share an interest in what the Internet has done to us, how it affects culture and consciousness.

Some hold up the flag of net.art, some get called out as post-internet, some just make ads. As usual everything stay fluid. For the 2009 Berlin Biennale, DIS went mostly for being and critiquing the people instead of empowerment.

Our proposition is simple: Instead of holding talks on anxiety, let’s make people anxious. Rather than organizing symposia on privacy, let’s jeopardize it. Let’s give a body to the problems of the present where they occur so as to make them a matter of agency—not spectatorship. (DIS Magazine, The Present in Drag, 2016)

Sounds fun. But this eerie feeling numbs after a while and that “matter of agency” that comes with it will fade due to long term exposure. Complaining is not an answer to your problems, neither it is a question. Maybe you should stop complaining! You don't have an answer either! Time to relax. Somewhere in the middle, between the two columns of Lonergan's diagram it is also possible to shine some light on a topic from more than one angle and each gesture you make contradicts each other. You already criticized TED while giving a TED-talk. You hijack the startup scene ethos but still produce something useful.

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Being in Youth Mode accepts that inconsistency in your lifestyle. K-Hole says our consumer choices are temporary anyway and our conflicting choices do not expose us as inauthentic hypocrites but complex beings. Because:“Normcore capitalizes on the possibility of misinterpretation as an opportunity for connection—not as a threat to authenticity.“ That can not only be applied to us as consumers but also as producers. And when evesryone is a designer anyway, it is that moment when things get slippery.