Last year, without much fanfare, a new parade made its debut.
The procession featured floats, throws, bands and a theme — “Vaporwave is Dead: Long Live Vaporwave.” More than 300 people watched it roll. If you overlooked the parade, that’s probably because it doesn’t exist in the physical world.
“Vaporwave is inseparable from the internet,” said Virtual Krewe of Vaporwave leader and founder Merely Synecdoche, who declined to give his real name and conducted the interview via an anonymous chat application.
“Carnival is satire and Vaporwave is satire. Broadly, it’s anticapitalist and antiglobalist. It’s remixes and video collages and palm trees and malls.”
Vaporwave also is a music and art genre that gained traction in 2010. Vaporwave artists steal, download, rip and record digital relics of the 1980s and 1990s, which include everything from Kmart Muzak to shampoo commercial footage. The resulting art pieces function both as an homage to and a critique of the late 20th-century capitalism that helped spawn them.
“In a sense, when we mine this old material for content, we're reading love letters to ourselves from the past,” Synecdoche said. “Vaporwave is memories of the past's dreams of the future.”
An assembly of video art pieces accompanied by Vaporwave-style remixes, VKV’s debut parade was live-streamed last year. Later in 2016, the parade was simulcast by Quintron’s Weather for the Blind and screened at NOizeFest and the New Orleans Film Festival.
This year’s parade format is a multiplayer video game. Users must download the game at kreweofvaporwave.com and create a character in order to watch the floats. They can interact with other viewers and collect throws in this digital environment.
In addition to secrecy and parading, VKV adopts another old-line krewe tradition this year: a ball. The party is open to anyone and happens not online, but "IRL" (in real life) at 9 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 4 at Daiquiri Lounge, 4201 Washington Ave. Cover is $10.
“The IRL Ball will showcase all our crazy ideas for the living, breathing public,” said producer and krewe party planner E. Dali Parton in an emailed interview. “The great thing about planning big events as an introvert is that never going out leaves your imagination free from social constraints of things like plausibility, reason and social acceptability. So we've ended up with a ball that, at the very least, will be like no other.”
The ball features art installations, hula hoop dancers, a robot DJ named Dick Joskey, drag performers and a Mario Kart knockout competition. Rusty Lazer, Quickie Mart and Lil Internet, who has directed videos for Beyonce, Diplo, Brooke Candy and Skrillex, perform DJ sets.
By marrying Vaporwave with Carnival traditions, the krewe hopes to make participating in the internet phenomenon a little less isolating.
“Virtual life is painful and lonely,” Synecdoche said. “We desperately want to be real. This year, we met in person a lot more. We’re really looking forward to the ball and becoming a cohesive social group.”
Because so many krewe members interact with VKV strictly through the internet, Synecdoche has no idea how many people are in the krewe. It doesn’t take much to join: an internet connection and a willing spirit are pretty much the only requirements.
“Anyone who shows up to meetings and submits work is in,” Synecdoche said. “The parades, the balls, the parties, the installations will all come because we have enough driven and talented people to make them happen. But the big challenge for all of us recluse-satirists is to coexist with people.”
“Tomorrow, The Future,” rolls at 8 p.m. Feb. 21.