The Philosophy of Network Reality, part 1
[editor’s note: significant controversy has ensconced Charlotte Fang and the milady community since this post was written. Allegations of the most horrid order have been leveled, and I for the most part left the milady community. Despite this, I’ll leave this post up as a record of the moment in time.]
While much has been written about angelicism01 and avant NFTs, comparatively less attention has been paid to the enigmatic artist-qua-CEO behind Remilia, the collective corporation that released Milady Maker in September 2021. Here’s what I know about Charlotte Fang:
He’s a young man, probably in his early twenties, a self-described autist, and the veritable heir to Andy Warhol — meaning: his mastery of art, business, language and culture is so forward looking and generous that it can only be considered genius.
I call Charlie “Charlotte” because that’s what his screenname says. He is definitely post-gender. Gender dichotomies are one of many dualities being smashed to smithereens by a feedback loop - no, a magic portal - opened by the ability to “live” online. When we log on, we don a mask, transcend our physical bodies and enter cyberspace. Who are we in this new land? What are we?
Mark Zuckerberg proposed and proliferated for the last 18 years a restrained tautological answer: on the internet we are ourselves. That is to say, we do not change when we enter cyberspace; we transpose ourselves into data and carry along physical restraints as baggage: our names, bodies, faces, jobs, relationship status — all of it becomes data meant to perfectly mirror our physical selves. This data is, of course, enormously valuable and Facebook takes a net income of around $30,000,000,000.00 ($30B) per year from it.
Charlotte, one of many counter-cultural crypto-punks in the alternate internet known as “web3”, proposes an alternative answer. Donning a Milady PFP (profile picture) on Twitter enters you into a distinct cyber universe: a universe where up is also down, schizzed is normie, hackers are white knights, and — crucially — art is finance. That Milady was started by an artist collective is no coincidence. Artists more than any other sect of capitalism are suspicious of its aims, and art has evolved a wary alliance with the world of finance from the very beginning. Artists grate against the interests of the elite all while courting their wealth to pursue more “noble” ends: expanding culture towards more beauty; extracting poetic residue from human shit.
Patrons of the arts, meanwhile, feel a sense of relief by engaging with and funding “good” art. Call it moral laundering or just good ol’ fashioned insider trading. The Sacklers and many other wealthy families have found refuge for their money and a good dash of fine aristocratic tastes in the art world. There’s something poetic about committing mass murder and using the profits to build a museum filled with beautiful pictures which glorify the struggle of humanity.
Sometime during the sultry pandemic summer of 2021, a random account called Wretched Worm and an American girl, Soph, both teenagers or close to it, fell in love over the network. Love has a way of breaking down dichotomies. Love has a way of shifting vibes. I wasn’t there when they fell in love. I hadn’t discovered “the computer internet” yet. But in August 2021, I met Soph at Clandestino with Matthew [REDACTED] and Alex [REDACTED] and we all did bumps of cocaine. It was weird how normal it all was. She wore a strappy black dress that accentuated her enormous boobs. Soph told me that she was engaged to Worm, who lived over on the other side of the world. They’d never met in person. She handed me a business card: Soph Vanderbilt, Remilia Corp.
Soph and Worm pioneered and developed a new style of posting on Twitter, which also seeped into the -cellectuals accounts on Instagram. People might call it “schizz-posting” or just “what the hell is that person even talking about?” The thrust of this “posting” is the principle that each action we take on the net is a real and tangible gesture; that posting is an art gesture, like stroking paint into a canvas or scooping out clay from a bust. Extend this metaphor and our presence on various social networks becomes a body of work; our profiles are our art careers; our posts are our poems. What comes after Post-modernism? Just post.
Poetry conveys meanings layered in metaphors. It’s not for nothing that this is how the Bible works, too. The contrast between poetry-posting and facebook-posting could not be more clear, in this way. One operates in metaphor. The other operates in literalism.
Soph and worm became friends with Charlotte Fang, and the Drunken Canal wrote about it, and Honor Levy started a podcast with Walter Pierce and invited a bunch of hip metropolitan club kids on to expound on the normal synchronicities of life. Occult religious sensibilities brewed with hard-core Catholics, horny perverts, secular Jews, teenagers in Australia, rave-heads, meme admins, actors, artists, writers, e-girls and one anonymous — and very, very racist, angry and unhinged — poster called Angelicism01. Everyone was on their phones in Discord channels exchanging memes and coining neologisms daily.
There were points when I’d feel so disconnected from reality and so connected to the network that it felt like my organs were being rearranged. Milady’s routinely posted the most heinous commentaries imaginable — read literally, they were promoting terroristic violence, overthrow of democracy, slavery, any number of awful conclusions. But, read as metaphor, they were experiencing and expressing the ecstasy of the possible.
Liberated from the strictures of the literal, schizzed-posters convey humanity and vulnerability from behind internet masks. We are, finally, feeling somewhat human on the net (I use we because I sometimes operate on Twitter from behind a Milady pfp). Ironically, this is only possible by wearing a mask considerably more anonymous and tribal than the one’s we’d been donning for years on social networks where we were tied to our real names and identities.
There’s a political fable here too. The SJW left became destroyers, intent on burning the old ways so much so that they turned inward, and now you can very conceivably get fired from your Real Job for posting a tweet that doesn’t sit well with hoards of reactionary, ideological users. This had a chilling effect on self-expression, leading to a calcifying self-censorship. And this was happening primarily on the Left—on college campuses, no less! The Left was becoming increasingly doctrinarian and inflexible while the Right was metastasizing into a tumor known as Trumpism.
All of this left little room for people who feel primarily human and not economic or political. The internet, it seemed, no longer tolerated humanity.
Posting is a kind of antidote. Anonymity is sacred. We did not realize that the extraction and capitalization of our data also meant the extraction of our soul, the losing of our very grasp and control of our own future. Give over your entire data-history to a ruthless corporate machine, and watch it suck you dry like an infinite Dracula. But how — how — could you ever serve ads to a terrorist? How could you predict the next move of a spiritual poster who, all of a sudden, finds God in pre-sliced Oranges?