Defining Memes and Individualism in the Post-Obama Era, With Acrylic_Cinnamon

“Nothing is real and everything is possible”, the ideas fundamental to the world we live in, materials we consume and the decisions we “make” therein, all are influenced or controlled by an invisible hand. Every choice you’ve made since you were able to cry about what toy you wanted in Wal-Mart was decided for you by advertisers, politicians, and CEOs. It is without a doubt that money motivates people, and to a fault in most cases. Power does as well, but where there is money, power closely follows. The world we live in exists in a set of forever shrinking concentric circles of power, where your frame of reference lies, your decisions permeate within that. Here exists a question responsible for the existential dread that most brave enough to delve into the rabbit hole of extreme self-awareness experience. What is the point? Are we even capable of understanding this question as emotionally motivated creatures? Or is an answer necessary when we can just as easily laugh at our insignificance through surrealist expressionism.

Acrylic_Cinnamon, (Real name Alex), has amassed over 13 thousand followers on Instagram. His distinct style drives his surrealist expression home, or leaves fans in a state of comedic confusion attempting to deconstruct the layers of each post. I found myself in the same, after my first experience with his parsing of inexplicable social interactions. I recently had the enlightening opportunity of speaking with him over the nature of his work.

In your own words, describe what it is you do.

I just make pictures. They’re memes, I guess, but I’d be lying if I said that I booted up photoshop going, “Ok. Let’s do a meme.”

Instead I say, “Let’s do a me.”

That make sense?

So rather than explicitly making memes, would you say that it’s more a means of self-expression?

Yeah that’s more accurate. I have more or less turned my Instagram account into a visual journal. It’s not to say that I don’t shit post with pure comedic intentions sometimes, though–because I definitely do.

And when you are visually journaling often your posts contain a palpable amount of existential dread. Are you partial to those emotionally charged posts over the ones that are obscure, simply for the sake of comedic obscurity?

They’re reflective of my mood, if nothing else. Sort of just a part of me and my own experiences with bipolar disorder. I can exist in a plane of pure narcissistic, cheerful overload just as easily as I can be bogged down by a crippling sense of futility and despair.

Similar to how many famous artists and painters perceive their work. Would you agree that the lines between memes and artistic expression have blurred?

I guess it would be hard to argue that those lines haven’t been blurred, huh? But even so, I think art on the whole has always been that way.

People like to make a big deal about memes and I hear the word ‘potential’ thrown out a lot, as if to suggest that we as a civilization have finally peaked and ‘the meme’, as we call it, is our ultimate gift to the artistic universe. I don’t really agree with that. Every group of humans on every spot of our species’ timeline has wanted to believe that they’ve figured it out. They cracked the code. Everyone before was futile and everyone after will be an exhausting act of repetition. It’s over-romanticization in its worst way. Humans are annoying and pretentious. Memes are just funny things. Funny. Things.

You know what would be really cool? Being the first group of humans to admit that we really don’t have it all figured.

One cool thing to think about, though, is just how much raw staying-power the word ‘meme’ has. I mean, we’ve already sort of agreed that it covers a spectacularly diverse array of shit. Memes have been around forever but now we have tagged the phenomenon as something in particular. That’s pretty cool lol, and like WE did that, you know? You and me. Me and you. Us.

I find it interesting that despite understanding the word ‘meme’ and its myriad of interpretations and mediums, it still sounds as if you’re taking an image macro and slapping impact font on the top and bottom. However this wave of surrealist memes is a complete rejection of that. I’m curious how that rejection of structure has influenced your style.

It’s not a rejection to me, it’s just a nu wave of ridiculous. In 25 years somebody might point at something grandiose or even esoteric that I create and go ‘wow look how antiquated.’ Our perspectives are so relative like that.

But you have a point, people who make abstract memes often take a point of pride in the departure that their work is from, like you said, the impact font on top of a drinking college student or somesuch. To every culture there is a counter-culture, yeah? We love to do that. Everybody wants to dig and dig and dig until they feel like they are being recognized for being unique or individualistic.

It’s a frustrating thing when the phrase ‘be yourself’ has begun to sound trite, and the penalties for pursuing individualism have been magnified under the public eye. If everybody is a critic then nobody is actually making anything, thought–so i’ve become pretty dead set on keeping my ear muffs on. Also I’m from Pittsburgh and it’s really cold here.

Have you lived in Pittsburgh your whole life?

Yeah I been here forever. Probably die here.

In the development of your distinctive style, was there anything in particular that contributed to this? You seem to understand your work and the nature of it very well.

Hahaha what caused my style? I have no idea. What causes anyone’s style? Environment. There’s a bajillion factors from my middle index toe being long and crooked to my experience with anti-depressive and psychotic medications.

-I play a lot of video games.

As 2017 turns into 2018, and the waters of the pursuit of individualism are muddied, the information age continues its assault on stagnation and promotion of conceited self deprecation. We can only hope to find solace in our reflections of this inexplicable time in history through the laughter it causes.

Be sure to check out Alex’s Instagram @acrylic_cinnamon

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Mateo Roman

Post-power electronics musician, graphic designer, clothing designer, and digital artist

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