High culture eating nerd culture

It’s been thirty years since the first Star Wars film, twenty-three since the Nintendo Entertainment System hit it big in America—now the nerd culture of yesteryear is working its way into high art. Last year, fashion designer Demna Gvasalia showed a line of menswear inspired by the look of Star Wars. Very Tatooine-chic.

SW fasion

Visual artist Cedric Delsaux is also drawing inspiration from Star Wars, placing its iconic characters in gritty urban landscapes.

Cedric Delsaux\'s work

But it’s not just limited to such a cultural touchstone of a film as Star Wars. Artists are finding inspiration in videogames as well. In 2005, an art exhibit in LA called “i am 8 bit” drew images from retro gaming and gaming culture into modern art. Here’s one of my favorites from the show:


And finally, last year, ten students at UC Santa Cruz turned 6400 post-it notes and the front of an engineering building into a forty foot tall mural depicting a scene from Donkey Kong.

UCSC mural

It’s funny how culture works in these huge, weird loops. Thirty years ago, dressing up like a character from Star Wars might get you beat up; now it’s high fashion. Are “i am 8 bit” and the UCSC mural merely extensions of twenty-somethings’ nostalgia for the videogames of their youth–the same nostalgia that powers those 8 bit graphic tees you always see in stores but never see anybody wearing, and those weird Nintendo mashup videos on YouTube–or are they examples of high culture absorbing low culture (nerd culture?) and transforming it, kind of like how visually referencing grindhouse cinema has now become an ironic/nostalgic statement. Interesting questions. I’d like to hear your comments about stuff like this.


~ by Ian D. on April 17, 2008.

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