Trolling Aesthetics: The Lulz as Creative Practice
Knuttila, Lee Gabriel
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“The LULZ” became common Internet parlance in the mid-2000s to describe a wide array of online phenomena, from childish pranks, to the peculiar discourse of anonymous message boards, to a shadowy and subversive ideology. By the end of the decade, the canon of images and icons associated with the LULZ entered into artistic practice and along with it a certain dark understanding of the “digital condition” of online mediation. “Trolling Aesthetics: the LULZ as Creative Practice” charts how the LULZ began as an aesthetic sense and sensibility on the notorious message board 4chan. Akin to most online content, it quickly morphed into a multitude of new forms, including, for example, the video remix practice YouTube Poop, which takes the aesthetic logic of 4chan but changes its creative systems and output. The result is both a discordant bric-a-brac of absurd digital art and an example of how the LULZ functions, beyond idle message boards, as a purposeful creative work. The final chapter follows this trajectory into direct artistic practices. Unlike many of the earlier iterations that sputter rather than comment fully on what such digital culture means, artist projects like Brad Troemel’s The Jogging mobilizes the LULZ to reflect on a network of technology obsessed with speed, time, identity, and representations. Through a blend of material, expressive, and aesthetic approaches, this dissertation is both a historical analysis of the emergence of the LULZ as well as a socio-historical critique of an online world willing to foster, participate, and partake in such an ethos.