The VIGILPHASE Manifesto

Presenting an alternate present.

OVERVIEW

  • Photographs of incomplete architecture taken by an intruder in a construction site at night.
  • Records of paranormal phenomena recorded by amateur ghost-hunters.
  • The electric hum of the only streetlight still on in the town centre at 3am.
  • Walking through the city in strong sunlight, crowds appearing like shadows.
  • Dialling into transmissions from lost voices across obsolete phone networks.
  • A shift in one’s persona while navigating through an underground social media nebula.
  • Overhead fluorescence in a 24-hour store merging with neon street-signs outside.
  • A fleeting hookup in a rest area restroom, partly obscured by a graffitied stall divider.
  • Stumbling half-awake through a government bureaucratic office labyrinth.
  • The sound of gentle waves on a beach before sunset when the water can’t be seen.
  • Retro late-80s queer porn found in a bundle of zines at the back of a photocopier.
  • A summer of pirate radio broadcasts aided by easily-torrented software.
  • The light that is left on every Friday evening in the office block three streets away.
  • A Scrapbook-of-Shadows used in liminal magic at the Witching Hour.
  • Modern technology reverse-engineered to play cult-classic retro videogames.
  • A pre-millenium diagnostic manual discovered in the dirt under a radio pylon.
  • Smoking out of a window at a house party and feeling connected to the city outside.
  • Sitting atop the car, cellphone in hand, waiting to catch the lights in the night sky. 

WHAT IS VIGILPHASE?

Vigilphase is an aesthetic in the manner of steampunk, solarpunk, vaporwave or witch house. Vigilphase can also be known as known as ghostpunk, vigilpunk, or hauntpunk, and shares a great deal in common with hauntology.

The aesthetics, technologies and ideas of the past and the future push up against the present, causing cracks, stopgaps and interstices – and this is where vigilphase takes place. Vigilphase is any practice that is ahead of its time while being old-fashioned, any object that is made of state-of-the-art systems propped up by obsolete services, any place engineered for a vision of the future that now belongs in the past, any artistic vision that is caught between nostalgia and premonition. In vigilphase, the past is rarely well-known despite its familiarity; the future is rarely surprising despite its novelty.

Vigilphase is not merely “the present” – it is a present that is a step sideways out of phase with reality, resulting in messiness, uncertainty, organicness, tension, anxiety, weirdness, nostalgia, forgetfulness, longing, or uncanniness. However, vigilphase can be optimistic or pessimistic, fantastic or realistic, cynical or hopeful.

Vigilphase is what occurs in the cracks of a unified scientific vision such as the evergreen utopia of solarpunk, the augmented reality of cyberpunk, the well-oiled machine of steampunk. Vigilphase can be reached in any space where life continues on, often uncelebrated or unrecognised for its will to keep going. Vigilphase is the recognition and humble celebration of continued survival, without necessarily pedestalising or demonising; the acknowledgment that many people can have smartphones while still living below the poverty line; that modern life is so paradoxical that the same things that nourish us can also destroy us – or, more accurately, nobody can say for sure if it’s one way or the other.

Vigilphase recognises that we do not live independently of others’ spaces, and others’ times. What is morning to one person is night to a person on the other side of the globe. Waking hours to he working day-shift are sleeping hours to she working night-shift are both to ze working split-shift are neither to they working graveyard-shift. We live in rented spaces, on borrowed time, alongside infinite obsolescence and innovation.

As cyberpunk has its hackers and shadowrunners, steampunk its engineers and explorers, vigilphase has its investigators, its vigilkeepers, its watchers, its vigilants, among others.

Vigilphase is invoked in any work, art and thinking that operates between, beside and outside binaries of technology, sleep, death, sunlight, modernity, the future, and narrative. To be involved in creating things in the vigilphase current or aesthetic involves recognising the cohabitance of innovation and obsolescence; complicating or exaggerating ideas of healthy sleep and alert wakefulness; exploring the foggy areas between and outside life and death; seeing something of the past in the future (and vice versa); respecting the need for odd hours; understanding the messy complexity in the gaps of new waves of technology; looking back at previously-imagined futures, and turning the mirror to examine our assumptions about the past; acknowledging and describing the moments in one’s life when we slip between the cracks; seeking out and developing variation that is not always clear-cut and isolable from the system that created it.

VIGILPHASE TERMINOLOGY

Vigilphase is so named for the “vigil” – the observation of something taking place – and “phase” – the recognition that what is occurring alternates in flux.

The Vigil

Traditionally, a vigil is a period where a person will choose to stay awake when others are sleeping. As a result, these periods are often temporary and transitory, and borrow from both the land of wakefulness, and the land of sleep. Events that are vigil-like from everyday life include:

  • Working a night-shift job
  • Attending a wake
  • Attending a protest late at night
  • Partying until sunrise
  • Exploring abandoned places at night
  • Staying overnight at a hospital

In vigilphase, the concept of the vigil is extended to include any period of attempted wakefulness during the hours of sleep, any moment of attempted sleep during the hours of wakefulness, and any moment of half-wakefulness, half-sleep. This also follows conceptually: the vigil is any period bearing witness to the moments that happen in the gaps between. This includes:

  • Napping and dreaming during the day
  • National holidays where businesses are closed
  • Getting stoned
  • A layover in an airport
  • A temporary autonomous zone
  • A weekend at a convention

The Phase

Vigilphase is transitory, ephemeral: glimpsed at opportune moments, or sought out in times and spaces where time and space have become strange.

Anything that draws attention to spatial subjectivity and temporality (especially the passing of time and the fleeting nature of events) can be a potent symbol for vigilphase. This includes:

  • Pocket watches, especially affordable, recently-made ones
  • Clock towers and train-station clocks
  • Old calendars and diaries
  • Obsolete maps and atlases
  • The date on faded, yellow newspapers in abandoned places or attics
  • Dream diaries

The Record

The record is a common aspect of the vigil. The record is emblematic in some way of the strange space-time of vigilphase; an artefact written in the past, about the present, for the future, perhaps, or a future vision, recorded in the present, to explain the past. The record may even be something outside of our conventional understanding of time and space.

The record is some way of recording or capturing a period of vigilphase as it happens, a way of bringing back information gained from vigilphase, or a way of locating or describing vigilphase while outside it. This manifesto itself is a vigilphase record.

Many records are annotated in some way, and are preserved, created, analysed or observed by those keeping the vigil. Examples of records include:

  • Diaries, journals, online journals
  • Photographs, galleries, photo blogs
  • Vlogs, cellphone videos, and Vines
  • Medieval bestiaries and codices
  • Ephemerides and starcharts
  • Grimoires, Books of Shadows, and ancient tomes

VIGILPHASE-ADJACENT MEDIA

Here are examples of media that can be considered part of or adjacent to vigilphase.

Music / Music Videos

Television/Movies

Games

Painting

Clothing and Fashion

  • Everyday street style
  • Librarian chic
  • Witch fashion

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