Mould Map 3 is an exceptional anthology – the rare sort of collection where the entirety of the book is a sort of gestalt vision of the multiform present as an oracle for the future. Whereas most anthologies make it easy to talk about a few individual standout pieces, but difficult to describe a cohesive whole, Mould Map is fully articulated as an entirety – the vibrating stylistic moves on display are integral to its ferociously bleak and cruelly funny vision of cultural meltdown.
Cavalier internet/millennial/onslaught aesthetics are a huge part of shaping this. Mould Map is loaded with cool and careless gestures, things like Amalia Ulman’s collages of yoga-opulence done with the high-weirdness of dollar store kitten wrapping paper and Leon Sadler’s oblique and evil-eyed quasi-advertising (published in both full color and as a poorly grey-balanced Xerox insert). The reader gets recalibrated into a tumblr-sphere, a graphic swarm where the concept of “taste” is constantly being corrupted and undermined.
Crystaline editing here has created a soothing terrarium for content to emerge from a thick bed of internet compost. Substance thrives: the book’s contributions are in tight collusion with each other around the casual integration of the human body to technology. Lala Albert’s comic about a blanket that conveys the extinct sensation of “wetness” sticks in the mind as an exemplary sample of this subtle cyborg slipperiness, a place where we are only separated from the outer postulations of science fiction by a thin, porous membrane of gadgetry.
Contributions like those from Jonny Negron, Victor Hatchmang and GHXYK2 exemplify a thematic dance around conspiratorial twists and overarching threats. These ominous vibes are constantly being dickered by human trickery and error and the result is a humor that rises out from glitches in amoral landscapes. Stephan Sadler and Jon Chandler’s comic about a disgruntled cryogenics employee pins this down perfectly, capturing the effortless, ridiculous and infinite cycles of scams with postmodern glee.
There’s a smart and digitally mitigated gender flexibility on display here as an open-end element to this future. The placement of anti-subtle work like Dmitry Sergeev’s trans-bodied hentai pinups finds itself in dialogue with the easy, nuanced genders of Olivier Schrauwen’s comedic story of a belligerent future box and Noel Freibert’s putty-bodied fleshapoids and their exercises into amateur surgery. There is a sinking of the body into space (digital, imagined and actual) that puts sex and gender into a realm of constant unpredictable distortion.
The book is further enriched by the obvious thought and care that went into production. The printing of Mould Map is a thing to behold – glassy slick, with a disarming collision of spot colors, strange glossy textures and a host of auxiliary material. Dazzling and distracting as a screen but working decidedly as print, this is an extremely considered object, a record of an aesthetic and time deeply indebted to Donna Haraway’s Cyborg Manifesto and the triumph of the mutable mindset. Mould Map’s seamless curation and cultural playfulness makes for an astounding amorphous portrait of the present, the internet, and the language of comics.