Doppelgängers and Internet Beefs
At the notorious supertall 432 Park Avenue luxury tower
Leonardo DiCaprio was sitting in the back corner of the Eleanor-Cayre/Dean-Kissick–curated gallery opening afterparty at the notorious supertall 432 Park Avenue luxury tower in a baseball hat looking like his character in The Departed, vibing from the party’s beginning to Dagsen Love’s “boofed” ambient DJ set while a crowd gathered that included Red Scare podcaster Anna Khachiyan and her partner Eli Keszler, creative-director/artist-troll and designer of the “Soylent” logo Ryder Ripps, supermodel and bourgeois supporter of Palestinian liberation Gigi Hadid, Fuccboi novelist Sean Thor Conroe, artist-researcher of radicalized internet subcultures Josh Citarella, a bunch of goons from the Remilia/Milady NFT collective, young NFT-beat journalist fellow traveler Will Gottsegen, and yours truly.
I met Dagsen at the surreal Urbit Mars Review of Books launch party last month, and then in my Substack writeup confused him for his doppelgänger Duncan, the Web3 developer boyfriend of writer–podcaster–downtown-scene-girl Honor Levy (I met Dagsen and Duncan almost simultaneously, I think), for which I had to issue a correction. DiCaprio is someone there’s godfather, according to Dagsen, who talks a mile a minute in this surfer accent that reflects the chaos of the scene every time I’ve hung out with him. I’ve heard his story of the past month several times but even still can only piece together the following: he went back to his home in LA after that Urbit party and then quit his job like two weeks ago and now is going to be throwing parties in LA for some effective altruists and is also now DJing across New York even though he doesn’t really know how to DJ so he’s got his homies doing most of the actual DJing and he’s got a publicist who is also Chief Keef’s publicist and he’s constantly going from one event to the next because he’s way overbooked every night. (Dagsen said the reason he boofed this ambient DJ set is because he forgot to download all the ambient tracks before he started, so they had to play other stuff.) And some other things that are peppered in: recollections of cursed trips to Miami and seed money for this-and-that and so-and-so’s dad is a Hollywood producer and castles in Italy and our mutual friend Ulysse (previously introduced as “Catboy Deleuze” in my Betsey Brown Substack piece)—who I’ve never met in person but have known virtually for some time, before I ever got “clouted” in any real sense and before they transitioned, back when we both wrote weird internet culture criticism in Jacobite, back when we were both “Nietzscheans.” Ulysse seems to know a lot of people. Standing behind the DJ booth with Dagsen was a girl named Julia, who lived in the same grad student housing as Ulysse at Stanford, where Ulysse was studying classics (both have since dropped out, Julia to go to Cooper Union for art, and Ulysse within the last two weeks). Ulysse wrote a Substack post recently, “The Henological Vibe Shift,” that starts off mimicking my own “party narrative” writing and introduces Dagsen as a character before completely turning into a Socratic dialogue. Writers seem to be unconsciously drawn to Dagsen, and maybe that’s why I got him confused for Duncan. Duncan was also at this party, this 432 Park Avenue one, and he and Dagsen were comparing their ancestry DNA results—Duncan is a broad pan-European mix and Dagsen is Anglo-Saxon and a quarter Chinese. Duncan proudly showed me these results because I still have him described as “Nordic” in the Urbit Substack piece, which was how I meant to describe Dagsen when I thought he was Duncan (who looks similar but isn’t quite as blonde or blue-eyed), but I’m not going to change it because I am more amused by this blurring of their identities than I am concerned about getting all these things exactly right. Anyway, I’m told that plenty of other people have been getting the two confused.
War is the father of all things, and that includes storytelling. Internet beef animates this whole writing arc of mine. But sometimes I make truces. I met Christian Lorentzen at one of Dean Kissick’s readings in “The Bunker” on the Bowery where William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg once lived and where Andy Warhol once threw parties. The place is now a sagesmelling Tibetan buddhaspace run by the John Giorno Foundation, which hosted this event that included several other readers. Dean’s reading was about ducal intrigues and palaces with their secret passageways and the Spanish and someone being tortured to reveal the location of a hidden garden or something, it was very Dean, but it was based on something real, just as this downtown world is supposedly based on those long-dead midcentury writers. (The Ion Pack and the other downtown film people have slightly different figures that comprise their idyllic past but it’s basically the same idea as with the literary faction.) I told Lorentzen I still had to get drinks with Matt Gasda. And not too long after I went to see Gasda’s play Minotaur, this time in a Dumbo loft. Gasda (both the man himself and his theater institution) is actually something of an outsider to the “real” Dimes Square crowd, something I didn’t quite appreciate when I first wrote the play review, thinking that the way the play internalized the scene’s paranoid conservative eroticism meant its author had to straightforwardly be one of its inner members. What I identified as the empty celebration of decadence was mostly just the weight of Lorentzen’s hedonistic stage presence in the second act, which creates an internal tension with Gasda’s moral ambivalence. Gasda has never even done drugs, his actors confided in me, he’s too nervous—although alcohol is important in his intimate theater-space ritual, the free wine and the schmoozing with the cast that I had personally foreclosed when I saw Dimes Square on acid. I was initially right to identify that ritual as important somehow, but I had seen it as something that reinforced the scene’s courtly dynamics, rather than intended as a refuge from it. Gasda more or less stumbled into the success of Dimes Square when he uncharacteristically chose it as a backdrop for one of his plays, which otherwise only relate to this contemporary social milieu indirectly, through monologues about Heidegger and the like. In fact, I now suspect that part of what helped my review go viral (I mean, compared with everything else I wrote before it) could have been that it was unconsciously doing the “insiders’ work” of roasting something that dared to present itself as the Dimes Square text—and even though I’m an “outsider” myself professing some Godardian communist act or whatever, my ironic call for the reactionaries to make better reactionary art would be properly understood more literally, coming from an ice cold social-climbing operator. And then later on at one of Dagsen’s chaotic DJ sets in the East Village I ran into Curtis from the Ion Pack, fresh from a trip to LA after the New York Times ran a piece on their podcast in which he and his cohost finally officially revealed their identities. He told me that they had patched up their beef with Taylor Lorenz, and I told him about resolving the beef with Gasda and Lorentzen. He asked if I was planning to write a piece about Caveh Zahedi (I had tweeted about this) and said that he could help me get in touch with the man. This would be the final part necessary to entrap Caveh in my own critical fictions (along with all the rest of the characters I describe here), which is something I’ve been working on since I first came to New York and heard about this strange staple of the indie film circuit.
“Is it a takedown?” Curtis asked.
“Of course it’s a takedown,” I said.
“He’ll love that, but you know you’re going to end up part of his show,” he warned.
Back to 432 Park Avenue. My friend Will Gottsegen, who got me into this event because he had an invite, has beef with the Remilia/Milady NFT people because he wrote an article about them for CoinDesk (which I found informative and not even particularly unflattering, at least as far as articles on “schizoposting” Web3 art cults go, but it’s something that none of those people forget). About a week before this party Will had been in Austin, Texas reporting on some big NFT event there and ended up at some Urbit meetup that was a standup comedy event for an audience of like four people and included Justin Murphy introducing himself to a group of Milady NFT owners pretending to be Ryder Ripps. Ryder Ripps has beef with the Remilia/Milady crowd because he is making a big performance artwork out of exposing the hidden-in-plain-sight fascist messaging in the Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) NFTs and then minting his own NFTs that are identical to the Bored Apes called “Ryder Ripps/Bored Ape Yacht Club” (according to his website, “RR/BAYC uses satire and appropriation to protest and educate people regarding The Bored Ape Yacht Club and the framework of NFTs. The work is an extension of and in the spirit of other artists who have worked within the field of appropriation art.”). To be clear, the Milady people hate the Bored Ape people for being too corny and mainstream, but Ryder’s trolling extends to the other cryptofascist NFT communities as obnoxiously as the rich kid of a famous artist can make it, which throws a wrench in the Milady collective’s own trolling. The previous night I was at a Milady meetup in the Upper East Side where mentioning Ryder’s name was almost a faux pas, and one Milady owner told me that he knew someone who said something bad about Ryder once on Twitter or Discord or something, and then Ryder immediately doxed the guy, posting his mugshot for big-time drug dealing and the pictures of all the automatic weapons the guy had, and this doxing apparently triggered the guy’s traumatic memories of being dosed with like a thousand doses of LSD by the mafia and being left for the cops, and that Ryder is a real bastard for doing this. In the schizoposting world, all things are permitted except doxing. As for myself, I’ve been trying to get an audience with Ryder for a little while because I knew I was going to end up writing about NFT week parties some way or another, and he's a character presenting himself as an antagonist to the clowns in New York City’s art-tech-fascism nexus—that is, as a potential ally. So at some point in the last few weeks/months I had reached out to him in DMs like I had done with plenty of other characters in this world and, although I chatted him up a bit about “concept art” as a war of disrupting the downtown world, he didn’t seem interested in some random Substack writer who claims to be “blowing up New York.” Then after I wrote the Urbit week piece and saw he was also feuding with some of the same characters I wrote about, I sent that piece to him, and he responded, “a bit tldr for me / but i can see them talking shit about u now / so good job.” It was becoming clear that Ryder was immune to my flattery because he is more or less illiterate, which I probably should’ve known when he claimed that Roberto Bolaño was a fascist writer once he found out that one of the Bored Ape founders wrote a thesis on the guy—after all, Bolaño wrote a book called Nazi Literature in the Americas (Ryder backtracked when people on Twitter made fun of him for this). When I saw Ryder at Dean Kissick’s gallery opening afterparty he was wearing this all-white Armani outfit with the tags still on and conspicuously displayed. I was impressed by how ridiculous he looked. Perhaps I should have tried introducing myself to Ryder at the party, but by the time I was free from other conversations I was dying to get out of there and smoke some weed before going to yet another function, though one where I wouldn’t have to “perform” as much. So, debasing myself IRL trying to flatter Ryder Ripps was not happening. I figured it was always just going to come down to me making fun of him in this Substack anyway. I left at the same time as the crew of Milady owners, who actually had been talking with Ryder. In the elevator I asked them what their impression of him was. “Soulless.” One of them had taken pictures of the group with Ryder on a Polaroid camera and showed me the result. Sure enough, there was Ryder Ripps in his white Armani outfit with the tags showing, staring dead-on into the camera with an emotionless sharklike gaze.
Josh Citarella has beef with Ulysse, who was only present at the party in spirit through my relation to Dagsen and his friend. Josh’s digital culture research art project, “Do Not Research,” basically entails him cultivating a community of zoomers and young millennials who are interested in creating weird political digital content and taking up the role of their art teacher through Twitch and Discord. It’s sort of like if my early writing on the incels (basically the thesis that these fringe online communities actually have something real to say about contemporary alienation, and that this can be refined into something meaningful and non-toxic through some quasi-psychoanalytic transference and sublimation in art) were the basis for a Web3 community. Josh is neither a fascist esotericist nor an unhinged groomer cult leader, which is pretty remarkable considering the community model and the types of things he’s interested in documenting. He’s always sure not to validate the occasional problematic outbursts of trolling edgelord jouissance whenever they occur in the Twitch chat during his streams. This brings me back to Ulysse, who somehow ended up in Josh’s orbit because of their Instagram meme accounts. Ulysse’s art is, like, pure trolling jouissance, which approaches genius at times but is fundamentally chaotic and abrasive. Josh was right to identify something interesting and relevant to his project in Ulysse’s work, but the psychoanalytic transference in their relationship went totally awry and Ulysse ended up trolling Josh and everyone else in the Discord and getting kicked out. Then Josh became an object of ridicule in Ulysse’s Instagram meme storyline arcs, a bit like what Christian Lorentzen has been for me in these Substacks, and Ulysse has enough of an Instagram following for this to be a headache for Josh. At some point Ulysse got their hands on a paywalled Do Not Research reading list syllabus, which they then posted, and then Josh had a lawyer send Ulysse a cease-and-desist letter, which brought an end to that particular Instagram story arc.
Sean Thor Conroe has beef with another internet alt-lit writer named Sam Pink. Or to be more precise, Sam Pink has beef with Sean because Sean got a big mainstream NYC book deal writing the novel Fuccboi in a style influenced by Sam, who comes from an edgy outsider indie literary world that both Ulysse and I used to be adjacent to. Sam wrote a big blog post last August denouncing Sean and laying out all his grievances, which I won’t reproduce in full here but basically boil down to ending their past friendship and calling Sean and industry plant. I happen to be more familiar with Sam’s writing than Sean’s, although the former is someone I hadn’t heard about in years until I stumbled across his denunciation of Fuccboi. Sean, on the other hand, is someone who entered my horizon when I arrived in New York, he’s a consistent face at a lot of the readings and afterparties I’ve been writing about in the past few months. Sam’s jeremiad caught my attention because it reminded me of my own past antagonisms with many of the Frogtwitter characters like Kantbot and Logo Daedalus (which I’ve written about in several previous Substacks), and although I was never exactly friends with either Kantbot or Logo, they did influence my writing with their Adderall-fueled esotericposting that I would ridicule to no end on Twitter. Sam’s letter characterizes Sean as a ruthless operator who ripped off Sam’s style and made it suck, it took away Sam’s raw “working-class” masculinity and made it something effeminate and “Ivy League.” I found this passage particularly symptomatic:
“This form of masculinity, where you’re basically a neurotic wimp, is the favored kind to big publishers and culture in general now. There’s this idea that being actually masculine means you’re some monster. But the opposite is true. Weaselly simps like Conroe are always a bigger danger. The actual rapists. In fact he mentions rape a few times in the book but haha nah I’m just playin.”
I guess Sean’s book is ambivalent enough about its own masculine literary voice that it unsettles the deep-indie “actually masculine” writers who cultivate an audience around being ostracized from the publishing world because of how it rewards the soy beta males, social justice warrior mediocrities, and so on (this reminds me of some of my own literary insecurities when I was younger). Interesting…
No one that I know of really has beef with Dagsen.
I’m not sure if I’m beefing with Dean Kissick. Still living in DC, I would read his writings to prepare myself for the work I’m doing now in New York, a survey of the terrain, and I found his ideal of this carefree aristocratic salon life full of beautiful actors (both literal and the “all the world’s a stage” sense) to be seductive, if suspicious. Dean told me that he was glad I made it to the 432 Park Avenue afterparty, which could’ve been sincere but could’ve also meant something like “I see you managed to make it past the guards and into my castle, you bastard, don’t make me look bad in front of the entire court.” But angelicism01 makes fun of Dean (and in a more aggressive tone) and Dean plays along, he’s in on the joke, “naïvely” offering angelicism01 his “breathless endorsements,” as Will Harrison put it in The Baffler. So maybe it’s not so difficult to imagine a near future where angelicism has been rightly exposed for the intellectual fraud it is, the abortive proto-fascist avant-garde, the channel of psychotic pro-anorexia groomer biopolitical control, like an inane reading of Tiqqun’s Preliminary Materials for a Theory of the Young-Girl as an instruction manual, or the malicious blimp that lingers above New York City like an exotic monster from some fighting-girl anime. If you hit just a few key nodes the entire ideological edifice will collapse, it won’t be cool anymore, it will stop spreading and fall out of fashion and then something new can replace it, something real and liberating, something genuinely animated by amor dei intellectualis. And when that happens, as it surely will, as it already is, Dean Kissick will probably adapt like Jacques-Louis David—the poetry readings and gallery exhibitions and afterparties will move away from the frivolous digital rococo trappings of the angelicist ancien régime and embrace a new revolutionary lucidity.