My practice is not one I pretend to understand myself except unpacked in hindsight, I suppose it’s because the forward fringes of the internet experience are precisely what I’m attempting to better understand through my engagements, it generally follows a process of intuition then post-hoc rationalization. However, obscurity is not my goal: I want to be understood and to understand myself. One method beyond taking the time to indulge in retrospection is in seeking historical parallels as a grounding compass.¹
Over the pandemic period, when everyone went NEET, I cultivated a groupchat—Hot Pot—into what I’ve come to conceptualize in hindsight as a Warholian groupchat for its parallels to Warhol’s Factory, the open studio that doubled as a hangout spot and crossroads for the NYC art scene he was heavily involved in cultivating at the time². Hot Pot has gone through various iterations and no longer is designed in the same way, but was responsible for the conceptualization of Remilia and the first year of content Remilia production, so a retrospective is worthwhile. This will be done in a series of articles of which this is the first.³
Hot Pot at its height was a carefully curated and cultivated space designed to be an engine of posting content. Every member intuitively understood the improv-like dynamic of back and forth banter leaning towards certain goal points of long post jokes that simultaneously achieve thoughtfulness, beauty and density on top of humor, spurned on by the approving reactions of the crowd and a constant meta-discourse on our own processes.⁴ Though it was not a never-ending performance, it was also just a hangout space; people come in and out and make idle chatter about their days. The posting engine is self-organized in catalyzing moments, when the energy hits just perfect with the right combination of posters online at the same time.
This engine of content is where I’ve stolen around 3/4 of my tweets for the duration of the CFang account. This was Charlotte’s petite performance, a sort of lazy digital studio of unknowing artist’s assistants, only ghostwriting content with genuine creativity for me to shamelessly propagate without credit, rather than making endless machine prints on a factory line.⁵ But further, it was a group studio space where we conceptualized and actually coordinated production of all of our Remilia projects, LARPing business talking over idle chatter.⁶ The giddy excitement where posting exploded from often came from sudden big ideas, collaborations formed by the artists inside the chat, as a network that seems like it can do anything it wanted if only we tried—in fact, every Remilia project has started as an off hand “what if” joke that we said “Wait! Why don’t we do it for real?”
I’ve come to see a historical parallel to Hot Pot in Warhol’s Factory, in its amalgamation of studio and social space, its distributed & collaborative authorship of work, its collective production, and in its idle humor. Much like the Factory in NYC’s 1970s scene, Hot Pot always maintained a soft cultural power on the timeline, an infamous groupchat everyone in the sphere knew about, most wanted in, or hated it (because they couldn’t get in)—fresh styles and memes developed in the chat would roll out on the timeline nearly weekly, we’d run humorous trolling operations, our distinct vernacular made it in print in Interview Magazine, fittingly enough,. I’m sure Warhol understood the importance of that, the aura. Hot Pot was also strategically co-ed to achieve the balance of femininity and masculinity in content as well as encourage both parties to serve a certain role of being performed to, singing and dancing to impress each other; I believe Warhol understood this necessary element, too.
Another parallel is the active, central role Warhol played in the construction of the Factory as a never ending stage play, a secretly authoritarian position maintained by a personified mega-ego that was the central pillar for all the hangabouts, who watched his indications of approval and direction—present even when not present; inevitable for a group that elected to enter in what was essentially Warhol’s own fantasy world made real. This isn’t to dismiss the other stars that Warhol cultivated around his domain, but it was ultimately his stage they played on, the king dictating the trends and tastes of the court even when the best of his peers bucked trend to reach out to new heights.
Looking back, this description is accurate to my role in Hot Pot as an aggressive cultivator of the direction and vibe and type of posting I desired to see and initial curator of the entry of members—despite a general deference to the democracy among friends. While we maintained a core base of posters, there was a fairly constant throughput of often short-lived new members who tried their best to keep up, and were expected to learn the internal mores of a chat that was so fast and so fun it ended up occupying your entire internet mindshare shortly after joining. And like myself, Warhol treated his hangout space simultaneously as a collective of willing participants for art or to contribute to bigger collaborative pieces and simultaneous served as critic-curator-advisor in each of the projects that did get executed.
Looking back, the groupchat truly served as an externalization of a collective subconsciousness—raw input, pandemic era 24/7 onlineness. It took a lot of mental energy to uphold beyond the careful curation of chat vibes, though productive: we once held all our business in the middle of the twitter chat, amongst all the idle chatter about our days, sharing images of cats, and such—it was funnier that way, and enforced a constant attitude of irreverence, something I consider so essential to our work. It also meant that every project we did still had the opportunity to receive input from the overall group, with our output judged against our collective aesthetic standards; and with the wide skill set available from the overall collective, it made it feel like we could tackle any medium without hesitation.
Ultimately, I think it’s worth discussing the systematic design of Hot Pot as a warholian groupchat because it’s something that can be understood and replicated by others. I think it evolved as a natural extension of the dual trendlines of squad wealth and digital “soft cults”, iterations of both I expect to see more of in the near-future, as the groupchat-friendgroup phenomenon iterates into more advanced structures (in crypto, this often looked like groupchat → venture fund).
As Remilia business has became more critical and our operations subject to sophisticated attacks, membership has been refined and we’ve been lead to transition away from the effort of a highly performative environment. While we still have a lot of fun, and the fun is what generates almost all our creative output, we no longer actively engage in constant performative posting within the chat—though the occasional bursts do self-organize—while the “business” is increasingly partitioned. Hot Pot has simultaneously been made mundane as well as more serious; the collective begins to look like a real studio, and the chat downshifted into just a close friend group.
Another parallel to Warhol appears even here. He went through a similar transition after he was shot by Valerie Solanas—closing the Factory except to his close friends, maintaining it mainly as a fairly serious office for Interview magazine.
I suppose I’ve been shot now, too. But it’s too early to get cranky about it, we’re just getting started. Maybe what the stars are really saying is I’m supposed to start a magazine. Maybe it’s time for Remilia to enter publishing.