Cancel Miya to me or I’ll fucking kill you
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April 28th, 2022

“To don the mask of Miya is a liberation, & culmination of her teachings, a ritual in identity freedom, in shitposting lucidity. To copy merrily from the network, speak to all by speaking only to oneself. Only after you try to take off this mask, do you realize you never wore one.”

Remilia embraces the new net art, yet we’re often asked to disavow a project frequently cited¹ within this wave: “Miya Black Hearted Cyber Angel Baby”

Miya had a wide general audience during its the time, but has been poorly documented and is very misunderstood by many of those who discovered it after-the-fact. Much has been written about Miya but much has been lost too—difficulties in archivability have always been an issue in net art². It’s been understandably confusing to newcomers in the space to see it referenced by artists as an influence in light of what instigators have attempted to frame it as and cancel it for post-hoc.

Cover of "Miya"'s appearance on the Contain/Ketamine Patrol podcast.
Cover of "Miya"'s appearance on the Contain/Ketamine Patrol podcast.

Trying to corner artists to disavow adjacent art³ is already bad faith enough, but doing so for a poorly conserved or canonized work is just destructive—especially when the justification relies on lazy, reductionist readings. It’s accurate to say that most extant historicization Miya currently has is only in the form of various cancels contemporary to the project, which were themselves the subject to engineering as part of its performance. Outsiders have struggled to piece together the history in hindsight, falling for the obvious trap of taking at face value secondhand commentary on a project that openly embraced trolling, falsified information, and distributed authorship.

As far as I know no retrospective has been written yet, so it’s worth starting the conversation, as the project is a relevant citation to much of the work we’re doing today. The project was collaborative, but I’ll try and summarize my understanding at a high level here to provide a more useful point of reference.

Explain Miya to me or I’ll fucking kill you

Miya was a Twitter account that existed for about a year from 2019 - 2020, deleting the day it reached 10K followers. It was a project that openly promoted shared authorship: not only were there multiple contributors on the primary Miya account, as well as an open practice of reposting content unattributed, but an entire community existed of people sharing the name across different accounts and platforms, with the “#KALIACC” hashtag used as the informal banner for this group.

This was not a centrally coordinated effort, and despite producing many declarative statements, there were few consistent ideals or philosophies prescribed except where they related to a process of engaging online. Rather, it was encouraged for anyone to contribute to by simply donning the name and visual aesthetic-- the idea was “anyone could be Miya, and anyone could make Kaliacc whatever they wanted it to be”⁴. In this sense, Miya could be argued to be a kind of subcultural identity more than a project; it’s amusingly out of touch to anyone who was participating at the time to have people now years later trying to identify various individuals as “the real Miya”⁵.

Example of the discourse around Miya as a shared identity
Example of the discourse around Miya as a shared identity

However, it is undeniable that Miya and adjacent accounts engaged and platformed problematic content. It was an amorphous scene with a taste for diving head-first into the dark and absurd cultural wells of the internet, everything from esoteric conspiracies to hikikomori queer communities.

Most content shared on Miya and adjacent accounts would alternatively fall under either cultural critique or theory-fiction. The primary praxis was to latch onto boogeymen and fringe ideologies, wearing them exploratively and extending them to their logical conclusions as a form of critical satire—generally from the novel perspective of antihumanism (a framework that deserves a lengthier discussion on its own).

Example of the kind of content shared on Miya. A central element was pushing any strand towards the most extreme version of itself
Example of the kind of content shared on Miya. A central element was pushing any strand towards the most extreme version of itself

Another of the notable elements promoted in the account was the ability to simultaneously argue conflicting points of view, maintaining a transparent cynicism regarding discussion as a space of rhetoric, not logic. In a sense, the various contributors in the space could be seen as competing with each other to most cogently argue their takes, egging each other further into eerily plausible absurdity—yet it is also true this process is efficient for arriving on real truths, like how jokes often do.

This general attitude of constant devil’s advocacy was openly inspired by imageboard culture, with the Miya account ultimately becoming a rallying signal for a diaspora of older 4chan users, who had been alienated by its changing culture post-aughts.

Kaliacc’s Chan Culture

“True trolling is arbitrage on the discrepancy between ego and reality. The troll brandishes a mirror to the mark, and the only pain that arises springs from his victim’s own denial and self-hatred. It’s a community service performed towards ego equilibrium.”

The sphere around the Miya accounts shared a brand under the hashtag #KALIACC, where the emphasis was placed on a revival of anonymous “chan culture” in the new space of web 2.0. A central element encouraged pranking with trolls, and maintaining an antagonism to cancel culture, usually manifesting by intentionally engineering cancels by faking something controversial.

While historical imageboard trolling was done “for the lulz”, these were said⁶ to be designed to expose deep anxieties in the wider culture while casting doubt on the veracity of cancellers, often by playing both sides. In true 4chan fashion, these kaliacc operations were spontaneously self-organized, as the various users suddenly coordinate together intuitively to construct a new controversy. Within the twitter sphere, they were known for their general contrarianism, decorative extremism and voracious appetite for argument.

Classic troll
Classic troll

The #KALIACC hashtag was often utilized as a scapegoat orientable around each new controversial anathema. Ironically, with almost all the associated twitter accounts suspended, the secondhand records of those baited into absurd cancels reposted by commentators on Reddit and imageboards are the only lasting archives, and are usually what’s being taken at face value by the post-hoc cancellers that try and “explain Miya”⁷.

#KALIACC Case Study

As a case study demonstrating how these trolling operations played out in practice, we can look at the rendition of #KALIACC as “Anorexia Cult”, the most recent and furthest reaching label that it has ended up wearing⁹.

This formulation was a revival of the “Kaliacc” term after some dormancy, dating to over a year after the original Miya account was deleted. It was done by a newly created set of accounts on Twitter and Instagram using the same Miya name, with a novel myth constructed, redesigning Kaliacc essentially as a “digital cult that manipulates teens into anorexia”⁸.

Heavy attention was drummed up on Instagram by an account claiming to have escaped the cult, producing screencaps “proving” its existence, sharing stories of “other victims”—and despite the lack of any central coordination, users across different platforms familiar with the kaliacc modus operandi could easily recognize the new troll, and spontaneously organized to support the bit, spreading plausible reports, and producing convincing screenshots “proving” its reality…

Example of a plausibly seeded faked screencap.
Example of a plausibly seeded faked screencap.

…right up until the account originating the cancel was suddenly wiped, branded as another Kaliacc puppet, with a public declaration announcing the sleight of hand: the cancellers were run by the same people being cancelled. No actual cult existed, no victims existed. The curtain comes suddenly down revealing the drama to be staged: a classic troll.

The Reveal
The Reveal

Everything seen by the public originated from the same loose group, spontaneously coordinating to write a stageplay in real-time to an encaptured audience. In hindsight, the game is obvious, with humor injected into each element, but like an urban legend or campfire story, it fed into their desire to believe¹⁰—and similarly, it grows into myth as time goes on, gaining simultaneously in extremity and believability as it’s passed on by word of mouth further and further removed from anyone involved.

This process is a standard kaliacc operation, though their biggest and most infamous one; and it’s telling that it arose even after the actual demise of the Miya account. Like Miya, “Kaliacc” was a permissionless, anonymous, unowned label, one that was free to use for wherever it suits a good controversy—and it may yet be revived again, perhaps under a new name, or borrowing the same rabbit hole of baggage when useful.

The reality is “Kaliacc” never existed as anything except an open-ended banner useful to attract whatever was collectively interesting to explore at the time, e.g. before being defined as a pro-anorexia cult¹¹, “Kaliacc” was known as a gang of transgender extremists¹², or at another time, an obscure neo-nazi ideology¹³. This discussion is relevant to the overview on Miya as the various brandings of #KALIACC are often conflated together with the Miya account itself, not understanding the distinctly decentralized nature of these processes and the distributed nature of the identities themselves.


Ending thoughts

Even if you find the trolling habits of the surrounding Kaliacc culture inflammatory or juvenile, one cannot deny that the Miya project was not only influential, but prescient. Much of the discourse that originated in that sphere continues to resonate and influence new work being produced today. It’s been widely misunderstood by its post-hoc critics who not only form their understanding of the project based on poorly researched, secondhand hearsay, but also the reductionist attempts to conflate the various fuzzy boundaries of the accounts and culture surrounding the project into a singular author or group.

I hope someone other than me will step up to write a more comprehensive reconstruction around the project and scene; though internet history moves quickly, and it’s already been a few years. Internet archaeology is extremely ineffective compared to active contemporary archivalism. New scenes grow every day, it’s essential that we strive for a conscious effort to self-document what we’re doing as we do it, as an on-going part of our practice.

Finally, it is true Miya was an early example of the kind of collaborative, performative net art that interests us, and it is also true much of the content it produced was problematic. But who cares? It’s an artist’s duty to explore and critique the contemporary, even in all its ugliness, and if they determine that critique is best produced in a process of performative embodiment, so be it. You can expect more people and groups in this space to continue to engage with “problematic” realities in “problematic” ways. Good, it means art is back¹⁴. Cancel culture is dead, disavowal doesn’t belong here¹⁵.


Footnotes

  1. For years, Rhizome has lead net art conservationalism in the form of authentic archiving, but they’ve had a conspicuous blind spot towards any of the new net art succeeding the post-internet art period.
  2. See for example: Angelicism01, Reading Notes #6 (2021).
  3. Remilia is often questioned about web records showing our remilia.org domain previously held a fan archive of the Miya project before it was donated and repurposed for our use. Beyond the bankruptcy of cancelling by association, let alone associations in our audience and community, art deserves to be conserved regardless of your feelings about a work’s politics.
  4. Contrast with the Angelicism01’s clones [1][2], which features a similarly a distributed identity, but unlike Miya, are centrally coordinated by a single individual.
  5. “We are all Miya”, “If you see Miya on the road, kill her.” -- one may note the different voices in various podcast appearances of “Miya”: Version::4, Contain (Ket Patrol). Who is the one true Miya?
  6. See: Miya Black Hearted Cyber Angel Baby, The Art of the Troll (2019), a discourse originally shared on Miya.
  7. An example of secondhand coverage on Reddit often cited as a source despite being demonstrably trolled, besides performing confused speculation that includes merging with various other internet conspiracies.
  8. The Miya Twitter account was deleted around May 2020. The “Anorexia Cult” framing is from around Fall 2021.
  9. Its recency also made it easier to dig up documentation. The older events that took place on Twitter are almost entirely spread across suspended/deleted accounts.
  10. Not to mention, those who got the joke usually had fun joining in on it.
  11. e.g. Historical chan discussion reflecting #KALIACC framing as an “anorexia cult”.
  12. e.g. Historical chan discussion reflecting #KALIACC framing as a “transgender accelerationist ideology”.
  13. e.g. Historical New Models coverage reflecting #KALIACC framing as an “far right supremacy” movement.
  14. See: Charlotte Reed, Where is Amalia Ulman (2021).
  15. See: Charlotte Fang, Crypto and its Discontents: Hello Web3 Entryists (2022).
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