Dark academia aesthetics

The Light, Dark, and Chaotic Aesthetic of Academia

Reading, research, writing and a general passion for learning. That is the aesthetic of Dark academia and its followers’ code of allegiance. But anyone who has been a student and is familiar with the lifestyle would know of its dark, light, and chaotic days, especially when it came to defining the year 2020. With the advice of social distancing in place, education had to shift towards the online sphere. While this was meant to convey inclusion, the constant soliloquy inside an unbreakable fourth-wall bedroom caused some uneasiness for the alienated population.

This article will show how academia aesthetic echos feelings of expressionism, romanticism, impressionism and minimalism for the academically inclined in 2020.

The Dark Side of Academia

When we think in terms of the word darkness, are we referring to our temperament or unexpected tensions created by the world around us?

To answer this question, I thought we’d sneak-peak through the characteristics of the  Romantic and Expressionistic movements. One of the mannerisms they share is that art should portray strong emotion. But it is the approachment of those feelings and what they are that separate the two.

Academia’s Expressions

At the start of the pandemic, there was a lot of uncertainty that caused feelings of fear and anxiety. Quite soon, this disquiet spread globally and before you know it, we felt in a state of dissonance; replicating signs of Expressionism.

If you lean towards the expressive side, then you would argue in times of horrific nature for human beings, it was pointless to pedal around with the meaning of beauty. Very anti-romantic. A human being’s unsingable screams should present the canvas of reality. Wassily Kandinsky’s Impression III seen below paints a perfect example of a person’s inner turmoil. In the painting, the audience are drawn as a reaction rather than an actual depiction of their attendance.

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari provides another illustration of this psychological movement. The setting is sketched in angular interlocking shapes, a nod to Cubism. Its lining fractures and dislocated geometrical blocks are meant as staining backdrops for (sorry…spolier alert) Cesare’s deteriorating condition.

Cesare’s decline, likewise, is very much in tune, or not in-tune, with students’ subjective nature towards their studies. Academia 2020 has you having irregular sleeping habits; there is no centralized melody; and your sense of rhythm (in-keeping with your schedule) is discontinuous.

Romantazing Academia

“We feel the chill north winds course through the home
despite the locked and bolted doors…” – The Four Seasons, Vivaldi 

Let us first appreciate the irony of education’s continuous nature to strive during the spring semester of last year, while in the hearts of fellow students winter was still near. And it’s not just the past season they are longing for, but a past life as well.

Born in the early 19th century and raised in Germany, romanticism soon spread globally with a keyword in mind: individuality. Two reasons. First, the French Revolution inspired a lot of countries at the time to seek independence from foreign dominance. And with it came musical nationalism. Second, during this movement, artists were no longer hired by employees but were free to express their art in whatever they see fit. You can say that an artist’s individual freedom started with the romantics.They chose personal sentiment as a form of expression. If it’s love, write it; you’re in a state of despair, paint it; If you feel excitement, sing it.

On this side of the pandemic, educated pursuits appealed to the human imagination as a comforting tool. Solitary life was more bearable in the mind’s eye. Over there, everything is unattainable. So, in constantly searching for something, you keep yourself distracted from reality. Be it through books, music and, for some who could, nature. 

The Light Side of Academia

Just take everything I said of it’s darker counterpart and put a positive spin; a candle to light the way, if you will. Where there is rain, comes sunshine; oppression, there is gratitude; don’t escape, be motivated; and, not all plays end in tragedies.

But, is there anything wrong with being happy when the world is spinning on its axis? Expressionists would say: yes, it would be deceptive. And, happiness is a personalized feeling, say the romantics.

First Impressions of Academia

No, we dont want realism; but we also dont want to create a response to reality. And, no, we refuse to delve into the

no, we dont want to paint and/or write about past life ad

It’s everywhere! Rays of light, sunshine, radiant beauty and yet it’s blurred; almost like you are half awake. Rather than projecting our unfixable broken record or eluding the imagination, playlists of this movement heard the objective but dabbed it with the subjective.

Impressionistic characteristics smeared their way into the minds of the academically inclined.

Although the key to first impressions is light, the vibrant rays of sunshine are blurred. In other words, your reality is obscure due to the unfortunate events,  a glissando-like feeling melds.

Minimizing Academia

Repetition. repetition. repetition

“The art created by the Minimalist artist is really about breaking down the concept of art to the bare bones essentials, removing the plastic flavor, the surrounding borders and letting people just experience the work as a living breathing abstraction of reality, allowing the observer to determine how the piece truly makes them feel.”

It represents nothing. It is nothing

minimizing elements in order to have a maximum effect.

Chaotic Academia

Lots and lots of last-minute submissions before the finale of the spring semester. All the while, you are missing your friends and summer 2020 is near. Disorderly behavior is inevitable at this point.

This topsy-turvy side of academia has you scribbling notes at the foot of your bed, while your coffee’s gone cold. You’ve run out of pens, class starts in one minute, how are you going to jot down notes? But then, you remind your digital-age mind that there are notepads on your laptop. It is a forgetful but forgivable aesthetic. As a matter of fact, you can wear your t-shirt inside out, have unlaced shoes, your socks are different colors and you’re still guaranteed an invite.

It does not paint its canvas darker or lighter periods, chaos is just about embracing a messy schedule. In other words: procrastination. Whether it is planning a Four Weddings and Funeral late-night watch, instead of brushing on assignments due the following day. Or partaking in the Breakfast Club between classes, in the hopes of pulling an all-nighter.

You just dont know. It is hectic.

Going indie, with a little Grunge

You may have silenced your ears for the grunge genre, but you are no stranger to the Seattle-born fashion. What was previously defined as a dirty, grimy set of clothes has become a regular washable item in your closet.

Some would say that Gruge is a clearly defined genre (Nirvana, Soundgraden, Pearl Jam), and would be placed within the dark category due to its rawness. Yeah, perhaps. But, if you look at most interviews with Kurt Cobain, he almost always mentions Punk and never grunge. That alone should show and tell you that art is not only obscure but chaotic as well and academia 2020 knows it.

When viewing the compilation of TikTok videos for this aesthetic, there was a mixed race within the playlist. The genre no longer consists of its Seattle roots. As a matter of fact, while the edgy fashion of ripped jeans, flannels , boots/converse remained intact, “band t-shirts,” on the other hand, included all musicians from all over the world.

A Hint of Vintage Touch

Sick of the 19th century, then head ‘Back to the Future’. This aesthetic is special in the sense that you can choose which era best suits your taste in fashion and music. a quick Google search, however, would tell you that those era are within the 70-90’s style. But there’s no stopping playlist on YouTube from adding

Cultural Signifcance

In the blink of an eye, every artistry of self-expression tangled, crossed and/or reorgaised  itself with other genres; even within a genre, there lurks a subgenre.

Self-expression. As human beings, we are constantly reimagining who we are: be it because we grow up or we travel and experience different cultures around the world.

“that the power of play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”

In musical theory, it is noted that a minor key equals gloom, sad; in other words, dark. Of course, nothing is set in stone, especially if you were to witness the countless shifts history has brought to the world of music. One of which: pop music that serenades heartbreak but with “happier” scales for accompaniment. Furthermore, songs can easily modulate to a different key, major to minor, causing a “minor” reworking of your moodful state. So, what really can be defined as “dark” music?


Listening to Music ,

A Brief History of Grunge: The Seattle Sound (theculturetrip.com)

Light Academia Is The Internet Aesthetic That’s Rivaling Dark Academia (nylon.com)

A complete guide to the chaotic academia aesthetic – GirlsLife


Silhouetting Sound: Light and Dark in Music ‹ Pepperdine Graphic (pepperdine-graphic.com)

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