It all started with a picture of some boots, a simple pair of boots. What spawned from it was an entire canon of a supposed Martin Scorsese movie from 1973. This canon, featurning Robert DeNiro as a former Russian hitman and discotheque owner travelling to Naples after the collapse of the Soviet Union. This movie was named ‘Goncharov’. It features a full cast of characters, including the nominal Goncharov himself, a minion of the Italian mafia named ‘Ice Pick Joe’ and Gonharov’s beloved rival, Andrey. Alongside prevalent themes of queer coding and clocks that represent the character’s inability to prevent time from catching up to them. It is often agreed that Goncharov’s wife, Katya, should have had a gun in that one scene. There has been an entire film score produced as well as an analysis of said film score. Within a matter of a few days, it was as if this movie had existed for years and had picked up a multi-generational audience, from young producers of fanart to literary analysis that you could pretend was decades old.
But why? What is the motivation behind creating an entire fake movie, along with fake posters, fake music and even a whole fake fandom creating what would be deemed fanart and fanfiction? Or is it perhaps not fake at all? Is it that the constructed fandom around Goncharov is the real Goncharov? Even though Martin Scorsese did, in fact, not direct this mafia movie in 1973?
To expand on this a little further, creating an entirely fictional movie with a fanbase to go along with it is actually not that surprising for Tumblr. It would be unsurprising for other social media platforms as well. Considering that the concepts and aesthetics of Goncharov are something that social media itself has been discussed on the internet for quite some time and has been discussed in academic settings for even longer. This concept is that of liminality and liminal spaces.
But first, let’s understand the basic concept of liminality. The idea of liminality regarding time and space was introduced in the 1960s and 1970s. Regarding temporal liminality, academics used it to describe periods in one’s life that would be seen as transitional. One example might be any ritual passage to adulthood or graduation ceremonies. Liminality in terms of space, also called ‘liminal space’, often deals with real places humans experience, such as parking lots, hallways and airport waiting rooms. A testament to the modern popularity of liminality can be found in blogs and social media. Such as, the liminal space bot sources liminal space posts found on Reddit and other places and periodically posts them. Liminal spaces have also been considered an internet aesthetic as well as a precursor to a certain type of aesthetic that has become exceedingly popular on social media sites such as Tumblr and Reddit. Some of these aesthetics are called ‘Dreamcore’ and ‘Weirdcore’. Both of these have overlapping themes of disassociation, ambiguous contexts, liminality and the subject of Goncharov, unreality.
Weirdcore and Dreamcore share surrealism at their core. They may appear disconcerting or uncomfortable due to their portrayal of ambiguity mixed with nostalgia and longing, but as explained within the aesthetics wiki, “The virtual part of an image often (but not always) manifests itself in the form of plain-looking text which conveys a message that is incomplete or out of context, thus leaving the viewer to ask questions and make their own interpretations in regards to the meaning of the statement presented to them”. You might summarise that weirdcore encapsulates partial experiences or non-experiences that the viewer creates rather than full real experiences of their own. Within weirdcore, new meaning is assigned to semi-familiar environments. Along with nostalgia being an element, it forces the viewer to fill in gaps with their own assumptions, combining familiarity and uncertainty. Experiences that seem to have happened but didn’t. Malavika Pradeep, reporting for screenshot, described weirdcore as “an internet-born art movement triggering nostalgia of the unknown”.
From this, it would be easy to tie back to the origins of weirdcore through liminal space as the movement desires to invoke memories that did not really occur. Weirdcore conjures a sort of unreality, almost reminiscent of dissociation.
Goncharov itself isn’t defined by the exact same type of haziness that weirdcore images themselves are, at least not in an obvious way. The fan art produced for the hypothetical movie doesn’t appear to try and provoke a sense of fear or nostalgia within the viewer. Goncharov, as a movement or fandom, seems to be relatively consistent with its output on the themes of the mythologised movie, keeping to its mafia-based identity. The average Tumblr user doesn’t exactly remember the 1970s when the movie was supposedly released. So what’s the connection between this weirdcore, liminal space and Goncharov?
The aesthetic thread that connects all of the above is the space in-between. Unknown space, what could be but also what isn’t. What is the actual plot of Goncharov? Well, it depends on what you read to be Goncharov. What is Goncharov’s true plot is entirely determined by the viewer. Much like how the viewer fills in the gaps within weirdcore or between liminal space and time — The viewer’s interpretation is correct as they fill in the gaps with what they see to be right. If you were to state anything about a character, theme or plot of Goncharov, then it would be conceived as correct as it correct to you. It would be your version of this past media work. A space between the real and the unreal—a movie which exists only in the minds of its non-existence fanbase. Goncharov might even exist to you who are reading this article if you wish it to. Yet, Goncharov has never been seen in theatres or been sold on DVD. Goncharov can not be found on any streaming services and will never be. But what you can find is the idea of Goncharov. A movie from a past that doesn’t exist. With a fanbase that has existed for as long as that imaginary past has. However, in reality, Tumblr made it up from a piece of footwear last week.
Goncharov has an undetermined future, an empty past and an endless now as it exists as a partial entity. Goncharov is beholden only to the individuals who, for their amusement, have chosen to be brought into its semi-existence.
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