Dark Web Voices began in November 2018 with intent to finish by the end of the year.
One of my primary goals was to embody the literary concept of narrative voice in an avant-garde way. By changing my Instagram username to whichever Voice I wanted to speak, I could personify and give a microphone to abstract concepts—those which might have a thing or two to say to me. As such, the pronoun 'you’ refers directly to the author, while 'I/me' refers to the Voice speaking (even if plural or group). There are few exceptions to these rules including the intro triptych; the Voice of 'amannameddiriz’; and quoted/inspired phrases IN ALL CAPS or smushedtogether.
My Instagram account became ran by the collective entity [ DWV ]. Individual Voices held the microphone in posts, while [ DWV ] transmitted teasers and relevant philosophy through IG stories. My avatar was changed and my bio simplified. I sought to immerse the audience in the sense that Derek @diriz was gone—per a "vacation to Zimbabwe"—and that they were witnessing my art speaking to me on their feeds. Whether or not the reader realized that 'you' refers to the author, I hoped they'd feel it as a double entendre and imagine that the 'identityasintrovert' or 'thedeepseatofunworthiness' or 'ourcityofrochester' could be nudging them, too, to consider their own identification with such things or similar. The introductory triptych acted as a heads-up to my followers that things would be getting weird—that these username changes would continue for the foreseeable future.

The Instagram account.

'significanceofhexagons' speaking.

In allowing my influences to speak, I was able to liberate and empower perspectives I've experienced, considered, and accepted or denied to varying degrees. I wanted to question, understand, and evaluate each of these perspectives from their perspective; then, to internally decide whether to (continue) identify(ing), archive, or abandon some or all of that Voice.
Voices were either some aspect of the thing, or the thing itself.
Most Voices were the former. Writing from the perspectives of the vulnerabilityoftaylorswift and radianceofhelena allowed me to express the impact of the thing’s aspect without putting words in those people’s mouths.
Some Voices were the latter. Writing from the perspectives of marasovqueenoftheawoken and shivaronwarqueen required intimate familiarity with their character. I strove to depict something external as it already was by putting myself in their shoes per prior statements, song lyrics, interviews, written lore, etc.
In both instances I honed my ability to empathize. Before expressing my analysis of these perspectives, I had to intimately know the perspective of the thing. The impactofmary, in example, was born of the willingness to be wrong by accepting differing stances and past mistakes.
It's crucial to understand that recreating these perspectives as the author is unavoidably biased. It's also notable that my presentation of these Voices represents how I've heard and experienced them in 2200 characters, each; they're not necessarily indicative of the objective, actual nature of the nouns they're representing.
The project was much more introspective than I'd expected. I realized quickly that this work became an unpacking of my ego.
I was largely inspired by the worldbuilding, story, and lore presented in Bungie's Destiny 2 expansion Forsaken (2018). The release expanded on the nature of wish-granting, physics-defying dragons, the Ahamkara. Their name and species are inspired by the Sanskrit term ahaṃkāra (अहंकार).[1] My preliminary research defines the concept as the false identification of the Self with the external; the attachment to ego, an identity which is dependent on an object, idea, or body; the sense of separateness. In application, I questioned my identification with and devotion to thoughts, desires, mindsets, individuals, symbols, names, and so on.
This served as my operational definition of 'ego.' I also considered definitions including: Sigmund Freud's (rudimentary and theoretical) aspect of the self which we maintain in response to varying circumstances, unconscious desires, and subconscious inhibitions; the (false) sense of self-esteem; the need for external validation; and potentially, degrees of existential "egoism" such that "I deserve to exist, fulfill a purpose, and leave behind the best legacy possible."
Can you relate?
One of the key Dark Web Voices is the 'notionofahamkara,' a discussion started by the concept of ahaṃkāra itself, described in the image of my own Ahamkara, and inspired by the fourth wall-breaking mental imprint suggested by Bungie. I credit Bungie with the notion of Ahamkara resisting death and transcending universes, though theirs has magical ramifications.
A passage from the Bhagavad Gita spurred profound potential in me, retold in-text above.[2] Hinduism endorses a deeper concept of [S]elf than in heavily individualistic countries like America.[3][4] In America, we're not encouraged to derive our sense of self from who we spiritually and existentially are—rather, what are we like, especially externally? What work do we do? What’s our job description? There's much less focus on simply Being, and more focus on doing, obtaining, and achieving. I've been doubting whether this is sustainable for life satisfaction and contentedness. Indeed, a healthier lifestyle might be to find self-actualization in simpler things—internally, instead of externally.
Stylistically, I used capitalization as a means to raise common words to metaphorical value. To capitalize words is to speak on their conceptual, schematic, and thematic natures—in the context of human history, psychology, and storytelling. Toward the end of the series, more and more words become exalted in metaphor. They gain a sense of self and characterization, some through ego, some through true self-esteem; this is open to interpretation.
By January 2019 I realized that this project was becoming much larger than expected. I decided it needed structure and laid out a roadmap for the remaining Voices. Conveniently, there seemed to be enough significant perspectives to fill a quota...
Dark Web Voices is "52 and One." I was inspired by traditional decks of cards, as well as a Destiny grimoire card in which the paracausal Traveler acts as a 53rd moon. The former typically contains 52 excluding the optional Joker which acts as a wildcard, a perfect device in creating multi-entendres. As such, "52 and One" has multiple meanings:
DWV = 52 individual voices = One whole sum
DWV = 52 individual voices + 1 summation card = 53 total
DWV = 52 + you, theaudience's Voice (critique me throughout my life; you are part of this project)
DWV = 52 + me, the actual author separate from 'Derek,' 'Diriz,' or personas otherwise
There could've been many more than 52 and One Voices. Even now I'm noticing where I could've been more vulnerable, or allowed more taboo voices to speak. Alas, the project had already become incredibly drawn out and the process of clarifying my identity is something I expect to do in a less concrete way for my entire life. We're constantly growing and shifting in our views, beliefs, and behaviors per the influences we engage with. This documented project is merely that process through a hypercritical lens from Derek DiRisio's November 2018 to November 2019.

I intended a handful of Voices as a follow-up to my previous work Plaster Casts Despite Choosing to Run.

Due to the username changes, I lost over 100 followers by April, some of them I'd once considered close. This might seem silly or trivial in an age of constant superficial validation via social media. It was both painful and humbling as I felt the necessary ambiguity of my art had pushed people away, yet I appreciated those who were attentive and willing enough to see the project through.
Though I lost these connections mostly due to miscommunication and confusion, this impact was analogous to connections I had to let go of as I carved out my own identity and voice. In hearing these Voices speak I could clearly pick out their significance in my past, present, and future.
The process of creating Dark Web Voices was simultaneously freeing and trapping. 
For 12 months I put my own voice on hold so concepts could speak. My usual use of Instagram as a means of publicly expressing meaning was stifled. By April, I reached a breaking point and had to drop the username gimmick. I switched back to @diriz, discussed my mental health and DWV's status in an IGTV video, and introduced RG formatting, spoiling the surprise that this would be an RG book. I also returned to using IG stories as a means of expressing myself.
I've learned that emotional health has to come before artistic or existential essence, which has to come before pride and ego. Paraphrased, no act of ego should get in the way of me authentically expressing my existence through art; and most importantly, the process of artmaking should be secondary to general emotional maintenance.
In closing, DWV has essentially been a failed attempt at "killing my ego," instead, a means to accept its existence and keep it in check. I was curious about the prospect of nirvana, enlightenment, and freedom from desires. I haven't acquired the inner peace and Oneness I sought, here at age 22. Such a state seems unlikely for my Western-raised mind, and though I've only scratched the surface, I'm eager to continue carving out my identity in growth. In success, I've never been more vulnerable, open, and assertive.
DWV is the first in a series of books in the overarching Rochester Grimoire mythos.
[1] - Sovik, R. (2019). The Enlightened Ego. Retrieved November 11, 2019, from https://yogainternational.com/article/view/the-enlightened-ego.
[2] - What is Ahamkara? - Definition from Yogapedia. (n.d.). Retrieved November 11, 2019, from https://www.yogapedia.com/definition/5235/ahamkara.
[3] - Country Comparison. (n.d.). Retrieved November 11, 2019, from https://www.hofstede-insights.com/country-comparison/india/.
[4] - Rangan, H. (2017, March 27). Is India a Collectivist nation? - A comparison with Japan. Retrieved November 11, 2019, from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/india-collectivist-nation-comparison-japan-hemant-rangan.
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