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Editors’ Choice: “New Aesthetic” Round-Up

By David Berry, Alex Reid, Bruce Sterling, and Ian Bogost, | April 19, 2012

David Berry, What Is the “New Aesthetic”? April 18, 2012

  • The New Aesthetic is now subject to discussion and critique on a number of forums, blogs, twitter threads, and so forth (for a list, see bibliography on Berry 2012a, but also Bridle 2012, Kaganskiy 2012, Sterling 2012). Many of these discussions have a particular existential flavour, questioning the existence and longevity of the New Aesthetic, for example, or beginning to draw the boundaries of what is ‘in’ or ‘out’ of the domain of New Aesthetic things (See Twitter 2012).[1] Grusin (2012), for example, claims: ‘[t]he “new aesthetic” is just the latest name for remediation, all dressed up with nowhere to go’. At such an early stage there is understandably some scepticism and, being mediated via Twitter, some sarcasm and dismissal, rather than substantive engagements with the questions raised by a moment presaged by the eruption of the digital into the everyday lifeworld, but also some partial support (for example see, Berry 2012b, Crumb 2012, Exinfoam 2012, Fernandez 2012, Owens 2012). Nonetheless, it is good to see so much discussion and excitement around the concept, however defined.

Alex Reid, robot graders, new aesthetic, and the end of the close reading industry, April 18, 2012

  • If you aren’t familiar with new aesthetic, the links above provide some starting places, particularly the first one, which takes you to James Bridle’s tumblr collection of all things NA. Bridle coined the term and has been collecting these examples ever since. As I understand it, the basic concept of NA is an effort to understand the aesthetic processes of digital technologies: how do digital objects respond to the world they sense? And perhaps more to the point, how does our growing human sensitivity to this aesthetic dimension shape our own design and artistic practices? Given this, one can understand Bogost’s interest and also his response that NA “needs to get weirder.” However I am also interested in what Bridle says at the end of his SXSW talk.

Bruce Sterling, Still FREAKING OUT !!!!! (New Aesthetic) April 15, 2012

  • How would you know if some new aesthetic was really and truly a “new way of seeing?” How would you prove that this had happened in real life? What would be convincing evidence that such an event had taken place in our world? What proofs could one demand, or offer, that such a thing was an authentic cultural change? People are asking me that now, and sometimes offering answers of their own, such as, “My students are asking me New Aesthetic questions without being prompted from the podium, so that shows that something new is happening.” I lack good answers to these questions, and I’m unsure even how to formulate the problem. Furthermore, it’s unfair to hang this barnacled anchor around the necks of activists in the New Aesthetic network. On that issue, I’m in the Julian Bleecker camp: when the iron gets hot, it’s time to tighten your lips and hammer the anvil.

Ian Bogost, The New Aesthetic Needs to Get Weirder April 13, 2012

  • The New Aesthetic is an art movement obsessed with the otherness of computer vision and information processing. But Ian Bogost asks: why stop at the unfathomability of the computer’s experience when there are airports, sandstone, koalas, climate, toaster pastries, kudzu, the International 505 racing dinghy, and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner to contemplate? You know that art has changed when a new aesthetic movement announces itself not with a manifesto, but with a tumblr. Manifestos offer their grievances and demands plainly, all at once, on a single page–not in many hundred entries. “Literature has up to now magnified pensive immobility, ecstasy, and slumber,” wrote Filippo Marinetti in his 1909 Futurist Manifesto. “We want to exalt movements of aggression, feverish sleeplessness, the double march, the perilous leap, the slap and the blow with the fist.” The stakes are clear: out with idleness and chatter, in with speed and violence.