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New Aesthetic

November 8, 2012 Leave a comment

from the Wikipedia entry on New Aesthetic:

The New Aesthetic is a term used to refer to the increasing appearance of the visual language of digital technology and the Internet in the physical world, and the blending of virtual and physical. The phenomenon has been around for a long time but lately James Bridle and partners have surfaced the notion through a series of talks and observations. The term gained wider attention following a panel at the SXSW conference in 2012.

The New Aesthetic is a nascent art movement or collective that is documenting “eruption of the digital” and “revels in seeing the grain of computation”. Developing from a series of collections of digital objects that have become located in the physical the movement circulates around a blog named “The New Aesthetic” and which has defined the broad contours of the movement without a manifesto. The New Aesthetic as a concept was introduced at South By South West (SXSW) on March 12th 2012, at a panel organised by James Bridle and included Aaron Cope, Ben Terrett, Joanne McNeil, and Russell Davies. What really propelled the ideas around the New Aesthetic into critical and public consciousness was an article written by Bruce Sterling in the Atlantic Magazine, and which both described the main outlines but also proposed some key critical areas for development. The response from across the web has been rapid and engaged with a number of significant contributions already having been made.

The author Bruce Sterling has said of the New Aesthetic:

The “New Aesthetic” is a native product of modern network culture. It’s from London, but it was born digital, on the Internet. The New Aesthetic is a “theory object” and a “shareable concept.”
The New Aesthetic is “collectively intelligent.” It’s diffuse, crowdsourcey, and made of many small pieces loosely joined. It is rhizomatic, as the people at Rhizome would likely tell you. It’s open-sourced, and triumph-of-amateurs. It’s like its logo, a bright cluster of balloons tied to some huge, dark and lethal weight.

Matthew Battles, a contributor to Metalab, a project of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, gives a definition that makes reference to purported paradigm examples:

New Aesthetic is a collaborative attempt to draw a circle around several species of aesthetic activity—including but not limited to drone photography, ubiquitous surveillance, glitch imagery, Streetview photography, 8-bit net nostalgia. Central to the New Aesthetic is a sense that we’re learning to “wave at machines”—and that perhaps in their glitchy, buzzy, algorithmic ways, they’re beginning to wave back in earnest.

One of the more substantive contributions to the notion of the New Aesthetic has been through a development of, and linking to, the way in which the digital and the everyday are increasingly interpenetrating each other. Here, the notion of the unrepresentability of computation, as both an infrastructure and an ecology, are significant in understanding the common New Aesthetic tendency towards pixelated graphics and a retro 8-bit form. This is related to the idea of an episteme (or ontotheology) identified with relation to computation and computational ways of seeing and doing: computationality.

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