A Momentary Flow

Updating Worldviews one World at a time

By and large, The New Aesthetics seem to have a weird friendly aloofness not seen in previous generations. This is described by William Deresiewicz in the New York Times article, Generation Sell. He describes the affective foundations of beatniks, hippies, punks, and slackers, but he describes the current generation’s lack of affect as being “post-emotional”. However, when looking at a “movement” considered as being post-human, would it make sense that its progenitors be post-affective as well? Perhaps, but this may also be another methodology to further distance the artist (and the viewer/participant) from any emotional attachment to the work at all? If one is allowed to be cynical about the neo-automatic era as expression of late capitalism and the related agendas of control, could it be said that the elimination of emotion and humanity is implied in The New Aesthetics? Not quite. As with some of Deresiewicz’ previous movements like the Beats, there is a cool detachment that strains against the demons of affect. In the case of The New Aesthetics, the qualitative aspect of the work struggles against its own humanity, but it has to embrace it as much as one has to accept the aesthetics of the image made with a camera lens. The New Aesthetics is not random; it is the reflection of a fascination with a gestalt born of new technologies, which in itself is not a new phenomenon. The New Aesthetics must allow and understand that artists choose the images from drones and algorithms they wish to show, or at least an understanding of the images that their algorithms will create. Therefore, with the rise of The New Aesthetic, the machine gestalt is still central, but the images are still curated by humans.

The New Aesthetic Problems and Polemics (Part II)

In a 2012 issue of WIRED, writer and arguable futurist Bruce Sterling wrote on a panel at SXSW about “The New Aesthetics”, where he painstakingly deconstructed it through an art historical context for 5000 words, for which I am grateful. He took the panel by James Bridle quite seriously, and found it as a bright point in the wilderness of digital art, but also felt it was only a good first step (which Ian Bogost also thinks, in his article for The Atlantic). Merely stating the existence of The New Aesthetic and giving some examples/contexts for it (low-rez graphics, glitch, drone surveillance photography, and so on) doesn’t seem to be enough for Sterling. Stating it represented a silicon aesthetic of how machines see tripped the idea up in its displacement from humanity itself as if the machine aesthetic is a happy artifact of human innovation. I agree with Bruce that the New Aesthetic as presented at SXSW 2012 missed some parts to the flying drone being built in midair, and that having humans as collectors rather than curators misses the point of a movement. Some of these assertions put forth in the panel (according to my documentation first simply lack some key parts to a movement, and secondly, forgets the anthropomorphic nature of machines, a fact that McLuhan reminded us of so well.

The New Aesthetics: Problems and Polemics (Part 1)