The New Aesthetic is a term 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 New Aesthetic is an art movement obsessed with the otherness of computer vision and information processing. New Aesthetic can be understand as those possibility dreamliner to contemplate objectively refreshingly humble with the new digital technology. The phenomenon has been around for a long time but James Bridle articulated the notion through a series of talks and observations.
The New Aesthetic is an artistic movement. It is sometimes described as physical versus virtual, or the tension between humans and machines. Its major visual emblems include pixelated images, Photoshop glitches, gradients, render ghosts, and, yes, animated GIFs. Data visualization, like an elaborate Venn diagram, can fall under the New Aesthetic umbrella, as can graphic information, like a Google Maps screengrab. Strategically placing marks on a human face, so a machine can’t recognize it as a face, is an act of New Aestheticism. Another popular trend: Photos of people taking photos.
New Aesthetic seeing like digital devices.” Pixel art, data visualizations, computer vision sensor aids–these are the worldly residue that computers have left behind as they alter our lived experience: “Some architects can look at a building and tell you which version of autodesk was used to create it.”
The New Aesthetic doesn’t have individual effects, but only aggregated ones, just as a technology startup can’t serve a niche audience but only the largest one possible.
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.
Humans and computers:
Borenstein may be right that New Aesthetic strives toward a new conception of relations between things in the world. But for now, the New Aesthetic is exclusively interested in computers on the one hand and humans on the other.
Despite its acknowledgement of computers as weird artifacts that have taken on lives of their own, the New Aesthetic is still primarily interested in human experience. That is to say, the aesthetics of the New Aesthetic are human aesthetics, appearances and interactions that we people can experience and that, in so doing, trouble our understanding of what it means to live in the twenty-first century.
The New Aesthetic stops short of becoming an object-oriented aesthetics partly by limiting itself to computational media, and partly by absconding with the lessons of object-aesthetics into the realm of human concern.
New Aesthetic is actually striving towards a fundamentally new way of imagining the relations between things in the world.
For one part, an arbitrary focus on computational systems is to blame. For another part, the New Aesthetic fails the ultimate test of novelty: that of disruption and surprise. Misguided as they may seem a century hence, avant-garde movements like Futurism and Dada were not celebrating industrialism nor lamenting war so much as they were replacing familiar principles with unfamiliar ones on the grounds that the familiar had failed. The New Aesthetic artists now wield the same data access APIs, mapping middleware, and computer vision systems as the corporations. In some cases, the artists are the corporations.
A really new aesthetics might work differently: instead of concerning itself with the way we humans see our world differently when we begin to see it through and with computer media that themselves “see” the world in various ways. The perception and experience of other beings remains outside our grasp, yet available to speculation thanks to evidence that emanates from their withdrawn cores like radiation around the event horizon of a black hole. The aesthetics of other beings remain likewise inaccessible to knowledge, but not to speculation–even to art.
The New Aesthetic embraces an unusual creative technique: aggregation. It rejects the demands of the manifesto in favor of the indiscriminateness of the collection. Like any mess, it’s a bit ghastly to look upon.
Bridle appears to abdicate his role as convener when he calls The New Aesthetic a “series of artifacts” rather than a movement, but drawing no distinction is but one step away from making any distinction whatsoever. Cataloging becomes an aesthetic strategy when it involves curation. And curating so much material for an indeterminate time doesn’t really amount to curation at all.
Make things for understanding things, not just for human use. These applications are both sober and interesting. Our devices are not just connected to us but to one another as well. Part of the New Aesthetic involves inventing (and disrupting) the connections between computational media.
Michael Betancourt has discussed the New Aesthetic in relation to digital automation. The ‘new aesthetic’ provides a reference point for the examination of Karl Marx’s discussion of machines in ‘The Fragment on Machines.’
The ‘new aesthetic’ documents is the shift from earlier considerations of machine labor as an amplifier and extension of human action — as an augmentation of human labor — to its replacement by models where the machine does not augment but supplant, in the process apparently removing the human intermediary that is the labor that historically lies between the work of human designer-engineers and fabrication following their plans.
According to Betancourt, the New Aesthetic documents a shift in production that is different than that described by Marx. Where the machines Marx described were dependent on human control, those identified with the New Aesthetic work to supplant the human element, replacing it with digital automation, effectively removing living labor from the production process.
One movement that draws parallels to “New Aesthetic” is “Seapunk”.