An Essay on the New Aesthetic - Bruce Sterling via Wired.com ⇢
Bruce Sterling sat in on a SxSW panel on The New Aesthetic, and has a lot of observations:
Bruce Sterling via Wired.com
I must try to explain the New Aesthetic to a wondering mankind. Everybody who attempts this seems to hope and feel that the New Aesthetic must be a private solution to their own personal creative problems. Well, I myself don’t believe that. As a creative who mostly types a lot of words in a row, I have some other personal creative problems. I do think the New Aesthetic offers solutions to some of London’s modern problems. That would be a big deal in itself.
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.
He goes on to say that The New Aesthetic is telling the truth, is culturally agnostic, is comprehensible, is deep, is contemporary, is temporal, requires close attention, is constructive, and is generational. But The New Aesthetic is also a
gaudy, network-assembled heap. It’s made of digitized jackstraws that were swept up by a generational sensibility. The products of a “collective intelligence” rarely make much coherent sense.
It was grand work to find and assemble this New Aesthetic wunderkammer, but a heap of eye-catching curiosities don’t constitute a compelling worldview. Look at all of them: Information visualization. Satellite views. Parametric architecture. Surveillance cameras. Digital image processing. Data-mashed video frames. Glitches and corruption artifacts. Voxelated 3D pixels in real-world geometries. Dazzle camou. Augments. Render ghosts. And, last and least, nostalgic retro 8bit graphics from the 1980s.
Sterling characterizes this as an avante garde movement taking shape in a postmodernist context where it was supposed to be impossible to have an avante garde. But we have left the postmodern behind — a reality that Sterling doesn’t touch on. We are in the time of postfuturism, where all our plans, and dreams of the future, never reached. We’ve slipped under the barbed wire and surveillance cameras of post modernism, and into a time of New Aesthetics.
Sterling pins The New Aesthetic in time by contrasting it with post-modernism, surrealism, situationalism, futurism. It’s just another ism, waiting to be forgotten after stirring things up a little, and then becoming just another page in Wikipedia. He says it could and should reach out more to the straits, it should have wider horizons, be more attuned to the impact it might have on others.
It feels like Sterling wants this new, inchoate, and bottom-up networked effort to be more self-aware, more finished, more graspable.
But me, I like the mess and uncertainty, the piles of debris, and the fractured, jigsaw-puzzle metaphysics lurking in there.