[-empyre-] The New Aesthetic: Seeing Like Machines

Michael Dieter M.J.Dieter at uva.nl
Fri Sep 14 17:04:33 EST 2012

> I also find the new aesthetic important for it has an inbuilt potentiality
> towards critical reflexivity, both towards itself (do I exist?) but also
> towards both artistic practice (is this art?), curation (should this be in
> galleries?), and technology (what is technology?).

‘Potentiality’ is the key term here, certainly there is nothing to
suggest that a critique of the new aesthetic or any critical
reservations or engagements should be claimed as built into the
concept itself.

Nevertheless, the new aesthetic seems to hold some conceptual
resources. From my perspective, it’s interesting to reflect on the
genesis of which through creative industries concepting, especially as
this technique has migrated into the very templates and formats of
social media platforms like Pinterest or Tumblr. Indeed, for Bridle,
the new aesthetic is ‘a mood board for unknown products’ - a phrase
that could even be taken as an accurate wholesale description for the
kind of visual imagery that cascades through such tumblogging.

Rather than necessarily founded on critical thinking, this set of
dynamics might be more accurately described as working through
appropriation in particular ways – to take up the more Heideggerian
side of your analysis David. This is especially the case, I would
argue, regarding the ambiguous dual meaning of appropriation: both to
seize things to use it as if they were one’s property and the
additional sense of having the right to make properly claims (or what
is considered appropriate). For me, this dual meaning is one aspect of
how the new aesthetic is configured as a concept and how the politics
of its reception invariably play out. The new aesthetic as
appropriative/appropriate is what fuels complex questions around the
materialities of digital and network technologies today. That the work
of ‘appropriative’ artists such Cornelia Parker and Aram Bartholl is
scooped up into Bridle’s Tumblr site (and concept) can be seen as just
one ironic outcome.

Now, of course, we’re all familiar with Benjaminian notions of
reproducibility, but let’s not assume that the new aesthetic does not
lend itself to the more oppressive results of that equation (I’ll
refrain from using the term fascist, it’s too early in the
discussion!). In any case, ownership, authority and property are
integral to how the concept might be engaged with, but these are not
always the critical terms in the discussion. Rather, it often seems
the case that people latch onto the New Aesthetic either for
promotional purposes or to accelerate the kind of communicative
capitalism that has become characteristic of everyday media life:
tagging, retweeting, linking, liking and so on.

You’re probably not going to agree all of that David, but it seems to
me that you can also at times be overly hasty to claim new aesthetic
from Bridle in a variety of ways. I’m just suggesting that we slow
down a bit and try to consider what we’re dealing with here.

And greetings all to this month long discussion! Thanks to Patrick for
the invitation this month. Apparently, we're taking on the topic as a
free for all. Hope it doesn't get too chaotic, but I'm certainly
interested in reading other subscribers thoughts.


Michael Dieter
Media Studies
The University of Amsterdam
Turfdraagsterpad 9
1012 XT Amsterdam

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