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

David Berry dmberry at gmail.com
Sat Sep 15 05:34:24 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.

But for me, the very possibility of a self-defined new 'aesthetic' enables this potentiality – of course, there are no simple concepts as such, but the new aesthetic, for me, acts as a "bridge" (following Deleuze and Guattari for a moment). By claiming that it is new 'aesthetic' makes possible the conceptual resources associated with and materialised in practices, which may need to be "dusted off" and to be used as if they were, in a sense, autonomous (that is, even, uncritical). This decoupling of the concept (no matter that in actuality one might claim that no such decoupling could really have happened) potentially changes the nature of the performances that are facilitated or granted by the space opened within the constellation of concepts around the 'new aesthetic' (again, whatever that is)  – in a sense this might also render components within the new aesthetic inseparable as the optic of the new aesthetic, like any medium, may change the nature of what can be seen. Again, this is not necessarily a bad thing though. 

Another way of putting it, perhaps, would be that a social ontology is made possible, which, within the terms of the the constellation of practices and concepts grounding it, is both distanced from and placed in opposition to existing and historical practices. Where this is interesting is that, so far, the new aesthetic, as a set of curatorial or collectionist practices, has been deeply recursive in its manifestation – both computational in structure (certainly something I am interested in about it) – and also strikingly visual (so far) – and here the possibility of an immanent critique central to the new aesthetic can be identified, I think. Of course, it is too early to say how far we can push this, especially with something as nascent as the new aesthetic, which is still very much a contested constellation of concepts and ideas and playing out in various media forms, etc., but nonetheless, I suggest that one might still detect the outlines of a kind of mediated non-identity implicit within the new aesthetic, and this makes it interesting. So I am not claiming, in any sense, that the new aesthetic was "founded on critical thinking", rather that in a similar way that computational processes are not "critical thinking" but contain a certain non-reflexive reflexivity when seen through their recursive strategies – but again this is a potentiality that needs to be uncovered, and not in any sense determined. This is, perhaps, the site of a politics of the new aesthetic, if you like. 

> 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.


I think you make some very important points here. But I am not sure how one can be "over hasty" in the utilisation of concepts, I follow the sage advice of Delueze and Guatteri and agree with them that "the the concept belongs to philosophy and only to philosophy" ;-) – even if its parentage is considered by some dubious or problematic. Roll on both the hasty and the non-hasty discussion. :-) 

Certainly there is much work to be done with the new aesthetic, and I, for one, do not think that everything is fixed in aspic – either by Bridle or any of the other commentators – how could I? Indeed, joining this list signals the need for thinking about the new aesthetic from a number of different perspectives, that for me is the point at which the new aesthetic is interesting for thinking with, and pushing it away seems to me to be the "over-hasty" move when it clearly points to a either a fresh constellations of concepts and ideas, or certainly a means for us to think about the old constellations in a new way. 

Here, though I want to make clear that I am not a "defender" of the new aesthetic, but rather more interested in the philosophical and political work it makes possible. 


> -- 
> Michael Dieter
> Lecturer
> Media Studies
> The University of Amsterdam
> Turfdraagsterpad 9
> 1012 XT Amsterdam
> http://home.medewerker.uva.nl/m.j.dieter/
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre


Dr. David M. Berry
Senior Lecturer in Digital Media 
(Associate Professor in Media Studies)

Department of Political and Cultural Studies
Swansea University
Singleton Campus

Tel: 01792 602633


Room: Room JC015, James Callaghan Building

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