Hi Sarah (and all),
I like that Sterling brings up Surrealism and Situationism. The
surrealist celebration of intuitive human subconsciousness turned out
to be vacuous. Arguably (and Sterling fails to mention this), the
Situationist celebration of an intuitive, desire-driven drift through
the gridded, spectacular city also turned out to be vacuous -- all
"intuitive" paths turn out to be subconsciously braded vectors
leading toward (or "oppositionally" away from) Starbucks. (Dada
critiques both presuppositions, but contains its own critiquable
presuppositions as well.)
Personally (and I'm not a curator), I wonder if it is going far
enough to merely aggregate and celebrate new looking stuff because it
is new looking stuff. Ryder Ripps says he always wants to see new
images, and there are new images on the web daily. OK... next? The
mere production, aggregation, consumption, and celebration of new
images seems more like a promising start than a satisfactory end in
and of itself. It is fascinating and significant that the machines
and networks we are currently using wind up generating images with a
(human-recognizably) "new" visual, textural, "aesthetic" sheen.
(Actually, it's not a single sheen. There are dozens of different
sheens.) More fruitful questions:
1. How are these aesthetic sheens related to their processes of production?
2. How are their processes of production related to human-beingness
and object-beingness in the world?
3. How might we allow these new sheens to re-tool our prior human
criteria of "aesthetics?"
To fail to ask these questions leads to a kind of reversion toward
evaluating these new image as discrete, hermetic, "aesthetic" objects
rather than as the residue/result of a series of cultural processes,
networks, and relationships (which is what images have always been,
and what these new images particularly are).
The complexity of tracing/delineating Latourean (or Whiteheadean)
networks of vast entanglement can cause humans (particularly
non-theoretically inclined humans) to throw up their hands, abandon
rigor, and simply celebrate the pure aesthetic pleasure of new forms
of visuality. BUT... do increasingly complex systems
finally/ultimately overwhelm/exhaust the need for theoretical
thinking and propel us forward (backward) into a carefree curatorial
age of positivist pop fashion, OR.. do they prompt and give-rise to
newer, more nible (yea, even "funner") critical curatorial ways of
Here are two things I've written previously on other topics that seem relevant:
1. On "surf clubs" (relevant to tumblr-ing new visual aesthetics):
I find a lot of surf club "work" not so much pathos-inducing as
"pathetic" (and not necessarily in a derogatory sense). It feels kind
of like gleeful children making absurd sculptures out of strewn body
parts in a land-mined field that they have always known, a field
inherited from a war they can't remember. All very post-Dada. If
[Joseph] Cornell's work enacts the slippages of memory; then artistic
surfng enacts the manic, doomed attempt to manufacture any kind of
memory at all in the fluorescent light of an eternally modern present.
This fetishistic fascination with junk has its promising aspects and
its dangerous pitfalls. When done well, this kind of surfing plunges
into the stream of corporate detritus, inflecting and modulating it
from within (it tactically enacts and externalizes ways of
connecting). When done poorly, this kind of surfing lapses into a
kind of banal wallowing whose wakes are no more transformative than
the original detritus through which they move (it simply becomes
about a fetishistic love of junk). As George Santayana wryly
observes, "Americans love junk; it's not the junk that bothers me,
it's the love."
2. On "glitch art" (relevant to curating new visual aesthetics):
Glitch Your Own Criteria of Glitch Reception
There are two main categories -- signal vs. noise. Signal has two
sub-categories: signals that matter vs. signals that don't. Likewise,
noise also has two sub-categories: glitches that are worth
pursing/keeping/archiving/posting/claiming vs. glitches that get
edited/ignored/not captured. The glitch artist and the "wild glitch"
collector are their own curators at every turn -- deciding which
outcomes to keep and which to ignore; but...
1. Based on what criteria? Based on marvel, surprise, authenticity
(unstaged-ness [related to surprise]), messed-up-ness, kitschy
retro-ness, "beauty," promise/fruitfulness (a potential to lead
2. How can we glitch our own criteria of glitch reception? How can we
glitch ourselves so that we don't always select the same old
glitches? Cagean aleatoric systems? Oulipean systems of constraint?
Warning: there are some inherent problems when glitching your own
"aesthetic" criteria. At some point you are going to have to fall
back on meta-criteria in order to determine whether your newly
glitched aesthetics are aesthetically successful. It is a bit like
shooting at a moving target, like using drugs and then trying to
objectively evaluate the effect of the drugs while you are still on
>I would welcome opinions on this question of 'the new aesthetic'
>from those on here who know more about it than I do.
>Was anyone on the list at the South by Southwest panel a month ago now?
>I am intrigued by Bruce Sterling's article
>It is reminiscent of some of the things which he and others
>discussed at the conference 'me you and everyone we know is a
>curator' organised by the Design Museum in the Netherlands.
>No one spoke of tumblers at the time, but perhaps we should have.
>I particularly like Sterling's quote that,
>"You can have all the machinic imagery out of CERN that you want,
>but the question is: what does it mean, how does it feel, what you
>do with it, how can you create? Is is beautiful, ugly, worthy,
>worthless, how is that good or bad, how does it change us?"
>as I think these are the questions that curators try to answer with
>their curatorial projects, beyond their tasks of collecting and
>I recognise that discussion on 'the new aesthetic' also raises some
>interesting questions about how the 'new media art' world and the
>'interaction design world' get along, as it would seem they are
>further apart than we first thought. Perhaps the exhibitions of MoMA
>could make an interesting case study here in that regard.
>Friday afternoon thoughts,