Thanks Saul, for your below post, which was - I think - a welcome contribution
to the conversation thus far.
I've been following James Bridle's New Aesthetic Tumblr
(http://new-aesthetic.tumblr.com/) since last year, and I "listened in", from a
distance to the SXSW panel. Like most of you, I have read Bruce Sterling's two
essays on the topic, and many of the other articles and thought-pieces too,
most of which focus more on what Sterling wants The New Aesthetic to be, than
on Bridle's actual project.
I have to say, I have been dismayed (but sadly not surprised) by many of the
sneering insults which have been thrown in Bridle's direction during the past
two and a half weeks. I've also been surprised that much of the "analysis" of
The New Aesthetic reveals an ignorance of the fact that it is not, nor never
has been, a 'movement' located in the Silicon Roundabout; it is a personal
project by Bridle. I've also found it interesting that so many people seem to
have the perception that the The New Aesthetic has something specific to say
about art. Bridle has not framed the New Aesthetic within an artistic context,
and I have yet to come across any evidence to suggest he considers it part of
any art discourse. Aesthetics and art are not interchangeable concepts. As
such, subsuming The New Aesthetic into the framework of media art, and then
attacking Bridle for ignorance of a context he has never had any interest in
operating within, is at best a bit pointless, at worst, as Saul says, unfair.
But what I find downright unpleasant about some of criticism is the tacit
suggestion that Bridle is naive, shallow, incapable of understanding the
historical context of his own work, unaware of it's socio-political context,
and interested only in hype and self-promotion. Nothing could be further from
the truth, as any perusal of Bridle's past writings and practice would
hopefully immediately reveal. These dismissals of what is essentially an open,
transparent research endeavour, suggest a stark hostility to the context that
Bridle is operating in, which interesting, I guess, in and of itself.
Saul is right that Bridle didn't ask for this attention. He didn't publish a
manifesto, declare a movement, nor frame his project as The Next Big Thing. He
wrote a blog post, then started a Tumblr, put some things he found interesting
in it over the space of about a year, and talked about it at a conference. The
reification, or should I say *deification*, was undertaken by Bruce Sterling in
his 2 April essay. It's perhaps worth noting that Sterling didn't consult with
Bridle before, or after, publishing that essay, nor have any of the
self-appointed "commentators" or "respondents" to The New Aesthetic. That a
personal project can be miscast as a movement, which we are somehow entitled to
either join or reject, is a bit perplexing and perhaps deserves some further
That someone's research project, undertaken in the open and transparently, has
gone so ballistic, so quickly, and with so little input or comment from it's
author, is a sign of our times, I guess. It doesn't speak well of the future of
open, intuitive, long-form modes of public research, that's for sure. The
excoriation of Bridle isn't exactly going to encourage others to conduct their
thinking openly and publicly, and I'm personally a bit sorry that's one of the
probable outcomes of the debate of the past two and a half weeks.
Anyway, thank you to Sarah for kicking off the conversation thread, and thanks
again to Saul, for your post.
Quoting Saul Albert <[log in to unmask]>:
> On Wed, Apr 18, 2012 at 12:46:13PM +0100, [log in to unmask] wrote:
> > Whilst agreeing with the general thrust of the Furtherfield article, I
> > concur with Armin that "New Media" was a much broader and widely
> > supported concept,
> Couldn't we maximise our pretentiousness by saying that New Aesthetics
> is to The Internet of Things as net.art was to New Media?
> Remember net.art? What was so fun about it was the slippage between
> net.art as a relatively defined group of people (during the 'Heroic period')
> and Net.Art as a self-perpetuating half joke that, like Cyberfeminism before
> it, got funnier when people took it seriously, got incensed or excited about
> and weirdly began to call their stuff net.art and themselves net.artists.
> Reading this thread I can't help but think of the Wired article about
> Heath Bunting that 'outed' net.art in 1997, and the response, kicked off
> by this missive supposedly from Tim Druckery
> (http://www.irational.org/heath/c4d/wired.html) and the debates that
> ensued, and feel kind of sorry for James Bridle who has poked his head
> above the parapet by doing some really interesting projects and writing
> about them engagingly, and seems to be catching all kinds of flak for
> it. I guess Heath intentionally made a great target of himself - I'm not
> sure James really meant to, and I don't think much of it is fair.
> But whatever his intentions, however deep or historically /
> philosophically / politically grounded / ungrounded they are - I think
> the connections coalescing around this discussion are really promising,
> especially Sarah's questions about being and object-hood. In that vein
> I'd like to post a couple of links that could point to some useful
> material for filling in the many gaps and glitches of New Aesthetics,
> beyond the association with OOO that Bogost pretty much rejects,
> (while also sticking the boot in to James Brindle).
> - The Actor-Network-Theory Heidegger Group
> (http://anthem-group.net/bibliography/) have a great bibliography on
> Latour/Heidegger that could be useful, and intersects with SR/Harman.
> - Abstract Sex by Luciana Parisi, which I think brought up a lot of the
> political and conceptual possibilities of non-anthropocentric views on
> technology long before the Speculative Realists got going properly.
> I think whatever makes people dust off their keyboards (and mine is
> really dusty!) and send email to mailing lists is a good thing, and I'd
> love to see what projects/thought, stories and events might be
> jury-rigged and used to prop up New Aesthetics in a longer timeline.