I read something that Bruce Sterling wrote about New Aesthtics. It seems to be rougly an aesthetics that occurs inbetween man and machine. Lots of infographics, glitches, cybernetics, physical computing and all that.
I wasn’t aware that this was a thing. I’ve been following the Tumblr ever since it featured 2SLEEP1, which I made with Raquel Meyers. I don’t know, but perhaps what I do has something to do with new aesthetics?
Reading his text was quite interesting, to start with. I think he’s managed to pin down some rather ‘contemporary things’. But when he dissed 8-bit aesthetics he lost me. Of course. Sterling writes that retro ’80s graphics are sentimental fluff for modern adults who grew up in front of 1980s game-console machines.
Yes, sometimes it is. Probably most of the time. Just like almost anything else can be dissed as being ‘nostalgic’. It’s too easy to disregard ‘8bit’ as anything with large pixels. That’s not really the point. Not to me anyway. I’ve become accustomed to this style of expression, just like he is accustomed to books, magazines, records, or whatever he’s into. Most 8-bit graphics are pretty boring, just like most books are. But I wouldn’t diss books as being nostalgic fluff, would I?
For me, his primary mistake is to try to separate man from machine, culture and nature, object and subject. New aesthetics is about exploring the exact opposite to that, I thought? When it all comes together. When irrogation creates patterns that look like text art from space. Or when your own camera has a better view of a concert than yourself. Also, I’m not sure why aesthetics has to be only about images. If anything, it should include sounds too?
Sterling writes that machines are not our friends or art critics. At the risk of sounding naive — I’d say that they’re getting pretty close. If all your Facebook-friends were bots, would you know the difference? If the plays, likes and downloads of your works were all performed by bots – would it make you sad?
Sterling says that machines lack cognition, ethics and taste. I say: how would he know, and even if it’s true, who cares? For me that’s irrelevant. It seems a lot more interesting to explore the area inbetween human concepts and machinic concepts (whatever that would be).
I guess Sterling is responding to some sort of debate that I’ve completely missed. Also I admit that I haven’t read much of his texts at all, so perhaps I’m ignorant of the context. Anyway. I do agree with some of the things he says, such as:
An intellectually honest New Aesthetic would have wider horizons than a glitch-hunt. It would manifest a friendlier attitude toward non-artistic creatives and their works. It would be kinder with non-artists, at ease with them, helpful to them, inclusive of them, of service to them. It’s not enough to adopt a grabbier attitude toward the inanimate products of their engineering.
Engineers are great. But not even them can predict what a machine will be able to do in the future. With some good feedback from humans, they can do some fuuuckkedd uppp shiiit maaaan.
PS. My own works are heavily based on manual work. Just listen to 2SLEEp1. I’m perhaps more interested in the human craft side of new aesthetics. Still, I find Sterling’s humanism pretty retro-nostalgic.