It’s about something that started as an art movement, was given a name 6 months ago, discussed at SXSW 6 weeks ago, extensively analysed in Wired a fortnight ago, and was broken down as a Gizmodo cheatsheet 6 days ago.
All the while, a Tumblr has been collecting material: a body of evidence showing that this phenomenon is a big deal. It’s called the New Aesthetic, and it’s a new way of seeing the world.
It’s about what happens when humans interact with machines, when reality meets technology, when the virtual and IRL collide.
“Every creative is always looking for a new aesthetic. And now there really is a New Aesthetic.” Damien Walter.
“One of the core themes of the New Aesthetic has been our collaboration with technology, whether that’s bots, digital cameras or satellites (and whether that collaboration is conscious or unconscious), and a useful visual shorthand for that collaboration has been glitchy and pixelated imagery, a way of seeing that seems to reveal a blurring between “the real” and “the digital”, the physical and the virtual, the human and the machine.” James Brindle.
“The world, the universe, confronts us every day with a vast complexity that we can not hope to understand. One purpose of mediated objects is to give us an edited and abbreviated version of that complexity which our very limited perceptions can comfortably grasp. Films and books that tell limited stories which we can understand. Fashion that makes the world coherent enough that we can adopt a role within it. Visual imagery with a finite grammar that remains somewhat familiar. The New Aesthetic are the mediated objects which in one way or another return us to the actual complexity of reality.” Damien Walter.
“Scarcely one of the real things in there would have made any sense to anyone in 1982, or even in 1992. People of those times would not have known what they were seeing with those New Aesthetic images. It’s the news, and it’s the truth.” Bruce Sterling.
“The New Aesthetic is a response against nostalgia. The internet, ironically, has allowed us to create a cut and paste culture from the trends of previous generations. As a result, there are very few aspects of our culture which are truly ours. Many of the New Aesthetic’s advocates hope that this new movement can change that.” Gizmodo.
“The New Aesthetic is one thing among a kind: it’s like early photography for French Impressionists, or like silent film for Russian Constructivists, or like abstract-dynamics for Italian Futurists. The New Aesthetic is image-processing for British media designers. That’s more or less what it is, and although it belongs to a small group of creatives right now, we have every reason to take it, and its prospects, seriously.” Bruce Sterling.
We don’t know where this is going but we know it’s something we have to pay attention to.
Here are some of the New Aesthetic’s spiritual leaders: James Brindle, who coined the term and maintains the New Aesthetic Tumblr; Joanne McNeil at Rhizome; Russell Davies; Aaron Cope; Ben Terrett. See also: New Aesthetic fashion pinterest. All images in this post are taken from the New Aesthetic Tumblr, click each image to go to its source.