In May of last year James Bridle started The New Aesthetic Tumblr. According to my records, I started following last July. This past March, he organized a New Aesthetic panel at SXSW. Bruce Sterling wrote a critical response — and since then there’s been an explosion of responses: to Sterling, to the panel, to the Tumblr itself, to the responses to responses. Folks are asking:
What’s the new aesthetic? Is it really new? It is an aesthetic? Is it a movement? A manifesto? Is there any coherence to the objects and phenomena Bridle gathers together here? Does he push it far enough? Is it a catalogue, a cabinet of curiosities, an index, a curated collection? What species of assemblage is this Tumblr-that’s-more-than-your-average-Tumblr? It it political enough? It is really just about machine vision? Shouldn’t it be about all object-oriented perception? Why isn’t it about what I want it to be about?
Bridle introduced the project with a statement full of conditionals and, it seems, a good dose of humility:
“For a while now, I’ve been collecting images and things that seem to approach a new aesthetic of the future, which sounds more portentous than I mean. What I mean is that we’ve got frustrated with the NASA extropianism space-future, the failure of jetpacks, and we need to see the technologies we actually have with a new wonder. Consider this a mood-board for unknown products.”
TNA’s been everywhere these past few weeks, and, frankly, I’m a little tired of it — tired of the debate, not TNA itself. I’m also sort-of frustrated with the nature of the discussion: rather than faulting Bridle for not making the mood board you’d make if you had control, why not make your own? You want something weirder, make your own weird. Start your own “Newer Aesthetic” Pinterest or something. I’m sure we’d all love to see it.