David Cox interviews Bruce Sterling about the significance, lifecycle and future of the New Aesthetic movement:
First to the issue of “is the New Aesthetic really new?” I’d say those images are “new’” pretty much by definition. Aesthetics obviously is very old. James Bridle doing a project called the “New Aesthetic Tumblr” is over, and receding into the past. But machine-generated imagery that is unlike previous forms of imagery is all over the place. So, yes it is new, for any reasonable definition of novelty.
As for whether James Bridle’s image collection had any analytical rigor, I’m inclined to think he had more analysis going on there than he liked to let on; but I rather think James prefers writing, journalism and publishing to the trying role of a public New Aesthetic visionary. When you have a breakout viral hit on the Net nowadays, the opportunity-cost can be pretty stiff.
On the issue as to what a New Aesthetic ought to do, what the “strategy” is, well, that’s unsettled, but I think that James’s year-long intervention there has raised the morale of tech-art people quite a lot. It’s legitimated their practice in their own eyes, and helped to free them from their traditional hangups on specific pieces of hardware. At least it’s possible to imagine a strategy now — instead of merely saying, I’m an artist, but I do digital electronics, you can re-frame your efforts as something like “a new aesthetic of processual vital beauty,” and you’re not so handcuffed to the soldering irons.
On the generational issue, there’s some anxiety among the aging that people under 30 actually think like Tumblrs nowadays — that they’re unmotivated and diffuse, or in the shallows, or mentally crippled by too many pixels — allegations along that line. Obviously they’re a troubled generation, but Tumblrs are not major problems to rank with a major Depression dominated by dogmatic gerontocrats. If we’re going to get generational, then we ought to start the discussion with the amazing mental stasis of Baby Boomers, people who used to be exceedingly reckless and inventive and haven’t had a single new idea since 2008.