Talk: The New Aesthetic

Thursday, April 10th, 2014, 2:00 p.m – 4:30 p.m.
imai – inter media art institute, at the NRW-Forum, Ehrenhof 2, 40479 Düsseldorf
Organizer: Office

The talk-event of the office was dedicated to the net-culture-theory New Aesthetic, which was developed by the British designer James Bridle in his blog of the same name. New Aesthetic is understood as the influence of contemporary digital aesthetics on the physical world. The theory examines how the cultural practice of the everyday-use of digital media-structures modifies our perception and thinking and how our view of the world changes through the “eyes of machines” (see, for example, Google Street View, Google Maps or drone photography). The New Aesthetic-theory deals with the economic, social and political conditions of the production of the digital aesthetic, which was strongly influenced by the triumphal march of Web 2.0. In its publication New Aesthetic, New Anxieties, the Dutch media art laboratory V2_ Institute for the Unstable Media, for example, asks for images and aesthetics, produced by the postfordistic capitalism of immaterial work; and also investigates how the digital aesthetics of the present are shaped by the capitalist DNA of the Internet as an originally military project and product of Silicon Valley’s New Economy; how difficult it is to counter the white user interfaces of Facebook or Google, for example.

James Bridle identifies the interaction between man and technology (e.g. the use of bots, digital cameras or satellites) as one of the core themes of New Aesthetic. Particularly important is the question whether this interaction occurs consciously or unconsciously is particularly important. Bridle sees a cipher for this relationship in the viral spread of pixelated images such as Internet-memes or the images of surveillance cameras, which, with their depiction of the physical world, blur the border between the “real” and the “digital” – as well as between the “physical” and the “virtual”, the human and the machine. Contrary to what was announced in the cyberpunk science-fiction of the 1980s, people today do not withdraw completely into a digital space (the cyberspace), but increasingly move in a hybrid space consisting of a physical spatial structure, which can be expanded at will and charged with information by digital applications and devices (e.g. Google Glasses). James Bridle understands the “gaze of machines” as a metaphor for understanding and discussing the sensual experience and perception of a world, whose aesthetics are increasingly shaped by the digital.

On April 10th, 2014, two presentations at the imai – inter media art institute introduced various interpretations and possible consequences of New Aesthetic-theory, which were then discussed with the network-partners of The event was framed by the exhibition The Invisible Force Behind. Materiality in Media Art, organized by imai on the occasion of the Quadriennale Düsseldorf 2014. The exhibition revolves around today’s phenomenon of the increasing loss of physical substance through digitalization, for example when meter-long film-archives are reduced to audiovisual databases. Data-based artworks reveal themselves to us through technologies, which we use everyday to communicate and obtain information. The complex relationships behind the interface, the way these technologies function, remain hidden to us. With their large-scale wall projection Why don’t we (2013/14), the artist duo Michael Bielicky & Kamila B. Richter incorporate real-time news from the social network Twitter as a means of directing their “modern silent film”. The narrative level is delegated to automatically generated coincidence when the news is analyzed by specially developed software and compared with the artists’ image database.


Michelle Kasprzak, curator at V2_ Institute for the Unstable Media, Rotterdam. Michelle Kasprzak (CA/PL) lives and works as curator and author in Amsterdam (NL). She has written articles for the magazine Wired UK, radio and television features for the BBC and CBC, and lectures for the PICNIC fair. She founded one of the most relevant blogs on curatorial practices, Critical essays have appeared in Volume, C Magazine, Rhizome, CV Photo, Mute, Spacing and many other media. In 2006 she received a residency for curatorial research at the Nordic Institute for Contemporary Art in Helsinki, Finland. 2010 she participated in the summer seminar for art curators in Yerevan, Armenia. 2011 she was a guest of the international visitor program of BAM – Flemish institute for visual, audiovisual and media art in Flanders, Belgium. Michelle Kasprzak holds a BFA-degree in New Media (Ryerson University, 2000) and a Master in Visual and Media Arts (Université du Québec à Montréal, 2006). The results of her curatorial work can be seen in international exhibitions. Most recently she was part of the curatorial team of the ZER01 Biennial in San Jose, California (2012). Michelle Kasprzak is currently a curator at V2_ Institute for the Unstable Media and a member of IKT (International Association of Curators of Contemporary Art).

Manuel Bürger (Berlin) and “The Laboratory of Manuel Bürger” (Worldwide), respectively, deals with amateurish and virtuoso design forces, works between nonsense and cultural theory, and serves clients from various areas of the communication landscape, such as the transmediale festival in Berlin. Bürger is part of several collectives like Mimetic Club, Bench Boys, Figure 8, teaches at the Merz Akademie in Stuttgart and successfully runs the Naives & Visionaries publishing house. He is also in charge of the regularly published research magazine CVSNdes Critical Vision study program at the University of Cincinnatti, USA, and the annual research publication of Aarhus University, Denmark. Recent publications and essays deal with the mimetic potential of design and house music: “Slippery Design – forever beta” and “Duck House Theory – Robert Venturi’s Darkroom Fantasies” respectively.

The office was funded by the Ministry for Family, Children, Youth, Culture and Sports of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia. Office hosted by: Hartware MedienKunstVerein, Dortmund.