Signs of the Eversion II: the New Aesthetic

If QR codes are the crudest and most obvious signs of the eversion (except maybe those tall, fabric teardrop banners standing on a sidewalk that seemed designed to look like flags in Google Maps), there are subtler signs everywhere, increasingly. One group of designers and artists and others looking for these signs goes under the umbrella of the New Aesthetic. In a recent essay on a panel presentation by some of these folks at South By Southwest 2012, Bruce Sterling both praises the potential and critiques the limitations of what he accurately calls the design fiction of this movement or aesthetic, and especially as represented in James Bridle, whom Sterling calls “the master of the salon.” Sterling is particularly targeting their incipient obsession with AI implied in their interest in how machines see the world, and the nostalgia of 8-bit imagery, and the general sense that so far the movement has collected an under-curated “heap of eye-catching curiosities.” But what I like about the ongoing collection and Bridle in particular is the engaged curiosity that sees everywhere signs of “something coming into being,” as artists and designers give “the real world the grain of the virtual.” These two worlds, Bridle recognizes (in a fall 2011 talk I’m quoting here), were once contracted as separate but are now “eliding” everywhere you look, representing an “irruption of the digital into the physical world.”

It’s not all 8-bit or pixel art Bridle is noticing, but to me the examples that invoke game platforms are particularly suggestive, not because it’s how machines see the world, but because it’s how games have modeled it.

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