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The Atlantic: The New Aesthetic Needs to Get Weirder

By Ian Bogost
The Atlantic

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You know that art has changed when a new aesthetic movement announces itself not with a manifesto, but with a tumblr. Manifestos offer their grievances and demands plainly, all at once, on a single page--not in many hundred entries. "Literature has up to now magnified pensive immobility, ecstasy, and slumber," wrote Filippo Marinetti in his 1909 Futurist Manifesto. "We want to exalt movements of aggression, feverish sleeplessness, the double march, the perilous leap, the slap and the blow with the fist." The stakes are clear: out with idleness and chatter, in with speed and violence.

You'll find no such gripes or hopes in James Bridle's modest microblog "The New Aesthetic," which has recently enjoyed considerable attention thanks to a panel at the SXSW interactive conference, a Wired essay response by Bruce Sterling, and a series of responses to both at The Creators Project--not to mention dozens more replies all around the web.

Recent noise and attention notwithstanding, compare Bridle's original, phlegmatic blog post on the New Aesthetic to Marinetti's feverish immodesty. "We want to glorify war," the latter writes, still proudly ignorant of the Great War that would turn the Dadaists against art entirely. Bridle, by contrast, doesn't exalt or rebuff, but opens up a file folder: "For a while now, I've been collecting images and things that seem to approach a new aesthetic of the future."

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