My take on the New Aesthetic? On immediate reflection I’d say “good job” and “go easy on the drones”. But inevitably there is the jaded voice in the back of my head wanting to snarkily ask, “What took you so long?” Not “you” as in the particular group of people who curate and promote the New Aesthetic meme, but “you” as in (Western) society at large, the technology-addicted masses who want their Facebook (MTV, not so much) and smartphone bliss, yet manage to be continually surprised by the not-always-pleasant byproducts of their addiction.
There really is no excuse for being technoculture illiterate if you’re under 40 and living in the Western world. You can plead ignorance of the technological specifics, but not of the cultural effects produced by the gadgets and interfaces that have invaded your life. Technology is not something that happens to other people, nor can you escape it by hiding out in “the humanities.” To be human is to be technological.
Lacking a ubiquitous and intuitive understanding of the complex interactions between technology and human culture, sources like the New Aesthetic (NA) become golden. NA is an attempt at diagnosis of the most recent mutations of the human condition, a difficult task best attacked obliquely and from the flank, with subtle observations rather than head on with manifestos (which are not very New Aesthetic, by the way).
NA is part meme, part techno-ethnography and part Tumblr serendipity. Its art is juxtaposition: If we put this next to that and this other thing, surely a new understanding will emerge. And you know what? It works surprisingly well. Whether that success is the product of brilliant curation or the result of feverishly sign-deciphering minds scanning image after image for clues that might not be there is academic. If it works, it works.