Sunday, 25 June 2017

New Aesthetic?

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

OK. I'm putting this out there as a theory ... let's have some controversy.

This whole "New Aesthetic" that has people so excited is just Hauntology for kids who were born in the 80s. Different references (8-bit video-games, pixelated graphics, hip-hop) but same phenomenon.

Here's the video


  1. I'd almost argue that Hauntology is superior, for the following reasons. I'm a child of the eighties who got into Hauntological culture not for nostalgic reasons as such, but because I was already very interested in British weird culture of the sixties and seventies for reasons of artistic merit. I never really like the term "Hauntology" (it's particularly hard to say in conversation without feeling vaguely like a tool), and while some of the theory behind was very interesting, generally I could take it or leave it. But I loved the culture it was drawing from, and loved some of the music it was producing; both these things stand up, in my opinion, on artistic merit alone, without the necessity for a movement/nostalgia/fetishism factor to buoy them. I'm not sure, as yet, if the New Aesthetic has any legs outside of the elements of fashionable movement/nostalgic fetishisizing/second hand academic wanking. Certainly that's the impression the Bruce Sterling essay gives - one of the most offensively awful things I've read in ages. Sterling comes across as old geezer who's desperate to be part of a cool clique.
  2. Firstly, I'm not criticising here (or don't mean to) I'm just adding to the debate. So apologies if this sounds more confrontational than it means to, but some of TE's comments are counter to my own. I'm not saying he's wrong - but I will say that I disagree.

    Before I go on (and on), a small point - but: "Offensively awful?!" Really? It seemed an acceptable enough piece to me... but even if I disagreed with it, it hardly deserves intolerance. BS has proved himself a pretty nifty cultural and technological commentator in the past, so I'm willing to cut him some slack. And surely as THE pioneer of Cyberpunk (fuck Gibson), it shouldn't be surprising that this is bang up his street? It doesn't seem desperate at all to me. I suggest criticising the text rather than criticising the author for all I see as voicing his own opinion upon a subject that you don't like. You can speculate on his motivations if you like, but I certainly don't agree. You'd make your point better by criticising his words IMO.

    Anyway, TBH "I'm not sure, as yet, if the New Aesthetic has any legs outside of the elements of fashionable movement/nostalgic fetishisizing/second hand academic wanking" - you could be describing Hauntology as far as I'm concerned. My tastes crossover with a lot of classic 'haunt' topics, but to my mind it has always reeked of trying to squeeze everything we like into a box, then saying they're all somehow connected. Connections have always been made by the reader of a series of texts and not the texts themselves - so we shouldn't be surprised if they do. I could probably draw a linear line between Plan 9 from Outer Space and Oliver Twist if I wanted, but that wouldn't make it so. It is important to remember this before anyone gets too excited about anything ever. Things get wanky is when the reader tries to justify these connections using a pseudo-academic vocabulary. I'm afraid there's never been a more retrospective and pseudo-academic 'genre' than hauntology IMO. And yes, if we're all honest I think there's more cultural nostalgia to our love of our past than most would admit. Note: I'm not saying that there isn't other factors involved too, but "I loved the culture it was drawing from, and loved some of the music it was producing" sounds very much like nostalgia to me. After all, no one likes things just because they're old - they have to appreciate them too, surely? Then they have to love where and when they were coming from - then you have nostalgia. Indeed, i find the widespread embarrassment about unfashionable proletariat feelings like nostalgia and sentiment to be entirely academic and wanky in themselves. Of course other people's nostalgia is always cringe-worthy, as are other people's hobbies... :)

    You don't have to be born in a certain era to be nostalgic for that time: when I was a kid in the 80s I was a Beatles obsessive (I've since grown out of this infatuation you'll be pleased to know) and I can tell you I WAS nostalgic for the 60s! I fucking loved it all! Haunt-favourite author HP Lovecraft was nostalgic for the 18th Century, although he wasn't born until a century later. Cultural time travel has always been possible via texts and the reader's longing and imagination.
  3. Pt 2:

    As for this New Aesthetic... well, I've seen some of the pics before but didn't realise it had a name. I quite like them. I'm not blown away exactly, but I've seen worse! And frankly I like the name, although it seems to generic to me. Nu Digital Aesthetic or 8-bit Aesthetic fits better. And I have no problem with it. I'm sure it'll have it's wanky end of the 48k Spectrum, but then I'm sure it'll have it's non-wanky end too - like Found Objects is the non-wanky end of Hauntology IMO. Is it nostalgic? Probably. Does it matter? Nope. Should we laugh at other peoples hobbies? Definitely!

    Apologies if I've caused offence. I realise this is primarily a Haunt blog, I have no intention of offending any of you lovely and frankly quite freaky people.
  4. the kipple - Hey. Your comments didn't seem confrontational at all to me, and certainly caused no offense here. To address some of your points:

    "you could be describing Hauntology as far as I'm concerned. My tastes crossover with a lot of classic 'haunt' topics, but to my mind it has always reeked of trying to squeeze everything we like into a box, then saying they're all somehow connected".

    The argument I'm making, and the distinction I was trying to draw between Hauntology and the New Aesthetic, is that you can certainly apply those criticisms to the concept of "Hauntology", and some of the theorizing behind it, but a large amount of the art which inspires and is inspired by Hauntology stands on its own artistic merits. You can enjoy (as I do) things like the Wicker Man, Children of the Stones, or a record by The Advisory Circle, without a nostalgic or academic fetish component. They stand on their own merits as great tv shows, movies, and records. The question I'm asking (and my knowledge is limited so I stand to be corrected) is can the same be said of the New Aesthetic? Is it inspired by art that is valuable and significant beyond people with a nostalgic attachment to it (8 bit video game aesthetics), and does it produce work that has value outside the context of nostalgic fetishism (which I think Hauntology does, although that is a matter of opinion.
  5. Regarding the Sterling essay, I found it difficult to criticize the text because it seemed to me that he was taking a great deal of time to say very little of substance. The essay was written in what seemed to me a very artificial declamatory manifesto style. This is the new thing that is happening right now, it seemed to reiterate, now then punctuated with some ironically very old hat academic concepts (the Rhizome!) Sterling seemed to be writing with a kind of obsequiousness towards the elite who are turned on to the New Aesthetic (actually using the word "elite" at one point) combined with a vaguely self-congratulatory air at being its spokesman. Was he being serious with lines like this: "If you know nothing of the “New Aesthetic,” or if you have no idea what “SXSW” is, you should repair your ignorance right away." God help those who languish in ignorance of SXSW.
    1. This comment has been removed by the author.
    2. I think this Sterling essay has to be read against a lot of what he's been talking about recently as in "atemporality", "Dark Euphoria" (parallels with Simon Reynolds' "Retromania") - the idea that we've lost a cultural image of "the future".

      It feels like a "mea culpa" : "Ah, actually here are a bunch of people who HAVE discovered an image of the future after all."

      Oh, and guess what folks, it's same as it ever was. "the future" is represented by the clunkier, more overt visual aspects of contemporary technology.

      Bonus points. Anyone remember when Sterling got so excited in Wired about NeoAcademists in St. Petersberg who made 18th century style paintings and sculpture while listening to heavy techno?
  6. Just popping in to briefly note that I think Phil's initial post is spot on, to the extent that I'm surprised such a conclusion is even noteworthy.

    I'm sure we can all agree that pinning 'hauntology' (for want of a better word) down to a fixed period would be silly. So as the '50s perhaps starts to fall off the map (moving from just-out-of-reach memory to history as its emotional resonance fades), the '80s jumps on board to replace it - a happy and inevitable process.

    That said, 'New Aesthetic' is a pretty witless name for a big, shapeless thing that's primarily feeding off the past, and that Sterling essay is awful - like an excruciating boor arriving at the party five years late and tying himself in knots trying to explain to everyone what it is they've been doing all this time.

    Probably best ignore all that I think, and just welcome the '80s / American 'triangle time' kinda contingent as an interesting new spin on the kind of culture people have been working out on blogs like this one.
  7. I've only just caught up with the New Aesthetic thing (or "repaired my ignorance", I should say) but I'm surprised anyone's confusing it with nostalgia at all. Looking at the blog, its main obsessions seem to be geotagging, streetview / google earth, data visualisation, surveillance, drones, bots, having to prove you're not a bot: the daily experience of sci-fi technology being sort-of-suddenly ubiquitous. Pixelation seems to be the least of it.

    I'm not sure the pixel-obsession is entirely nostalgic either. Isn't it partly way of representing this odd feeling "I'm living inside the network" The house I'm sitting in is visible to the network in pixelated form both from satellite and street level. The office I work in started life inside a machine, was modelled, textured, lit, rendered and flown-through before a brick was laid. If I turn on the TV and see an eye-popping HD shot of wild landscape, my first thought might well be "is that real or generated?" I'm reckon all the zoomed-in pixels are as much to do with that as old Nintendo games. (I'm saying a bit of both)

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