The first semester has now come to a close, and I am left with all of the things I would have liked to discuss in class, but couldn’t because, well, you can’t have everything. But that’s what weekends are for!
The Anthropocene has meant not a new image of the world, but rather a radical change in the conditions of visuality and the subsequent transformation of the world into images. These developments have had epistemological as well as phenomenological consequences: while images now participate in forming worlds, they have become forms of thought constituting a new kind of knowledge—one that is grounded in visual communication, and thereby dependent on perception, demanding the development of the optical mind.
And do you all remember the New Aesthetic? It’s a good reminder that you shouldn’t attach the word “new” to your proposal of a visual culture movement, unless you are certain it will last for, like, ever (or 5 years, whichever comes first):
Despite its acknowledgement of computers as weird artifacts that have taken on lives of their own, the New Aesthetic is still primarily interested in human experience. That is to say, the aesthetics of the New Aesthetic are human aesthetics, appearances and interactions that we people can experience and that, in so doing, trouble our understanding of what it means to live in the twenty-first century.
Off to more inter-human aesthetic negotiations! Unfortunately, we couldn’t properly discuss Claire Bishop’s Artificial Hells in class, so I’ll just leave this review by Leah Lovett here for your interpassive enjoyment:
Bishop draws on Rancière’s analysis of the overdetermined critiques of spectatorship through Brecht and Artaud to argue that there has been a disavowal of the aesthetic. Whilst this disregard for art may have resulted in artistic strategies of participation, it also presents a major weakness for Bishop, in the form of artists who use their exceptional status to intervene in the social but who fail to reconcile their work as art.
Another book that unfortunately fell by the wayside is Gareth White’s Audience Participation In Theatre. This short text may serve as a primer, and if you have the time, you can watch me interview Gob Squad for Berlinale 2 years ago.
And finally, two more recent articles. After all, time did not stand still in the past 6 years (even though Villem Flusser might argue otherwise). First off, the NZZ (which has become a horribly reactionary newspaper lately) has an essay on McLuhan. Of course, they manage to inject the good old “screens are bad for people” into their reading. This is why we can’t have nice things.
Sosehr das Buch seine Zeit widerspiegeln mag: Immer wieder stolpert der Leser zugleich über Sätze, die aufs Unheimlichste unsere Zeit und ihre Medien vorauszunehmen scheinen. Wenn wir von der «psychischen Leichenstarre» lesen, die sich der Menschen «gerade in Perioden neuer Technologie» bemächtige, denken wir gezwungenermassen an unsere pathologische Bildschirmfixierung (klein und gross). Aber umgekehrt gilt auch: Wenn McLuhan warnend schreibt, dass «die Art Involvierung, die unsere Sofort-Technologien voraussetzen, gerade die sozial Gesinntesten zu Konservativen macht», dann könnte er gut Menschen meinen, die sagen, sie hätten keinen Fernseher oder kein Smartphone und so klingen, als bildeten sie sich etwas darauf ein.
Last article for this weekend is a bit more lighthearted: Textures and Tilesets from neural networks nicely ties into what happened to the supposedly “new aesthetic” (via rockpapershotgun):
Pipkin fed a load of tile images (mostly ones licensed freely under Creative Commons, plus “some classic game rips”) into the software DCGAN-tensorflow, which used them as inspiration for glitchy images of its own. Its recreations are nudged towards being haunted and a little hellish, echoes of what they were supposed to be. It’s a strong look.
Y’all have a wonderful semester break.