Tuesday 2 October 2012

The New Aesthetic now and later

My essay on The New Aesthetic has now been up at Aeon for a while, and the Tumblr that started it all is back online. It's a huge old topic, for sure, and that essay was pushing 6,000 words at one point until judicious editing brought it back to a more digestible 3,000 or so. I don't intend to recap its main points here - this post is more intended to tidy up some loose ends.

First of all: did you all have a good look around the rest of Aeon? It's a completely new online magazine with an emphasis on ideas, culture, science and memoir. Take some time and have a poke around at the other essays online in the launch edition, and bookmark the site, it's worth it.

Second, some loose ends from the essay itself. Some responses, such as Rory Stott's, wondered at the next steps for the New Aesthetic: if it isn't a movement (and it isn't), could there be a movement? Having identified the political concerns inherent in the New Aesthetic, what can be done about them? How should designers act?

... Which is a whole 'nother essay in itself, but there are a couple of things I'd like to point to. First is to properly credit the work of BERG. I first came across the idea that technological seamlessness could be A Bad Thing in conversation with Schulze, Jones and Webb, while I was writing my Icon profile of the studio last year (Icon 099). Contra pernicious seamlessness, they said their philosophy was one of "beautiful seams". Which could be a New Aesthetic design manifesto in a nutshell, or part of one. Also if you want to see incredibly smart people designing with New Aesthetic antennae turned on and properly calibrated, look to BERG.

The other direction to look is the work of Keller Easterling, possibly the most important architectural theorist working today. I've just finished reading "The Action is the Form: Victor Hugo's TED Talk", her essay for Strelka Press, and it's just astonishing. It's like sipping from networked broth in which the architecture of tomorrow is broiling. The essay forms a bridge between Easterling's 2005 book Enduring Innocence, which introduced the idea of architecture being reduced to a series of "spatial products", and architecture as nothing but an expression of data, and her forthcoming book Extrastatecraft, on zones, which is likely to be incredibly special and important if this essay for Design Observer is anything to go by. God only knows if she's even aware of the New Aesthetic, but she perfectly shows how it couples with architecture and what it could mean for activism. So, my advice is make those essays your next stop, then buy her books. She knows what's going on.

1 comment:

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