0: Worlding

Chapter3  Concealed Seduction

16:22 PM London March 2019

Although it wasn’t great weather for travel, Ephemeral insisted on showing me some splendid humanbuilt structures, what he called the “wonders of London.” It was interesting to be in this historical site, the past intruding so strongly into the present. Casting my vision along the street at a certain point, I started to conclude: “People mountain people sea.”30 “What does that mean?” asked Ephemeral, his lips pushed out with wave of hand. “Slang from your culture?” “It’s from a Chinese idiom. It just means there are a lot of people in a place.” I don’t understand why every human seems intent on capturing the view with a camera instead of storage in Flash memory, 31 since memory can be electrically erased and reprogrammed. “An aesthetic is a cultural artifact with overlapping characteristics, and it is no longer sufficient to study contemporary visual phenomena in terms of classical aesthetics.”32 Baumgarten coined the term “aesthetics” in the 1730s, but it has remained an ambiguous philosophical category. 33 For Kant, who expanded his ideas, aesthetics has to do with sensory knowledge or sensory cognition, which includes but is not limited to the problem of beauty. Bakhtin then treated aesthetics as a relevant timeliness, a sustainable assemblage in which the cognitive-theoretical and ethical-practical approach symbiosis. In this era, when more people have an academic or practical background in Computer Science or Artificial Intelligence, contemporary imagery requires more time-sensitive knowledge than ever, and this will progressively increase. The changes of digital nature are agencies that produce the power of discourse, impacting academic disciplines and general comprehension. “Is there any place opposite to beauty, full of trash, where nobody wants to go?” I asked Ephemeral. “Maybe a scrapyard? That’s where all the waste goes.” Humans are seduced by aesthetics. An aesthetic judgement is detached from practical and cognitive judgements34 – it is unique and affords no knowledge of the object. Aesthetics in general is a collective discipline of human beings; it imposes certain constraints on artwork. But the constraints come from nowhere, as if politics.

After considering my request, Ephemeral took my advice and we spent more than four hours to travel to Coulsdon; neither of us knew exactly how to get there. Upon arrival, a mountain of trash dumped into our sight. Made of loose garbage, it crumbled and reshaped itself constantly. I could see a rose pink sun dripping into the horizon, the gloss of its rim bringing an iridescent saturation. I think this must be the beauty of this planet.

“Welcome to London, my friend.” He paused to see the silhouette of garbage against the dimming sky.

“Shall I say ‘Hello, world’ in return?” I asked, more for the sake of saying something than for information. Then, after a minute, “Why is every human physically similar? I mean, it’s merely a mechanical appearance.”

“Everybody is different, even having same mechanisms. So how do the species on your planet look?” Ephemeral asked with curiosity.

“We don’t judge by visual perception. Beauty is universal,” I answered. For Kant, aesthetic choices are “a constant part of our lives”, as tests of epistemic certainty suspend the ordinary faculties of judgement; the sublime is formed by the discord of faculties, especially imagination and the understanding. People appreciate the starry night or the storm, each containing a certain immeasurability. But imagination cannot grasp an idea under the influence of vision only – imagination falls from the sky, slipping into the state of not knowing, not being able to hold a relationship; and reason takes over to stabilize the feeling of the descent of imagination. The gap between necessity and freedom addresses Kant’s critique of judgment. The conjunction of necessity and freedom – it also shaped Marx’s theory of Communism.

“Not everything is beautiful, but I do agree that everything could be found to be beautiful.” said Ephemeral. “Maybe universality comes from agreement, consensus, a form of representation without end.”

Everything increasingly emphasises the visual – including text, to the detriment of textuality. The visual is becoming one of the necessary components of recognition. The concept of a “New Aesthetic” was suggested by James Bridle on his blog in 2011. 35 His New Aesthetic project was undertaken within the network itself, in a Tumblr, in blog posts, in YouTube videos of lectures, tweeted reports and messages, reposts, likes, and comments – “all things that seemed to identify a new aesthetic of the future.”36 As he says, all of these are snippets, and viewed a decade later, his things that seemed to identify a new aesthetic of the future in 2011, do not synchronize with the visual phenomena we perceive in 2021; they are only momentary representations of ongoing processes – as indeed the New Aesthetic was intended to be. With the continuing digitalization of the world, an aesthetics of images is a consequence of constant, numerous uses of digital technology that influence the production of art and the resulting artworks. Bruce Sterling’s subsequent comment37 that Bridle’s New Aesthetic objects are rhizomatic derives from Deleuze’s and Guattari’s notion of the rhizome as a metaphor for multiple entry points and representations of information into life, but Sterling goes beyond their conception by asserting the phenomenological independence of New Aesthetic objects. The digital rhizome is nowadays dispersed and hidden, opaque in its nature.

In the modern world, as technology drives the evolution of media, it reforms the intersection of aesthetic autonomy. Florian Cramer defined “the post-digital” which “stands in opposition to the quasiteleological and linear understanding of technological progress that is centred around narratives of innovation, efficiency, disruption etc.”38 High tech does not necessarily stand for high quality, and the post-digital is not connected with digital media and computational devices. It is an attitude that deconstructs the concept of new media, referring to “a state in which the disruption brought upon by digital information technology has already occurred.”39 Moreover, emerging artists nowadays choose material regarding a form of practical exploration instead of perfection – the digital glitch and the grain, dust and scratches are embraced. Cramer called this a “post-digital hacker attitude”. 40 For example, the artist Rosa Menkman describes her artistic practice in producing glitch art as “uncanny and sublime”. “I manipulate, bend and break any medium towards the point where it becomes something new.”41 An aesthetic is an attempt, an approach, a pointing method, an ushering process, an ongoing changing.

30 According to urban dictionary, this saying is from a Chinese idiom. It simply means there are a lot of people in a place, which is very crowded. It is usually used to describe a big event or a scene.

31 Flash memory is a type of floating-gate memory that was invented at Toshiba in 1980, based on EEPROM technology. Toshiba commercially introduced flash memory to the market in 1987 32 Contreras-Koterbay& Mirocha, 2016 p.75

33 Deborah J. Haynes 1995

34 Michel Foucault: Ethics 1981

35 James Bridle: “The term is used to describe the increasing presence in the physical world of such visual phenomena rooted in digital technology and the internet, in an effort to describe the increasing proliferation of visual languages dependent on selfgenerative computational structures rather than on natural language.” (The new aesthetic and art p10)

36 Bridle, 2013, p11

37 Bruce Sterling, An Essay on the New Aesthetic 2012

38 Cramer, ‘What is “Post-digital?’, p. 10.

39 Cramer, ‘What is “Post-digital?’, p. 12.

40 Cramer, ‘What is “Post-digital?’, p. 13.

41 Menkman, 2008 on her website: http://rosa-menkman.blogspot.com/search/label/GlitchStudiesManifesto