Bridling at James Bridle

Bruce Sterling and the "art & technology" websites have gone gaga over James Bridle's theory of a new aesthetic called -- ready? -- "The New Aesthetic." I watched an excruciating video (hat tip Paddy) where the fast-talkin' Bridle puts it all together for us and made some notes:

I've been blogging this kind of stuff for over 10 years - but I promise I will never force anyone to watch all of it in a 50 minute lecture.

Bridle's thesis: pixelation, polygon skins, facile XYZ data visualizations (such as the techno-sculpture in a public square that supposedly tracks movements of a Pacific buoy in real time) is a "new aesthetic."

I've taken stabs at this kind of "digital by-product" theorizing over the years (see Wireframe Aesthetics) but have tried to avoid spinning a grand narrative about it.

Bridle is essentially an advertising pitch-man here, employing persuasive rhetoric that never stops to question its own fervor.

He "aggregates" 120 images from art, ads, satellite imagery and constructs a bold new vision narrative around them.

He rarely distinguishes between a "way of seeing" (his favorite phrase - hello, John Berger) and a style choice by highly savvy design and advertising folk (or slick artists who are 90% designers).

Bridle equates pervasive pixel imagery with nostalgia for games but also "insistent futurism." How is it the latter?

He says little about pixelation/glitch as decay, breakdown, failure. This stuff has real world consequences, it's not just a look.

"Pixel art" as a pop or folk genre has been around for years (on sites like

Bridle also seems to have just discovered CAD architecture.

Billboard of Facebook "like" symbol "makes us question what happens when we like or poke someone" - no, it doesn't.

"Making The Cloud visible" and beautiful through data center building design - this is just a pitch.

Gerhard Richter has been painting color sample charts since the '70s, at least. Why bring him into this?

Google map pixelation - Olia Lialina covered this. (I sound like Bridle in that post but I was being bitterly ironic.)

Face recognition is "adding an extra layer of vision." OK, but so much of it doesn't work yet. Such statements fellate tech industries prematurely rolling out products.

Recognition programs aren't failed, racist: they're a "different way of seeing" - cool!

"Computers are increasingly evolving on their own." No, they're not.

"Vagaries of the GPS system" is a nice way of saying iPhone tracking is flawed.

Using a pic that wasn't "meant" to be part of a before-and-after satellite view isn't new to the digital era. Such techniques are a well-known tool of astronomy. See Precovery.

The "Hawkeye" in sports (crowd watches computer replay) is no different from a crowd watching an arena rock band on a giant vid screen instead of the tiny figures onstage, a phenom has been around since the '70s. This is "new"? "Digital"?

Evan Roth finger-paintings of touchscreen gestures recycles the "mouse gesture as AbEx art" trope - rather old and overdone at this point.

Bridle keeps talking about "bleed-throughs" in "ways of seeing." We know there are bleed-throughs, what we need is understanding of them. Mass data dumps like this lecture don't help.

Conclusion: "We want this [world of ghosts and fake people]"

"Willingness, friendliness to engage with technology" - Ted Kaczynski squirms in his prison cell.