Sunday, 12 May 2013

'tumblr aesthetic' investigation

I've recently been in touch with contemporary curator Nicholas O'Brien with regards to my investigation into whether such a thing as 'tumblr aesthetic' exists, and what it might be. More than using tumblr to archive research, certain creative groups have certainly begun playing on the inherent homogenized aesthetic that the platform creates; in terms of curation, tumblr kind of makes it difficult to find the authentic, considered content amongst the internet's mass media, and tensions between what is genuine and what is not play an important role within this 'movement'.

A return to the kind of 'original' aesthetic from the early platforms of the 90s has emerged as a trend amongst people thinking about the contemporary implications of 'the digital'. Expanding on and making visually explicit references to globalization and a capitalist 'flattening -out' of culture, online groups like The Jogging play with images that signpost marketing/the artificial in sync with natural imagery (water, grass, the sky etc) as artistic endeavor. It is a complex and slightly mystifying approach to 'art-making' (or at least the visual documentation of exploring culturally relevant ideas about contemporary Western life), but despite its unhelpful mixtures of signs and references,  much of the work is very thought-provoking and interesting to look at. The endless scrolling down of page after page of photoshopped, modern hyrbid objects and images seems to imitate the mindless link-following of modern, online exploration. Amidst the endless opportunities to learn and know more, the very reason for exploration can get lost in cyberspace - which in itself typifies a particularly postmodern kind of activity.

With this in mind, O'Brien's work (and other new media artists, thinkers and writers) becomes particularly more important. Considering the implications of 'the digital' with regards to early 90s art writers such as Miwon Kwon, site-specificity becomes a confused notion - especially when many of us spend most of our time pursuing online achievements and goals. Developing technological tools to find new places online (rather than spaces, see here) might be one of the most healthy things for us to do: in addition to enjoying the natural (non-digital) as landscape, perhaps using the digital as a means of developing a contemporary landscape as a "wrong" place (Kwon, One Place After Another) could be beneficial.

Either way, an acknowledgement of 'tumblr aesthetic' as a means of recognising tensions between the natural and the digital is fascinating - even if it occasionally comes across as a kind of 'in-joke' amongst those who feel they have an advanced, cynical cultural insight. It is difficult to explain. But I'd like to keep researching.

The below link will take you to an article and discussion which further explores these ideas (it is a bit confusing):

Thank you to Nicholas for the generous and helpful insights given via email.