Interview with Michel van Dartel


by Joris van Ballegooijen, June 20, 2012

Michel van Dartel is curator and project manager at V2_, he also researched knowledge representation in robot models of cognition and holds a PhD in Artificial Intelligence and an MSc in Cognitive Psychology. This week he participates in the booksprint Fiddling While Rome Burns.

JvB: Can you say something about the text you are writing for the book?

MvD: In my chapter I will go back to the root of the New Aesthetic, theTumblr-site of James Bridle, and his blog. I wonder if the observations that people post there belong in the same ‘bucket’ as the artworks that are referred to. Basically the New Aesthetics-Tumblr is a collection of ‘stuff’ which shows how online digital culture has burst out into the physical realm. It is a very varied mix of stuff. There are things that people have stumbled upon in their environment, like advertisements that have glitches, or pixelated-images, examples of military camouflage that looks like pixels. But there are also some artworks that intentionally make a point about the difference between online artifacts and behaviors, and physical artifacts and behavior, and how these sometimes seem to clash, or have a problematic relation. I think that the artworks that make such a point, that are a statement about the relation between the virtual and the physical realm, are very different from the others things that have accidentally happened or that people have just stumbled upon, and which are referred to on the New Aesthetics Tumblr. But I am still in the phase of structuring the chapter, so I can’t put down my exact argument yet. In fact I am trying to formulate what I thought and felt when I first looked at the New Aesthetics Tumblr: does this artwork really fit in with all this other stuff?

The group is quite diverse. You are one of the curators, others have an academic background. How is it to write as a curator amidst such a group?

There is definitely a big challenge in bringing together the theoretical and the practical perspective. But it is interesting, and it is good to exchange ideas. How it is beginning to work out in practice is that the theorists frame the problem and the positions. They write the introduction and the concluding chapters. The curators on the other hand fill in the body of the book, taking very concrete examples, writing about specific artworks, discussing them. We also do a close reading of the New Aesthtic-tumblr and blog, by looking at it as an online exhibition.

What for you is the New Aesthetic? And why is it not the New Aesthetics?

Well, the New Aesthetics – as a movement – is actually a bit older than the New Aesthetic of James Bridle’s Tumblr-site. That is something which I, by the way, only found out in the course of this project.

But both have a relation with the digital?

Yes, although the New Aesthetics makes a broader statement about the influence of technology.

Yesterday Nat Muller stated that according to her it is already revolutionary to be able to talk about aesthetics in the context of new media art at all …

That might partly be a result of the current New Aesthetic discussion. Till quite recently new media art was mostly about technology on a screen, and not about technology in the physical realm. So one thing we might write about is the idea of about how technology (for new media art) has moved ‘into world’, and ‘out of the screen’. The question is then, is the New Aesthetic critically assessing this, is it a term that allows us to see this, or is it only a new, handy label for a development which has been happening for a long time already?

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