james bridle



“James Bridle talks about literature and storytelling when everything has become digital, the construction of knowledge and collaborating with robots. Ham, spam, word salad, and what is important in a tent.”

Instagram is all about death. The 70s filters our parents used, artifacts of cameras we’ve never held. Nostalgia is the negation of death, it proves we are still living even without an identifiable future. Instagram is a machine for producing instant nostalgia, a ward against death.
—  James Bridle
It embodies so many of the qualities of the network. Sight at a distance, action at a distance, and it’s invisible. I started thinking about it as an emanation of the network itself—not just a surveillance platform, but a dark mirror.

James Bridle, cited by Andrew Blum, on the drone as a central metaphor for the new aesthetic, in The New Aesthetic: James Bridle’s Drones and Our Invisible, Networked World

An Essay on the New Aesthetic - Bruce Sterling via Wired.com

Bruce Sterling sat in on a SxSW panel on The New Aesthetic, and has a lot of observations:

Bruce Sterling via Wired.com

I must try to explain the New Aesthetic to a wondering mankind. Everybody who attempts this seems to hope and feel that the New Aesthetic must be a private solution to their own personal creative problems. Well, I myself don’t believe that. As a creative who mostly types a lot of words in a row, I have some other personal creative problems. I do think the New Aesthetic offers solutions to some of London’s modern problems. That would be a big deal in itself.

The “New Aesthetic” is a native product of modern network culture. It’s from London, but it was born digital, on the Internet. The New Aesthetic is a “theory object” and a “shareable concept.”

The New Aesthetic is “collectively intelligent.” It’s diffuse, crowdsourcey, and made of many small pieces loosely joined. It is rhizomatic, as the people at Rhizome would likely tell you. It’s open-sourced, and triumph-of-amateurs. It’s like its logo, a bright cluster of balloons tied to some huge, dark and lethal weight.

He goes on to say that The New Aesthetic is telling the truth, is culturally agnostic, is comprehensible, is deep, is contemporary, is temporal, requires close attention, is constructive, and is generational. But The New Aesthetic is also a

gaudy, network-assembled heap. It’s made of digitized jackstraws that were swept up by a generational sensibility. The products of a “collective intelligence” rarely make much coherent sense.

It was grand work to find and assemble this New Aesthetic wunderkammer, but a heap of eye-catching curiosities don’t constitute a compelling worldview. Look at all of them: Information visualization. Satellite views. Parametric architecture. Surveillance cameras. Digital image processing. Data-mashed video frames. Glitches and corruption artifacts. Voxelated 3D pixels in real-world geometries. Dazzle camou. Augments. Render ghosts. And, last and least, nostalgic retro 8bit graphics from the 1980s.

Sterling characterizes this as an avante garde movement taking shape in a postmodernist context where it was supposed to be impossible to have an avante garde. But we have left the postmodern behind – a reality that Sterling doesn’t touch on. We are in the time of postfuturism, where all our plans, and dreams of the future, never reached. We’ve slipped under the barbed wire and surveillance cameras of post modernism, and into a time of New Aesthetics.

Sterling pins The New Aesthetic in time by contrasting it with post-modernism, surrealism, situationalism, futurism. It’s just another ism, waiting to be forgotten after stirring things up a little, and then becoming just another page in Wikipedia. He says it could and should reach out more to the straits, it should have wider horizons, be more attuned to the impact it might have on others.

It feels like Sterling wants this new, inchoate, and bottom-up networked effort to be more self-aware, more finished, more graspable.

But me, I like the mess and uncertainty, the piles of debris, and the fractured, jigsaw-puzzle metaphysics lurking in there.

Space is a really bad metaphor for the internet. We’ve used “cyberspace” and stuff for a while but actually it’s not a good way of thinking about it. The internet is not a space– and the good way to think about that is then trying to think of what public space would be like on the internet. There is no such thing as public space on the internet. And actually internet is not a space, the network is not a space, It’s like a whole other dimension… time, space, and the network… that we have to think about very differently.
—  James Bridle’s talk “We found love in a coded space”

Great, inspiring talk on technological developments.

And how a significant part of the problems currently emerging around the intermingling of the digital and the real is based on linguistics and ontological philosophy that’s thoroughly lacking in the public debate.


James Bridle (London, 1980), The Light of God (2012). “

(…) and then we do something called the Light of God - the Marines like to call it the Light of God. (…) We just send out a beam of laser and when the troops put on their night vision goggles they’ll just see this light that looks like it’s coming from heaven. Right on the spot, coming out of nowhere, from the sky. It’s quite beautiful." 

This is a quote from a drone pilot from the movie ‘5.000 Feet is the Best’ by Israelian artist Omer Fast. James Bridle couldn’t find a photo of the 'Light of God’ and decided to create one himself. The image consists of the war aesthetic we have been witnessing since the CNN broadcast of the first Gulf War, and has a likening to Walter de Maria’s 'Lightning Field’. 

James Bridle is a political artist and activist who in image, word and action tries to disclose the consequences of new technologies. Drones are to Bridle a symbol of the complexity of modern network technologies, that give us more opportunities but also grow more incomprehensible and dangerous. 

"There is something about the notion of being piloted by absence that is tremendously dread engendering.” China Miéville.


New Aesthetic. Research & Ideas.

James Bridle Conference 2013

Published on 22 Aug 2013

The world is shaped by new technologies, but perhaps it is shaped more by how we understand those technologies, how they impact our daily lives, and the mental models we have of them. James will talk about architectural visualisation, online literatures, contemporary warfare and contemporary labour, in an attempt to articulate new ways of thinking about the world.James Bridle is a writer, artist and technologist based in London, UK. He exhibits and speaks worldwide on the subjects of literature and technology, networks and culture. In 2011, he coined the term “New Aesthetic”, and his ongoing research around this subject has been featured and discussed worldwide


In Conversation: Jaron Lanier and James Bridle On Who Owns the Future? (by The School of Life)

James Bridle on the Canon Drone

James Bridle was artist in residence for the Visible Futures lab at the School of Visual Arts, and is interested in all things drone. He looked into the most widely seen image for drone (#1 result on Google searches) and determined that its a photoshop job:

from One Visible Future

The Canon Drone does not exist, it never has. It is computer generated rendering of a drone, a fiction. It flies over an abstracted landscape - although perhaps the same one as another canonical image, thisPredator in flight, which, while unmarked, at least appears worn enough to be believable.

Where does the image originate? As the default drone photo, it is endlessly reproduced without attribution. It appears in Google Image searches for 2009, but not for 2008 - although I’m unsure how reliable this dating is. I’ve hit a wall in finding out more.

I think: the Canon Drone is emblematic of the liminal, self-obfuscating essence of the UAV, and all of our noumenal infrastructures. The most widely reproduced image of this most illegible of our contemporary technologies is itself a dream.


James Bridle ‘A New Aesthetic for the Digital Age’


James Bridle, ‘On the Rainbow Plane’, a talk:

For his residency at the White Building, James Bridle will be investigating the relationships between the public understanding of technology and networks, and the classification of people and things performed by technologies. He will explore the embedded politics, from the technological gaze to data shadows, immigration, deportation, and rendition. James’ lecture will illustrate and discuss the issues which underlie this work, together with new works undertaken as part of the residency.

The explanation of rainbow planes is within the first few minutes, before moving on to renderings (of more than one type).