New edition of 0(rphan)d(rift>) Cyberpositive

A new edition of the 0(rphan)d(rift>) book from 1995, Cyberpositive is out on the 19th of July 2012.

This is a very timely re-issue given the recent vaunting of the ‘New Aesthetic’, which may be interesting insofar as it expresses some digital artists’ felt need for *something* new at the present, but gives the rest of us a sense of weary déjà vu. As McKenzie Wark notes in interview with David Cox, the ‘New’ Aesthetic has been around since the late 80s and early 90s; most of its central themes and tendencies were documented and theorized by, among others, Scott Bukatman in his 1993 book Terminal Identity.

Indeed, it’s astonishing how backwards-looking the New Aesthetic is: the high Modernist ‘machine vision’ trope derived from Dziga Vertov’s ‘kino-eye’ (1923) and T. E. Hulme’s rethinking of Worringer’s ‘tactile vision’ (1924); the obsession with the virtual repeating Wyndham Lewis’ invitation to enter the “transposed abstract universe” of The Cubist Room (1914); the tendency to reveal structure, a commonplace of postmodern fiction since the 1960s; the use of algorithms and bricolage, a faint echo of John Cage’s aleatoric compositions such as Child of Tree (1975); the discovery of ‘glitch’ a simple duplication of, well, glitch, in everything from the visual glitches in The Max Headroom Show (1985) to the glitch techno movement after Basic Channel (1993)…

Of course, to catalogue the antecedents of a current movement is not to deprive it of its newness in combining those influences. But these particular influences have already combined to produce exactly the same aesthetic once before in the 1990s, from when The Silicon Man was first published (1991) to when Mute magazine’s pilot issue appeared (1994), Virtual Futures took place (1994-6) and 0(rphan)d(rift>) published Cyberpositive (1995).

If the popularity of the New Aesthetic does anything positive, it’s to get people talking about aesthetics generally for the first time since the 1920s; though it’s depressing to contemplate the advent of a generation of New Aesthetes. But it also suggests that the mainstream has finally acclimatized to the aesthetic of the mid-1990s. To read Cyberpositive again is like meeting the scarred and tattooed badass older brother of NA, fresh out of prison and hungry to go whoring and scoring. It’s exactly the jab in the arm the NA movement needs.

The book launch is (once again, as it was in 1995) at the Cabinet Gallery in London, from 6pm to 9pm on the 19th July.



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