Algorithmic Surrealism: The New Aesthetic and the Networked Avant-Garde

In a 6 May 2011 entry on the Really Interesting Group blog, the London-based designer and member of the “creative classes”, James Bridle coined the term “the New Aesthetic” to describe a collection of images unified by their imbrication of the physical and the digital. This was further elaborated at a SXSW panel the following March at which Bridle, along with Aaron Cope, Ben Terrett, Joanne McNeil and Russell Davies, further elaborated the stakes of this new “theory object”:

One of the core themes of the New Aesthetic has been our collaboration with technology, whether that’s bots, digital cameras or satellites (and whether that collaboration is conscious or unconscious), and a useful visual shorthand for that collaboration has been glitchy or pixellated imagery, a way of seeing that seems to reveal a blurring between “the real” and “the digital”, the physical and the virtual, the human and the machine. It should also be clear that this “look”is a metaphor for understanding and communicating the experience of a world in which the New Aesthetic is increasingly pervasive. (Bridle, March 15, 2012)

Responding to the provocation of the New Aesthetic – which had up until now been largely confined online among South London colleagues of Bridle – cyberpunk author Bruce Sterling wrote in his Wired blog an “essay on the New Aesthetic” which, arguably, set the tone for the debate that would develop about the New Aesthetic in both print and online media. Sterling made a bifurcated claim about the New Aesthetic: that the project enunciated by Bridle was a a new avant-garde, but had serious theoretical aporia. The claim is bifurcated because the two parts of the claim – that the New Aesthetic is an avant-garde and that its concept is not yet adequated to its notion (to speak Hegelese) – depend on one another. I am going to argue that, if Sterling is right, then the New Aesthetic is symptomatic of a deadlock in the notion of the avant-garde today, a deadlock that is at the heart of the question of whether a networked avant-garde is even possible.

When Sterling refers to the New Aesthetic as an avant-garde, he means something fairly specific:

Art movements used to be Left Bank café tables where disaffected creatives quarreled [sic] about headlines in newspapers. “Theory objects” from the Internet are squamous, crabgrass-like entities, where people huddle around swollen, unstable databases. We know more or less how analog art movements once behaved. We don’t yet know much at all about collectively-intelligent theory-object “shareable concepts,” whether they’re worth anything or can deliver anything. Maybe they will brilliantly synergize. Maybe they will ignobly crash. Maybe they’ll have the mayfly lifespans of their hardware support. Maybe they will become things even harder to describe than they are now. (Sterling 2012)

This conjures up the familiar romantic notion of the early twentieth-century avant-gardes: cafés, wine, internecine squabbles and excommunications, scandals etc. And it is possible to name which movement of the early twentieth century Sterling is alluding to, not the least because he refers to it by name at several points in his essay: Surrealism. Sterling makes the assertion that the New Aesthetic is Surrealism in the age of Tumblr and Google Maps. (Whether Surrealism was the New Aesthetic in the age of the telephone, cinema and the gas-mask is another question.) What are his reasons for doing so? Is Surrealism being used as a template for a generic “avant-garde” (as though the behaviour of the surrealists was analogous to the behaviour of the Futurists in Italy or the Constructivists in the Soviet Union, for example) or is there a specificity to the New Aesthetic that links it to the artistic production of the Surrealist group?

Sterling’s first explicit comparison of the New Aesthetic to Surrealism is not particularly flattering, noting that the typical works that are grouped under the former’s rubric are more easily assimilable by the general public than the ostensibly more disturbing productions of the latter: “The New Aesthetic is comprehensible. It’s easier to perceive than, for instance, the ‘surrealism’ of a fur-covered teacup. Your Mom could get it. It’s funny. It’s pop. It’s transgressive and punk. Parts of it are cute” (Sterling 2012). On the one hand, this is a statement about the nature of the New Aesthetic: that the Freudian dream objects and exquisite corpse games, the deliberate hermeticism espoused by Breton or the “writhing piece of star gristle” that is the work of Artaud (Eshleman 43) are to be distinguished from the “flatter”, affectless productions of the New Aesthetic. (As Frederic Jameson put it in a different context, “surrealism without an unconscious.”)1 On the other hand, this might be taken as an indication of the New Aesthetic’s ambiguous relation to the question of recuperation that has haunted the avant-garde from its inception. Certainly, this is the famous argument of Peter Bürger’s 1974 Theory of the Avant-Garde, a theory finessed by Paul Mann’s Theory-Death of the Avant-Garde which suggested a more generalized problem insofar as, according to Mann, the avant-garde actively embraced its recuperation as a way of preserving the truth of its notion.2

Where does the New Aesthetic stand in terms of the question of recuperation, of the avant-garde’s complicity with the capitalist drive towards constant innovation? The collective authors of the short book New Aesthetic, New Anxieties that emerged from the 2012 Dutch Electronic Arts Fair make this admission that anyone interested in the New Aesthetic cannot help but have at the back of their minds:

Let’s be frank, there is an urgent need to interrogate computational processes, but Bridle’s kitsch affection for thinking machines is ultimately underpinned by a political naivety that could perhaps only be maintained by the creative classes. The socio-political asymmetries perpetuated by data-mining, the privatized social graph, facial recognition technologies, drone attacks and camouflage are swept aside by the positive message to make the world “more exciting, make it better”… (Berry et. al. 13)

That the New Aesthetic is riddled with a certain wilful blindness about its own political aporia, even when these aporia have been pointed out to them, is a problem that everyone is willing to admit, if only so far as to admit that it is a problem. Obviously this is an immediate point of difference between Surrealism and the New Aesthetic: if the group of people around Breton eventually harnessed their taste for Dadaist outrage and insult to their joining the PCF – a highly contested move not only by members of the surrealists but also by the Communist Party – we should note that it was doing so that the Surrealists managed – to use Leninist phraseology – to connect mere aesthetic adventurism into actual avant-gardism. As is well-known, this did not end particularly well, but this desire that the aesthetic and the political make a common cause under the axiom of universal emancipation is not to be dismissed, à la Robert Hughes in The Shock of the New, as some variety of intellectual hubris on the part of Breton. If the surrealists, whoever quixotically, attempted to evade recuperation – the Manifestos containing long ad hominem denunciations of any artists who danced too closely with Mammon for Breton’s taste – the New Aesthetic makes no overt distinction between art works, commercially-available and mass-produced objects or military hard and software. One suspects that for Bridle et al, this distinction is beside the point; the New Aesthetic has clearly read the history of the twentieth century avant-garde, and has laudably chosen not to rehearse its sordid compromise. The compromise – and this is less laudable – is overtly inscribed in its very nature.

Sterling makes one last invocation of the surrealists in his essay which relates directly to the question of the aporia of the avant-garde:

Our hardware is changing our lives far more profoundly than anything that we ever did to ourselves intentionally. We should heed the obvious here and get used to the situation. We should befriend one another under that reality. We should try to see what that means.

People have tried such things before. The Surrealists once valourized the “imagination of the unconscious.” But, as the Situationists pointed out, a generation later: the imagination of the unconscious is impoverished.

Valourizing machine-generated imagery is like valourizing the unconscious mind. Like Surrealist imagery, it is cool, weird, provocative, suggestive, otherworldly, but it is also impoverished. (Sterling 2012)

Sterling goes on to note that it was the mediation of the unconscious by the conscious that gave Surrealism its aesthetic authority, and that the New Aesthetic has to explore, not so much the dream-life of technology, but the waking dreams of the human use and co-development of and with these technological imaging devices.

Sterling, I want to argue, obliquely gets to one of the central things at stake with the New Aesthetic, which is its symptomal value in an analysis of the possibility of a networked avant-garde. Let us, experimentally, assume that the New Aesthetic is, in fact, a modern-day iteration of Surrealism, taken here, as above, as the paradigmatic example of the avant-garde. The Situationist issue with Surrealism was, as Sterling notes, its “impoverishment.” Raoul Vaneigem begins his deliberately skewed analysis of the visual art-photographic-poetic-cinematic movement by leaving no doubt as to assessment: “Surrealism belongs to one of the terminal phases in the crisis of culture” (3). What, Vaneigem argues, Surrealism lacked was the Situationist theory of “culture’s entanglement with the organization of the spectacle” (5); as a result, the Surrealist rejection of bourgeois culture that it inherited from Dada was doomed to failure, that is, co-optation. That key weapon in the Situationist arsenal – the concept of the spectacle – “corresponds,” as Guy Debord noted, “to the historical moment at which the the commodity completes its colonization of social life. It is not just that the relationship to commodities is now plain to see – commodities are now all that there is to see; the world we see is the world of the commodity” (29). Because Surrealism was bound to a cultural, but nevertheless inescapable, complicity with the totalization of the commodity-form, its eventual submission to market imperatives was encoded in its DNA:

Today, Surrealism is all around us in its co-opted forms – as consumer goods, art works, advertizing techniques, alienating images, cult objects, religious paraphernalia and what have you. As much as odds as some of these multifarious forms may seem to be with the spirit of Surrealism, what i have been seeking to convey is that Surrealism indeed “contained” them all from the beginning, just as Bolshevism was “fated” to generate the Stalinist state. (Vaneigem 127)

Whether one agrees with the latter claim about Stalinism or not,the remark that Surrealism was, in a sense, an agent of capitalist domination despite itself strongly connects with the fate of the avant-garde outlined above; as Mann puts it, “in culture, every exit is a revolving door” (107).

Where does the New Aesthetic stand in relation to this cultural landscape in which exemplary moments of refusal and contestation – of which Surrealism provides, let us be clear, numerous resources – are refigured as just further addition to culture’s war-plan. In a sense, the New Aesthetic adopts a number of strategies, and, simultaneously, none at all. For one thing, it is a peculiar feature of the New Aesthetic – whose name signals that this is a movement of art first and foremost, however imbricated with science and technology – is that it has very little sense of itself or the works that it declares to be exemplia as autonomous, as art objects per se. Which is to say, that the New Aesthetic tends to rely a great deal on what one assumes to be a studied ambiguity as to what the status of its image repertoire is. This goes beyond questions of whether the Bridle’s image-cache represents a curation or a collection,3 but more as to the topic of ontology: what is the precise ontological nature of the New Aesthetic image?

Choosing an example at random from the New Aesthetic Tumblr, we come across this image (fig. 1).

Image

Attributed to the Twitter account of @MPSinthesky (the Twitter account that provides surveillance updates from London, UK Metropolitan Police Service helicopters), the image is captioned “Using a camera/map we can pinpoint the exact location of the suspect and send units in to arrest. #losethelaser.”4 The first thing to note about this image is that it is not, strictly speaking, fine art photography; the purpose of this image has less to do with the exploration of form and colour as it has to do with demonstrating the effectiveness of a metropolitan police service’s surveillance technologies. Indeed, it is hard to determine any innate aesthetic qualities or merit in the image at all. (This is not the case, it must be admitted, with all of the images collected on the Tumblr.) What do we see in this picture? The top two frames of the four-frame “work” are images of the MPS helicopter, tracking and documenting some allegedly “suspect”/criminal act. (Note that there is at least a putative acknowledgement of innocence before proof of malfeasance, which is nice of them.) The flash of green laser light provides much of the visual pleasure here, as it serves to illuminate the two vans seen in night vision on the lower left panel of the tetraptych, whose precise location is shown on the GPS map to its immediate right. What makes this a New Aesthetic image? (Which is to say, what warrants its inclusion in the series/Tumblr collection?) Note that the image is distinctly and very deliberately abstracted from its context: to begin with, information as to where or when this image was produced has been redacted by, aptly enough, by midnight blue rectangles. To a degree, this allows it to be the object of aesthetic delectation; its use-value is subordinated to its capability to produce a “profane illumination.”5 However, its abstraction from the scene of its production is not a deliberately aestheticizing manouever, but a legal requirement; the London Metropolitan Police are unlikley to have included provisions for art-making in their budgets, but they are required by law to protect the identity of persons only suspected of criminal activities. In a sense, the ability to appreciate this image as an aesthetic image is connected to its decontextualization, that is, the intentional bracketing of the image’s quality as evidence of a putative crime in favour of some other qualities.

But what are these qualities? As a found image, it might be the twenty-first century equivalent of Breton et al trawling the flee markets of Paris looking for dream and/or fetish objects. These objects corresponded to an inflamed desire of the surrealist gaze. So the legitimate question to ask about the surveillance image under discussion is: what desire did it invoke in its capturer? This is not a question of a particular pathologized subjectivity, but a question about the New Aesthetic more generally: what is its desire, and what does this desire generate? On the question of desire, Bridle suggests that the New Aesthetic is not the name of a desire connected to any particular local or group subjectivity, but is rather the desire of a socius, the name of a desire that expresses itself in the technologically imbricated world in which “we” live. The New Aesthetic image, then, is the residue of this widespread desire for an technologically “augmented reality,” but in what sense? Clearly, and again unlike the surrealist found image or object, the New Aesthetic image does not function as a the materialization of the Freudian dreamwork, not being part of a particular pathology or unconscious. Curt Cloninger’s polemical “Manifesto for a Theory of the ‘New Aesthetic’” describes the image thusly:

The New Aesthetic image is like outsider art incidentally created by systems.

The New Aesthetic is indifferent to mimesis. The NA image is not the re-presentation of an object. The NA image is the incidental residue of the performance or enactment of a process. The process never intentionally alters itself in order to achieve its ‘goal’ of the NA image. The NA image is a trace, a remnant, a remainder, a residue, a (potential) clue. The ‘subject’ of the NA image … is the process itself. In this sense, the New Aesthetic is akin to process art, if we substitute ‘world’ for ‘studio’ and ‘human/nonhuman entanglements for artist.’ … [The NA image] reveals more about the processes and systems that ‘produced’ it than it does about itself. (5, emphasis added)

For Cloninger, the New Aesthetic image is, like outsider art, not so much indifferent to the digital aesthetics as it is completely unaware of them; like the London police helicopter image, the questions of aesthetics are not part of what might be called the New Aesthetic image’s self-concept. (That this is an aspect of all New Aesthetic images, some of which are images of artworks produced by artists in the context of art galleries etc. is not so sure. Clonginger’s essay is a “manifesto”; his purpose is polemical and prescriptive: this is what the New Aesthetic should look like.) Most interesting is the question of residue that has come up before. The image is the “trace,” “remnant”, or “remainder” of “the performance of enactment of a process,” hence its proximity to process art. However, the “art” part, as it were, is bracketed as something incidental, a claim which is very strange for an “aesthetic” to make, in which the image is a byproduct – in our example, the process is the state surveillance of its territory for the detection of unwanted behaviours as they are/before they are committed. On the one hand, this places the New Aesthetic Image in a subordinate position; it is merely a residue, the thing that we can see, while the real interest is elsewhere. On the other hand, this re-aestheticizes the New Aesthetic as the technological development of process art – an mode of operation more closely associated with the neo-avant-gardes of the 1950s and 1960s than with the “heroic” avant-gardes of the pre-World War II.

Which is the point at which the elephant in the room, that is, the “political aporia” of the New Aesthetic must be faced, however reluctantly. Reluctantly, because the New Aesthetic seems possessed of a curious naivety about the horizons of its politics. On the one hand, it seems to take no interest in anything even remotely political; on the other hand, there is a deliberately attenuated form of political thinking that seems to function iconically rather than substantively. The question of the New Aesthetic’s political trajectory – I think it is still too soon to really credit it as an “ambivalence,” since the internal articulations are not even sufficiently advanced to be called “ambivalent” – is exacerbated by its link to the neo-avant-gardes. In the polemic between Peter Bürger and Hal Foster over the truth of the neo-avant-gardes – whether they were a true extension of the early twentieth century avant-gardes or merely a lifeless simulacrum of techniques with neither context nor transformative power – what was at was the efficacy of the neo-avant-gardes in the transformation of the socius through artistic practice.6 This problem replicates itself in the New Aesthetic. To return to our example: what social application does this image taken by the London Police helecopter enact? The entire debate around the uses of surveillance technologies are being alluded to here, but they are also being eluded as well; given the erosion of the reasonable expectation of privacy, a deliberate erosion that resulted in the scandals of 2011 that involved Rupert Murdoch’s Sun Media empire, the Cameron government and, yes, the London Metropolitan Police (culminating in prosecutions and resignations), is there something ethically unpleasant about the sort of tech-sublime that this image seems to be reaching for? As is often asked of the New Aesthetic Tumblr, is the uneasiness that has accompanied, in some sectors of the population, the transformation of the polis into heavily monitored zones of corporate and state control taken as a given – that is, will our response to this particular image expected to be one of outrage, therefore requiring no further comment. As Paul Virilio might have asked: Is this a collection of technological achievements or accidents?7

The question of the New Aesthetic image as accident connects directly to its status as avant-garde and further relates to the question of what a contemporary networked avant-garde would look like. Virilio and the German media philosopher Friedrich Kittler have both speculated on the conceptual collusion between the artistic and militaristic advance guard. Discussing Paul Mann’s Theory-Death of the Avant-Garde, literary scholar Jed Rasula elaborates a potential counter-history of the avant-garde’s “isomorphic resonance” between the arts and the state:

We might fruitfully consider, for instance, that symbolic juncture of 1848, when the incipient vanguard (in the person of Baudelaire) takes to the streets in civil discord. The rites of coercive nationalism, undertaken in a spirit of post-revolutionary paranoia, consolidate the bourgeoisie, which in turn becomes chief target of artistic insolence (or its variant, aesthetic disavowal of worldliness). A more fully historicized thesis … might consider the bourgeoisie not simply as an emergent socioeconomic class enfranchised shortly before the avant-garde rose to protest its ascendency, but rather as that class consolidated by nation-states mobilizing for “pure war.” Such a thesis would have to study the early penetration of the armaments industry into modes of industrial production; and it would be imperative to recognize that “industry” has been virtually synonymous with militarization. This would compel recognition that the continuity of the avant-garde may well be dependent on a continuum of historical dominants, a series of wars: 1870, 1914, 1935, 1939, 1964, 1991. The avant-garde, in this light, would be a mutinous revolt; but the source of the mutiny might arise from the premonition of the civilian populace unwittingly recruited (in an ongoing lifelong draft) for military ends. (185-186)

As Rasula admits, this is a projective “fantasy” of another book, and we will not attempt to produce it here. The main point that we wish to emphasize here is the nuance that Rasula adds to the overhasty move from noting that technologies tend to be developed for military application before they achieve broader usage throughout the socio-cultural spheres to claiming that these spheres are in collusion with their military uses, as Kittler and Virilio sometimes tend to do. In this sense, there is a politics of a sort to the New Aesthetic, in which the imbrication of the digital and the social is revealed to do little more than provide the wealthier segments of the terrestrial population with more intriguing commodities and modes of control over the other segments of the population who cannot afford, say, Google Glasses. The lack of overt political commentary might then be construed as a commentary on the ubiquity of surveillance and the totality of our dependence on information technologies whose imbrications with the lifeworld seem to exceed our conceptual ability. Hence a technological sublime, in the Kantian supersensible substrate in which percepts exceed the limit of concepts.

And yet the question of the sublime in the New Aesthetic is not so clear. For one thing, the conceptual aspects of the New Aesthetic are only all-too clear; there is no suspension of concept that accompanies the sublime per se. However, Jean-François Lyotard’s essay “The Sublime and the Avant-Garde notes that sublime is the link between the avant-garde and the capitalist bourgeoisie against which the former mutinies: “… [T]here is a kind of collusion between capital and the avant-garde. The force of scepticism and even of destruction that capitalism has brought into play, and that Marx never ceased analyzing and identifying, in some way encourages among artists a mistrust of established rules and a willingness to experiment with means of expression, with styles, with ever-new materials. There is something of the sublime in the capitalist economy” (105). It is in this sense that the avant-garde, like contemporary digital capitalism, must necessarily be constituted by networks. As Michael Betancourt notes, “[t]he potential for full automation emerges with the development of digital automation, one where human labour – human agency – becomes a wasted value, and which the ‘new aesthetic’ documents” (np). Thus, to answer a question posed earlier in this essay, the New Aesthetic is a collection of the accidents of digital capitalism, the networked nature of which is made physical (Betancourt’s “immaterial physicality”) as rem(a)inder in this aesthetic. The limits of the News Aesthetic may thus be articulated in two ways: the limits of aesthetic politics that subsumes the specificitites of the economic and the limits of networked politics as such. How this deadlock might be broken is one of the most urgent facing contemporary art and politics, on which the future possibilities of the avant-garde depend.

Works Cited

Betancourt, Michael. “Automated Labour: The ‘New Aesthetic’ and Immaterial Physicality.” Ctheory 2 May 2013. http://www.ctheory.net/articles.aspx?id=717. Web. 7 July 2013.

Berry, David; van Dartel, Michel; Dieter, Michael et. al. New Aesthetic, New Anxieties. No publication data, http://v2.nl/publishing/new-aesthetic-new-anxieties 2012. Print.

Bridle, James. “The New Aesthetic.” Really Interesting Group. http://www.riglondon.com/blog/2011/05/06/the-new-aesthetic/, 6 May 2011. Web.

Cloninger, Curt. “Manifesto for a Theory of the ‘New Aesthetic’.” Mute 3 October 2012. http://www.metamute.org/editorial/articles/manifesto-theory-‘new-aesthetic’. Web. Accessed 4 July 2013.

Debord, Guy. The Society of the Spectacle. Trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith. New York: Zone Books, 1995. Print.

Eshleman, Clayton. “Introduction.” Watchfiends and Rack Screams: Works from the Final Period of Antonin Artaud. Trans. Clayton Eshleman with Bernard Bador. Boston: Exact Change, 1995. 1-48. Print.

Jameson, Frederic. Postmodernism: Or, The Logic of Late Capitalism. Durham, N.C.; Duke UP, 1990. Print.

Lyotard, Jean-François. “The Sublime and the Avant-Garde.” The Inhuman: Reflections on Time. Trans. Geoffrey Bennington and Rachel Bowlby. Stanford: UP, 1991. 89-108. Print.

Mann, Paul. The Theory-Death of the Avant-Garde. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana UP, 1991. Print.

Rasula, Jed. “Every Day Another Vanguard.” Syncopations: The Stress of Innovation in Contemporary American Poetry. Tuscaloosa: U of Alabama P, 2004. 180-207. Print.

Sterling, Bruce. “An Essay on the New Aesthetic”, Beyond the Beyond. http://www.wired.com/beyond_the_beyond/2012/04/an-essay-on-the-new-aesthetic/, 2 April 2012. Web.

Vaneigem, Raoul. (“J-F Dupuis”). A Cavalier History of Surrealism. Trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith. Edinburgh, London, San Francisco: AK Press, 1999. Print.

Endnotes

1 From Jameson’s essay “Surrealism Without the Unconscious” in his Postmodernism book, in which he discusses the emergence of video art and new media more generally in ways that make his essay obviously proximate to our concerns here – in particular the injunction that new media be granted “simultaneous attention to the multiple dimensions of the material, the social and the aesthetic” (65).

There is a further point that should be addressed, which is the manner of discourse by which the New Aesthetic likes to convey itself (and in which Sterling’s essay participates) which is the self-conscious sprezzatura that we expect to see in Facebook likes, Twitter updates and, yes, blogposts. Too often this generates a “Gee Whiz” effect that can be more than a little off-putting at times (particularly when the author – no names will be proffered – seems to have a sense that his territory is being encroached on, and that petulance is the best option in such a circumstance. The pronoun is deliberate; it is almost always a “he.”) There is, it must be admitted, something a bit crap about some of the artifacts and images collected under the New Aesthetic’s rubric, in addition to the throught-provoking work that is the focus of this essay.

2“At every level, the avant-garde must oppose the status quo and still serve its needs: to be avant-garde is to be torn apart and emptied by this dilemma. Avant-garde discourse is the means by which the very possibility of cultural difference can be captured and cancelled by such double-binds” (Mann 46).

3In the New Aesthetics, New Anxieties book, an entire section is devoted to to the question of the whether a Tumblr account can be curated, whether there is a difference between grouping interesting images together has any curatorial merit, or, indeed, whether an online exhibition really makes any true sense as an exhibition in the first place. On the whole, the answers are not entirely flattering to Bridle who at times appears to serve as a straw man for critics (and curators) uneasiness for the apparent dispersal of the curator-function throughout the non-arts-professional public. As Simon Reynolds notes: “From the late seventeenth century, [the term ‘curator’] started to refer to the custodian of a library, museum or archive – any kind of collection maintained by a cultural-heritage institution. As the private amassing of cultural artifacts has become more and more widespread, it could be said that rather a lot of us have become curators of a sort, albeit with no professional training or sense of obligation to the public and a completely idiosyncratic policy in terms of ‘acquisitions.’ Still, quite a few famous museums began as the private collections of aristocrats and antiquarians, while many private collectors approach their area of obsession with a systematic thoroughness.” Retromania: Pop Culture’s Addiction to Its Own Past. New York: Faber and Faber, 2011, p. 131.

5“Profane illumination” is how Walter Benjamin contemporaneously described the surrealist image. In this sense, surrealism may be to language what the New Aesthetic may be to computer code.

6Cf. Peter Bürger’s summing-up of the polemic in “Avant-Garde and Neo-Avant-Garde: An Attempt to Answer Certain Critics of Theory of the Avant-Garde” trans. Bettina Brandt and Daniel Purdy. NHL 41 (2010): 695-715.

7Paul Virilio, discussing “the technical object” with Sylvère Lotringer, notes that the object’s “accident is the awareness we have of it. If we are not aware of the accident, we are not aware of the object; thus the technological crisis.” Pure War: Twenty-Five Years Later. Trans. Mark Polizzotti et al. Los Angeles: Semiotext(e). 2008, 134.

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