James Bridle’s “Where The F**k Was I?” (2011) is a book containing 202 maps depicting his movements over the previous year. The maps were produced using OpenStreetMap (2004) to plot the secret location database that iPhones (2007) had been discovered to be keeping (April 2011). It is printed as a hardback book using Lulu (2002), although images from it can be seen on flickr (2004).
In writing about this project, Bridle reflects on the impact of discovering that he was being spied on and takes this as a leaping off point for wider and deeper reflection on the nature of memory and of the mediation of experience by technology. In doing so he discusses contemporary art, contemporary literature, and contemporary cybercultural theory.
I would like to make two points about this project.
The first is that it would have been impractical before 2007, and unnecessary before 2011. I appreciate that in the 1990s JODI were multi-billion-dollar companies profiting from pervasive digital devices and logistics that meant the virtual tail of the military-industrial-fashion complex was wagging the actual dog of society in ways that were bleeding through into everyday experience, but I think we all have to admit that they didn’t have a Tumblr (2007).
The second is that the project is a serious and literate consideration of personal experience as shaped by our present situation that uses aesthetics not due to Theoretic inarticulacy but precisely to communicate the full impact of its subject effectively.
I am arguing that Bridle’s project of The New Aesthetic (TNA) is indeed considering both the new and the aesthetic, and that both these aspects of it are critically valuable and cannot be reduced to historical or textual surrogates.
My favourite responses to TNA so far have been:
David Berry critiquing Object Oriented Philosophical approaches to TNA and provides three different ways of considering it that come from within cyberculture –
Saul Albert providing some very useful historical comparisons to net.art –
And Honor Harger pointing out the gap between the straw man of TNA that many people are attacking and what it actually is –