Alt.Digi.Aesthetics 

“The digimodernist text in its pure form is made up to a varying degree by the reader or the textual consumer. This figure becomes authorial in this sense: s/he makes the text where none existed before.” – Alan Kirby

Alternative Digital Aesthetics is an exhibition that comes after the “Digital Art” of the 80s and the 90s, as well as the “Post-Digital Art” practices that dominated the early 2000’s and the 2000-teens. With the birth of the NFT market, the rise of mega-galleries and the proliferation of billionaire museums, this exhibition asks questions about the role that Alternative Digital Aesthetics can play in an age of increasingly immersive and interactive art spaces. Alongside these developments has come an entirely new wave of theorists who have defended the paradigm of Digital modernism, or Digimodernism, as one of many “new modernisms” to have superseded the postmodern. 

Toward this end, Digimodern theorist Alan Kirby, has suggested that Digital Aesthetics demand an entirely new model for understanding artworks that are largely technological in nature. He lists these traits as being characterized by the qualities of onwardness, haphazardness, evanescence, reformulation and intermediation as well as being constituted by anonymous, multiple and social forms of authorship. For Kirby, these qualities are a property of how we read fluid-bounded texts based on the notion of electronic-digitality in terms of display and navigation. And yet, all of these terms have their origin in Espen J. Aarseth’s notion of erodic literature which points to the need for the viewer to activate, and ultimately, to participate in the construction of new narratives, new encounters, hyper-links, etc., all of which provide us with a greatly expanded notion of what a digital text is or can be.

Within this new context, user-generated content becomes the central concern in how we think about aesthetic experience within the horizon of intermedia arts and the intermedial condition. This change in how we think about meaning making has evolved from Roland Barthes thematization of the interplay between the readerly and the writerly, where Digimodernism represents something of a hyper-Barthesian moment in cultural discourse inasmuch the digital tends to put the emphasis on the readerly by pointing to the sharable, embedded and hyper-connective nature of technological transcription. Whether we’re talking about computer programs, video editing, glitch motifs, net art, data-bending, live-streaming, memes and a million other open-content platforms that depend on the marriage of viewer navigation tools and the constant need to create content-as-contribution, what we can say for sure about Digimodern aesthetics, is that the journey often is the destination. 

Thus, the ability to navigate content differently from viewer to viewer, from platform to platform, and even from interface to interface, also informs the idea of how Alternative Digi Aesthetics can be used to navigate culture otherwise. This is because moving beyond scripted spaces and predetermined outcomes in any closed system holds a liberatory potential that is connected to the rise of an alternative art market, new values and disparate cannons that we couldn’t have imagined even a decade ago. This is really what is being debated with immaterial art production from the digital realm finally taking centerstage in emerging art markets from NFT’s to fractal investing and beyond. 

As a consequence of these seismic shifts in the art market, this exhibition asks what the advent of Digimodernism means in our current cultural climate. In Arizona, we have seen the proliferation of digital experiences at places like Wonderspaces, the Thoma Foundation, Walter Productions and the coming Atari Hotel, but what is it that has already made Arizona a burgeoning hotspot for digital artists? And when we speak of Alternative Digital Aesthetics, are we already talking about how the Southwest has its own ways of reading what the “New Aesthetic” means in counter-distinction to artists working on similar themes in New York, L.A. and other major centers of art from around the world? Alternative Digital Aesthetics sets out to explore these questions without trying to resolve the contradictions of living at a time when the dematerialization of the art object is not an endpoint, but a new starting point for critical art practice today.

Artists in the show: Efrian Becerra, Bjorn Bengtsson, BNHN Team (Xavier Nokes, Olivia Hernandez, Julian Ngyuen, Shomit Barua), Nigel Clouse, Ronald Cox, Jeff Davis, Guillermo Gutierrez, Read Hearne, Mike Jacobs, Ivan Mendoza, Miguel Monzon, Rembrandt Quiballo, Justin Rodier, Madison Stratford and Christy Waites.