This project by writer James Bridle explores how popular aesthetics have evolved in our modern world. Often influenced by politics and technology, many of his posts contain a certain aspect of irony or reappropriation.

This technological error is highly ironic, however, it was unintentional. What does this mean in terms of art? Is intention necessary?

This technological error is highly ironic, however, it was unintentional. What does this mean in terms of art? Is intention necessary?

Since May 2011 I have been collecting material which points towards new ways of seeing the world, an echo of the society, technology, politics and people that co-produce them.

The New Aesthetic is not a movement, it is not a thing which can be done. It is a series of artefacts of the heterogeneous network, which recognises differences, the gaps in our distant but overlapping realities.

-James Bridle

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Irony has become so engrained in Western (and especially American) cultures that it has taken on nuanced forms.

We now have a smarter form of irony, irony used as a scalpel as opposed to a mallet. And it makes sense—even if irony can no longer serve its original purpose, it’s become such an integral part of American culture that it has become subtly embedded in everyday use.

-Mathew Collins, Post-irony is real, and so what?

Pretty much everything is ironic these days. Irony is used as a synonym for cool, for cynicism, for detachment, for intelligence; it’s cited as the end of civilisation, as well as its salvation.

-The Guardian, The final irony

Irony in art normally manifests itself in the form of a reappropraition of existing recognized visual queues. Here, New York based painter Jeanette Hayes incorporates modern pop culture symbology into classic paintings. Juxtaposing two well-known visual queues reveals to the audience that the painter shares with them a certain awareness- that both parties know A and B so well that A+B takes on an entirely new meaning.

DeMooning by Jeanette Hayes

Come Si Dice Webcam Girls by Jeanette Hayes

Come Si Dice Webcam Girls by Jeanette Hayes

Is My iPhone Locked by Jeanette Hayes

Is My iPhone Locked by Jeanette Hayes

The pop culture and especially sub and youth culture aesthetics have gravitated towards an ironic re-appropriation of aesthetics from different time periods and cultures.

The post-internet aesthetic in social media.  Source: Instagram

The post-internet aesthetic in social media.
Source: Instagram

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The re-appropriation of Crocs is a recognized symbol of the Normcore movement.

The re-appropriation of Crocs is a recognized symbol of the Normcore movement. Although the Normcore movement’s original ideals favored sameness and post-authenticity over the effortful attempt at individuality, it has come to represent something ironic in our society. 

Anyone with the heretical gall to ask an ironist what he actually stands for ends up looking like an hysteric or a prig. And herein lies the oppressiveness of institutionalized irony, the too-successful rebel: the ability to interdict the question without attending to its subject is, when exercised, tyranny. It [uses] the very tool that exposed its enemy to insulate itself.

-David Foster Wallace

Today, earnestness has the risk of being perceived as naiveté or over-enthusiasm. Expressing ideas seriously sometimes involves some degree of irony in order to inform the audience that the author is hyper self-aware. 

This trend is evidenced in literature, artwork, pop culture, and communication.

“Lazy cynicism has replaced thoughtful conviction as the mark of an educated worldview. Indeed, cynicism saturates popular culture, and it has afflicted contemporary art by way of postmodernism and irony. Perhaps no recent figure dealt with this problem more explicitly than David Foster Wallace. One of his central artistic projects remains a vital question for artists today: How does art progress from irony and cynicism to something sincere and redeeming?”

 AND David Foster Wallace was right: Irony is ruining our culture 

David Foster Wallace

David Foster Wallace