The rise of Twitter at the end of the millennium’s first decade has created an explosion of new written forms and linguistic objects. A new text-driven visual aesthetic has emerged, based mostly on permutations of existing slang and casual language from the 1990s, but forcibly condensed by the 140-character limit of a tweet. Vowels become unnecessary, and the new consonant-only words are placed in all-caps to express a range of meta-commentaries. New online social media platforms emerge at a furious tempo, with names like Tumblr, Flickr, Imgur, etc., all of which serve to essentially compartmentalize aspects of our shared experiences in lived reality, and subsequently to aestheticize them for public consumption. Web aesthetics have begun to bleed out into the non-virtual world, and the lines between online and offline are blurring. There is now a wide-reaching and fully self-aware aesthetic of a new digital age.
In his most recent book, Bad New Days, the influential art critic and scholar Hal Foster asserts that a number of important artists are now exploring aspects of this new culture, which he calls an art form of “mimetic excess”. Responding to the “capitalist junkspace” in which young artists have been raised, such as Kara Walker and Ryan Trecartin, for example, the only strategy for an authentic engagement with artistic forms that do not fall back into post-modern nostalgia is to essentially co-opt the “materials of consumption and infotainment” given to them, and produce a type of parodic excess.