Would you ever agree to administrate a database of something you knew nothing about? Do you often speak authoritatively of this thing about which you know nothing, while using totally punctuated sentences in a chatroom (please get a life, you total weirdo)? Do you assume to know more about something you know nothing about than someone who has created a website about the thing you know nothing about? Yes? Then you’d feel at home at the Aesthetics Wiki!
It is becoming clearer and clearer that the moderators themselves have absolutely no idea what an aesthetic is. Is it a music genre? No. Is it a type of Japanese fashion? No. Is it a random thing you like with ‘core’ on the end? No. Is it just any subculture, anywhere? No. And yet these pages make up the extreme majority of wiki content, and when you delete them – you, the creator of the Wiki, have to be thrown out, not the people who lack basic understanding of the concept of the website they’ve agreed to moderate.
What is an aesthetic? An aesthetic is a coherent multimodal schema based on a certain, often fantastical, life-world. You should be able to look at a picture posted online and say ‘that’s [my aesthetic]’ without it needing to contain any one certain element; while aesthetics are dictated by visuals, you should be able to find music that fits just as well. Things that have been mistakenly been called aesthetics by people who deem themselves experts: pictures of food, the entirety of Korean culture, punk music, studying science, liking holographic surfaces.
Things that actually are aesthetics: Dark Academia (an audiovisual manifestation of being in a specific literary genre), Cottagecore (an audiovisual manifestation of a bucolic life-world), American Gothic, the 2014 Tumblr fluorescent-Arctic Monkeys-alien phase, speculative but highly visual genres like steampunk, the Virgin Suicides phase where everyone fantasised about being 70s suburbanite Catholic teenagers, film noir, the Gothic Art Nouveau in the film Secret Ceremony, the idea of being a cowboy on the prairie as in, specifically, a Spaghetti Western.
That’s my contribution to the field – perhaps I will do for aesthetics what Sontag did for camp. Why do we fetishise total ignorance on the part of grown adults? Why are we expected to condescend to people who know nothing and are seemingly proud of it? My guess is that I’ve made myself the villain again – I am usually the villain – simply for pointing out the basic concept or truth behind something instead of condescending to the illusions of the self-assured and misinformed. At least – as always – I’m right, and am not someone who learns about the world from sixty-second videos, someone on Letterboxd with ‘Hamilton’ in their favourites section, a Twitter user, or a gamer.