Thanks to our readers for another great year at Aesthetics for Birds! Here were our most-viewed posts this year. Scroll through to make sure you haven’t missed something big. (You can also check out our Top 5 of previous years: 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.)
Note: As usual, our actual Top 5 by the numbers included some from previous years (including a 2018 piece about Nicki Minaj’s Chun-Li music video and cultural appropriation and a 2017 piece about performance artist Deborah De Robertis’s infamous Mona Lisa, um, exposure piece.). Below are the most popular five posts that first appeared in 2021.
#4 and #5: NFTs
Beeple and Nothingness: Philosophy and NFTs by Anthony Cross
The NFT: A Wealth and Poverty of Imagination by Jack Simpson
As Anthony Cross put it in his piece, “the emergence of NFTs feels at once deeply urgent, … a bit silly, and impossibly fascinating.” NFTs were the talk of the art world this year. These digital, intangible objects upended our traditional notions of artworks and the traditional workings of the art market. …Right? We ran two pieces that explain what non-fungible tokens are and what they mean for the art world. Anthony Cross looked at what you actually own when you own an NFT, and he worried about the potential blandification of digital and internet art wrought by commodification. Jack Simpson examined NFTs through the lens of market value. He expressed skepticism about two major pro-NFT arguments: that they are a good development for digital artists and that they are a welcome shakeup to the art market.
Race was also on people’s minds this year. Our #3 and #2 pieces both looked at race, though in different aesthetic forms. Chris Jenkins, a dean at Oberlin Conservatory, looked at and defended diversity from a new angle. We so often focus on achieving diversity directly (through admissions policies and so on) that we forget more structural problems that might impact who wants to do what. Jenkins thinks through how we might achieve diversity by reconceptualizing the very sound of classical music.
Our #2 post this year combined the previous two themes: the digital world and race. Reaction gifs and memes frequently feature Black faces and bodies, sometimes captioned, sometimes for us to caption. This exceedingly common and seemingly innocent practice was called into question by Nicholas Whittaker, a PhD candidate at the CUNY Graduate Center. They argue that these images often rely on – and thereby, in use, reinforce – problematic racial associations.
Our top post this year was written by musician and recording engineer Michael Connolly. He responds to another popular piece of ours from 2019, by philosopher Tony Chackal, which defended the superiority of vinyl over digital formats. Connolly’s piece starts with a primer on what analog and digital processing involve and what audio fidelity really means. Vinyl, he explains, does not exhibit more fidelity – nor more “warmth” – than digital forms. And vinyl records can sound better – or worse – than digital media, with the beauty in music determined in no small part by one’s wants and needs.
This is a taste of what we gave you in 2021, but there’s much more to explore in our archives. And thanks again to you, our readers. We wouldn’t be here without you, and we are excited for a new year together.