(Book of Abstracts in PDF)
The Sublime Redivivus. Kant’s Legacy for Contemporary Art
I address the relationship between Lyotard’s account of the sublime in art (Lyotard 1988; 1991) and Kant’s original account of the notion. As is renown, according to Lyotard, the aesthetics of modern art corresponds in itself to an aesthetics of the sublime. Nevertheless, Lyotard affirms that the sublime we find in art is “still the sublime in the sense that Burke and Kant described and yet it isn’t their sublime anymore.” (Lyotard 1991, p. 93)
How should we make sense of this claim? And, more generally, how are we understand Kant’s legacy in Lyotard’s conception of the sublime? To attempt to answer these questions, my strategy is twofold. On the one hand, I show how indebted Lyotard’s conception of the sublime is to Kant’s treatment of the notion in the Third Critique. On the other hand, I discuss the amendments that the French philosopher proposes in order to make Kant’s analysis compatible with twentieth-century art. I begin in section one by focusing on some passages in the Critique of the Power of Judgement that attest that Kant’s aesthetic theory can actually be able to incorporate the art of the sublime. Then, in section two, I analyse Lyotard’s rereading of Kant and consider some of the revisions he proposes to Kant’s understanding of the notion.
Ordinary Perception and Pictorial Perception
In several papers (1980, 1987, 1998, 2003a,b), Richard Wollheim claimed that pictorial perception is a sui generis form of perception, seeing-in. For not only, unlike ordinary perception, it is constituted by two folds, the configurational fold (CF) and the recognitional fold (RF), but also, it is a proper fusion experience (Voltolini 2020a), since such folds are so compenetrated that neither coincides with the ordinary perception of their respective objects, i.e., the picture’s vehicle (the physical basis of a picture) and the picture’s subject (actually, what the picture presents, as fortuitous image aka pareidolias show (Cutting-Massironi 1998); something close to Husserl’s 2005 image-object). Wollheim’s account of seeing-in is notoriously elusive. In this talk, I want to show how it can be completed, in two respects: a) how the folds’ compenetration can actually work; b) how seeing-in can be taken as perceptual, even though as a different sort of perception from ordinary perception.
Aesthetic Norms as Habits: Reasons for Situated Aesthetic Normativity
The purpose of the talk is to explore the contribution of habits to aesthetic normativity.
It can be intuitively observed that habits are linked to aesthetic normativity. One can have good or bad aesthetic habits, that is, habits that comply or do not comply with normative criteria of aesthetic value commonly shared by participants in an aesthetic (including artistic) practices. Accordingly, in reference to specific aesthetic practices, those with good aesthetic habits use to respect the aesthetic normativity of the relevant practices: they have good taste; those who do not have good aesthetic habits have bad taste and violate the aesthetic norms of an aesthetic practice. Thusly conceived, habits regulate the correctness of individual aesthetic preferences and the goodness of the individuals’ taste in reference to the normative aesthetic “profile” of an aesthetic practice.
Yet habits play a more constitutive role for the articulation of aesthetic normativity. Habits constitute and regulate aesthetic practices themselves, being (embodied) norms of behavior that shape aesthetic practices. Furthermore, since habits work through situated interactions between organism and environment, and develop through these situated interactions, the aesthetic normativity constituted and regulated by aesthetic habits is situated as well: it is negotiated through the situations in which aesthetic practices are carried out.
In Defence of Fictional Examples
This paper defends the philosophical use of examples drawn from literary fiction. Whilst there is a rich literature on the epistemic benefits of literary fiction, this paper offers novel advantages of using fictional examples in philosophy over both thought experiments and real cases. Consequently, fictional examples are not merely a poor alternative for lack of a suitable real case or thought experiment, but offer unique advantages over each.
Fictional examples can enable us to more accurately evaluate whether a given example is realistic than thought experiments do – a condition required for each to license conclusions about what is actually the case. Furthermore, fictional examples can compile and provide direct access to the facts of a case, particularly facts about subjects’ mental states, whilst a real case must offer an interpretation of the facts, and can subsequently be criticised on this basis.
A Phenomenological Review of the Concept of Natural Beauty
Alfonso Hoyos Morales
When we talk about natural beauty perhaps we think of the products or forces that we commonly associate with nature: rivers , birds, trees, the sky, the Moon, the Sun, and so on. That is, objects that, we assume, have not been generated by human technique such as chairs, computer tables or works of art. An aesthetic judgment on nature would therefore refer to a prior logical judgment that would assume the ontology of the object to be judged in order to subsequently judge it aesthetically as such an object. However, this presentation assumes nature in a different way. Trying to return to Kant’s and Schiller’s interpretation of beauty, that of both art and of nature, I intend to take a step back and remain in the consideration of the judgment of taste itself, putting in parentheses to which object it refers. From a phenomenological perspective of the Critique of Judgment, we will consider that the concept of nature in that text does not refer to the empirical objects that we commonly associate with nature, but to a specific mode of appearing exclusive to the aesthetic dimension and different from that developed in the Critique of Pure Reason as that object of the empirical sciences dominated by causal laws.
Under what circumstances, if any, is recollection tied to processes of creating aesthetic values? My aim in this talk is to determine whether aesthetic recollection can count as a distinctive mental occurrence and what its characteristics might be. I suggest that what makes this question distinctive has something to do with the specificity of recollective contents (Bartlett, 1928, 1998; Boyer, 2009) and with the way they are coded into artefacts. I propose a contextualized understanding of aesthetic recollection, drawing on examples from the visual tradition of non-Western small-scale societies, more specifically on practices that are recollective in intent and whose primary purpose is to prompt recollection via aesthetic means.
I defend a strong concept of recollection, by which I mean a cognitive process of involved or engaged contemplation through which one consciously and deliberately brings to mind the past. Moreover, I argue that aesthetic recollection inflects experience in a particular direction, eliciting an awareness of time and drawing attention to commemorative, identitary and aesthetic values of works.
The Afterlife of the Sacred: Rothko’s Chapel
This paper draws on a wider project of mine considering an important theme in the aesthetic theorizing and art-making of the 19th and 20th centuries. An oft-expressed ambition is that art will somehow step in and play some of the roles of religion. In this talk specifically, I use Mark Rothko’s project of a purpose-built ‘chapel’ in Houston for 14 of his canvases as a case study of this broader theme. In the process, I consider Rothko’s surprising denial that he was an “abstractionist” and explore his related claim that, in his words, “the people who weep before my pictures are having the same religious experience I had when I painted them. And if you, as you say, are moved only by the color relationships, then you miss the point.”
The Problem of Scale for Art in the Anthropocene
The talk will address the question how strategies in visual arts, performance art and literature address the issue of large scales in the Anthropocene. The cultural discourse on the “geology of mankind” has assigned various roles for the arts to create awareness for the Anthropocene and its destructive dynamics such as climate change. However, it is not clear how aesthetic practices and objects can relate to an epoch which is identified and explained through large empirical data and their representation in aggregated numbers and charts. Geological time scales, processes of planetary scale and exponential growth around the globe are not a traditional subjects of paintings, films, novels or performances. They pose new challenges for material and sensuous arts.
The talk offers conceptual distinctions between various strategies to address the problem of scale in dealing with quantities of large scale in the Anthropocene. It reflects on how art, if at all, can make the uncanny planetary features of the present accessible and the practices leading to them criticisable.
This is Awkward: On the Aesthetic Value of Awkwardness in Portraiture
In this paper I explore how interpersonal awkwardness relates to awkwardness perpetuated by images, and precisely what it might be that is awkward about the images. I make the case that awkwardness is not limited to photographic media and can indeed be found in paintings too. The end point is a consideration of whether awkwardness could constitute an aesthetic quality in artworks.
I first draw out how one might think about awkwardness with the help of Luke Purshouse’s work on embarrassment to frame this. Though helpful, I challenge some of Purshouse’s views in favour of awkwardness as designating an aversion to interpersonal exposure, under which emotional responses such as embarrassment, self-consciousness, and discomfort can be identified. Awkwardness can be applied in two modes of engagement with the image and its subject. It can identify something within the content of the image itself, such as composition or the subject. It can also constitute a response, designating a range of emotional reactions which can occur prior to the image being made, during, and upon witnessing the result. I explore how both cases can affect the sitter throughout three case studies. Finally, I consider whether awkwardness can constitute a salient aesthetic quality and how one might begin to appreciate it.
Wittgenstein and the Threat of Private Meaning in Art
This paper examines the question of whether Wittgenstein succeeds in elaborating a view of artistic creation and appreciation that is free from the looming threat of attributing private meaning to the creators of original art and incomprehension to spectators. I begin by briefly presenting Wittgenstein’s notions of language game and form of life, emphasizing his considerably circumscribed understanding of the appearance of new meaning – a constriction that guarantees its communicability. I then turn to Wittgenstein’s analysis of aesthetic judgments of art and show that he consistently holds that there too meaning is given for all to see. However, examining closely the language commonly used in talking about art – including at moments, the way Wittgenstein himself talks about art – reveals a persistent and inescapable anxiety over whether we have grasped in full what the artist intends to convey and, conversely, whether the artist is successful in communicating an artistic vision. I end by suggesting that this anxiety cannot be eradicated, for it is an essential aspect of the modern form of life and the contemporary experience of artistic beauty.
Aesthetic Uncertainty in Modern Architecture
Architectural pieces, like works of art, are often judged by the public opinion in a simplified way: in the categories of beautiful-ugly and like-dislike. Architecture, however, differs from art pieces in museums because architecture is a public matter – because of its public nature. There is a large variance in the aesthetic evaluation of architectural products; in many cases, the two extreme values are also displayed. This paper examines the aesthetic uncertainty that arose in judging modern architectural works. First, it is necessary to examine the self-definition of modern architecture from the early 20th century to the present day, which characterises the central problem of the notion of style. The reflection on the question of style seems to play a crucial role in our perception in the interpretation process of an architectural work; we cannot express ourselves with certainty, we can only express our personal impression. However, we may all reflect on that we make these verdicts without solid grounds. Since in the case of the so-called classical and old styles (e.g. baroque church) this judgment problem does not occur, it is safe to agree with the received view that it is beautiful and artistic. In modern times, especially in post-World War II architecture, however, there are no foundations (neither archetypical nor learned), therefore we would need to look for the reason for our aesthetic uncertainty.
Adrian Piper’s Epistemic Activism
Political art often engages in epistemic activism, attempting to change its audiences’ cognitive standing on a topic of political import. In this presentation, I will focus on one instance of epistemic activism in art: Adrian Piper’s installation Four Intruders plus Alarm Systems (1980). Piper’s work is both an exemplary work of epistemic activism, but also reveals the tensions between the epistemic exceptions artists experiment with and the normative demands placed on productive political activity. In Piper’s case, this tension lead to an inability to change some of her audience’s cognitive standing. I propose two ways to respond to such tension: conciliation, which proposes that activist artists have distinct reasons to fit their work to their audience’s normative expectations, and steadfastness, which proposes that activist artists have distinct reasons to challenge and provoke their audiences, even if they open themselves up to failure. I claim that steadfastness better captures political art’s humility regarding success, and allows us to more clearly account for the riskiness that is necessary for productive experimentation in political life.
Automating Aesthetic Choices: How Does AI Affect Human Creativity?
Increasingly, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is being used in image-making practices. Thanks to recent advances in machine learning and computer vision, for example, smartphone cameras and apps can automatically apply settings and even prompt users to make certain aesthetic choices, depending upon what is automatically detected as being in the scene. Resultantly, those with limited photographic skills can produce images that appear as though made by a professional. However, many theorists worry there is the risk that with the increased automation of the processes of aesthetic creation and aesthetic choices, values become increasingly homogenised and, accordingly, aesthetic diversity decreases. To assess the impact of increases in automation and rule-based production processes, I examine the role of constraints in creative practice. I measure constraints on an aesthetic endeavour as being on a scale from self-selected and self-imposed to externally selected and imposed to reflect the interaction between various constraints and the opportunities agents have to make autonomous choices of, and within, constraints. In doing so, I show how it is not automated imaging processes that pose a threat to creativity and aesthetic diversity, but biases that contribute to the creation of algorithms that can reinforce and perpetuate harmful social norms.
The Contradiction of Audio Drama
What distinguishes drama from other narrative-based art forms, such as literature and story-telling, is ostension. Drama doesn’t just tell; it shows. The contradiction of audio drama is that sound cannot show or manifest the event that caused it or that corresponds to it. Hence the often-made criticism that it is a blind art form. I disarm the contradiction by tackling the two ideas that sustain it: (1) showing consists in a complete or substantial representation of the event that caused the sound; and (2) the capacity of sound to represent or to show a world is limited or impaired. I demonstrate that (1) the idea of a complete representation is governed by Plato’s concept of mimesis, whereas Aristotle’s mimesis emphasizes the importance of partial representation as a feature of plot. With (2), the alleged ‘limited’ capacity of sound to represent a world becomes a virtue (i) because Aristotle’s emphasis on partiality frees it from the need to be a complete representation, and (ii) because meaning in an art work, including audio drama, is not exclusively a matter of reference but also a matter of sense (in Frege’s terms). In this regard, the manner in which ‘incomplete’ sounds demand interpretation can be an aesthetically valuable act.
Aesthetic Assertions without Personal Acquaintance
It is strange to say that an object is beautiful if you never saw the object. This is so even if a reliable witness tells you it is beautiful. In such cases, it is more natural to say that the object is probably beautiful or that it is supposed to be. I want to know what explains this phenomenon. I argue that the strangeness is not explained by (1) the low epistemic value of aesthetic testimony, (2) folk beliefs about the unreliability of aesthetic testimony or (3) a norm governing aesthetic belief that forbids forming aesthetic beliefs on the basis of testimony. Instead, I argue that the strangeness results from the fact that assertions of beauty communicate personal appreciation. Since testimony does not give rise to such appreciation, the assertions are misleading. I end by arguing that objectivist views about beauty have trouble explaining this.
Musical Improvisation as a Challenge to Anscombian Action Theory
Daniel Martin Feige
Musical improvisation is a human activity. Like other human activities, it can be performed skillfully and less skillfully. Those who engage in it thereby know what kind of activity they are involved in and also have wider understandings of the meaning of that activity. The philosophical sub-discipline that deals with the peculiarities of human action, the philosophy of action, is marked by a renaissance of G.E.M. Anscombes position. My talk will ask how musical improvisation could fit into the picture of action Anscombe is developing.
I will argue for the thesis that musical improvisation poses a difficulty for this picture because its temporaly logic diverges from the temporal logic of action. The basic idea is that the unity of what it means to be an action and the unity of what it means to be an improvisation is formally distinct. This distinction articulates the difference between practical reason and aesthetic reason.
Post-Romantic Conceptions of Artistic Expression: Dewey, Collingwood, and Merleau-Ponty
Most discussions of expression in recent philosophy of art share an essentially Romantic conception of artistic expression, according to which expression is the externalization, and the manifestation in an artwork, of an emotion or other inner state, e.g., a thought, perspective, etc. that is already felt (or had) by someone—whether the artist, a fictional character or persona, or the audience—prior to its expression. The common assumption of this understanding has caused another conception of artistic expression, which is arguably more plausible and more philosophically interesting, to have been relatively overlooked or under-recognized. In my talk I look to the aesthetics of John Dewey, R. G. Collingwood, and Maurice Merleau-Ponty as examples of a distinctively non-Romantic conception of artistic expression. After explicating this notion of expression and showing how it differs from the Romantic conception. I argue for the preferability of this ‘post-Romantic’ understanding of expression insofar as it is grounded in a more plausible metaphysics, it avoids the standard objections that have been levelled against expression-based theories of art, and it better maps onto, and so has more explanatory value for, artistic practices.
A New Social Role for Art? Gadamer and Dewey in Dialogue
I aim to examine the answers that Hans-Georg Gadamer and John Dewey – pivotal figures in philosophical hermeneutics and pragmatism – give to the question of the social role of art. I claim that, despite the different philosophical contexts where their conceptions emerged, Gadamer and Dewey share a common intent in criticizing the implications of aestheticism’s conception of art and in rethinking art in connection to human life, as something that constitutes an “addition” with respect to ordinary experience: there is neither an abyss nor pure indistinction between the two.
This fundamental communality opens the possibility of a fertile, and partially overlooked dialogue between hermeneutics and pragmatism. The common intent of recomposing the continuity between art and everyday life entails a reassessment of the relation between the work of art and the public – a reassessment that has crucial consequences for the social role of art. According to both authors, art is not a privilege of the elites, being rather inserted in the very social fabric of democratic societies. Gadamer and Dewey highlight the relevance of art as a “human praxis” capable of modifying the world itself and not just representing it.
The Category of the Aesthetic. Considerations on Theodor W. Adorno’s Reading of Kierkegaard
This paper proposes an investigation on Theodor W. Adorno’s category of the aesthetic through an analysis of his Kierkegaard. Construction of the aesthetic. Conceived as the dissertation for his habilitation and published in 1933, this text shows how the development of an aesthetic theory is rooted in Adorno’s philosophical reflection since its very beginning, culminating then in his posthumous Aesthetic Theory. Therefore, by a careful reading of the way Adorno proceeds in investigating Kierkegaardian thought, I aim to gain a deeper understanding of his category of the aesthetic. In particular, my main assumption would question its traditional reception as constantly identified with the sole artistic sphere. On the contrary, I argue that Adorno’s emphasis on the plurality of equivocations of the term “aesthetic” in Kierkegaard manifests Adorno’s own sensibility to a different conception of this category, whose deeper meaning cannot be expressed through the singularity of any of its moments, but only through their interrelation. Thereby, he uncovers a more complex articulation of the aesthetic in Kierkegaard: finally, in light of his methodological approach and comments, it would be possible to gather some significant material on the aesthetic insights of Adorno himself.
Sharing Perspectives. Points of View in Art and Philosophy
“It’s a matter of point of view…” In a post-truth age, perspective is associated with individualism, with the affirmation of a private and unsurmountable truth. It means forgetting the tradition of perspectiva communis, the tradition that makes perspective the vector of a common horizon. At the crossroads of art and philosophy, the talk explores how to exhume a tradition that we must rediscover: the point of view is not only what divides, it is also what is shared by embodied beings in space. Yet perceptual space is neither universal nor homogenous: in each trajectory our gaze takes, we strengthen or weaken the perceptual norms that govern our ways of seeing by confirming or displacing them. By means of the ways in which we arrange things in space, through each line we trace, and through the manner in which we place a form on a plan, we are also, insensibly, (re)drawing what it means to share a point of view.
The Paradox of Sad Music: A Quietist Approach
In the paradox of sad music, we assume that people actually feel sad when they listen to sad (purely instrumental) music. This raises the question why they go on doing it instead of eliminating the causes of the pain. Recent literature shows a bifurcation between eliminaitivist and compensationist approaches to the paradox. Eliminativists attempt to show that music does not cause any emotion. Compensationists argue that the sadness induced by the music betokens luxurious cognitive rewards, which outweigh the pain of sadness. In this paper I argue that the eliminativism/compensationism dichotomy is false, for there is a third alternative, a quietist approach. A quietist approach to the paradox of sad music is based on the appeasing philosophical acknowledgment that explaining the attractions of listening to sad music does not necessarily mean that there must be a problem there to be solved. It also rejects the conviction that our psychological concepts are semantically rigid and determinate and relieves the need to uphold a “pharmaceutical model” of musical experience. By contrast, a quietist approach opts for enactivist philosophic and scientific frameworks for theorizing about musical experience and prefers the open-ended framework of ‘musicking’ over an adherence to the prima facie autonomous ‘thingness’ of works of music.
The Topicality of Whitehead’s Aesthetics
Although the british-american philosopher Alfred North Whitehead has no explicitly formulated aesthetics, his thoughts open up many connections to contempory debates of aesthetic issues. His process ontology has rightly been called a cosmopsychology, because it recognizes a key dimension of reality in feelings and perceptions. With his focus on activities like evaluation and feeling, the aesthetic gets a cosmological meaning, because everything real is understood as bound to value experience and sensory perception. According to Whitehead, reality does not exist in the form of things and facts, but only in a constantly changing process of possible forms and actualized events.
In the first part of my presentation I would like to show that Whitehead unwritten aesthetics is a philosophy of the qualitative experience of concrete and sensorily realized contrasts. This will allow me to identify a connection with concrete Art and to demonstrate the relevance of his key terms to the history of modern Art. The second part will deal with the topicality of Whiteheads thought with regard to contemporary Art, which I argue is increasingly concerned with the realization of qualitative experience of presence. Performance artists Marina Abramović work ‘the artist is present’ (realized 2010 in MoMA New York) explores the sensual and social experience of looking and being looked at in the here and now of real presence. This emphasis on the real presence can be better understood with Whitehead, especially with his notion of exemplification. We see more when we reread Whitehead.
The Faces of Caricature
Caricature is not an adulatory art. Indeed, caricatured subjects are often designated as “victims” since their physical features are significantly distorted. This is a crucial aspect that immediately hints at the paradoxical nature of this class of pictures. On the one hand, caricatures deliberately distort physical features, while on the other, they are typically able to prompt an accurate recognition of what they depict. In the first part of the paper, I explore this paradox by focusing on the main figurative technique used in caricature, i.e., exaggeration – how it is applied, and on which features. Then, I lay out the general structure by which caricatures can represent. In particular, I argue that caricature – especially portrait caricature — is grounded on a system of double reference. In the final part, I suggest a way to draw a line between caricature and a neighbouring, often overlapping, genre of representation, i.e., grotesque. Their core difference is best expressed through the conceptual distinction between exaggeration and deformation.
The Paradox of Taste to the Experimental Test
Filippo Contesi, Enrico Terrone, Marta Campdelacreu, Ramón Garcia-Moya and Genoveva Martí
In a series of recent experimental philosophy articles, Florian Cova and colleagues have cast doubt on the existence of a traditional tension that aestheticians since Hume have noted in our aesthetic judgements and practices, viz. the paradox of taste. We argue that Cova et al. misrepresent the way in which the aesthetics tradition has conceived the paradox of taste, and question the relevance of their experiments for the existence of the paradox of taste as traditionally understood in aesthetics.
Rosebud: Exploring the Wellesian Shot through Deleuzian Temporality
The ‘time-image’ is a central concept for Deleuze as it reverses time’s subordination in relation to movement. Whereas historically in the western philosophical canon time was seen to be an entity that emerged from movement, Deleuze begins to subvert this line of thinking, arguing instead that time is tied to duration rather than movement. This reversal of subordination manifests itself in interesting ways in the context of cinema, and in my paper I will explore the phenomenon of the time-image in the film Citizen Kane, analyzing the phenomenon of ‘rosebud’ being used to traverse through time within Kane’s past memories. The case of rosebud is a unique example because not only does it connect to time through being a window into Kane’s memory, it also functions as a recurring signifier throughout the film in a manner that allows us to connect theories of time to semiotics. I will use the discussion surrounding semiotics to explore Deleuze’s concept of the virtual, ultimately arguing that the function of rosebud as a signifier provides us with a useful frame to explore the virtual nature of Deleuzian temporality.
Anaphoras. For a Theory of Poetry
In this paper I will look at poetry as a set of practices and thus highlight not only its linguistic dimension but also its link with pattern recognition in the structures of action: structures of repetition and iteration – acts of language that are both iterable and inaugural. I will conceptualize the aspect of poetic practices related to repetition/repeatability as multilevel, variable and complex phenomenon. Here I will argue that the structure of anaphora brings out how the phenomena of iteration in poetry have to do with a structure of anticipation that can look both backwards and forwards, to the past and to the future, inside and outside the text.
Monumentality and Art History
The aim of this paper is to shed light on a particular mode of awareness shared by art historians and those who raise monuments (‘monumentalists’). In the first part, I argue against the view that art history is a historically informed art criticism (Baxandall 1985, Wollheim 1987) and defend the admittedly extravagant claim that monumentalists deliberately create objects addressing art historians, as if laying out their work for them. Taking cue from Alois Riegl (1903), I claim that art-historical awareness is an attention to the monumentality of historical documents. In the second part, I put my claims in the context of historiographical discussions in art history and archaeology (Schnapp 1996, Wood 2019) and in the last part, I turn to some examples to demonstrate my point.
Gut Feelings and Visceral Aesthetics in Postsocialist Feminism
The conference paper looks closer at visceral aesthetics – a methodological tool for researching relations between politics, affective embodiment, and everyday life via artistic practice. While drawing encouragement from critical affect theory and feminist aesthetics, as well as relating to ongoing debates in Eastern European feminist art discourse, visceral aesthetics approach gut feelings of postsocialism, like thirst and hunger, breathlessness and sweating, nausea and laughter, to trace their political significance. While learning to feel differently, one can know (Hemmings 2012) and live differently, since affective states do not merely express, but rather produce and maintain the identity of various, also marginal, social groups. Likewise, visceral aesthetics offers an attempt to “locate” a feminist sensibility in Eastern Europe – a region characterized by conflicting and hostile attitudes to feminism. The results of visceral research add a new perspective to both genealogies and spatial temporalities of postsocialist feminism. (This research is funded by the Ministry of Culture, Republic of Latvia, project “Cultural Capital as a Resource for Sustainable Development of Latvia”, project No. VPP-KM-LKRVA-2020/1-0003)
Self-Referential Aesthetics in the Art of Leonard Cohen
On the assumption that Cohen’s best poetry comes in his literary middle period, specifically The Energy of Slaves (1972) and Death of a Lady’s Man (1978), I hypothesize that it is self-reference broadly conceived that elevates these works above the rest of Cohen’s poetry. This is confirmed by noteworthy middle and late period Cohen songs. I offer a threefold typology of Cohen’s self-reference: (1) intratextual (reflexive self-reference within a work), (2) intertextual (reference to a particular other work in the oeuvre), (3) supratextual (reference to multiple works in the oeuvre). Such devices enhance those works in which they appear (or are otherwise in their self-referential scope) by giving a higher-order perspective that fosters better integration of elements within and suggested by those works. Self-reference can be gimmicky and so not a mark of artistic success, but it nonetheless adds appreciable significance to works that are good enough in other respects. Rather than a primary artistic virtue, then, self-reference is a secondary (or perquisite) virtue, as well as a pairing (or sharing) virtue vis-à-vis other works.
The Ontology of Musical Constrafacta: When Words Change but Sounds Remain
In this paper I will argue that musical contrafacta -that is, vocal compositions in which words are replaced by a different set of words while sounds remain essentially unaltered- represent a challenge to the potential plausibility and applicability to vocal music of the response given by sonicists to the individuation question -an account of the identity conditions of a musical work- in the ontology of music.
According to sonicism, two musical works are identical if and only if they are acoustically indistinguishable. Thus, in the sonicist view multiple composers could have composed one and the same work at different times. However, musical contrafacta are such by virtue of being a parody of another work with which they share the same sound-sequence. The essential feature of contrafacta is precisely their acoustic indistinguishability with respect to the sonic element of the work from which they originate, while differing in the textual element.
I claim that if we wish to posit a general ontology of music that encompasses works of vocal music, including extreme cases like contrafacta, a more comprehensive proposal needs to be formulated as regards the individuation question in the ontology of music. I will propose a sort of referential-timbral sonicism according to which musical works can be individuated with regard to both the sonic and the referential element present in the words, both taken as essential properties normative within the work, and thus distinguishing works that share the same sound-sequence but differ in their textual element.
Growing with Literary Oeuvres
Philosophical examinations of the cognitive value of literature tend to focus on the value of single literary works. Hilary Putnam has for example famously argued that from Celine’s Journey to the End of Night the reader learns “to see the world as it looks to someone who is sure” that love does not exist. But how about the cognitive value of literary oeuvres? Avid readers sometimes immerse themselves thoroughly with authors’ entire literary outputs. Could this sort of literary engagement have cognitive value different in type from the engagement with a single literary work, a kind of surplus? In this paper, I will sketch an affirmative response.
I begin the paper by showing that literary oeuvres can exhibit the kind of epistemic strength that makes them credible objects of systematic cognitive engagement. Then, drawing on some work on artistic oeuvres (Levinson, Melchionne), I examine the ways in which literary oeuvres differ as artefacts from single literary works. This examination, I believe, also suggests some ways in which they might differ in terms of cognitive value. The specific cognitive value of literary oeuvres this examination hints at will be fleshed out with a reading of John Dewey’s interrelated notions of habit and growth. The paper ends with some notes on whether the cognitive value attributed to literary oeuvres in the paper is ever realizable in real life.
Games and Disinterestedness
This paper explores games as a distinctive challenge for giving an account of aesthetic experience as disinterested. Despite apparent continuity between games and more traditionally accepted aesthetic categories such as films and literature, the close relationship between gameplay and the pursuit of victory makes it difficult to see how such activity could be genuinely disinterested. This puts pressure on the importance to aesthetics of disinterestedness. However here we assume that disinterestedness captures at least a valuable aspect of aesthetic experience and on that basis explore the prospects for an account of the phenomenon in games. This leads to a proposal that stratifies (dis)interestedness, allowing for multiple attitudes subordinated to a dominant attitude, and indicating how these attitudes might be divided for a typical game. The paper closes by considering some possibilities presented by this account for how we understand not just games, but also other categories of art such as metafictional works and propagandistic art.
On blindness and architecture: recasting Susanne Langer’s virtuality as ‘felt space’
In this paper, I consider what blindness brings to architecture through an engagement with the wider phenomenological critique of ocularcentrism. While the latter constitutes an important strand within contemporary architectural theory, it rarely intersects with the issue of visual impairment. Conversely, discussions about blindness and architecture tend to focus exclusively on issues of accessibility. And yet blindness raises important ontological questions about architecture as a ‘visual’ arts practice, and the nature of its distinctive ‘virtual realm’. Arguing for the intermodal nature of our perception of architectural space, I challenge the marginalisation of senses other than sight in our bodily experience of (and ‘bodily readiness’ toward) architecture. This is not merely a means to confront the disregard by architects of users with different degrees of visual impairment; rather, I rethink Susanne Langer’s characterisation of architecture’s mode of virtual space in the light of the notion of ‘felt space’ as advanced by Gernot Böhme, and relate this to what the blind philosopher Martin Milligan refers to as an ‘atmosphere-thickening’ perception of space. I apply this argument to two exemplars of such intersensory engagement: two late works by Swedish architect Sigurd Lewerentz.
A Sartrean Look at Art
Within the philosophy of museums, museum ethics deals specifically with what ought to be done with artworks. This paper aims to answer two questions: what sort of thing is a work of art housed by these cultural institutions, and does this ontology influence how we ought to ethically treat artworks? Artworks with problematic histories like the Benin bronzes highlight such ethical dilemmas presently faced by cultural institutions. There are calls for these artworks to be returned to their original cultural settings while the British Museum defends their presence in its collection. Should these artworks be returned to their original cultural context? I will argue that Jean-Paul Sartre has an existential answer to these dilemmas which leads directly into ethical considerations useful for museum ethics. I offer a Sartrean answer to artworld dilemmas concerning looted artworks by exploring an ontology of artworks inspired by his writings in order to call for the return of such artworks. The ultimate goal of a Sartrean look at art and ethics is to first illustrate an artwork’s ontology and second to call for authentic, good faith curation in the face of problem cases within museum ethics.
Aesthetic Normativity in Legal Judgements
I argue that aesthetic normativity is a necessary normative component of the justification of legal judgements. I will focus on discussing the aesthetic nature of a judge’s sense of justice as well as the aesthetic quality of legal principles that serve as rational justificatory components of legal judgements. Bringing these two aspects of aesthetic normativity in legal judgements together in ways that are specific to particular legal systems helps to justify the democratic legitimacy of legal judgements in respective jurisdictions. I will focus on a particular feature of judgements of the German Federal Constitutional Court to highlight how exactly these two aspects rely on each other to maintain the democratic legitimacy of the legal judgements of that particular jurisdiction. The insights of that example will allow us to understand which changes within this interplay between the two aspects of aesthetic normativity in legal judgements need to be made for other jurisdictions.
Kitschy Kitsch and Kitschy Art: Kitsch as an Aesthetic Category and an Aesthetic Property
The question “Is this art or kitsch?”–popular among art critics and feuilletonists–implies a dichotomy between kitsch and art. At the same time, we judge some works of art to be kitsch. So, what is the relationship between art and kitsch? The key to answering this question lies in distinguishing between kitsch as an aesthetic category and as an aesthetic property.
As an aesthetic category, kitsch is an artefact, performance, or practice whose dominant function is to enable self-enjoyment by effortlessly evoking emotional reactions of the “soft” emotional spectrum with a “sweet” phenomenological quality in a large group of people. Based on this definition, kitsch and art turn out to be two different and mutually exclusive aesthetic categories.
As an aesthetic property, kitsch is the disposition to effortlessly evoke emotional reactions of the “soft” emotional spectrum with a “sweet” phenomenological quality by supervening on the kitsch-typical features. So, everything kitsch is also kitschy, but not vice versa. Therefore, also art can possess the aesthetic and art-critically relevant property of being kitschy although it is not kitsch.
The Uncanniness of the Ordinary as an Aesthetic Category
Through the many reinterpretations of Freud’s essay Das Unheimliche (1919) within the French Postmodernism, in the last decades the uncanny became a vague synonym for the methodology of deconstruction instead of being characterized as an aesthetic category. The talk aims to disambiguate the uncanny by reestablishing its characterizing nucleus and relocating it within the aesthetics. The starting point is represented by Juliane Rebentisch’s category of the Uncanniness of the Ordinary (Unheimlichkeit des Gewöhnlichen). Translating a notion of Stanley Cavell from the philosophy of language to the aesthetics, Rebentisch indicates the feeling generated by the artistic encounter with everyday objects, which usually lay unnoticed under the attention threshold. Artistic dislocations move such use objects out of their opaque familiarity, challenging habitual and allegedly self-evident mechanisms of experience and hence generating an unsettling feeling.
Such an interpretation enables: (1) to reaffirm the uncanny as an eminently aesthetic phenomenon; (2) to connect it with the Freudian definition of something familiar appearing in a new, unfamiliar light; (3) to state that the feeling is generated by the encounter with specific objects and not only by a menacing yet undetermined sense of ambiguity; (4) to integrate the concept with today’s debate in aesthetics about the material and phenomenological properties of artworks.
Aesthetic Normativity in Everyday Acts of Appreciation
Lucía Jiménez Sánchez
The aesthetic appreciation of design objects customarily arises through ordinary practical interaction. Suitable aesthetic judgements of design derive from the quotidian and intimate construction of practical relations with the object of use. Yet how does personal engagement accord with the universality ascribed to aesthetic judgments? This paper argues that an interactive aesthetic model secures correctness of judgement by permitting intersubjective assessment of appreciative acts involving quotidian or design objects through patterns of use.
The Rhythm of the Eye: Expectations, Imagination, and Aesthetic Perception
María Jimena Clavel Vázquez and Adriana Clavel-Vázquez
Perceptualism, the claim that we can perceive high-level, evaluative properties, is controversial. However, aesthetic properties have long been thought to be perceptible in that they are directly perceived. We do not reason out of principles that Picasso’s Guernica is violent but are struck by its violence all at once. This paper argues for aesthetic perceptualism. Building on an anticipatory view of perception that draws on the sensorimotor theory and predictive approaches to perception, we argue that aesthetic properties are brought into perceptual presence when low-level properties of objects are organized in virtue of perceivers’ sensorimotor and affective expectations. Our thesis is that the rich expectations posited by anticipatory views of perception to account for perceptual content explain that aesthetic properties feature in perceptual experience. Aesthetic and non-aesthetic cases, however, are distinguished by the precise role played by our imaginative capacities. While in non-aesthetic cases current sensory stimuli plays a more determinant role, in aesthetic cases these stimuli serve only as an anchor and our imaginative capacities are given more free reign.
Aesthetic Reasons: What They Can Do and What They Cannot Do
María José Alcaraz León
Aesthetic reasons are often invoked as a characterization of the rational nature of critical discourse. However, the way aesthetic reasons operate in critical discourse invites reconsidering their normative role. Compared to the normative force that reasons seem to possess in other domains, aesthetic reasons may be accepted whilst persisting in one’s previous judgment or failing to make the judgment those reasons are supposedly grounding.
The suggestion I would like to make is that these singularities can be better accommodated if we consider the activity of giving and taking aesthetic reasons, not as a matter of providing independent elements (evidence) for a particular aesthetic judgement, but as making explicit the content of one’s judgment and the features one takes to be responsible for one’s appreciation or to justify it. In so doing, we show our judgment to be properly anchored in the object’s features and establish, by making that judgment, that we take that relationship to be normative, that is, universally acceptable.
Albeit this may seem like a concession depriving aesthetic reasons of a normative role, I would like to show that this role is sufficient to establish the rational nature of aesthetic judgment.
An Alien Phenomenology of Object Oriented Aesthetics and Vehicular Attraction in Julia Ducournau’s Titane (2021)
Mariliis Elizabeth Holzmann
Julia Ducournau’s film, Titane (2021), has received considerable critical acclaim while rousing and repulsing audiences with its provocative appropriation of the body horror genre. A critical discursive examination of Titane and related paratexts serves to present an “alien phenomenology” that enables a wider consideration of the relations between humans and non-human others with attention to how these subject-object tensions limit social possibilities and enable new aesthetic imaginaries. The analysis is organized in three movements. In the first move, a brief overview of the film is woven together with a consideration of recent philosophical innovations associated with object oriented ontology (OOO). In addition to the summative analysis of the film, this first section draws on a number of interviews with Durcournau to ground thematic findings associated with OOO using the director’s own words. The second move shifts toward a consideration of the audience reception and examines responses to the film with attention to how Ducournau’s object oriented aesthetic problematizes existing configurations of the horror genre. In the closing motion, the analysis turns to examine the way that object characterizations of gender fluidity and identity may remain complacent with hegemonic discourses of post-feminism. Rather than describe this as a generic oversight of horror films or a shortcoming of the auteur, I argue that Ducournau’s Titane elicits an affective interrogation that manifests itself in the aesthetics of corporeality that constrain gender identity and confine the monstrous imaginary to specific (sub)genres.
Feeling through Things
Some objects we value because they afford a sense of connection with distant people, places, or events. Visiting Canterbury cathedral, say, you encounter the place where archbishop Thomas Becket was murdered by the knights of Henry II. Knowing that you are standing in the very place where Becket’s blood was spilled gives the past event a sense of tangible reality. In a recent body of work, Carolyn Korsmeyer has developed an account of such experiences in terms of an imperceptible property of genuineness. Against Korsmeyer, I argue that genuineness has no descriptive role in characterising the historical features of objects that afford experiences of being ‘in touch with the past’. I offer an alternative account of the phenomenon in terms of an imaginative activity that represents what an object is historically connected with and that makes the object special as part of the object in the present. One imagines of the site of Becket’s murder Becket being murdered. This mode of engagement can, I suggest, be thought of as an empathy-related response. What is distinctive about the cases in question is that one imaginatively feels through the object to what it embodies in virtue of its past.
Persuasive Narratives. Fiction in the Time of Climate Change
Marta Benenti and Lisa Giombini
In the last two decades, climate change has emerged as a dominant theme in literature and, correspondingly, in scholarly studies. Such novels as Margaret Atwood’s popular trilogy MaddAddam (2013), Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Water Knife (2015), Ian McEwan’s Solar (2010), Tom Boyle’s A Friend of the Earth (2000) and such movies as The Day After Tomorrow (2004), Interstellar (2014), Snowpiercer (2013) have been labelled Climate Fictions or, patterning after the more established “Sci-fi, “Cli-fi”. Despite the idea that fictional works do have a significant persuasive power, only limited attempts have been made, especially by philosophers, to investigate the potential impact of Cli-fi on people’s environmental beliefs and resulting behaviours.
Drawing on a number of literary and cinematographic examples, in this paper we start by examining what Cli-fi is as a narrative genre and how it functions as a type of fiction, then we move on to consider how being immersed in a narrative, like a novel or a movie, may affect the recipients’ beliefs, and finally we show how the specific narrative features of Cli-Fi promise to influence audiences’ attitudes towards climate change.
Epistemic Injustice and Somaesthetics in Photography
In the paper, I analyze the role photographed subjects play in determining the meanings of photographs in the context of photography of violence. To give back agency to photographed subjects, their bodies should be seen not as passive objects, but as active and independent from photographer’s control (Azoulay 2008; Pinney 2012). This form of independence allows one to preserve gestures of micro-resistance in photography (Tobing Rony 1996). I claim that overlooking them and seeing photographed subjects as only passive objects is a form of epistemic injustice (Fricker 2003; Medina 2018). To resist it I propose another way of interpreting photography, influenced by the somaesthetics tradition (Schusterman 2012), that examines how photographed subjects can create their own narration and express their experiences through their bodies. The proposed interpretation method that revalues both the body and the spectator is highly influenced by decolonial approaches to archives (Campt 2017; Hartman 2008).
An Ergodic Pleasure: Sensible Aspects of Reading
The act of reading is usually considered a purely imaginative aesthetic event. However, following the reader-centred theories (as in Iser, Jauss, Fish), it can be shown that a strong physical component plays its role, beyond the simple chain reading-imagining. The aim of my contribution is to study this physical component in the two extreme media for reading – the codex and the electronic literature – eventually unveiling the reading process as a physical-centred act, where the body of the reader is not a mere instrument but a crucial element in the formation of meaning. For the codex, the idea of affordance will be the key to show the connection between the physical and the mental; for the electronic text, it will be shown how the participation (rather than interactivity) of the reader to the world of the text is the ground for an identification of a subtle body of the reader in the text itself. Eventually, my conclusive hypothesis would be a weak form of dispositional supervenience of (some) mental aesthetic properties over the physical (with some differences in different media of presentation), during the act of reading.
Performative Beauty as Artistic Beauty
Matilde Carrasco Barranco
Departing from recent definitions of artistic beauty, which defend beauty’s role in the description, interpretation and evaluation of some artworks, this paper raises the issue of whether these accounts, built thinking about object art, are useful for the criticism of interactive or participatory artworks, whose aesthetic qualities arise in the activity of the audience that constitutes them. Thus, my argument seeks a view of beauty that is performative, located in the activity of the audience, yet necessary in order to appreciate correctly the aesthetic value of some of such artworks, as well as some hybrid ones, by properly addressing their artistic beauty.
On the Two Artistic Media of the Play Text
A play text is conventionally treated two ways: it may be a plan for a production, or it may be read as a literary work. This distinction is a matter of physical and artistic medium. I posit two playwrights. One writes alone in her study for an audience of readers. The other develops a play with a theatre company, for performance. I argue that the status of stage directions in the two cases is very different, and that only in the first case do they constitute literary writing. I argue that the dialogue is literary in both cases at first reading, but that the literary reading may be purposefully rejected in a production. I suggest two rival artistic media for theatre to explain this distinction: one is based on literary engagement and finds its theoretical basis most centrally in the tradition of Stanislavsky. The other uses literary texts to create productions, but leaves the literary achievement of the text to one side. I suggest that the two traditions in practice have different ontologies of the play text.
Visualism: The Case of Metaphors (with some examples from design)
The paper presents a new, visualist and formalist, definition of metaphor. According to which, metaphor of every kind, conceptual, linguistic, visual, or material, is an ontological-visual construction, based on visual forms that are used to reconstruct things anew and motivated by our attachment to forms. The framework is the current Visual Turn, which assumes that we are visualist creatures, hence the visual is the right sphere to focus a philosophical study on human nature and reality. Contrary to the often-voiced proposition that metaphor is made of two parts, I point to three: source, target, and emergent properties of the newly reconstructed target, those which cannot be pre-conceived and are unique to the metaphor. Accordingly, it suggests that visual metaphors are the paradigmatic ones thanks to the power of composition which is best accomplished by the visual.
My definition of metaphor challenges the ruling conceptualist theory of metaphor. Contrary to conceptualism, I claim that externalism is the appropriate philosophical point of departure for the philosophy of metaphors. Jim Hannon-Tan’s mass-produced design object alligator nutcracker Sweetheart (2020) (link to the image) is not an externalization of “understanding a nutcracker through a crocodile”, but gained its properties from the visual rendering of emergent properties of a crocodile which now can only be possessed by a nutcracker, and vice versa.
Skin of Stones, And How Art Can Make Us Think More Ecologically
Stones in their aesthetic character can be seen to blend well together with abstract sculpture. They are the prime example of objects of the world, whereas us humans and appreciators of art are the subjects. Timothy Morton recognizes that it is abjects that form the hidden continuity between subjects and objects. In his program of ecological thinking, he aims at flattening out this uncanny valley by means of tuning in to and appreciating the ambiguity of abjects. This helps us to achieve an attitude of caring towards more and more beings.
In the course of this presentation, I will discuss artworks that exhibit stones in unfamiliar settings that come to reveal their skin. This makes them share an intimate element with us humans, and bring the experiencer of the artwork to a reflection on the given positions of subject and object, on which the abjectified stones cast doubts. Thus, I propose that art can contribute to the ecocritical work of evening out the uncanny valley by including stones as ambiguous beings in artworks.
The Emancipatory Role of Misuse in the Aesthetic Theory of Design
The renewed interest in the aesthetic dimension of design objects has been undoubtedly revived by the popularity of everyday aesthetics. At the vanguard of the philosophical discussion on the relationship between everyday life and design, we find the publication of Jane Forsey The Aesthetics of Design (2013), which revises Immanuel Kant’s notion of the judgment of dependent beauty applying it to functional objects. On this account, the criterion for identifying kinds of objects and assessing a correct judgment of beauty is the prescribed function which is defined as “the […] intended function of the thing as designed to be the thing it is” (32). In questioning Forsey’s assumption that the prescribed function is the sole aesthetically relevant factor in the aesthetics of design, I argue that aesthetic evaluations of misuse also pertain to the domain of a philosophical reflection on the everyday aesthetic dimension of design. These moments are captured by the concept of everyday design (ED) that defines a practical activity whose appreciation additionally holds a subversive logic against consumerism.
Formal Fictional Truths, Glitches, and MISSINGNO.
Recently, Kim (2021) has argued for the existence of formal fictional truths – i.e., fictional truths that are generated by medium-based features in a non-saying, non-inferential manner. Kim’s idea is striking, pushing the investigation of fictional truth into uncharted waters. But much about formal fictional truths remains under-explored. In particular, Kim only considers literary fictions. So, it is natural to wonder how formal fictional truths manifest in non-literary fictions.
My aim here is to make some headway by examining formal fictional truths in video game fictions. Understanding what these look like in the context of video games will, I contend, help to both clarify the nature of fictional truth (formal or otherwise) and give us a better grip on the fictionality of video games.
Specifically, I argue that, when it comes to video games, there are both intentional and unintentional formal fictional truths. The former are straightforward, occurring regularly. The latter, however, are rare and often quite strange, only emerging from what van de Mosselear & Wildman (2020) have called generative glitches. To spell this out, I discuss the case of MISSINGNO., an infamous “glitch Pokémon”.
The Unreflective Everyday Aesthetic Experience
Natxo Navarro Renalias
The aim of this paper is to propose an alternative conception of everyday aesthetic experience. Against what is argued by Yuriko Saito (2017), it is alleged that adopting an attentive attitude is not always a necessary condition for aesthetically experiencing the everyday. Thus, it is maintained that the habitual everyday autopilot experience—taking place under the conscious radar—does significantly nurture our aesthetic life. This way, a case is made for the unreflective everyday aesthetic experience. For this purpose, a distinction is drawn between an appreciative and an immersive conception of everyday aesthetic experience, the latter providing a proper way of accounting for the unreflective everyday aesthetic experience. Whilst this work is based on a critique of Saito’s argument, it is also elucidated how it can nevertheless contribute to her overall project. Lastly, it is briefly considered the relevance of Wittgenstein’s later philosophy for providing this proposal with a normative framework of an implicit and practical character. As a general instance, ordinary interpersonal relations are taken to illustrate the different claims made in this paper.
Playable Aesthetics: On the Representational Aspects of Videogame Doors
Nele Van de Mosselaer and Stefano Gualeni
In this presentation, we introduce the free, experimental point-and-click videogame Doors (https://doors.gua-le-ni.com/) as a piece of playable aesthetics. Doors was designed to stimulate players to reflect on the representation of objects in virtual worlds. It takes the shape of a playable essay that interactively confronts players with questions about eleven doors that they can encounter within the gameworld. Many of these questions can be regarded as ‘silly’ in the Waltonian sense that seriously raising them in the context of videogame appreciation would be “pointless, inappropriate, and out of order” (cf. Walton 1990, 176). Yet, through the comical and often fastidious questions that Doors asks players to think about, it connects to deeper philosophical problems regarding the concept of simulation, the fictionality of virtual objects, and what happens when players claim to “interact” with fictional game objects. During the presentation, we briefly contextualize the game within contemporary debates on virtual aesthetics, clarify its purpose by describing a few of the in-game doors, and hopefully convince people to explore the silly, but nevertheless didactically and philosophically valuable questions within the context of the gameitself.
Walking through Everyday Life: Between Attention, Disruption and Defamiliarization
This paper aims at critically analyzing the relationship between walking and the aesthetic value of everyday life. Considering that different forms of attention, disruption and defamiliarization are enhanced by walking as an aesthetic practice, one should examine the latter’s scope in the framework of contemporary debates around the aesthetics of everyday life and the experience of urban space. I order to do so, I will bring together a selective genealogy of authors, concepts and artistic case-studies that show how walking can encompass disruptive and ludic elements that create particular space-time relationships. By transforming or playing with our habits or notions of the familiar, this in-between character of defamiliarization gives walking a singular aesthetic richness. Not only is it an embodied modality that has a fundamental importance in urban life, but it also stages a series of tensions and paradoxes that are inherent to the most recent considerations on the aesthetics of everyday life.
Ethical Issues on Musical Appropriation
Nemesio G. C. Puy
This talk aims to shed light on the question of whether musical appropriation is ethically unobjectionable. James Young (2021) has recently advanced a position on this topic, according to which, whereas the appropriation of a whole work is uncontroversially non-permissible, the appropriation of parts of a work is usually permissible. He grounds this view in ontological matters and in a criterion of fair use in terms of economic harm to the source work’s composer. I will go into develop in more detail Young’s account. I argue that, pace Young, we cannot make general ethical claims about musical appropriation because their truth is sensitive to the musical genres that the involved works belong to. The reason is that different musical genres have different normative implications as to how musical works are to be composed and appreciated, which in turn entail different consequences concerning the harm to the source work’s composer. In support of this thesis, I will consider a specific kind of musical appropriation: using the first measures of a source work as the first measures of a secondary work. Considering three cases of appropriation of works belonging to different genres, and assuming Young’s criterion on fair use, I will show that the instances of this kind of musical appropriation count as fair or unfair depending on the musical genres of the involved works.
Aesthetic Gadgets and Predictive Minds: Universalism in Evolutionary Aesthetics Today
There is a growing appetite for including outcomes of empirical research into philosophical aesthetics. At the same time, evolutionary aesthetics remains in the margins with little mutual discussion with the various strands in philosophical aesthetics. This is surprising, because the evolutionary framework has the power to bring these two approaches together. This article demonstrates that the evolutionary approach builds a biocultural bridge between our philosophical and empirical understanding of humans as aesthetic agents who share the preconditions for aesthetic experiencing but are not determined by them. Sometimes, philosophers are wary of the evolutionary framework. Does the research program of evolutionary aesthetics presuppose an intrinsic aesthetic instinct that would determine the way we form aesthetic judgments regardless of the environment with which we interact? I argue that it does not. Imitation and mindreading are considered to be central features of the aesthetic module. Recently, and contrary to the prior view, it has been shown that imitation and mindreading are not likely to be innate instincts but socially learned, yet evolved patterns of behavior. Hence, I offer grounds for thinking that the cognitive aesthetic module(s) is socially learned, too. This outcome questions the need for the traditional differentiation between empirical and philosophical aesthetics.
Aesthetics, Culture and Nature
Pauline von Bonsdorff
“Aesthetic” is an ambiguous term. On the one hand, it refers to a branch of philosophy or theory; on the other hand, to phenomena in the world. Rather than dismiss the latter as misuse of the term, I will take these two meanings seriously and propose a non-reductionist naturalist approach to aesthetic matters, including art and the everyday. The baseline is that aesthetic agency and communication is fundamental to human beings. Like language, art is an integral part of all cultures, although it takes different forms. I shall briefly discuss some contemporary anthropological and evolutionary theories of art but spend more time on ontogenetic arguments for the ubiquity of the aesthetic in human life, drawing upon infant and child research while integrating it with aesthetic theory. I hope to show how the aesthetic, even in its most local forms, carries existential and axiological weight, and contributes to the formation of a self in a socially shared but also contested world. Rather than being separate from other concerns and dimensions of life, the aesthetic is thoroughly interwoven with them. If this is the case, we might do well to study aesthetic matters through multi-methodological approaches.
Viral Poetics and Queer Theory: Paul Preciado, Maggie Nelson, Kae Tempest
While the performative is a central element in the constitution of social norms and order through the repetition of ritualized speech acts, it also contains a disruptive and transformative force that can affect these social norms and order. What I call the virality of language is a way of understanding how some linguistic uses contaminate and disrupt the dominant performative from within. Among these uses, poetic practices play an important role and constitute a form of viral poetics. My aim in this paper is to investigate how some elements from queer theory—insofar as it investigates the disruption of social norms—can provide key insights into thinking the virality of language. More specifically, by focusing on works that have been categorized as autotheory, I raise the question: how does the performative force of poetry affect language and the constitution of the subject? My paper is divided in three parts focusing each on an author and highlighting one specific notion related to viral poetics: Paul Preciado with the notion of performativity, Maggie Nelson with the notion of identity, and Kae Tempest with the idea of creativity.
The Passage of an Idea: Philosophical Film Criticism and Phenomenology of Love in the Wake of Alain Badiou
Alain Badiou is one the few major philosophers who approach film not as a source of illustrative material, but as a primary medium of thought, and hence for him – as much as it was for Cavell or Deleuze – film criticism constitutes a full-fledged philosophical practice. In this paper my aim is to present the particular model of the alliance of film and philosophy suggested in Badiou and to demonstrate its methodological efficiency with regard to a particular theme of cinematic exploration: romantic love – a phenomenon, of which Badiou happens also to have an original theory. At the focus of my argument is the reciprocal relation between this theory and the philosophical interpretation of cinematic romance, most broadly construed. While Badiou’s conception of love provides a productive conceptual framework for the analysis of the amorous theme on screen, I argue, such analysis is essential for refining, specifying or indeed transforming this framework.
Mood in Cinema. Towards a Unified Form of Time
In this paper I discuss a number of audiovisual works that set out to construct a new form of time marked by a growing complexity. I argue that this form of temporality is intended to counter the dominant notion that the time we live in is fragmented, dismembered, “out of joint”. In the first, shorter part of the paper I discuss the current social, postmodern, context, in which human temporal experience is fragmented in different planes and dimensions. In the second part I analyse three audiovisual works and show how they offer answers to the problems described in the first part. Many artists show an interest in a reconfiguration of times without sacrificing any of the complexity that human experience can achieve. The works I analyze are Nostalgia de la luz (Patricio Guzmán, 2010), El cielo gira (Mercedes Álvarez, 2004), and Cemetery (Carlos Casas, 2019).
The last two of these works build an atmosphere and a rhythm, using a variety of aesthetic resources which, in combination, create and convey an atmosphere or mood throughout the film. In a new reading of Augustine’s Confessions, where the philosopher argues his theory of time, I will defend that the mood is the aesthetic element that brings the unification of the plurality, that allows the beholder having a temporal unified experience of time of each of these works. Among other conclusions, we will see that, countering the tendency towards a uniform, simplified experience of reality, these artistic forms seek to recover the complexity of human experience and offer meanings, including potential future meanings, that allow us to reflect on the world we live in.
The Subjective Knowledge Theory. A Defense
In this paper, I will statement and defend a version of what is known as the Subjective Theory of Knowledge (e.g. Walsh 1969, Kajtár 2016, Mikkonen 2015), which claims that narrative literature can provide the reader with knowledge of what it is like to have a certain experience. I will argue that we can get such a knowledge by imagining an experience (usually an emotion or another cognitive-affective experience) that a fictional character has. I will also claim that the knowledge resulting from this is not a priori worse than the one derived from actually having the experience. My key argument for this last claim is the following: the test for whether one knows what it is like to have a certain experience consists in whether one can imagine it, so it does not matter whether one has actually had it.
The Image is Extended; Knows Nothing About It: Images in a Post Aesthetic Regime
Jacque Rancière points to German Romanticism as the birthplace of the Aesthetic Regime, which unifies artistic production with the sensory perception of art, hence giving no principle to distinguish artistic acts from other acts. The danger in this scheme of thought, which is still dominating our understanding of art, as shown by Alain Badiou and Jean Luc Nancy, is that art loses its ability of demarcation. In order to give art back the power to set its own boundaries, Nancy uses the double meaning of the term “sense” and shows how artistic images are in fact acts of demarcation, that are at the same time intelligible and sensory. Based on the Freudian saying “Psyche is extended; knows nothing about it”1 I aim to show how in relation to artistic images, the quality of spatial extension becomes an act of division and demarcation. Images are able, with this act, to redetermine sensory divisions and reset the ever-changing artistic limits. I believe that here lies the potential to mark the beginning of a Post Aesthetic regime in which images are themselves the border lines of art.
The Aesthetic Field as Social Mediation. Adorno and Benjamin and the Aesthetic Critique of Everyday Life
The debate between Adorno and Benjamin regarding the decay of aura, the technical reproducibility and the role of art in society contains some important insights in order to rearticulate the relationship between artistic practices and everyday life. In the contribution, we will highlight how Adorno and Benjamin address the problems related to the processes of aestheticization and to commodity fetishism. If for Benjamin autonomous art must give way to the aesthetic refunctionalization of the system of production and technique, for Adorno the crisis of the traditional categories of aesthetics should be incorporated within artistic practice itself, which remains the privileged site for the exercise of an alternative praxis. These alternative interpretations are based not so much on a different understanding of the social reality but rather on a different position about the aesthetical-political strategy to cope with it.
Principles for a Syncretic Theory of Pictures
What are pictures ? To answer this question, one of the most successful approaches is what has been called the perceptual account. On this approach, pictures are fundamentally characterized by the way they are perceived by subjects. This principle can for example be fleshed out by claiming that pictures foster a specific type of twofold perceptual experience in subjects. By contrast, another type of account, that I shall call conventional account, is largely neglected nowadays because it appears as insufficient to distinguish pictures from other kinds of representations. These two types of accounts are often presented as incompatible. However, it is not obvious in what sense they are so. The aim of this paper is thus twofold. Firstly, to precisely identify the differences between the perceptual and the conventional accounts of pictures. Secondly, to suggest that there might still be a role for the conventional account. To provide support for this view, I will show that the perceptual and conventional accounts may not have the same explananda, leaving open the possibility that a theory of depiction integrating both might be built.
“Can Poems Do Philosophy?”: The Philosopher as a Sportsman of the Mind
Salvador Rubio Marco
My paper is a humble tribute to the life and work of the recently deceased († 9/15/21) French philosopher Jacques Bouveresse. He leans on the work of Paul Valéry (in short, on the philosophical poetry by an anti-philosopher) in order to claim the idea of the philosopher as a kind of sportsman of the intellect.
The goals of this paper are: 1) to present Valéry’s answer (from Bouveresse’s interpretation) to the question “Can poems do philosophy?”, 2) to compare Carroll’s solution to the (parallel) problem of the existence or not of a philosophy through motion pictures, 3) to assess Bouveresse’s -Valéry’s solution from a complex twofold conception of philosophy (as a corpus of knowledge and as a momentum of thinking).
Valéry’s poetic style of writing is, thus, a kind of resistance to do philosophy and, at the same time, an attempt to care for and save philosophy. And maybe Bouveresse, in turn, with his essayistic style, has contributed valuably to dismantling the analytical vice of insisting on answering in a narrow way questions such as “Is it possible to do philosophy in cinema?” or “Is it possible to do philosophy in poetry?”
Philosophical Disenfranchisement of Art and Social Oppression: Arthur Danto’s Vision of a Pluralistic Artworld as a Model for an Equal Society
Arthur C. Danto belongs among the most prominent figures of the analytical philosophy of art of the 20th century. His books and articles shaped the discipline’s character and are still widely analyzed. In my presentation, I aim to demonstrate that there is – usually neglected – a social dimension in Danto’s writings. I will argue two things: I claim that Danto 1) believes (or hopes) that a pluralistic state of the artworld might be a precursor for the state of the society. And that he 2) admits that art can change a viewer’s attitude towards the content of an artwork in question and, therefore, how the viewer sees the world. This change of perspective might, in consequence, contribute to the transformation of the whole society.
Ontological Experience and Users’ Identity in Digital Body Interactive Installations
Sonia Emilia Mihai
Marked by an ontological perspective, my research shows how users’ identity is illustrated through experience in digital body interactive installation, a sub-category of digital interactive installations. We identify three types of experience: functional, blind, and meaningful experience. The last one plays an important role in addressing users’ identity because it contains the substance, found in the types of interactive feedback, needed to enrich and develop users’ identity in the process of interaction with the artwork.
Users’ identity is not constructed in the moment of interaction user- digital screen, but it is re-presented, re-used, re-engaged in the system, as much as the pre-setted pattern permits it, and the impact of the experience conditions the identity’s development through memories and reactions.
Designing Worlds: Explorations of the Possible Structures of the Aesthetic in Jacques Rancière
In my paper I would like to explore the idea of design in the thought of Jacques Rancière. Although there is only one text dedicated exclusively to the practice of design, namely, The Surface of Design (2003), we could however isolate aspects and derive several insights for the design process with regard to the aesthetic domain and the contemporary artistic practices. One of my hypotheses will be the working idea that design can be approached by means of a conceptual analysis, that, is by the delineation of a community of concepts, practices, images, words and artistic references. On these grounds, one additional hypothesis would be the capacity and possibility of the aesthetic to take the form of apparatus, structure and more general, to take on the form of a topology for re-configuring constructions and communities of shared things.
Is the Value of Good Bad Art a Solitary Value?
In everyday art appreciation, it is not uncommon to hear people say about some artwork that it is so bad it’s good. I take ‘Good Bad Art’ (GBA in short) to denote any artwork which counts as bad, given the standards of the art form it belongs to, but which is appreciated in virtue of its bad-making features. In this paper, I consider the criticism of the existing accounts of the value of GBA that they have not explained how the merit of GBA counts as a recognizably aesthetic merit. In response, I argue that the precedent to the aesthetic value of GBA can be found if we consider the idea according to which it can be a sign of excellence in an artwork that it appears natural, as if it were produced by nature and not some rule-governed agency. My suggestion is that the aesthetic value of GBA is in similar way the value of nature-likeness.
Aesthetics and Semiotics. Partly Site-specific
This presentation will explore the interrelations between aesthetics and semiotics. In order to do so, a certain delineation should first be made between the two disciplines and at least some common ground should be established. I shall choose the phenomenon of art as this possible common ground and shall rely on those authors who have explicitly addressed both disciplines. This enquiry could in principle be traced back to Baumgarten’s Aesthetica, although he referred to semiotics only in the table of contents of his work.
The second part of this presentation will take a look at this parallel development in the context of one large, albeit politically detached cultural space – the Soviet Union – and will also map the principal developments that emerged during one of its most interesting and intellectually productive periods: the transition period into the post-Soviet era. It also provides an opportunity to explore the role of political predestination and ideology in both disciplines, as well as the functioning of democracy in the humanities.
No Such Thing as Art: Skill, Form and Human Experience
Traditional scepticism about defining art relied on features of “the art concept” to explain why attempts to define art are misguided, i.e., why definition must always fall short of doing justice to those features; i.e. the problem was in definition, not in the art concept. Art concept eliminatitivism, on the other hand, targets the “art concept” itself, not definition per se.
Recently, Bartel and Kwong proposed art concept eliminativism as the best alternative once it is shown that the previously most promising one (Mag Uidhir and Magnus’ art concept pluralism) doesn’t work with the art concept. I follow a different route towards the same destination: the art concept is both explanatorily inert and generates philosophical pseudo-problems. Therefore, we should get rid of it. We add nothing to the idea that a movie is good as a movie (or that it functions as a movie) by saying that it is “art”.
With or without the concept of art, we are interested in artifacts that function as representations of a certain kind: skilful articulations of human experience, in a medium, and in such a way that form is the major purveyor of significance. This is no more a definition of art than “aesthetic creation” is. And yet aesthetic creation, embodied meaning, illustrative representation and other posits of art theory are real phenomena. I argue that aesthetics (no longer philosophy of art) has much to win if we investigate such explanatorily useful kinds without the “metaphysical-ideological” concoction of “art”. Many things become clearer.
The Laocoön and the Devil: A Path through the Franciscus Hemsterhuis’ Letter on Sculpture
This research intends to show the key role of the Franciscus Hemsterhuis’s Letter on Sculpture (1765) in the frame of the late eighteenth-century Aesthetics. More specifically, through the transition from a mimetic to a “relational” model, according to which beauty emerges from the relationship between the subject and the art object, the Dutch philosopher theorises two different but equally valid ways to represent beauty through art: the classical way, which is esemplified by the Laocoön, and the modern way, whose peculiar subject is the devil.
According to Hemsterhuis, beauty, defined as “the greatest possible number of ideas in the smallest possible space of time”, belongs to the soul’s desire for unity and could be gained by the artist through two different paths: increasing the art object’s unity (classical way) or enhancing the quantity of ideas represented (modern way). It is, therefore, necessary that the artist considers not only the minimum of time the subject needs to grasp the totality of the object (unity) but also the maximum of ideas the object communicates (multiplicity). Basically, beauty is a balanced state intended as an optimum, namely as a totality easy to grasp and simultaneously rich and varied.
This paper explores the various forms of visual abstractions in photography. I argue that Kendall Walton’s (1970) system of standard, variable, and contra-standard aesthetic properties is especially useful for refining important distinctions among the ways abstractions may be utilised in photographic works. The types of abstractions are important creative choices in all the three distinct categories, and these choices result in photographic properties that are constitutive to the photographic meaning of both particular images and photographic series as well.
Photographic abstraction is one of the important photographic means of the general artistic modes of presentation Arthur Danto (1981) discusses. According to Danto, the way artworks present their content is also part of their artistic meaning, and thus to be taken into account when interpreting the artwork as a whole. While of course not all photographs are artworks, the specific kinds of photographic abstractions utilised for the construction of photographic meanings are also to be interpreted when interpreting the artistic and non-artistic meanings of photographs. When Roland Barthes (1981) introduces his notion of punctum, his explication and examples also indicate that punctum might well be the result of an interplay between the kind of photographic abstraction utilised and the depicted content of the image. For as Barthes argues, depicted content alone may only result in studium, when our interest in the photograph is based on and extends to our interest in the phenomenon itself that is being depicted in the image. Our interest in the photograph only transcends the depicted content when punctum stabs us with the way the depicted content is presented by the image.
PANEL: Aesthetic Practices: Perspectives on Temporality
The panel takes some steps to establishing “aesthetic practice” as an analytic tool in aesthetics and the study of culture and explores it through a discussion of three cases, namely drawing, gaming, and expats’ aesthetic practices of negotiating their native culture. The focus is on temporality on several levels, as aesthetic practices gain significance from being recurrent activities, interwoven with rhythms of life and often constituted by characteristic rhythms and rhythmic variations. Many of the leisurely activities we engage in without instrumental goals can fruitfully be studied as “aesthetic practices”: enjoyable activities of dialogue between self and world where we creatively appropriate existing modes and styles of action and in so doing modify them. They cover a variety of preoccupations from art to regularly performed, even seemingly mundane activities, bridging everyday aesthetics and arts. Through personal investment in a particular activity over time earlier experiences inform the present, creating a dialectic of repetition and variation. For the same reason, aesthetic practices are often an integral part of personal identity.
Aesthetic Practices of Finnish Emigrants
Why study aesthetic practices of emigrants? Often when a person moves to a different country, they lose a cloak of culture that until then has enveloped them. Upholding traditions, cultural practices, and one’s own aesthetic practices may become more intentional, deliberate and at times difficult. I examine aesthetic practices regarding the home of contemporary Finnish emigrants in Australia: gardening, yard activities and seasonal festivities. As examples, I discuss certain common elements of a Finnish yard: a sauna, a smoke oven and a carpet rack. Drawing from Hannah Arendt’s Vita Activa, I examine these three elements as aesthetic practices through the lens of labour, or sustaining basic life processes; work, or making things and tools for an outcome; and action, or connecting with others verbally and symbolically to establish oneself in the world. I use this categorisation to illustrate how a seemingly mundane everyday activity can occupy multiple layers of meaning. Yuriko Saito, C. Thi Nguyen, Kevin Melchionne and artist Jenny Odell all argue from different viewpoints that cultivating everyday aesthetic sensibility is important to our shared wellbeing and world-making: how we do things matters as much as the instrumental goal. Examining the aesthetic life of emigrants demonstrates this empirically.
Rhythmic Agency in Process Aesthetics
This paper explores rhythm as a key to the aesthetic character of process aesthetics and aesthetic practices. C. Thi Nguyen argues that in process arts, aesthetic attention does not focus on the artefact but on the subjective sensation of wielding agency. For example, in games the player’s aesthetic experience focuses on their own practical agency in striving to reach the game’s goal. The experience consists of such things as the player’s actions, decisions, development of skill and variations of style. However, it is difficult to distinguish which parts of the experience pertain to agency and not to the artefact. While Nguyen’s argument about the existence of process arts and the aesthetic experience of agency is convincing, it is difficult to pinpoint how exactly one’s own agency is experienced as aesthetic. This stems in part from the momentary and subjective nature of agency, which can be experienced only by the enactor during the action itself. The paper suggests that the experience might be analysed through philosophical interpretations of rhythm as flow and continuously changing form. This also provides a way to situate process aesthetics in the wider context of everyday rhythms.
Examined Life – Drawing as Self-Reflective Rumination
Anecdotal evidence from avid drawers suggests that drawing regularly from life enhances their sense of contentment and fulfilment. This is, according to their accounts, achieved over a period of time during which they engage in drawing regularly, often daily. Furthermore, they stress that the key factor is to select subjects to draw from one’s everyday life: the breakfast toast, toiletries, scattered toys, the bus stop shelter near one’s home. In my presentation, I propose that this regular practice promotes self-reflective rumination indirectly by lifting the fixtures of everyday life into focused, aesthetic attention. While drawing as such is not necessarily self-reflective, a practice of aesthetic reflectivity makes the everyday special by cultivating appreciation of it in all its facets. This in turn lets reflective rumination emerge intrinsically, enabling a “deeper” world to unfold to the drawer: one more saturated with meaning, more intimately known, more intense than the world is otherwise. My presentation draws from Hans Ulrich Gumbrech’s thoughts on the importance of material presence, Alva Nöe’s view of the human experience as an unfolding dance with the world, Tim Ingold’s concept of weaving and the phenomenological concepts of lifeworld, embodied experience, and aesthetic engagement.
A Practice Perspective on Intrinsic Aesthetic Value
Pauline von Bonsdorff
Locating intrinsic aesthetic value (IAV) in the object of appreciation has created problematic categorisations (e.g. pure vs. applied arts), whereas theories that locate IAV in experience tend to pay attention mainly to the structure of experience as a singular event. This leaves a blind spot as regards the qualities that make the experience significant and valuable. In this paper, I outline a practice perspective on intrinsic aesthetic value (IAV). Basically, I suggest that we locate IAV primarily in aesthetic practice rather than in the aesthetic experience or in objects of aesthetic appreciation. In a preliminary exploration of what the practice perspective yields, I highlight temporal dimensions of value. This includes the building up of skills, styles, and repertoires; memory and narratives; sedimentation of experience; resonance and felt freedom. In many ways, the practice perspective on IAV provides a robustly existential take on aesthetic value, one that makes more sense than the alternatives. In developing this perspective, I take inspiration from leisure studies, especially as influenced by Aristotle.
PANEL: The Beautiful, the Sublime and the Open. Aesthetic Approaches to Religion in Kant, Hegel and Hölderlin
In this talk I take the starting point from Kant’s Religionsschrift (1793) and the related essay “The End of All Things” (1794). In both writings, Kant takes ethics as his primary starting point and develops a specific view on religion under the auspices of practical philosophy. Inevitably, however, aesthetically relevant categories appear, as Kant had previously developed them in the Critique of the Power of Judgement (1790): the two basic motifs of aesthetic judgement, the beautiful and the sublime, and the activity of imagination (as a productive faculty of cognition) that is no longer conceptually regulated. The purpose of the talk is to show that while the ideal of a purely rational religion can never fully be reconciled with the course of historical religions, Kant applies aesthetic categories in approaching this ideal. In other words, this means: Kant’s Critique of Aesthetic Judgment contains potentialities for an understanding of religion that he hints at – without further pursuing them – in his writing on religion, which remains more oriented towards his practical philosophy. This unusual reconstruction of Kant’s ethically coded philosophy of religion from the standpoint of aesthetics reveals how lines of connection between aesthetics and religion can also be seen in Kant’s work. These lines of connection can be further pondered with Kant and beyond Kant. In a spectacular shift from ethics to aesthetics the authors of the Oldest Systematic Program of German Idealism (1796/97) – among them Hölderlin – determine the highest act of reason as an aesthetic act. This means entrusting aesthetics with a greater weight of its own, which is able to illuminate a dimension of religion that eludes both a theoretical and a practical approach.
For Hölderlin, Kant is the starting point of his thinking. However, for him, religion is not primarily inscribed in the matrix of practical philosophy, but contains essential impulses from its relation to aesthetics. Hölderlin wanted to move from “philosophy to poetry and religion” without taking the path via practical philosophy. In the “Fragment of Philosophical Letters” Hölderlin concludes: “Thus all religion would be poetic in its essence.” While Kant had only opened up ethically based religion to aesthetic categories in selected places, Hölderlin placed the latter at the centre. This is particularly evident in his reference to God in poetry from after 1800, which borrows essential motifs developed by Kant in the Critique of Aesthetic Judgment. For Kant, beauty has to do with the “feeling of freedom in the play of our cognitive faculties” (KdU § 45), which of course does not mean lack of rules. The creative and free character of the imagination is expressed in the fact that it produces an abundance of ideas for given concepts accompanying those concepts but escaping their regulation (cf. KdU § 49). This open moment, which Kant allows but does not develop further, provides a key to the peculiarity of Hölderlin’s writing. His poems always have a concept, an idea, a theological object (the question of God) as their theme. This concept is enriched with new ideas in an unfinishable process of revising the poems. New versions of the texts usually do not erase the old ones, but rather fan the linear textual design into a variety that is no longer entirely controllable. This process of multiplication of ideas is particularly intense where God is concerned.
PANEL: Beholding: Situated Art and the Aesthetics of Reception
Situated art and nested media
In Beholding, Wilder offers analyses of works that construct situations inhabited by the public. In parts I-III, he discusses depictive and sculptural works that link the ‘virtual’ space with the real space occupied by the public. In part IV, Wilder discusses performance and installation works which activate the beholders by inviting them to act in specific ways and, nevertheless, are not mere ‘literal’ spaces deprived of a ‘virtual’ dimension. While Wilder describes the works discussed in parts I-III as belonging to the traditional media of painting and sculpture, he considers the works discussed in part IV as intermedia ones – works that come into being through the modification of existing media such as sculpture, architecture, and film. I shall suggest that, by bringing together recent discussions of those notions by Berys Gaut, Dom Lopes, and Sherri Irvin, and Wilder’s account of situated art, we can put forward an innovative view, with strong explanatory power: (1) in theorizing about art media, we should make room for a medium that is distinctive of installation art; (2) that art media can nest or hybridise and often do so; (3) that the works discussed in parts I-III of Wilder’s book are works where the medium of installation art is nested within the pictorial and sculptural medium; (4) that the works discussed in part IV are works where other media are nested within the installation medium.
Painting as Reversed Theatre
Painting and theatre can be differentiated in a trivial way: the painted scene is still whilst duration and movement are crucial to the theatrical scene. Part I and II of Wilder’s Beholding, which focuson sacred imagery and group portraiture, enable us to reconsider the relationship between painting and theatre in subtler ways. Elaborating on Wilder’s characterizations of the experience of masterpieces from Masaccio to Goya, I will highlight the peculiar theatricality that differentiates painting from theatre itself. First, a painting is theatrical if it succeeds in suggesting a sense of duration and movement is spite of its stillness. Secondly, a painting is theatrical if it organizes the pictorial space by replicating the distinction between scenery and acting. Thirdly, paintings can exploit theatrical devices such as the aside and the ‘festaiuolo’. I will (1) clarify the peculiar theatricality of looks and gestures by means of Walton’s distinction between the ‘Story World’, which leaves the beholder out, and the ‘Game World’, which instead includes her by locating her in what Predelli calls the ‘Periphery’ of the Story World; (2) argue that the paintings Wilder investigates reverse the theatricality of theatre. The audience of a play is mandated to stand still in the Periphery while the characters move in the Story World. Conversely, the beholder of such paintings is mandated to move in the Periphery of a Story World which appears to stand still.
Miscalibrating the virtual/real divide
In my book Beholding, I propose that situated artworks perform a locative function, bringing into play the beholder’s real and imaginary orientation towards both real situation and virtual realm. However, I claim that the artworks considered set up tensions through intentional miscalibrations between these real/virtual orientations. The supporting wall of Masacccio’s Trinity is breached by the fresco’s trompe l’oeil devices while simultaneously establishing a necessary distance for a sacred space differentiated from the empirical space of the beholder; Velázquez’s Las Meninas both draws upon the beholder’s physical sense of arrival while excluding the beholder through its use of an internal spectator whose repertoire we cannot adopt; Anthony Caro’s Prairie destabilises the very ground on which we stand through a calculated imposition of implied levels such that certain elements appear to float, defying gravity; Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece both relies upon and confronts performance conventions, staging its own self-disclosure as fiction. I will utilise these deliberate misalignments to argue against binary characterisations of the virtual/real divide, even when (as with sculpture) one is overlaid on another. In so doing, I reconfigure Gombrich’s notion of the beholder’s share not as an ‘illusion’ but as a set of ‘sanctioned’ imaginative and cognitive projections.