Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone


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Kerry James Marshall Our Town, 1995 acrylic and collage on canvas

Kerry James Marshall, Our Town, 1995, acrylic and collage on canvas

The American Society for Aesthetics is pleased to provide $7500 in partial support of the Questioning Aesthetics Symposium: Black Aesthetics, to be held at Hampshire College, Amherst, MA, March 31-April 1, 2017. Funding is also being provided by Hampshire College, the Five Colleges, and the Transdisciplinary Aesthetics Foundation.

The conference is co-organized by Monique Roelofs, Professor of Philosophy at Hampshire College, and Michael Kelly, Professor of Philosophy at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, and the Founder and President of the Transdisciplinary Aesthetics Foundation.

The symposium will be free and open to the public.

As more information becomes available, including the schedule of events, it will be posted on ASA’s website:


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Van Gogh, Pair of Shoes, 1886

Van Gogh, Pair of Shoes, 1886

About the Course

Modern philosophers traditionally thought of science as the realm of truth and art as the realm of beauty. And with the industrial revolution, western societies followed suit. Technology became the driving force of history as art became a sphere of entertainment.

In this two-part course, Philosopher Simon Glendinning challenges this conception by outlining Heidegger’s critique of technology whilst arguing that art is the path to freedom.

You will learn about:

  • Heidegger’s critique of modernity and the predominance of technology.
  • The nature and history of scientific rationality.
  • Heidegger’s reading of the work of Vincent Van Gogh.
  • Art’s relationship to truth and freedom.

Through video lectures, questions and suggested reading discover why art remains a true source of wisdom.  Share your ideas and support your learning through our discussion boards and test your knowledge through questions throughout the course.


This course is designed for anyone interested in art, technology or the philosophy of Martin Heidegger and requires no prior knowledge. Whether you’re student, artist or you just want to learn more, we welcome you to join this course.

About the Instructor

  • Simon Glendinning

    Simon Glendinning is Professor of European Philosophy at the London School of Economics and Director of the Forum for European Philosophy. His books includeOn Being With Others: Heidegger-Wittgenstein-Derrida (Routledge) and Derrida: A Short Introduction (OUP).

Course Syllabus

  • Part One: Technology and Chains
    Does modern technology lead to increased freedom and power? Or, as Heidegger said, are we increasingly “unfree and chained”?
  • Part Two: Art and Freedom
    Life in the technological age seems to lack real meaning. Glendinning looks to the creative arts as a potential “saving power”.

Fore more information, check out the course’s website:

To get you excited, check out a 2009 article from Harper’s: Philosopher’s Rumble Over Van Gogh’s Shoes. And if you’re really into it, check out Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s article on Heidegger’s Aesthetics written by Iain Thomson.


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Whether you’re an artist or a philosopher–or both!–perhaps you’ll find some useful advice in this letter written by Sol LeWitt to Eva Hesse in 1965. Reading the letter on stage at a London event called Letters Live, Benedict Cumberbatch passionately brings the words to life: “Learn to say ‘Fuck You’ to the world once in a while,” he yells. “You have every right to.”

To learn more about the friendship between these two famous minimalist artists, check out Hyperallergic’s article The Sinuous Lines of Influence Between Eva Hesse and Sol LeWitt.

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The emergence of new art forms and media is often, if not always, met with some resistance. Animation has always had a back seat, but now graphic novels have gained some cachet, and experimental animation has raised the status of what used to be stuff for kids.

3D animation of the style we see from Pixar and Dreamworks has been relegated to the same just-for-kids and not-for-serious-people category, but it too is trying to break out of that mold. (Remember the first 5 minutes of Up?)

Watch the newly released short “Borrowed Time” from a couple of Pixar animators (Lou Hamou-Lhadj and Andrew Coats) to see for yourself. Have some tissues on hand.

Borrowed Time via vimeo

Other good pieces pushing these boundaries? Or is 3D animation just too wrapped up with kids to be rescued? Or does the whole issue rest on the mistaken assumption that things for kids can’t be for serious aesthetic consumption?




House of Cards, Season 1

Title: Tunnel

Description: Conspiracy at its best. An empty space, literally underground. The lines of Harry Weese’s famous subway stations pull Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) and Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara) together, while the pillar reveals the tenseness and separation between them. We are pulled so close in this frame that we experience ourselves as a third participant and conspirator.

Readers, please help us by supplying a caption for this image! As a reminder, the winning caption will be hand-drawn into the blank space below the image. The reader who supplies the winning caption will receive a signed print and be named an official collaborator for this piece. Submit captions below in the comments!

Contest closes Saturday at noon (EDT). Winner announced Sunday. Next piece up in one week! Keep tabs on the project and contest at the project website here, review the project and contest details at the opening post here, or see previous posts in this series here.

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Aaaaand – we have another winner! Congratulations Anouk! (Email me with your contact details for your prize!)

I long to fly
but wings won’t grow till you can carry your own weight

House of Cards, Season 1, episode 1, 9:33

Title: Washington

Description: The moment it all begins. Here, Francis Underwood (Kevin Spacey) understands that his bid for Secretary of State, a crucial step on his path to an eventual Presidency, has failed. He is trapped in the corner of the room, which you can see behind his back. At the left, two lamps cast a warm light on a portrait of George Washington, whose footsteps he’ll now be unable to follow. It’s a surprisingly delicate portrayal of a violent breaking point.

Next piece up tomorrow! Keep tabs on the project and contest at the project website here, or review the details of it at the previous post here.

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Still from “Kendall Jenner, Performance Artist” | Image from documentation of one of Yves Kleins “Anthropometry” performance art pieces

Kendall Jenner admits that “being a supermodel is great” but she believes, deep down, that she is an artist. In this video Kendall Jenner shows off her “research” on performance art. See for yourself:

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Philosopher: Timothy Yenter, University of Mississippi

Artwork: Sense and Sensibility, written by Jane Austen, read by Juliet Levenson, unabridged audio recording, 11 CDs, 12h 43m, copyright 2005


Words: Jane Austen’s family loved reading aloud. Austen debuted new work this way, usually to her family’s acclaim, so she was troubled by her mother’s poor reading of Pride and Prejudice. Reading aloud is even praised by Fanny in Mansfield Park, who seriously objects to acting.

But what is the relationship between a novel and its public reading? Can a recording of Juliet Stevenson’s excellent reading of Austen’s novels be an artwork? Is it a performance, interpretation, translation, artwork, or all four? Does Austen’s expectation that her novels would sometimes be read aloud matter?


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The American Society for Aesthetics is hosting their 74th Annual Meeting. Along with a bunch of awesome talks and presentations, you can also attend a talk on the aesthetics of grunge! The event is taking place in Seattle, WA… so break out your plaid and your old cassette tape of Nevermind and join the fun!

For more information on the 74th Annual Meeting, check out the ASA site:




Kelley Walker, "Black Star Press (rotated 90 degrees)" (2006) / image via Contemporary Art Daily

Kelley Walker, “Black Star Press (rotated 90 degrees)” (2006) / image via Contemporary Art Daily

Perhaps you heard about the recent controversy at Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis:

Since opening in mid-September at CAM, a solo exhibition of white male artist Kelley Walker has been under fire over a series of works that appropriate images from the Civil Rights Movement and magazine covers of black women streaked with toothpaste and chocolate. After failing to offer adequate explanation for the works during an artist talk at the museum on September 17, both Walker and Uslip—who is said to have had a crucial role in realizing the exhibition—incited criticism from the local community, who found the works malicious in nature. A September 18th letter called for the removal of four offending works; among signees were three black members of the CAM staff. The museum refused to remove the works, and instead added barrier walls and signage to warn museum-goers that Walker’s works “may be difficult for some viewers.” Local artist Damon Davis explained that the works are particularly insensitive, pointing to “the current climate of race in St. Louis—knowing this is the epicenter of this new incarnation of the Civil Rights Movement,” he said. Last week, over 20 artists withdrew from a museum-sponsored open studios tour. Uslip is said to be moving on to a position at another museum. In a statement, CAM executive director Lisa Melandri said, “This is a pivotal time for the museum and for our community, as we examine museum and curatorial best practices and apply those to everything we do at CAM. We look forward to our future.


  Kelley Walker, “schema; Aquafresh plus Crest with Whitening Expressions (Kelis)” (2006), CD Rom with color poster, dimensions variable (image courtesy the artist, Paula Cooper Gallery, New York; Thomas Dane Gallery, London; and Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne)


Kelley Walker, photo via

Kelley Walker, photo via

This controversy has been all over the artworld web. For a thoughtful piece on this issue, please check out James McAnally’s A Call for a Collective Reexamination of Our Art Institutions for Hyperallergic. He is a writer, artist, and non-profit executive director living and working in St. Louis. In the piece he picks out this wonderful quote by Andrea Fraser:

Every time we speak of the ‘institution’ as other than ‘us’ we disavow our role in the creation and perpetuation of its conditions[…] It’s not a question of being against the institution: We are the institution. It’s a question of what kind of institution we are.

Given what has happened in St. Louis over the past week–not to mention what has happened there for the past several years outside the artworld–it seems like a good idea to revisit another article written by James McAnally earlier this year: The Work of the Institution in an Age of Professionalization. Given that we are all part of the institution, it pertains to us all:

I. To critique by building. We must build conscious alternatives to the world as we experience it: sustainable structures that support artists, support ourselves, and model a world we want to see embodied more broadly. An idea is not enough. The structure of our critique must also be a place to live.

II. To embody and enact structures that are sustainable, just, conceptual and diverse in idea, manifestation and act. Many things exist, exhaustingly, so we must propose new forms, as well as adopt and extend old forms that work. There must be an aesthetic and ethical, ideological and material justification to continue. The forms of organization must advance alongside artistic practice, manifesting in as many iterations as art itself as a collaborator and co-conspirator rather than a passive container of inherited ideas.

III. To support artists and organizers in their arc as individuals and practitioners and create a place for many people. Not all will be ‘in-common’ but will create common ground for those involved to flourish. Our organizations must be survivable for founders and organizers, seeing the institution as a collective of individuals with diverse needs and concerns. In an age of precarity, anxiety and over-labor, we must care well in the ways we can.

IV. To hold money as a tool to be used and a horizon to be overcome. The methods of accessing money should be ethical and the uses of money should be to grow the whole structure, to support the needs of artists and of the public, and to care for the individuals within it. As a nonprofit, this articulates a fundamental aspect of the form: for money to be a tool for public good, to take care of those individuals and ideas our society does not. To echo the attempts of for-profits through accumulation, competition, and over-professionalization is to empty the form of its force. It is to fail every level of what we mean when we say the public, who have enough businesses as-is, but too few forms of care.

V. To view art as a start, not the end. Forms of care, shapes of living and platforms of meaning are the end. Art emerges in this arc. Art has no other life than this: to course through communities as a charged object altering our attempts at communicating meaning, one to another, one to many, many to a multitude, a multitude to one.

VI. To understand our place in complex politics, ecologies and communities within and beyond art.The precarity within art does not exempt us from engagement and existence within un-abstracted communities, as neighbors, as citizens, as advocates. We are no longer naive about our role in processes of gentrification, capitalization, and spectacle. Artists may often be both perpetrator and victim, yet we must actively oppose these new social roles.

VII. To consider the intersectional implications of our actions in the Anthropocene, in America, in an evolving present. Injustice has no place within an institution. The new institution, as with the new artist, protests.

VIII. To age well, to sustain or end well. An organization is also a kind of organism and it must not simply last, but live. As it ages, it must either retain an essential vitality through evolution of concept or form or it must end appropriately, supporting others still in its fall.

IX. To create a continuity of history. We aren’t operating to sustain ourselves in a perpetual present: we inherit complex histories, we are a home for a time, and we propose alternate futures. We do not always need to live into the futures we propose: this is the after-life of the institution, embedded in its present.

Perhaps this manifesto can be altered in ways that meet the current situation in academic philosophy as well?