AESTHETICS FOR BIRDS

Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone


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UPCOMING JAAC x AFB DISCUSSION: TAVINOR ON VIDEO GAMES

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The third JAAC x AFB Discussion will be appearing next Thursday, March 2.

We will be looking at “What’s My Motivation? Video Games and Interpretive Performance” (abstract below the fold) by Grant Tavinor, available in JAAC’s Winter 2017 volume, 75 (1), online here. Grant is Senior Lecturer of Philosophy at Lincoln University, NZ and author of the book The Art of Videogames.

And big thanks to C. Thi Nguyen (Assistant Professor, Utah Valley University) for providing the critical précis. Grant will provide a response, and they will both be available to discuss your questions and thoughts in the comments.

Mark it in your calendars, and look forward to seeing you then!
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CAN #SELFIES BE ART? SAATCHI SAYS YES

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I’m going to go ahead and say Saatchi isn’t really that cutting edge on this one. People have been doing self-portraits for a long-ass time. Maybe those don’t count as “selfies” though?

In any event, the famous Saatchi Gallery will host a show this spring called “From Selfie to Self-Expression”. This is funded together with the enormous Chinese telecom company Huawei. (Hm, I wonder why they’d be interested in selfies.)

Maybe most exciting is for those artistic sorts who read the blog: You can enter your own selfie for a chance to be shown at Saatchi!

They’re currently holding a selfie competition (entry rules here), open until March 12, 2017. You have to submit images via their website interface. For whatever reason, you can’t just post an Instagram with the #SaatchiSelfie hashtag and be entered. Although they do want you to use that hashtag on Twitter, Instagram, etc.

Or you can just scope out the current entries.

From the website: “Winners will receive Huawei’s latest smartphone and have their selfies showcased at the Saatchi Gallery as part of Selfie to Self-Expression.” Even if you weren’t jonesing for the newest line of Huawei phones, being part of a Saatchi show would be pretty cool.

The show will run from March 31, 2017 – May 30, 2017.

Image: Rembrandt, Self-Portrait (1660), courtesy of The Met Collection


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WHISPERS OF POWER #15 *FINAL INSTALLMENT!*

Announcement: This is the final entry in the Whispers of Power series. Thanks to all of you who have gotten involved so far! You’ve made it a great series.

Remember: if your caption wins, it will be drawn into the partially finished artwork you see below, and your caption + the below image will become the final artwork, on which you will be listed as an official collaborator! You will also receive, by mail, a print of the final version.

Good luck!

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House of Cards, Season 4, Episode 13, 55:33

Title: Terror

Description: “We do not fear terror. We are the terror.” The house of Claire and Frank Underwood appears to collapse, and then they utter these words. This climactic scene that ends the show’s fourth season, and we are left afraid and uncertain. A timely message given that, in today’s political climate, we are also left wondering whether there is anything past fear and uncertainty.

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 next Saturday (3/4) at noon (US, EST). Winner announced that Sunday. Keep tabs on the project and contest at the project website here, review the details of it at the previous post here, or see previous posts in this series here.


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WHISPERS OF POWER #13 WINNER

Congratulations this week to Jennifer M for her Shakespeare quote!

“All the world’s a stage, / And all the men and women merely players.”
– Shakespeare, As You Like It

(Jennifer: Email us at aestheticsforbirds@gmail.com with your contact information to collect your prize!)

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House of Cards, Season 4, Episode 2, 11:38

Title: Show and Tell

Description: Innocent waves to the crowd turn into something more ominous in this week’s drawing. After more fierce fighting, the Underwoods are back on stage again. They have vowed to fight for the presidency with Frank as President and Claire as VP, a teaming previously unthinkable. Have the rules changed? Have their cards?

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


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100 PHILOSOPHERS 100 ARTWORKS 100 WORDS #63

Philosopher: Íngrid Vendrell Ferran, (Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena)

Artwork: Dieter Roth, 1974, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s Work in 20 Volumes

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Words: This provocative “neo-dadaist” work is one of the “literature sausages” (Literaturwurst) elaborated by Roth between 1961 and 1974, using traditional sausages recipes but replacing the meat with paper.  In this case, the 20 sausages in question have been fabricated using Hegel´s collected works. How would you feel about seeing the philosophical work of an admired philosopher transformed in sausages?  What is the sense of such a metamorphosis? In my view, the work suggests that some of our deepest philosophical thoughts start as “gut feelings” and have to be somehow “digested” in order to be understood.


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YouGov SURVEY ANSWERS PERENNIAL QUESTION: CAN VIDEO GAMES BE ART?

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Survey says… No. 😥

But tattoos can be, and many other things.

Internet-based market research company YouGov asked over 1500 Brits whether they thought various mediums could be art.

Their results:

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Unsurprisingly, results varied a lot across age groups, and some across class. Take a look at YouGov’s write-up of these surveys, and their detailed survey results. This updates some older results they got in 2014.

Well, I guess we can shut things down around here. Thanks to everyone for playing!

p.s. But seriously, stay tuned for the next JAAC x AFB Discussion on this beloved non-art-form. We’ll be discussing Grant Tavinor’s JAAC paper “What’s My Motivation? Video Games and Interpretive Performance”.

Photo credit: Ryan Quick, The Art of Video Games via Flickr


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ASA FUNDS WORKSHOP ON ART, PERCEPTION, AND HISTORY

The American Society for Aesthetics Board of Trustees has approved support for the Workshop on Art, Perception, and History, at the University of Toronto, May 5-6, 2017. The Workshop is organized by Sonia Sedivy, Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of Toronto.

ASA has awarded up to $4,600 in support, plus an additional $1000 to support attendance at the Workshop by ASA student members. Support is also being provided by several units of the University of Toronto. The workshop is free and open to the public.

“Chilkat Blanket, Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, Illinois, Made of Goat Hair and Cedar Bark” by Field Museum of Natural History is licensed under CC0 1.0

“Chilkat Blanket, Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, Illinois, Made of Goat Hair and Cedar Bark” by Field Museum of Natural History is licensed under CC0 1.0

Speakers will include:

From Art History

  • Whitney Davis, University of California, Berkeley, Art History

http://arthistory.berkeley.edu/person/1639581-whitney-davis

  • Jason Gaiger, University of Oxford, The Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art

http://www.rsa.ox.ac.uk/people/jason-gaiger

  • Amy Powell, University of California, Irvine, Art History

http://www.faculty.uci.edu/profile.cfm?faculty_id=5553

  • Paul G. Smith, University of Warwick, History of Art

https://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/arthistory/staff/smith/

From Philosophy of Art or Perception

  • Diarmuid Costello, philosophy, University of Warwick

http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/philosophy/people/costello/

  • Robert Hopkins, New York University, Philosophy

http://philosophy.fas.nyu.edu/object/roberthopkins.html

  • Bence Nanay, University of Antwerp, Centre for Philosophical Psychology

http://uahost.uantwerpen.be/bence.nanay/

  • Belinda Piercy, University of Toronto, Philosophy, Ph.D. 2016.
  • Sonia Sedivy, University of Toronto, Philosophy

http://www.utsc.utoronto.ca/people/sedivy/

  • Kendall L. Walton, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Philosophy

https://sites.lsa.umich.edu/kendallwalton/

The workshop will focus on the way that works of art and visual culture are poised at the intersection of history and perception. Such works are imbued with their historical situation and with historical relationship to other works. Yet for the most part, it is through their perceptible properties that they have their impact.

To explore this nexus, the workshop aims to bring together art historians with two sub-disciplines from philosophy – philosophy of perception as well as aesthetics. While art historians and philosophers of art have collaborated to some extent, bringing philosophers of perception explicitly into the mix is a recent development. The objective of the workshop is to initiate fully three-way collaborative research between art historians, philosophers of art and aesthetics, and philosophers of perception.

The main goal of the workshop is to create bridges between these three fields of study to produce integrated, multi-dimensional research into works of art and visual culture. A small intensive workshop is ideal for discussing methodological differences, for sharing knowledge and for facilitating shared language.

The workshop will address a number of questions of broad interest to which art historians and philosophers of art and perception have turned their attention. For example:

1. How are historical developments made perceptibly manifest in artworks and non-art pictures more broadly, including photographs?

2. What is aesthetic value? How can such value be both historically contingent and perceptual in nature?

3. How do pictures work? How do diverse kinds of pictorial vehicles make contents available?

4. What is distinctive about photographs?

5. What makes properties aesthetic and when is perceptual experience aesthetic?


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WHISPERS OF POWER #14

Announcement: This is the penultimate entry in the Whispers of Power series. Thanks to all of you who have gotten involved so far! You’ve made it a great series. And just a reminder for those of you who have wanted to contribute, but haven’t yet, we will be leaving the remaining contests open for two weeks rather than one.

Remember: if your caption wins, it will be drawn into the partially finished artwork you see below, and your caption + the below image will become the final artwork, on which you will be listed as an official collaborator! You will also receive, by mail, a print of the final version.

Good luck!

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House of Cards, Season 4, Episode 2, 11:38

Title: Show and Tell

Description: Innocent waves to the crowd turn into something more ominous in this week’s drawing. After more fierce fighting, the Underwoods are back on stage again. They have vowed to fight for the presidency with Frank as President and Claire as VP, a teaming previously unthinkable. Have the rules changed? Have their cards?

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 next Saturday (2/18) at noon (US, EST). Winner announced that Sunday. Next piece up in two weeks! Keep tabs on the project and contest at the project website here, review the details of it at the previous post here, or see previous posts in this series here.


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WHISPERS OF POWER #13 WINNER

Congratulations this week to Maxine for her George Orwell quote!

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House of Cards, Season 3, Episode 10, 20:19

“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”
– George Orwell, Animal Farm

Title: Opponent

Description: Every hero needs a villain. Viktor Petrov (Lars Mikkelsen) is the gray, cold, Russian counterpart to Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey). The confrontation shown here, with Viktor’s face on the big screen, triggers an instinctive fear and impulse to overcome. In this moment we identify with Frank. The moral line that usually separates us from him evaporates, and we only want to see Viktor fail.

Next piece up later today! Keep tabs on the project and contest at the project website here, or review the project over at the previous post here.


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AESTHETIC NAIVETE – GUEST POST BY BENCE NANAY

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young Bence Nanay

What follows is a guest post by Bence Nanay. Bence is Professor of Philosophy and BOF Research Professor at the University of Antwerp and Senior Research Associate at Peterhouse, University of Cambridge. He is the author of Between Perception and Action (Oxford University Press, 2013) and editor of Perceiving the World (Oxford University Press, 2010) and he just published a book on aesthetics, Aesthetics as Philosophy of Perception (Oxford University Press, 2016). His current project in aesthetics is about the role of mental imagery in our engagement with art, supported by a 2-million Euro ERC grant. You can follow him on twitter @BenceNanay.

Aesthetic Naïveté

Let’s start with some touchy-feely and somewhat embarrassing confessions about my youth.

Exhibit A: I was 16, standing in the old Tate Gallery (there was no Tate Modern yet), mesmerized by this picture:

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1953 by Clyfford Still (1953, Tate Modern)

I must have spent two hours in front of the picture there and then. It’s a Clyfford Still. I didn’t know much about him at that time. I knew he was an abstract expressionist, but that’s about it. I loved the picture so much that the next day, when I was supposed to visit the Tower of London and the Parliament with my high school class, I just left them, going back to Pimlico to have another look.

Exhibit B: rewind a year. I was so much into Michelangelo Antonioni’s film Blow-up that I went to the cinema to see it two or three times a week (those were quite some cinemas). I knew the dialogues of the entire film by heart. Each time, I left the cinema in a state of rapture, of having understand something really important about life… Here is a still from the film:

still from Blow Up, Michelangelo Antonioni

still from Blow-Up, Michelangelo Antonioni (1966)

Exhibit C: rewind yet another year. I read a book for the first time that shook me to my core: Boris Vian’s L’Écume des Jours. I felt nothing like that ever before: I felt like laughing and like crying at the same time.

Here is the thing: I now take Blow-up to be Antonioni’s single worst film. L’Écume des Jours is full of references I had no chance of understanding at age 14 and it’s way more mediocre than some of Vian’s other novels (let alone some other works of art he created, see a masterpiece at the end of is blog entry as a reward for reading through it). I still think that Clyfford Still is great, but there are also many other great works of art in that collection where, for some reason, I fell in love with this painting.

I went to Tate Modern just yesterday, in preparation for writing this blog entry to see how I reacted. Well, not very strongly. I also watched Blow-up again (on my laptop, cinemas don’t seem to show Antonioni films any more), but I had to switch it off after 20 minutes or so, I just couldn’t be bothered. And I put down the English translation of L’Écume des Jours after a couple of pages (to be fair, it was because of the translation).

These works of art gave me way more aesthetic pleasure when I first encountered them, knowing very little about art history, film history or the history of 20th Century French literature than they give me now, when I know a little more. I want to think that I am in a better position now to assess the aesthetic value of these works than I was at age 14-16. And the assessment goes more or less like this: Meh.

With my 20/20 hindsight, I should condemn the aesthetic judgment of the 14-16 year old Bence, shouldn’t I? But if I hadn’t felt so strongly about these artworks, I would probably not have taken an interest in the arts that allowed me to pick up all that knowledge that now allows me to condemn the teenage Bence.

Aesthetics is obsessed with mature, art historically well-informed aesthetic judgment – like the judgment I just made about the Antonioni film. The kind of liking I took in Blow-up as a 15 year-old is not what aesthetics is about. We are told that what aestheticians should focus on is not the mere preference, but the considered aesthetic judgment.

When you step into a room with many paintings in a museum and take a quick look around, maybe you like some of the pictures on display, but not others. The orthodoxy in aesthetics is that this initial liking is completely irrelevant for aesthetic judgment and for the attribution of aesthetic value. You should sit down in front of one of these pictures, read up on it and then you may eventually be in the position to make a well-informed aesthetic judgment.

So we get a complete detachment between ‘mere preference’ and ‘all things considered well-informed aesthetic judgment’. And this distinction is widely used for various purposes. Experimental aesthetics often asks subjects about their preferences and aestheticians can quickly dismiss this entire approach as irrelevant given that these experiments are about ‘mere preference’ and not ‘all things considered well-informed aesthetic judgment’.

The point I’m trying to make is that there should be no complete disconnect between ‘mere preference’ and ‘all things considered well-informed aesthetic judgment’. The only reason we are in the position to make all things considered well-informed aesthetic judgments is because we took a liking of some artworks earlier – maybe just seconds ago and that’s why we’re engaging with this artwork and not some other one or maybe decades ago as teenagers.

So teenage Bence was a pretentious little snob with not much taste, but who I am now and the kind of art I’m interested in now and the kind of art I have spent time to try to understand in the last decades is a direct consequence of the ‘mere preferences’ of that pretentions little snob.

Talking about snobs, click here to listen to Boris Vian’s brilliant Je suis snob as a reward for reading this far.