Aesthetics for Birds

Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone

A black man with a crown of thorns and the handle of a gun in his waistband holds a complacent child in his arms while a woman breastfeeds on a bed.

September 22, 2022
by Aesthetics for Birds
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Five Scholars Discuss ‘Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers’

A black man in a crown of thorns and the handle of a gun in his waistband holds a complacent child in his arms while a woman breastfeeds on a bed.
Cover art of Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers

Warning: This interview contains explicit language, including a homophobic slur.

Kendrick Lamar has established himself as an artist of the highest degree. His work centers Black American experiences and life, presenting them in ways that are loving, sympathetic, harsh, shocking, and beautiful. His rap has been widely lauded for its perspective as well as for its musicality and spoken word artistry, and he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his 2017 album, Damn.

But his newest offering, Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers, has been met with mixed responses. Many listeners find it an impressive and fitting extension of his oeuvre, while others have criticized it for expressing problematic views about trans and queer individuals. Here, five scholars from a variety of disciplines examine the album through their own academic, art critical, and personal lenses.

Our contributors are:

  • E. M. Hernandez, President’s Post-Doctoral Fellow, UC Irvine (they/e)
  • Andrew P. Hoberek, Professor of English, University of Missouri (he/him/his)
  • Tamara Levitz, Professor for Comparative Literature and Musicology and Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Comparative Literature, UCLA (she/her/hers)
  • Stephanie Shonekan, Professor of Ethnomusicology and Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, University of Maryland (she/her/hers)
  • Nicholas Whittaker, PhD Candidate in Philosophy, CUNY Graduate Center (they/them/theirs)
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Error message reads "Image not available"

September 15, 2022
by Aesthetics for Birds
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Accessibility and the Problem of Alt Text: Who Is It For and How Could It Be Better?

Error message reads "image not available."

What follows is an essay by Aaron Richardson (Simon Fraser University).

One part of the internet is invisible to the sighted, but keenly visible to the blind: alt text. Short for “alternative text,” alt text improves accessibility for blind readers by describing an image textually. That text appears in the code, which can then be read to visually impaired users through a piece of technology called a screen reader. But this text is likely to remain completely hidden to sighted users, except for the relative few involved in coding and composing.

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A man in a suit stares dejectedly at a slightly disheveled woman sitting on a bed.

September 8, 2022
by Aesthetics for Birds
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What Should We Do About Problematic Characters and Their Bad Fans?

A man in a suit stares dejectedly at a slightly disheveled woman sitting on a bed.
Don and Betty Draper in Madmen

What follows is a guest post by Gabriel Thomas Tugendstein (Florida State University).

In a recent episode of HBO’s Barry, Fuches’s caretaker Ana attempts to convince him to forgo his vengeful plans. She relays “the tale of the Bolam-Deela,” a fable about murdered souls who are offered the chance to forgive or haunt their murderer. All but one choose revenge, take on the form of a panther to attack their killer, and eventually find their souls stuck at the bottom of the ocean. The boy who chooses forgiveness is sent to heaven.

Fuches seems distracted. “The vengeance-army-panther thing. How long did it take him to put that together?” he asks. “It didn’t really happen,” Ana tells him, “It’s a morality story. It’s not real.” He looks off to the side, plotting. “But it could be.”

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September 1, 2022
by Aesthetics for Birds
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What to Read on Art, Aesthetics, and Disability

Painting of a woman in a wheelchair with the open ocean visible from her balcony. Several objects float or fall from above onto the balcony.
Riva Lehrer, “Susan Nussbaum” (1998) [source]

It’s back-to-school season. For those of us who work in education, that means thinking about readings, syllabi, course design, and all that exciting stuff. For others, it means less outdoorsy vacation time and more indoor activities. No matter which group you fall into, we thought some reading recs might be nice.

This year we are introducing a reading list on art, aesthetics, and disability.

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August 25, 2022
by Aesthetics for Birds
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Park Jiwon on Why Crows Aren’t Black

A shiny, glossy crow in the sunlight

What follows is a guest post by Hannah Kim.

A symposium on Korean Aesthetics is forthcoming in the next issue of The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, so, to mark the occasion—and perhaps whet your intellectual appetite—I want to share a gem of a passage that I came across a few years ago. 

The passage is from Park Jiwon (박지원 (pen name: 연암 yeonam), 1737-1805), an eighteenth-century Korean philosopher and novelist who belonged to the “practical learning” school.

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Screenshot from animated video game. Two pixelated birds at the beach.

August 11, 2022
by Aesthetics for Birds
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Roundtable: Voyeur Gaming

Screenshot from animated video game. Two pixelated birds at the beach.
Nathan Wildman plays A Short Hike

Voyeur gaming is the phenomenon of watching, reading, or listening to others play (video) games. It has been around for as long as games have. Many of us have fond memories of sitting on the couch with friends or siblings, being wowed by someone else’s (lack of) skill. But the internet turned voyeur gaming into a proper phenomenon. From humble beginnings as a thread in the Something Awful forums, voyeur gaming is now a full blown industry, with millions upon millions of people eagerly awaiting the next video from their favorite YouTuber or Twitch streamer, some of whom earn over $18 million a year. Meanwhile, game companies are paying streamers to play (and build hype for) new releases, and are specifically designing their games with voyeur gaming content creation in mind.

With the rise of Twitch and esports, it is fair to say that voyeur gaming has become a significant part of our culture.

But, for all that, little has been written about the aesthetic aspects of voyeur gaming. The following collection of posts set out to partially address this lacuna.

Our Contributors:

  • Nathan Wildman, Assistant Professor in Philosophy at Tilburg University
  • Javier Gomez-Lavin, Assistant Professor in Philosophy at Purdue University
  • Brandon Polite, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Knox College
  • Shelby Moser, Senior Adjunct Professor of Games and Interactive Media at Azusa Pacific University and Part-Time Assistant Professor at Rio Hondo College
  • Rissa Willis, PhD student at the University of Georgia
  • Nele Van de Mosselaer, Postdoctoral researcher in Philosophy at the University of Antwerp
  • Anthony Cross, Assistant Professor in Philosophy at Texas State University
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August 5, 2022
by Aesthetics for Birds
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Picturing Philosophy: How to Do Philosophy in the Visual Mode

What follows is a guest post by Helen De Cruz (Saint Louis University). She is the editor and illustrator of the recent book Philosophy Illustrated, forty-two thought experiments to broaden your mind.

Pictures may seem like a strange way to philosophize, since people tend to think of philosophy as existing exclusively in written tomes. However, once you let go of the notion of philosophy as abstract ideas put into writing, you start to see it in lots of places. Think of René Magritte’s surrealist paintings such as his “La Durée Poignardé” (literally: Duration Stabbed, but translated more figuratively as Time Transfixed), which features a train racing out of a fireplace. To reflect on this picture requires active engagement and imagination on the part of the viewer. 

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May 12, 2022
by Aesthetics for Birds
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The Podcast Where Movies Meet Philosophy

What follows is a guest post by Justin Khoo (MIT).

Some of my most cherished memories of graduate school are from a screening room of some kind – sometimes the Whitney Humanities Center, where I was lucky enough to see film prints of 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Exorcist, and Mulholland Drive (among many others), but more often some random classroom in Yale’s Hall of Graduate Studies (RIP!), which became, for one night, a place to gather to enjoy and discuss whatever movie one of us had rented from the library.

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April 14, 2022
by Aesthetics for Birds
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“So Bad It’s Good”: How to Love Bad Movies

from The Room (2003), dir. Tommy Wiseau

Writing Why it’s OK to Love Bad Movies has given me an opportunity to bring together two of the most important parts of my life: my cinephilia and my research in philosophy of art. This is not a book I dreamed up in a library or classroom. It emerges from the countless hours I’ve spent immersed in the medium of film, and it’s more of a love letter than a treatise. The ideas I present convey my own way of being as much as my views about debates in aesthetics.

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April 6, 2022
by Aesthetics for Birds
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The Mississippi River in the Land of 10,000 Lakes

Fifteenth L.H. District (1898). Courtesy of the New York Public Library

What follows is a case study by Theodore Gracyk, excerpted from Bloomsbury Contemporary Aesthetics, the newest module of the Bloomsbury Philosophy Library. Bloomsbury Contemporary Aesthetics is anchored by a set of exclusive and original case studies contributed by some of the leading voices in aesthetics today, and written to introduce new students to the broad range of topics in aesthetics and the philosophy of art, from interpretation and ontology to appropriation, taste, curiosity, and the aesthetics of confusion. More information on BCA and the Bloomsbury Philosophy Library follows below.

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