AESTHETICS FOR BIRDS

Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone


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CAN NICKI MINAJ’S “CHUN-LI” BE CULTURAL APPROPRIATION?

What follows is a guest post from Erich Hatala Matthes (Wellesley College).

Last month, Nicki Minaj released the video for her new song “Chun-Li” (along with an accompanying performance on SNL). Replete with chopsticks, conical hats, and other unimaginative Asian stereotypes, the performance quickly led to charges of cultural appropriation. I’m late to the party as far as the Internet commentary cycle is concerned, but I think this case highlights an important aspect of the debate about cultural appropriation that doesn’t always get enough attention. So here’s my ice-cold take: the fact that Minaj is herself a member of an oppressed group does not mean that those calling “Chun-Li” cultural appropriation are misguided. Continue reading


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WHY FASHION IS MORE THAN A MERE CONSUMER OBJECT

What follows is a guest post by Laura T. Di Summa.

Perhaps we can agree on the fact that philosophers have not, for the most part, taken fashion very seriously. There seems to be something wrong, specifically, about being fashionable – about trafficking in the world of glossy magazines, runways, and looks and styles that change, frequently, and at a price. There seems to be something wrong about wearing the very clothes we find in those magazines, about buying them, and about investing energy (and money) in keeping up with them. Continue reading


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STANLEY CAVELL (1926-2018)

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Stanley Cavell died on Tuesday, June 19, at the age of 91. Obituaries and memorial notices can be found here, here, and here (a more complete list, including foreign-language sources, is here.) He was a prolific writer—the author of 17 books and countless essays—and  a famously stimulating teacher, but it would be impossible to convey in a short piece like this what made Cavell’s writing and teaching inimitable. Instead, I will limit myself to trying to explain a bit of what I think is so important about Cavell’s work in aesthetics. Continue reading


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PYKE’S PORTRAITS OF PHILOSOPHERS

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What follows is a guest post by Michael Newall (University of Kent). This post is a partial continuation of the earlier post about Hans Maes’ recent book, Conversations on Art and Aesthetics.

Hans Maes’ excellent book, Conversations on Art and Aesthetics (Oxford UP, 2017), features a collection of ten photographic portraits of philosophers of art by Steve Pyke. (These can also be viewed on the website for the book, where it has to be said they appear to better effect. The book also features one portrait by philosopher and artist Claire Anscomb, which appears on the website too.) Pyke, of course, is known within philosophy as a photographer of many of its leading lights. Nobody has documented philosophers in this way before, and few professions have the benefit of such a constant and accomplished portraitist. Continue reading


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REVIEWED: TEN FAMOUS AESTHETICIANS INTERVIEWED IN OUP VOLUME

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This post appears as part of a collaboration between Oxford University Press and AFB.

This edition of the Artworld Roundtable will focus on Conversations on Art and Aesthetics. The book contains interviews with ten prominent philosophers of art. The interviews are conducted by philosopher Hans Maes, who is Senior Lecturer in History and Philosophy of Art, and Director of the Aesthetics Research Centre at the University of Kent at Canterbury. Accompanying these interviews are portraits by photographer Steve Pyke.

From the book’s website, where you can also read excerpts and view the portraits:

In Conversations on Art and Aesthetics, Hans Maes discusses … key questions in aesthetics with ten world-leading philosophers of art. The exchanges are direct, open, and sharp, and give a clear account of these thinkers’ core ideas and intellectual development. They also offer new insights into, and a deeper understanding of, contemporary issues in the philosophy of art.

The ten interviewees are Jerrold Levinson, Arthur Danto, Cynthia Freeland, Carolyn Korsmeyer, Jenefer Robinson, Roger Scruton, Gregory Currie, Paul Guyer, Noël Carroll, and Kendall Walton.

Our contributors are:

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JUST DESSERTS? CAKES, COURT CASES, AND CREATIVITY

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What follows is a co-authored post by AFB staff writers Matthew Strohl and Mary Beth Willard.

John Corvino writes, of the narrowly decided Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, that the Supreme Court punted on many of the substantive issues:

What counts as protected speech, and why? Does it matter if the cake is custom? If it has words on it? How do we distinguish messages that are integral to one’s identity as a member of a protected class and those that are incidental to it?

We suspect it does matter if the cake is custom, but that the focus on messaging is a red velvet herring. To our minds, this isn’t primarily an issue of protected speech, at least in the sense being widely discussed in connection with the recent SCOTUS decision. Sherif Girgis and Robert P. George argue that custom wedding cakes bear expressive content, in particular, the recognition that the event the cake figures in is a wedding. We are skeptical about the prospects for this argument. As Chief Justice Roberts observed during oral argument, it’s hard to see why whether a cake is custom or not would make an expressive difference with respect to acknowledging the wedding as such. But the notion that a cake carries such expressive content strikes us as highly dubious in the first place. Setting aside any text or wedding imagery (which we assume would be a little too déclassé to be on offer in the first place from a cakeshop with ‘Masterpiece’ in its name), a wedding cake is just a really awesome cake. There is no systematic way to distinguish wedding cakes from other cakes on the basis of their intrinsic features. Wedding cakes are typically multi-tiered, but many high-end wedding cakes are one-tiered and there are plenty of other show-stopping alternatives to the multi-tiered cake. And, of course, multi-tiered cakes are often used to celebrate other occasions (including mermaid parties!). Continue reading


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ON THE AESTHETICS OF PLAYING PIANO

In the penultimate measure of the first movement Clementi’s Sonatina No. 36, there is a short cascade of notes:

This sonatina is often used as a teaching piece, because it’s a great introduction for the early intermediate pianist to the techniques required in more complicated piano pieces. This little cascade is a good example of why. It’s short, only eight notes long. In the numbering system every beginner learns, your thumbs are ones; your pinkies, fives. The G and A keys are right next to each other on the keyboard, and one might expect that the prescribed fingering of two adjacent notes would require two adjacent fingers. Perhaps, because the sequence continues down the keys, the four and five fingers, so that other fingers are properly positioned to reach the next notes.

But that’s not what happens. The G is struck with the thumb, and the A with the fourth finger. To do this, one must curl the edges of the palm toward each other like a taco. Then, the second finger crosses over to reach the D, the third follows to strike the E, and then the sequence repeats. 1, 4, 2, 3. Continue reading


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MORE THAN SKIN DEEP WITH JACK WOODS

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Jack Woods interviewed by Roy Cook for AFB

Jack Woods is University Academic Fellow in Mathematical Philosophy (боже мой) at the University of Leeds. Prior to this post, he worked at Bilkent University (in Ankara, Turkey). He studied at the University of Minnesota (MA) and took his PhD from Princeton University. He works in philosophy of logic and mathematics, as well as metaethics, the theory of normativity, and philosophy of language. Recent publications include “The Authority of Formality” (Oxford Studies in Metaethics, vol 13), “Logical Partisanhood” (Philosophical Studies), “Intertranslatability, Theoretical Equivalence, and Perversion” (Thought), and “Emptying a Paradox of Ground” (Journal of Philosophical Logic). Prior to studying and working as a philosopher, he played in short-lived punk bands and worked as a bouncer at clubs in Boston, including the Rat, the Middle East, and P.J. Kilroys (Fathers Too), nearly all of which are now closed. Continue reading


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FEARLESS GIRL ON THE MOVE?

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Latest development in the Fearless Girl case, brought to you only three weeks late courtesy of yrs truly and the end of the semester: the city wants the girl moved, citing traffic and safety concerns.

I can’t imagine that any one was surprised by this decision, given the statue’s story as an advertisement playing opposite an iconic piece of guerilla art. It was unlikely that it would stay forever. And at 250 pounds, it hardly presents the obstacle to removal that Charging Bull did; it’s a much easier call. Continue reading