AESTHETICS FOR BIRDS

Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone


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FOOD OF THE PEOPLE, BY THE PEOPLE, FOR THE PEOPLE: COOKING AS PUBLIC ART

What follows is a guest post by Andrea Baldini, Associate Professor of Aesthetics at Art Theory at Nanjing University, and Andrea Borghini, Associate Professor of Philosophy at University of Milan.

In 2016, the American food magazine Bon Appétit named South Philly Barbacoa “One of the Best Restaurants in the Country.” First opened in 2014, this small and unassuming eatery quickly rose to national and international attention not only for the amazing quality of its barbacoa, consomé, marinated lamb tacos, and pancita, among others. For chef Cristina Martinez and her husband Benjamin Miller, who together run South Philly Barbacoa, cooking and dining are not only ways to delight one’s palate; they are also tools for speaking “to the larger immigrant experience whose labor is often exploited and forgotten.” Herself an undocumented immigrant who crossed the border from Mexico into the USA, Martinez turned a personal passion and talent for cooking into a political act. A culinary experience, in other words, becomes the occasion to stage an effective and far-reaching vindication of the pride and value of undocumented workers within the American economy – with particular reference to the food and agriculture business.

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Tacos at South Philly Barbacoa (2019); photo courtesy of Anisha Chirmule

In the era of the of the super-star chefs, cooking and dining have been often turned into spectacles that many wouldn’t find difficult to consider art. Food is by now regularly found in museums or exhibited and showed like artworks. As philosophers such as Dom Lopes and Yuriko Saito have suggested, indeed, it is difficult to see an essential divide between traditional art forms and cooking. Yet, the example of South Philly Barbacoa suggests an artistic dimension of cooking and dining that have been heretofore largely overlooked by aestheticians and philosophers of art. Continue reading


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THOUGHTS FOR IMPROVING THE ASA NATIONAL MEETING

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What follows is a guest post by Nick Wiltsher (Uppsala University).

I enjoyed the recent American Society for Aesthetics (ASA) National Meeting in Phoenix. I saw and learned from several good talks, my own talk went decently, I caught up with friends and met new people. Natalie Diaz’s Danto Lecture was outstanding. It takes a heck of a lot of work to organize a conference like that, and I’m very appreciative of the efforts of all those who did that work.

But whether or not I enjoy a conference is not the measure of whether or not it is good. A conference is good if it reaches the aims appropriate to a conference. I think the ASA falls short. From conversations during the last few days, I gather that I am not alone in thinking so. I intend here to articulate my main reasons for thinking so, and some potential solutions. There are probably other reasons, and probably other solutions. I hope colleagues are motivated to suggest them, too, in the spirit of mutual improvement—thinking how we can do better what we do well already. Continue reading


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FIVE PHILOSOPHERS DISCUSS “JOKER” [SPOILERS]

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This month saw the US release of the newest installment in the DC Comics film franchise, Joker. The film has been the subject of heated debate, with some having enormously positive responses, and others having enormously negative ones. Some see it as just a well-done villain origin story. Others see it as bringing more light to mental health and social support systems. And yet others see it as humanizing and even valorizing white male violence and the mass killings that have become too common in the contemporary US landscape.

We thought we would gather up some philosophers working on ethics and the philosophy of art to give their takes on the movie. Below, you’ll see what they have to say about how Joker treats villainy and evil, race, and moral responsibility, as well as what we should learn from all of the debate and disagreement that surrounds it.

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MUST WE MEAN WHAT WE WEAR?

What follows is a guest post by Marilynn Johnson.

A Compulsive Con Man

On January 4, 2016, a man who identified himself as Jeremiah Asimov-Beckingham walked into a New York City police station wearing a Harvard sweatshirt, a Wounded Warrior baseball hat, and military dog tags. He had come to inquire about an impounded BMW but was instead quickly arrested and charged with a crime. Why had this wealthy military veteran and Harvard grad been arrested? It turns out his name is Jeremy Wilson, not Jeremiah Asimov-Beckingham, and he had been arrested on charges of fraud. For years he had been traveling the country, adopting different personas. In New York, he had been living as Jeremiah Asimov-Beckingham, but this character was a fabrication. Continue reading


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WHAT A GREAT CRITIC DOES

What follows is a guest post by Antonia Peacocke.

Art critics get a really bad rap. The stereotype of a critic is a haughty, pedantic grump who loves passing judgment on art—without being able to do anything creative themselves. According to the stereotype, critics are assholes ready to destroy the dreams of hopeful artists and intimidate the rest of us into feeling dumb.

This stereotype couldn’t be further from the truth. Critics—or, at least, great critics—are really not assholes. They love art, and artists too, and they are not here to intimidate the rest of us. To see the potential of great art criticism, it helps to read a great art critic. Continue reading


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YOU THINK MAKE-BELIEVE IS FOR KIDS? SHERLOCK HOLMES WILL TEACH YOU A THING OR TWO

What follows is a guest post by Nils-Hennes Stear.

How do fictions work? How do made-up characters and their made-up feelings make us cry or rejoice in sympathy? With what are we even sympathizing?

Philosopher Kendall Walton has an answer. His theory of fiction, spelled out in his monograph Mimesis as Make-Believe, is among the most influential and celebrated contributions to the history of aesthetics, if not philosophy. So, when I promised to create an animated explainer film as part of my Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellowship at the University of Southampton, it seemed a promising subject to tackle. Continue reading


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“TRAUMA-FEEDING”: WHY IT’S NOT OKAY TO EXPLOIT TRAUMA IN ART

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Room, Cité Universitaire, Paris, with Al Ghazali quotation:
“I follow love’s caravan wherever it goes. For love is my religion and my faith.” (2006)

What follows is a guest post by Jeremy Bendik-Keymer & Misty Morrison. It also appears cross-posted at the Cleveland Review of Books.

We want to draw attention to a practice inside contemporary artistic practices and to suggest a set of considerations that could gradually change it, for we take it to be morally dishonest and aesthetically compromised. We call this practice “trauma-feeding.” The expression is our invention. We think trauma-feeding is enmeshed in corrupt conditions in the economy of contemporary art so that to talk about it is to talk inevitably about the institutional framing of artistic practice in an art economy that cultivates practices, habits, and sensibilities that allow artists to hustle their way to success in a neoliberal economy structured by gross inequality of wealth and of capabilities. With trauma-feeding, their mode of hustle is parasitic (from para – alongside – sitos – food) on everyday people’s moral sensibilities. The hinge in our discussion is the relation between trauma-feeding, consumable spectacle, and viability in a neoliberal art economy, predicated off of everyday people’s moral sympathy. After explaining what we mean by “trauma-feeding” and relating it to the social-economic conditions to which we’ve alluded, we will argue that artists and institutions have a moral responsibility to deal with trauma differently, particularly by following through in responding to it. They should stop being morally dishonest and parasitic.

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ARTIST-PHILOSOPHER INTERVIEW: MATT LINDAUER

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Musician and philosopher Matt Lindauer interviewed by Alex King for AFB

Matt Lindauer is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Brooklyn College, City University of New York. He specializes in moral and political philosophy, moral psychology, and experimental philosophy, and has published work in Philosophical Studies, Journal of Moral Philosophy, Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy, and Oxford Studies in Experimental Philosophy, among other venues. He is also a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. His band Myrna recently released their debut EP on Kitty Wizard Records and a full-length release is coming soon. His solo project Utena also produced a recent album that was recorded almost entirely on his iPhone between Australia and Brooklyn. He also played in the banjo-key-drum group Sugarbat and in Daphne Lee Martin’s band as guitarist and banjo player, and has recorded a number of other projects. Some of his music was recently featured in an ad for Joe’s Jeans. Continue reading


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READING PROJECTS: HISTORICAL SCHEMES AS LITERARY ARTIFACTS

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What follows is a guest post by David Alff.

Last year I finished writing a book about projects. Not art projects or housing projects or chemistry projects, but the idea of projects itself. I wanted to learn how humans came to organize their lives and worlds through discrete endeavor. I wanted to understand how enterprise became such a widespread vehicle for ambition that we seldom notice its existence. What are projects anyway? Why are we always doing them? How else could we spend our time? These questions drove me to see the project as a distinct form with a traceable past rather than as a daunting abstraction or the container of something more salient. Studying projects on their own terms, I thought, would give me fresh vantage on the history of ideas. My book set out to reveal nothing less than the basic unit by which anything has ever been done. Continue reading


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PLAYING GAMES WITH HISTORY: PHILOSOPHERS ON THE ETHICS OF HISTORICAL BOARD GAMES

In a recent New York Times article, journalist Kevin Draper brings us up to date on some recent controversies in the world of historical board games. The article centers on the cancellation of Scramble for Africa, a historical board game which was to let players take the role of European powers exploring and exploiting Africa, trying to get the most resources.

Joe Chacon, the designer of Scramble for Africa, was accused of not treating this situation with appropriate seriousness. In his game, the savagery that was part and parcel of that exploration seems to be dealt with in minor and trivializing ways. The players must put down rebellions, and can slow their opponents by inciting native revolts. Random events include “penalties for atrocities” and rewards for ending slavery. Butchery is gameified.

The article raises a number of fascinating questions. What are the ethics of gaming history? Can we ever gameify our troubled past, and if so, how should we do it sensitively and thoughtfully? And is there something distinctive about games that make them a thornier venue for exploring history than, say, novels?

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Puerto Rico, a board game about colonizing Puerto Rico. Image credit: Jesse Michael Nix

To take on these questions, we asked some philosophers who specialize in thinking about games, ethics, and art.

Our contributors are:

  • Stephanie Patridge, Professor and Department Chair, Religion & Philosophy, Otterbein University
  • Chris Bartel, Professor of Philosophy, Appalachian State University
  • C. Thi Nguyen, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Utah Valley University

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