AESTHETICS FOR BIRDS

Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone


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100 PHILOSOPHERS 100 ARTWORKS 100 WORDS #69

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Philosopher: Phillip Barron, University of Connecticut

Artwork: Las Meninas (10′ x 9′, oil on canvas, Prado) is the title given to a 1656 painting by the Spanish artist Diego Velázquez. Its composition and complexity raise questions about reality and illusion, most significantly by the presence of a mirror on the far wall of the room.

Just as Descartes reduces thought to rationality,
Velázquez reduces painting to visuality.
— Jose Ortega y Gasset

Words: Sometimes on the metro, I catch myself in windows and see myself as another. Funny how sound is not the same as light. It never echoes transposed the way a mirror moves a scar from left to right.

The painting made me king or queen when peering in the canvas mirror. The nearer to the frame I stand, I am both here and there. Standing at Las Meninas, the self I saw on the train disappears.

After reflection, if I was what I saw, then saw is both the echo and mirror of was.

Image credit: Museo del Prado, via Wikimedia Commons

 


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100 PHILOSOPHERS 100 ARTWORKS 100 WORDS #67

Philosopher: C. Thi Nguyen, Utah Valley University

Artwork: Monument Against Fascism, Jochen Gerz and Esther Shalev-Gerz, 1986. As Neo-Fascism was on the rise in the city, the Municipal Council of Hamburg-Harburg commissioned this monument: a 12 meter tall steel column, clad in lead. The monument invited visitors to sign it by engraving, hammering, and pounding into its sides. The column was slowly lowered into the ground over eight years, until, in October 1993, it disappeared entirely. It gathered over 70,000 signatures. Now only the top surface of the column is visible, flush with the ground.

The column was accompanied by this text: “We invite the citizens of Harburg, and visitors to the town, to add their names here next to ours. In doing so we commit ourselves to remain vigilant. As more and more names cover this 12-metre tall lead column, it will gradually be lowered into the ground. One day it will have disappeared completely, and the site of the Harburg Monument against Fascism will be empty. In the end it is only we ourselves who can stand up against injustice.”

Esther Shalev-Gerz and Jochen Gerz, Monument Against Fascism, 1986

Monument against Fascism 1986-1993 text panelEsther Shalev-Gerz and Jochen Gerz, Monument Against Fascism, 1986 c

(photos courtesy of Esther Shalev-Gerz)

Words: What more is there to say? Every time I see these pictures and read that text, I almost cry. It is unbearably potent. Why is it so important that the monument disappear? Why is it so important that it start so bold and tall? The text says it is a call to action. The Gerzes said it was a counter-monument, against the fascistic tendencies inherent in all monuments. It refuses to honor. James Young says by vanishing, it remembers a vanished people. But there’s something more. To stand there, with that great column and all those signatures buried beneath you…

(More information and more.)


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100 PHILOSOPHERS 100 ARTWORKS 100 WORDS #66

Philosopher: Aaron Meskin, University of Leeds

Artwork: Oishinbo (1983-2014). Japanese manga series written by Tetsu Kariya and drawn by Akira Hanasaki. Seven thematically-organized anthologies published in English by Viz Media as Oishinbo: A la Carte.

Words: What does the aesthetic appreciation of food consist in? How do various values interact in the domain of food? How can food sustain cultural identity? Some of the most interesting explorations of these issues I know of are found in this gurume (gourmet) manga. The comic is structured around father-son conflict and a long-running menu competition. It is insightful and funny, sentimental and wise. As the artist and gourmet Kaibara Yūzan says in the first volume, ‘The most important thing in raising food to the level of an art form is to touch the hearts of those who eat it.’


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100 PHILOSOPHERS 100 ARTWORKS 100 WORDS #65

Philosopher: Erin Beeghly, University of Utah

Artwork: Las Hermanas Iglesias, Nude Suits, 2011 – present.  Salvaged acrylic/wool yarn, pre-purposed zippers and buttons, digital prints. In collaboration with the artists’ mother—Bohild Iglesias— who hand knit the nude suits, complete with armpit and pubic hair. The artists—Lisa and Janelle Iglesias—have added embroidered details including birthmarks, scars, and tattoos.

(This project is documented in an on-going series of photographs in different landscapes. The first installment in the series (selected photos included below) was made while on a residency in Tasmania in 2011. Here is an interview with the artists about their work.)

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Words: When I met the Iglesias sisters, they told me: “our mother irons her bed sheets.” It struck me as old-fashioned, charming. As Nude Suits attests, their mother also knits anatomically correct bodysuits for performance art. Look at these photos, and one sees only the daughters. They exude wit; they are off on adventures. Where is their mother? I imagine her creating those second skins—an armor that renders her daughters invincible yet vulnerable. Absent though present, she is complicit in these absurd Eden-esque visions, complicit too in making her daughters’ bodies the site of joyous feminist resistance.


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100 PHILOSOPHERS 100 ARTWORKS 100 WORDS #64

Philosopher: Kọ́lá Abímbọ́lá, (Howard University)

Artwork(s): Ostrich Ethics (i) painting by OrisaWorld Foundation (May 5th, 2017), (II) Odù Ifá poem by the Yorùbá of West Africa (date unknown), (iii) Òrìṣà Music recording by Kọ́lá Abímbọ́lá (May 5th, 2017).


Painting by OrisaWorld Foundation (May 5th, 2017)


Odù Ifá poem


Kọ́lá Abímbọ́lá performs Ifá Kíkí:


 

Words: “Artistic expression” is often erroneously taken to mean individualist visual forms that are created by the skill and imagination of nameable and identifiable persons. Ostrich Ethics, however, is multifaceted, it is: individualistic and communal; holistic and piecemeal; intellectual and emotional; oral and written; art for art sake as well as heuristics for living; and it is still very much an art form. Or rather, since there are various facets to the work, they are still very much art forms.


Details/Further Information Regarding Ostrich Ethics:

  1. The painting Ostrich Ethics is a rendition of an elegant big bird. It is pleasing to the eye.
  2. Ostrich Ethics is also a poem from Odù Ifá, which is the sacred scriptures of Òriṣà Religion. The denominations of Òrìṣà Religion include: Ìṣẹ̀ṣe, Candomblé, Santería, Lukumi, Ṣàngó Baptists, and many others. There about 500 million practitioners of Òrìṣà Religion all over the world.
  3. Ifá poems are used in Ifá divination as exemplars of ìwà (positive virtues to emulate and negative character traits to avoid).
  4. Odù Ifá has 256 Odù (“Books”) and each Odù has 800 poems, making a grand total of 204,800 poems. Each poem has eight parts: four parts are compulsory in the sense that they must always be rendered exactly in Yorùbá word for word; the optional parts need not be included and, when rendered, they can be performed in various ways.
  5. I have captured the beauty of the compulsory parts of this poem in written form above; and both compulsory and optional parts as Òrìṣà Music, which is a mixture of indigenous Yorùbá music with jazz, hip-hop, and funk—accompanied by percussion and vocal styles.
  6. Each poem is, therefore, an art form that can be appreciated primarily for its beauty or emotional power.

In 2005 UNESCO proclaimed the Ifá Divination System of West Africa as one the sixteen Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritages of Humanity.


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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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100 PHILOSOPHERS 100 ARTWORKS 100 WORDS #62

Philosopher: Dr. Martha C. Beck, Lyon College

Artwork: Fences, 2016, American drama directed by Denzel Washington and written by August Wilson, based on Wilson’s 1983 play, Fences

Words: This play exposes the long-term impacts of the deep-seated racism in American society. Its release at the end of 2016, soon after the presidential election, provided an opportunity for Americans to think more deeply about pervasive racism. The movie Loving, written and directed by Jeff Nichols, was released simultaneously. Both movies describe pervasive patterns, the artist by creating archetypes and the docudramatist through a historical event. Audiences should recognize these patterns and try to change. Both artists present citizens with stories that expose the dark side of their societies, hoping to bring about a higher level of civilization.


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100 PHILOSOPHERS 100 ARTWORKS 100 WORDS #61

Philosopher: Rossen Ventzislavov, Woodbury University

Artwork: Last Year at Marienbad, 1961, directed by Alain Resnais

Words: Last Year at Marienbad” is a cinematic argument for the inscrutability of thought. In the radical absence of plot, actions barely animate the succession of mysterious dioramas. The film’s cold aesthetic appeal—its rhythm of architectural and sartorial chiaroscuro—suggests relationships beyond the visible. But what does it all amount to? If this were merely an elaborate exercise in style, why would it leave the impression that it hides so much? And if it had a deeper meaning, why would it remain so persistently unavailable? What if logic could completely dissolve in the seduction of a cognitive impasse? 


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100 PHILOSOPHERS 100 ARTWORKS 100 WORDS #60

Philosopher: Anne PollokUniversity of South Carolina

Artwork: Caravaggio, Saint Matthew and the Angel, 1602

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Words: Caravaggio’s daring interpretation of St. Matthew captivated me instantaneously. A dynamic mixture of saintly helplessness and angelic sensuality – I longed to experience the original. That hope was squished immediately when I read the description – a lost work of art. Have we really lost the work, or could we save what is essential of it? Its main “idea” is still there in a sensible form, not as a concept, but once removed. It has been over 15 years now that I first felt Caravaggio’s greatness, and that I learned about the loss, and never have I ceased thinking about it.