AESTHETICS FOR BIRDS

Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone


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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.


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100 PHILOSOPHERS 100 ARTWORKS 100 WORDS #59

Philosopher: Robert Gooding-Williams, Columbia University

Artwork: The Garden, Louise Glück, 1976

 

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Words: The dramatic speaker, a tragic chorus of one, can barely bear to observe a naïve young couple, wanting in awareness of the difficulties that await them, wanting in perspective, and doomed to sadness —a sadness occasioned by departures and separations, even fleeting ones, “even here, even at the beginning of love;” a sadness we may feel free to disregard, falsely thinking that we can secure our relationships against it.  The poem, through its rhythm and tone, conveys the ineluctability of that sadness, thus exemplifying poetry’s power to affect and affectively to form our understanding of the faults that fall between us.

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100 PHILOSOPHERS 100 ARTWORKS 100 WORDS #59

Philosopher: Maria Brincker, University of Massachusetts-Boston

Artwork: William Kentridge, The Refusal of Time, 2012, 30-minute multimedia installation; Kentridge worked with science historian Peter Galison researching the piece, and collaborators Philip Galison, who composed the score and designed its soundscape, and Catherine Meyburgh, who edited the video.

Words: This installation is a multidimensional reminder of our temporality, yet struggle for permanence. Our being in time as changing organisms, yet agents of lasting effects. Our created contexts of artifacts and cultural domination take center stage – as intricate tools of attempted control and record keeping. Metronomes and breathing sounds make our visceral rhythms loudly present while the power structures of technology and racist colonialism envelop us through a chorus of video clips, shadows, and sketches. “The refusal of time” speaks simultaneously to and about the funk and the intellect, and left me with a gasp and an enduring memory.

 

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100 PHILOSOPHERS 100 ARTWORKS 100 WORDS #58

Philosopher: Joshua M. Hall, CUNY, Queenesborough

Artwork: Mark Strand, “Keeping Things Whole,” 1964, poem

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Words: This is one of the first poems that taught me that a poem can have the compressed power of an entire philosophical treatise—and that dedicating one’s life to poetry and to philosophy could thus be a single dedication.  The speaker’s main point here suggests Beauvoir’s claim, in The Ethics of Ambiguity, that to be free and to let the rest of the world shine are the same movement.  If absence can beautify, and everyday movement can save, then there will always be much left for us to hope, and much to love in the generous wake of Strand’s absence.


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100 PHILOSOPHERS 100 ARTWORKS 100 WORDS #57

Philosopher: Stefanie Rocknak (philosopher and sculptor), Hartwick College

Artwork: Toter Christus (Dead Christ)Zacharias Hegewald, 1630, 26.9 cm x 10.5 cm, wood carving/statuette

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Words: Although I’m not religious, this piece took my breath away. It is rather small, just 26 centimeters long—if you could break into the case and pick it up, it could be cradled with one hand. Preciously carved, and, as evidenced by the darker spots on the wood, preciously touched for hundreds of years. The artist, Zacharias Hegewald, threw himself into this figure; he left nothing on the field.


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100 PHILOSOPHERS 100 ARTWORKS 100 WORDS #56

Philosopher: Timothy Yenter, University of Mississippi

Artwork: Sense and Sensibility, written by Jane Austen, read by Juliet Levenson, unabridged audio recording, 11 CDs, 12h 43m, copyright 2005

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Words: Jane Austen’s family loved reading aloud. Austen debuted new work this way, usually to her family’s acclaim, so she was troubled by her mother’s poor reading of Pride and Prejudice. Reading aloud is even praised by Fanny in Mansfield Park, who seriously objects to acting.

But what is the relationship between a novel and its public reading? Can a recording of Juliet Stevenson’s excellent reading of Austen’s novels be an artwork? Is it a performance, interpretation, translation, artwork, or all four? Does Austen’s expectation that her novels would sometimes be read aloud matter?


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100 PHILOSOPHERS 100 ARTWORKS 100 WORDS #55

Philosopher: Chuck Goldhaber, University of Pittsburgh

Artwork: Abstraktes Bild (Abstract Picture) /  Gerhard Richter / 1999 [Catalogue Raisonné: 858-4] / Painting, Oil on Alu Dibond / 50 cm x 72 cm

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Words: Not all art must be architecture.  Some works need no floorplans, no precalculations.  Richter’s abstracts attract me through their randomness and ease.  They are made by running a huge squeegee over paint pooled on a panel in bands of contrasting color.  The squeegee drags the bands, sometimes covering one with another, sometimes smearing several together, sometimes scraping some away to reveal forgotten colors of a base coating.  This process is, at best, hardly controllable; Richter is, at most, a collaborator.  Nature—the secret laws of the mediums—does most of the work.  Richter’s main contribution is to judge when nature has succeeded