AESTHETICS FOR BIRDS

Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone


1 Comment

“TO OPEN MY LEGS IS TO OPEN MY MOUTH”: SEXUALITY AND ART

fontana.jpg

In September this year, French-Luxembourgian performance artist Deborah De Robertis exposed her vagina in front of the Mona Lisa at the Louvre.

A few days ago, she was acquitted of charges of sexual exhibitionism by Paris’s High Court. Why? Because (a) her intent was not sexual in nature, and (b) the “material element of the crime” was missing (= you couldn’t *see* her genitalia because pubic hair obscured it). (Yes, you may giggle now.) Continue reading


Leave a comment

ADRIAN PIPER AT MoMA

A philosopher and artist is getting lots of recognition lately, culminating in an upcoming solo show at MoMA. Adrian Piper, who received the Golden Lion from the Venice Biennale in 2015, has enjoyed several shows in the past couple of years, and will now have a major exhibition at MoMA, “Adrian Piper: A Synthesis of Intuitions, 1965–2016” (March 31 to July 22, 2018), which will then travel to the Hammer Museum in LA (dates being finalized) before going abroad.

From the MoMA press release:

[T]he exhibition, which will be seen in its entirety only at The Museum of Modern Art, will occupy the Museum’s entire sixth floor—the first time that entire level has been devoted to the work of a living artist.

Exciting!

And the MoMA title isn’t just about her art. She has written about Kant’s notion of intuition. And indeed, this isn’t a case where “philosopher” is just tacked on to add some weight to other titles (like all those “artist, model, poet, DJ, and philosopher”s out there now). Piper is hugely research active in philosophy. To get an idea of her philosophical breadth, see some of her work here. She has published on Kant, aesthetics, rationality, race, and non-Western philosophy. According to Wikipedia, Piper was also the first African-American woman to receive tenure in philosophy in the US.

Her conceptual art is centrally concerned with race – with topics like passing as white, exclusion, otherness – as well as issues like sexism, responsibility, and subjectivity. She examines these issues through performance, drawing, collage, installation, and painting.

And for those of you in NYC or nearby who can’t wait until the MoMA solo show can check out her work at the Levy Gorvy Gallery, up until October 21.

See other announcements:


1 Comment

THE AESTHETICS OF ROCK CLIMBING

bouldering_doliner

The pleasures of rock climbing and the pleasures of philosophy turn out to be strangely similar.

So starts an essay by AFB’s Thi Nguyen for The Philosophers’ Mag.

The aesthetics of climbing is an aesthetics of the climber’s own motion, and an aesthetics of how that motion functions as a solution to a problem. There is, for the climber, a very special experience of harmony available – a harmony between one’s abilities and the challenges they meet.

His wide-ranging essay is ultimately about rock climbing, but touches on dance and proprioception, as well as games, sports, and problem solving. Check out the whole thing here.

Image credit: Mark Doliner via Flickr


8 Comments

AGAINST ROTTEN TOMATOES

Rotten Tomatoes was in the news this summer, as reports were made that the teams behind the Baywatch reboot and most recent Pirates of the Caribbean installment blame the critical aggregator for the films’ poor performance at the box office.  Both films had tested well, and the studios believe that audiences skipping the films in light of their poor Rotten Tomatoes scores otherwise would have attended and enjoyed them.  There is some evidence that the impact of Rotten Tomeatoes on box office earnings has in fact been minimal, but it’s hard to deny that the website has seen an increase in influence in recent years.  There’s no longer any need to actively search for RT scores.  If one simply Googles the title of the movie one is hoping to see, the RT score has pride of place at the top of the search results, along with the IMDB user score.  When one logs onto the Fandango website or app to buy movie tickets, the scores are already listed along with the showtimes (Fandango owns Rotten Tomatoes).  The same is true for Flixster, also owned by Fandango, and the home streaming app VUDU.  There are smartphone apps available that let users quickly consult RT scores for a movie recommendation or even cross-reference the movies that are available on Netflix streaming with their RT scores.  Rotten Tomatoes scores are now inscribed all over the technological landscape that mediates our access to film.  It is very hard to avoid becoming aware of a movie’s RT score before seeing it.

One reasonable reaction is, “Well, good!  The blockbuster used to be a beautiful thing, but now it’s all lazy, uninspired sequels and reboots.   It’s a good thing that Rotten Tomatoes has created a mechanism that helps us avoid bad movies.  Perhaps studios will up their game if they become convinced that that they can’t get away with this crap anymore.”

I think this reaction is short-sighted, and the growing influence of the Tomatometer is mostly a bad thing. There are many reasons, but the one I want to focus on is this: the aggregator doesn’t just punish bad movies, it also punishes bold and distinct movies. How would 2001: A Space Odyssey have fared if Rotten Tomatoes existed in 1968? Not well. Continue reading


Leave a comment

PHILOSOPHICAL FICTION

Frances Howard-Snyder (Western Washington University) answers a few short questions about her philosophical fiction posed by Skye Cleary (City College New York) for the APA Blog.

She recounts her experiences at a recent workshop on fiction writing for philosophers.

I particularly liked the idea that fiction writers often deal with quasi-philosophical topics and when they do their treatment could benefit from the skills of philosophers.

And, regarding how professional philosophers’ fiction writing should be treated by universities:

If you [write fiction] well and your work has philosophical content, your department and university ought to treat it as part of your scholarship.

See the whole interview here.

This raises lots of interesting questions. Are there some philosophical topics that are better, or even best, approached through fiction? Can philosophical fiction advance philosophical research? And if so, are philosophers sometimes better positioned to do that than non-philosophers?

What do you think?

 


Leave a comment

WE ALL HAVE OUR REASONS

Comic artist Zach Weinersmith of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal talks about art:

smbc-art

And the aftercomic, for those of you interested in questions about representation and depiction:

1504798609-20170907after

And the referenced work, for your viewing pleasure, which has hilariously become Cesena’s profile pic on his Wikipedia page:

311px-michelangelo-minos2

According to Wikipedia: “It was widely said that when Cesena complained to the Pope, the pontiff joked that his jurisdiction did not extend to hell and the portrait would have to remain.”


Leave a comment

A BRIEF HISTORY OF BEAUTY

pecheux_maria_louisa.jpg

“Beauty has become a taboo topic among many practitioners of art and design,” writes Michael Spicher (Boston University) in an article for Architecture Boston. “Yet it’s clear we still need beauty in our lives. … People may disagree about which objects are beautiful (or their degree of beauty), but no one seems to disagree that beautiful, pleasurable things exist. We should strive for beauty, so that we may create or experience it.”

Spicher traces the history of thinking about beauty in the West, from its more objective beginnings in Plato, Aristotle, and Aquinas, to its current status as subjective (at best). Pop on over for a primer!

Image credit: Met Museum, detail from “Maria Louisa of Parma” by Laurent Pécheux (1765)


1 Comment

INDIAN AESTHETICS: RASA THEORY

Shiva_and_Parvati.jpg

There is a familiar puzzle in philosophy of art: How do fictions provoke real feelings in us?

This raises other questions: Are those real feelings? Do we feel real fear, or some fear-like thing when we watch a scary movie? How do actors or written words get us to feel those things, whatever they are?

Over at the podcast The History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps, Peter Adamson (LMU Munich, King’s College London) talks about the rasa tradition that starts with Bharata’s Nāṭya-Śāstra (Treatise on Drama) and its distinctive approach to answering these questions. The text dates back to 200 BCE – 200 CE, so it’s roughly as old as Aristotle’s Poetics.

What is rasa? An aesthetic response elicited by the drama. It’s not the emotion itself, but it derives from the emotion.

There are eight kinds of rasa, corresponding to eight basic emotional dispositions:

  • the erotic
  • the comic
  • the pathetic
  • the furious
  • the heroic
  • the terrible
  • the odious
  • the marvelous
  • (and perhaps a ninth: tranquility)

There is lots of interesting stuff here. Rasa theory not only tries to present an adequate answer to the puzzle above, but has implications for lots of different issues across philosophy of art – including theories of acting and theater, the audience and taste, and the aim of art. It also has implications for fictionalism, theories of emotion, mind and representation, and language and metaphor.

Rasa can even help us understand ourselves and our place in the world:

“This enjoyment of rasa is like this bliss that comes from realizing one’s identity with the highest Brahman, for it consists of repose in the bliss which is the true nature of one’s own self.” – Abhinavagupta

It’s only 20 minutes long — go have a listen!

Image: Detail from Shiva and Parvati Playing Chaupar: Folio from a Rasamanjari Series, by Devidasa of Nurpur (Met Collection)


Leave a comment

PSYCH STUDY PROVES KANT RIGHT (AND WRONG) ABOUT BEAUTY

There’s a discussion over at Daily Nous about a psychology study in which the authors:

confirm Kant’s claim that only the pleasure associated with feeling beauty requires thought and disprove his claim that sensuous pleasures cannot be beautiful.

So, they try to prove Kant right about beauty involving cognitive functions, but prove him wrong about sensuous pleasures. They also found in general that beautiful things yielded higher pleasure than purely sensual stimuli.

Pleasure amplitude increases linearly with the feeling of beauty.

(Well, it still reads better than Kant.)

So here’s the basic methodology.

Neither wishing to encumber our participants with philosophical baggage nor wishing to spoil the test by revealing our hypothesis, we left “beauty” undefined and simply asked the participant at the end of each trial: “During this trial, did you get the feeling of beauty from the object?” We used various stimuli: seeing a plain or beautiful image, sucking a candy, or a touching a teddy bear.

Some of the interesting results:

Roughly one-third of participants “definitely” experienced beauty from non-visual stimuli in trials without added task [designed to deplete executive functions], i.e., from sucking a candy or touching a teddy bear.

Turns out, sucking on a Jolly Rancher can be beautiful. They discuss these results in the section “The Beauty of Sucking Candy: Kant Disproved”. (I just wanted to call attention to that delightful section header.)

Reports of beauty for IKEA furniture were very rare.

😥

The final words of the study:

We thus demonstrate that psychological experiments can test philosophical theories and that mathematical models can describe aesthetic experiences.

If only Kant had been the type to enjoy a good hard candy now and then, or squeeze a teddy bear.

In all seriousness, though, what do you think? For most people working in art and aesthetics, it isn’t surprising that sensuous experiences can be beautiful. Lots of people work on this stuff now and lots of artists are exploring non-standard media and sense modalities.

But should we believe it to be true on the basis of this sort of research? What should we think about empirical aesthetics and neuroaesthetics? Does it trivialize the richness of aesthetic experience? Does it poorly operationalize our concepts? Or does it liberate us from our ivory tower? (If you’re curious about others’ thoughts, pop over to the discussion at Daily Nous.)