AESTHETICS FOR BIRDS

Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone


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FIVE STRATEGIES FOR ARGUING ABOUT ART ON THE INTERNET

Meme by Brandon Polite (via Den of Geek)

What follows is a co-authored post by Brandon Polite and Matt Strohl. It is a follow-up to an earlier post about online arguments about art here.

Disagreeing about art should be a positive experience. It has the potential to expand our perspective, prompt us to articulate our views more precisely, enrich friendships, and broadly enhance our engagement with works of art. The internet has massively expanded opportunities to engage in disagreement, but has done so in a way that often appears to work against these aims. Characteristically, disagreement about art on the internet is shallow and hostile.

In our previous post, we considered why disagreement about art on the internet is so horrible and unproductive. We argued that the root of the problem is that we are often personally invested in our views about art and that we therefore tend to take certain opposing views as personal attacks. If Jimmy is a passionate Taylor Swift fan and Cynthia tweets that Taylor Swift is a sham artist, Jimmy feels like Cynthia is insulting him. If he posts an angry response to her tweet, it’s not primarily because he believes so strongly that she’s wrong; it’s because he’s defending himself as a Swiftie and lashing out at a Swift Hater. The internet massively expands the scale of opportunities for this sort of interaction and puts us in touch with a huge number of people who we ordinarily wouldn’t discuss art with across a wide range of taste communities. Throw in the disinhibiting effects of online interaction, and it’s a powder keg ready to blow the instant someone posts something testy about The Mandalorian.

In this follow-up post, we suggest a range of strategies for better aesthetic disagreement—ways of avoiding hostile confrontations and instead promoting engaging, illuminating, mutually respectful discourse. 

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BEEPLE AND NOTHINGNESS: PHILOSOPHY AND NFTS

artwork detail: Beeple

What follows is one of two pieces we are running on NFTs. See another take on NFTs here.

It was the Beeple heard round the world: on Thursday, March 11th, Christie’s sold a collage of digital art images for 69 million dollars. Beeple, real name Mike Winkelmann, is the artist responsible for the work; this makes him the third-highest selling living artist behind Jeff Koons and David Hockney. Prior to the sale, Beeple had made a modest artistic practice out of posting original 3D images online daily. Most of these “everydays” are technically competent but nondescript abstracts—the sort of thing that you might use as a desktop background. Recently they’ve grown more referential, including images of a breastfeeding Donald Trump, Tiger King dethroned, and the coronavirus as a scifi movie monster.  How, exactly, did Beeple’s work find itself in the rarefied air of a Christie’s auction, outselling the likes of Lucien Freud and Damien Hirst? The answer, I suspect, has a lot to do with his chosen format for sale: an ‘NFT’, or non-fungible token.

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AFB’S TOP 5 POSTS OF 2020

Thanks to our readers for another great year at Aesthetics for Birds! Here were our most-viewed posts this year. Scroll through to make sure you haven’t missed something big. (You can also check out our Top 5 of 2017 and 2018, or 2019.)

Note: Our actual Top 5 by the numbers included a few from previous years (including a perennial hit about problematic artists and their artworks and a 2018 piece about Kafka, The Trial, and philosophy). So below you’ll see the most popular five posts that first appeared in 2020.

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ARGUING ABOUT ART ON THE INTERNET, PART 1: WHY WE DO IT, AND WHY IT OFTEN GOES BADLY

What follows is a co-authored post by Brandon Polite and Matthew Strohl. It is the first piece in a two-part series. See part two here.

The ascendancy of the internet has generated a wide range of difficult new questions for philosophers of aesthetics. Our concern in this piece is the way the internet has reshaped aesthetic discourse and has made aesthetic disagreement far more immediate and pervasive. Social media allows users to broadcast their evaluations of artworks to hundreds or thousands of followers any time of day and, as a result, has ushered in the Golden Age of Everyone Having an Opinion. We are specifically concerned with the general tendency of the internet to promote hostility in aesthetic discourse. Rampant hostility has emerged in a wide variety of contexts, ranging from large-scale fan movements to remake a poorly received season of a widely loved television series or a controversial entry in a beloved film franchise, to casual Facebook threads about Greta Gerwig’s Little Women or HBO’s Watchmen series.

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INSTAGRAM FILTERS FOR THE SELF: AUTONOMY AND INTERNET “AESTHETICS”

Astute observers of life online may already be familiar with “Dark Academia”—a stylistic trend currently blowing up on TikTok that draws liberally from Donna Tartt novels, T. Hayashida’s Take Ivy, goth culture, and Dead Poets Society. One practitioner of the style sums up Dark Academia as “young people trying to dress like old people” and encourages initiates to immerse themselves in ancient Greek tragedies and stock up on tweed blazers. Others have compiled lists of guidelines and tips on adopting Dark Academia and visual guidelines for Dark Academia apparel.

If you’re scratching your head in puzzlement at this point, here’s a brief explainer: Dark Academia is just the latest of a number of different online styles or “aesthetics” that have spread largely through social media. Some of these—such as cottagecore, VSCO, and e-girls and e-boys—have attracted a decent amount of mainstream attention. But what’s notable is that these styles barely scratch the surface of a bewildering array of online aesthetics that includes goblincore, pastel goth, and yes, even Karencore.

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AFB’S TOP 5 POSTS OF 2019

Thanks to our readers for another great year at Aesthetics for Birds! Here were our most-viewed posts this year. Scroll through to make sure you haven’t missed something big! (You can also check out our Top 5 of 2017 and Top 5 of 2018.)

Note: Our actual Top 5 by the numbers included a few from previous years (including last year’s #1, 2017’s #5, and one surprise appearance). So below you’ll see the most popular five posts that first appeared in 2019.

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AFB STAFF LIST THEIR TOP 10 OF THE DECADE

 

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This year marks the end of the second decade of the 2000s. In honor of this, we thought we’d take a look back at our decade with an end-of-year series.

The internet loves lists, especially year-end ones, and we’ve been feeding that love a little bit this December. We have hosted six lists of expert Decade-Best picks, including movies, games, writing, TV, music, and art. Our previous experts have been philosophers and other academics whose work concerns these topics, and people working in/on the relevant media.

Today, we have a slightly different theme. Our experts are our own Aesthetics for Birds staff, and they’ll be giving their Top Ten lists across all media and genres, no restrictions (though with some extra effort to include stuff in categories not already covered). It’s art and aesthetics in the broadest possible sense. So without further delay, let’s see this decade’s top aesthetic offerings.


Our contributors are:

    • Roy T Cook, AFB staff writer, professor in Philosophy at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities
    • Anthony Cross, AFB staff writer, lecturer in Philosophy at Texas State University
    • Matt Strohl, AFB staff writer, professor in Philosophy at the University of Montana
    • Mary Beth Willard, AFB staff writer, associate professor in Philosophy at Weber State University
    • Thi Nguyen, AFB assistant editor, associate professor in Philosophy at Utah Valley University
    • Alex King, AFB editor-in-chief, assistant professor in Philosophy at SUNY Buffalo

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THE ETHICS OF ARTISANSHIP: OR, NO, YOU MAY NOT PUT MILK IN YOUR COFFEE

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Sometimes I put milk in brewed coffee. I do so when I go to I-HOP for a plate of International Pancakes and a bottomless cup of diner swill. Sometimes I buy coffee at the airport. It’s usually godawful sludge that’s been over-roasted and brewed too strong before stewing in a hot coffee urn for god knows how long. You better believe I add some milk to this stuff; it’s too ghastly to drink black. Milk can make bad coffee less bad. It also of course has its place in a number of venerable espresso drinks.

But what about good brewed coffee? There are some coffees that you just shouldn’t add milk to. The term “Third Wave” refers to the movement that treats brewed coffee as an artisanal product. High quality, well-processed beans are sourced from small farms, roasted to exacting specifications meant to highlight the coffee’s origin character, and brewed precisely one cup at a time. Every step of the process is oriented towards doing justice to a high quality bean. Adding milk to Third Wave coffee is antithetical to this aim. Milk masks the origin character, changes the mouthfeel, drowns out the subtle details.

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A RAWLSIAN THEORY OF FOOD CULTURE

John Rawls said, famously, that the way to judge a society was to look at the condition of its worst-off.⁠1 It doesn’t matter how rich or well-educated the people at the top are. The best society is the one that best treats the people at the bottom.

Let me suggest a corollary: the Rawlsian Theory of Food Culture. The Rawlsian Theory of Food Culture says that, if you want to judge the quality of a food culture, don’t look at its finest restaurants and best food. Look to its low-end. Look to its street carts, its gas-station snacks. Look to what you can get in the airport at 2 AM. Any community can spit up a few nice places to eat, if they throw enough money at it. What shows real love for food, and real caring, is when people make good food when they could get away with making crap.

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This is a Jamaican patty I had for $2 out of hot cabinet in a mini-market in Toronto. It made me cry, it was so good.

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