Aesthetics for Birds

Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone

April 8, 2020
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HOW TO PARTAKE IN THE FUCKERY: A ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION ON HIP-HOP, GENDER, AND LANGUAGE

In January, we hosted an interview and preliminary discussion of some pressing issues in rap and hip-hop. We wanted to investigate the fact that, in Bill Adler’s words, hip-hop has never been “a model of civil discourse”. We did that by talking to two queer Black women rappers, BL Shirelle and Bates, to get their takes on the matter. Now we follow that up with a roundtable of scholars, each reflecting in their own way on what BL Shirelle and Bates had to say. [Warning: This discussion contains explicit language, including a variation of the n-word.] Our contributors are: Bria Gambrell, MPP and MA candidate in Gender and Cultural Studies at Simmons University T.M.G., PhD student in Philosophy at Dalhousie University [website] Charlotte Henay, lecturer in Women’s and Gender Studies at Brock University Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò, assistant professor in Philosophy at Georgetown University [website] Michael Thomas, assistant professor in Philosophy … Continue reading

February 13, 2020
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What is Art? Let Cognitive Science Help You Answer That Question

What follows is a guest post by Shen-yi Liao, Aaron Meskin, and Joshua Knobe. They offer an overview and summary of the ideas in their new paper, “Dual Character Art Concepts,” just out in Pacific Philosophical Quarterly. (Non-paywalled version available here.) Alfie: This sculpture is not art. I know many people think it is art, but when you think about what art really is, you will realize that it is not art at all. Betty: Of course this is art. It is in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art! Alfie: I know. But all the same, it’s not a true work of art. It’s impersonal factory-produced rubbish. Betty: Wait, I agree that this sculpture is completely awful in every way, but still, it’s obviously a piece of art.

November 25, 2019
by Aesthetics for Birds
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Spin Me Round: Why Vinyl is Better Than Digital

What follows is a guest post by Tony Chackal. We have also published a response piece to this post, which you can read here. Ever wonder why people prefer vinyl records over digital formats? Are they just snobs who fetishize vintage culture or elitists overly concerned with being hip? Are vinyl enthusiasts backward-looking in resisting contemporary technology? Maybe. But there are other substantial reasons to prefer vinyl to digital formats that may account for recent rebounds in vinyl sales. In this piece, I’ll highlight what I think they are.

November 7, 2019
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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 … Continue reading

August 21, 2019
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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 … Continue reading

July 31, 2019
by Aesthetics for Birds
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Zombie Formalism: Or, How Financial Values Pervade the Arts

What follows is a guest post by Sarah Hegenbart. Once upon a time, the month of June was jet-set season for the international artworld. After a meet and greet at the preview days at the Venice Biennale, which used to take place in early June, the crowd of artists, curators, critics, dealers, and collectors jumped on a plane, a train, or a yacht heading towards Basel, Switzerland. Basel wakes up at least once a year when astronomical amounts of money are paid for works so contemporary that the paint on the canvases has hardly finished drying. Or possibly even works that are such hot shit that they are not available yet because they are still on view in one of the national pavilions at the Venice Biennale. But the unavailability only increases the desire. (This is a pattern recognizable from other unhealthy relationships, too.) Knowing the economic laws of supply … Continue reading

April 25, 2019
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An Experiment in Philosophy and Poetry

What follows is a guest post by philosopher Aaron Meskin. He discusses a book that he and poet Helen Mort recently co-authored. In it, Mort “replies” to a variety of different philosophers’ papers with original poems, and the philosophers get to reflect on the poem and its relationship to their work. This piece is also cross-posted at Daily Nous.

December 13, 2018
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Is This Really Art? Aesthetic Disagreement and Conceptual Negotiation

What follows is a guest post from Elizabeth Cantalamessa (University of Miami). Think about the endless debates over what, really, is art. We get it over the latest Star Wars movie, or over Richard Prince’s series of Instagram screenshots titled New Portraits, or the recent Banksy “art-world prank” where a print of Girl With a Balloon “self-shredded” upon its auction. Articles are written, exhibitions are curated, theories are proposed – but, if there’s no fact out there in the world that can settle the debates, why do people waste their time trying to get others to agree with them? It seems that we face a dilemma: either people are wasting their time trying to figure out what “really” makes something art – or there is some deep fact about these objects that would settle the debates if aestheticians and the like just do enough analysis and theory.