A review of Peter Steele’s: The Whispering Gallery: Art into Poetry, in which Steele writes poems on and to paintings and the sculpture Black Sun in the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia. Each work on which there is a poem is reproduced. In this book Steele writes more to the ‘contour’ of the topic-work than he did in Plenty. His poems – as ever sidenoted – are tensed between the topicality of the work of art in question, (...) and Kant’s aesthetic which involves ‘the free play of the cognitive faculties’. In ths tension lies the particular pleasure of Steele’s poetry. (shrink)
At a time when professional art criticism is on the wane, the ancient quarrel between art and philosophy demands fresh answers. Professional art criticism provided a basis upon which to distinguish apt experiences of art from the idiosyncratic. However, currently the kind of narratives from which critics once drew are underplayed or discarded in contemporary exhibition design where the visual arts are concerned. This leaves open the possibility that art operates either as mere stimulant to private reverie or, in the (...) more contentful cases, as propaganda. The ancient quarrel between art and philosophy is that art influences surreptitiously while philosophy presents reasons that invite rational scrutiny. As such, in contrast to philosophy, art would undermine our agency. In July 2017, a group of philosophers gathered at the Art Gallery of NSW (AGNSW), in Sydney, Australia, in the presence of two AGNSW curators to explore the basis of their own experiences of selected artworks. Here, those commentaries are reproduced. Each reveal that objective grounds for an experience of art can be based in the community from which one draws one’s terms of reference. In our commentaries we see the expertise of the respective philosophical communities but other communities of culture or expertise might serve the same purpose and hence resolve the ancient quarrel. Before hearing these commentaries, I explain what is at stake when the ancient quarrel between art and philosophy is understood in contemporary terms. This Issue of the Curator also includes an article on the community-based art criticism that emerges from these commentaries followed by an exhibition review which reveals the incorrigible impulse (also demonstrated in the commentaries) to find the basis for the most apt experience of an artwork. A response by the AGNSW curators completes this issue. (shrink)
Richard Shusterman suggested that Maurice Merleau-Ponty neglected “‘lived somaesthetic reflection,’ that is, concrete but representational and reflective body consciousness.” While unsure about this assessment of Merleau-Ponty, lived somaesthetic reflection, or what the late Sam Mallin called “body phenomenology”—understood as a meditation on the body reflecting on both itself and the world—is my starting point. Another is John Dewey’s bodily theory of perception, augmented somewhat by Merleau-Ponty. -/- With these starting points, I spent roughly 20 hours with St. Benedict Restores Life (...) to a Young Monk (c. 1360), a work of tempera and gold leaf on panel, by Giovanni Del Biondo, active in Italy from 1356 to 1398, on display in the Art Gallery of Ontario’s permanent collection. Following Dewey’s suggestion that “[t]he eye ... is only the channel through which a total response takes place,” meaning that motor, emotional, intellectual and non-visual perceptual capacities become active when we encounter paintings, I describe how the work engaged a range of bodily modalities; and how reflecting on these, in turn, supplied phenomenal articulations of life negating, preserving and enhancing forces important in the culture that produced it, and famously discussed by Friedrich Nietzsche. By virtue of the approach adopted, I also demonstrate Dewey’s belief that intimate engagement with art entails a total coordination of one’s capacities around the artwork, while simultaneously reinforcing Merleau-Ponty’s ideas about perception and how we can find phenomenal articulations of concepts such as the Nietzschean ones just mentioned. While focusing on Del Biondo’s painting, my main purpose is to engage in body phenomenology practices, and to show, in the words of Shusterman, how “[w]e might sharpen our appreciation of art through more attention to our somaesthetic feelings involved in perceiving art” and indeed the world. (shrink)
Why should a person, and in the context of this conference particularly an art historian, take seriously the notion of the aesthetic, its discovery and/or rediscovery? Aesthetics might after all be considered at best something of a distraction from bread and butter historical and sociological analysis, and at worst entirely incompatible with it. Pursuing the line further it might be urged that, since on the one hand aesthetics is about 'how things appear'—i.e. is subject to individual predilection, taste and feeling—and (...) on the other, historical analysis is about the careful and scholarly reconstruction of a past social reality, the two must be at loggerheads. What the art historian writes about on a weekday whilst wearing her hard hat at the office must not be confused with what she personally feels, wandering around a gallery in her woolly hat at the weekend. (shrink)
We live in a time when museum curators and gallery directors in the English-speaking world have to a distressing degree lost faith in the power of their own collections. Cowed by accusations of elitism, intimidated by nonsense academic art theory, worndown by guilt-inducing postcolonial victimology, they succumb to pressures either on the one hand to dumb down their presentations, or on the other hand to politicise them.
The recent removal of the Richard Prince’s artwork Spiritual America from the Tate Modern’s “Pop Life: Art in a Material World” exhibition is the most recent and high-profile case of a work of art being withdrawn from a gallery in the UK on the grounds that it has allegedly breached legislation concerning indecent images of children. Surprisingly, the issue has been hardly considered by academics from law departments and is almost entirely ignored by philosophers specializing in aesthetics and ethics. (...) This essay considers the ethics of images of children by drawing from continental ethics and aesthetics, and by engaging with the only significant treatment of the subject undertaken by a philosopher, namely Peter J. King’s “No Plaything.” This paper shows that a continental perspective can open up positions that King’s ‘objectivist utilitarianism’ is oblivious of. In particular, the essay draws from Derrida’s reading of Kant’s Third Critique and the former’s quasi-conception of “the frame” in The Truth in Painting and “droit de regard” in Right of Inspection. In distinction to King, this paper engages with the actual existing reality of currently enacted laws and their application in particular cases such as in Spiritual America. I will begin with art ‘in the frame’ as the colloquial expression has it, art wrongfully and unjustly accused by the police. I will proceed via an examination of the question of the frame in Kant and Derrida, to demonstrate a need to reclaim the ethical status of works of art. The core procedure of my paper will be a ‘rediscovery’ of Spiritual America as the Kantian example that allows us to find the law. My argument will be that no work of art or image can of itself be decent or indecent. (shrink)
University of Buffalo New York Department of Art Gallery. The ancient philosopher Protagoras is most famous for his claim: “Of all things the measure is Man” and today, Western societies continue to promote anthropocentrism, an approach to the world that assumes humans are the principal species of the planet. We naturalize a scale of worth, in which beings that most resemble our own forms or benefit us are valued over those that do not. The philosophy of humanism has been (...) trumpeted as the hallmark of a civilized society, founded on the unquestioned value of humankind defining not only our economic, political, religious, and social systems, but also our ethical code. However, artists recently have questioned whether humanism has actually lived up to its promises and made the world a better place for humankind. Are we better off privileging humans above all else or could there be other, preferable, ways to value life? With the continued prevalence of violent crimes, even genocide, in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, we see the ways in which the discourse of humanism falters, as groups are targeted through rhetoric reducing them to the subhuman, and therefore disposable. But what if the subhuman, nonhuman, and even the non-animal and material, were reconsidered as objects of worth even if far removed from us? (shrink)
The earliest art collections of Finland’s National Gallery came into being when, as the Grand Duchy of Finland, it was an autonomous part of imperial Russia. The prevailing view of Finnish museum studies, however, sees the Finnish Art Society, the precursor of the Finnish National Gallery, as being modelled on exclusively European cultural institutions. The history of the Society and its collections have thus been seen as resistant to any alien eastern influences, and as an attempt to differentiate (...) Finnish culture from Russian art collecting practices. Drawing on the theoretical shift in cultural studies from the conception of stable, clearly demarcated cultural identities of nation states toward less rigidly defined identities, the aim of this essay is to reconstruct the hidden Russian presence in Finnish museum historiography. Based on original unpublished sources, my study shows that the earliest support of Finland’s cultural infrastructure was given by the Romanov patrons Nicholas.. (shrink)
Musical listening, looking at paintings and literary creation are activities that involve perceptual and cognitive activity and so are of interest to psychologists and other scientists of the mind. What sorts of interest should philosophers of the arts take in scientific approaches to such issues? Opinion currently ranges across a spectrum, with 'take no notice' at one end and 'abandon traditional philosophical methods' at the other. This collection of essays, originating in a Royal Institute of Philosophy conference at the Leeds (...) Art Gallery in 2012, represents many of the most interesting positions along that spectrum. Contributions address issues concerning aesthetic testimony, the processing and appreciation of poetry, the aesthetics of disgust, imagination, genre, evolutionary constraints on art appreciation, creativity, musical cognition and the limitations or productiveness of empirical enquiry for philosophical aesthetics. (shrink)
In the 1950s and 60s, Martin Heidegger turned to sculpture to rethink the relationship between bodies and space and the role of art in our lives. In his texts on the subject—a catalog contribution for an Ernst Barlach exhibition, a speech at a gallery opening for Bernhard Heiliger, a lecture on bas-relief depictions of Athena, and a collaboration with Eduardo Chillida—he formulates his later aesthetic theory, a thinking of relationality. Against a traditional view of space as an empty container (...) for discrete bodies, these writings understand the body as already beyond itself in a world of relations and conceive of space as a material medium of relational contact. Sculpture shows us how we belong to the world, a world in the midst of a technological process of uprooting and homelessness. Heidegger suggests how we can still find room to dwell therein. Filled with illustrations of works that Heidegger encountered or considered, _Heidegger Among the Sculptors_ makes a singular contribution to the philosophy of sculpture. (shrink)
It was the general practice until not at all long ago to look at Turner as one of the moderns, if not as one of the founding fathers of modern art. He was a man straddling the fence between two periods, but he was looking forward. In a history of art that marches through time, forever endorsing what is about to be forgotten, wrapping up, as it were, one style to open eagerly the package of the next, such a position (...) is most enviable for, no matter where the times may be going, it is a hallmark of greatness to be ahead of one's time. There were things to be explained, of course, Turner himself, a keen pessimist, did not approved of the future and had little use for the present.1 His love of art was schooled on Reynolds' Discourses, and he remained loyal to them; his poets were Thomson and Pope and, among contemporaries, the rather frigid but delicate Samuel Rogers, a classicist par excellence. Above all, however, Turner looked back to classical antiquity for training and guidance, and for the delectation of his heart. And the poetry of the ancients, such as he could obtain it in translation, was as important to him as their art. What does one do with a declared classicist whom a historicizing hindsight feels compelled to rescue as a man of the future by making him a Romantic? It is a challenge stylistic analysis likes to meet, for it goes beneath what it declares to be the surface of a work of art to find its style, the essence that must conform to the presumed spirit of the age in question. The triumphant result of such studies in depth is a forgone conclusion as much as it is a surprise to the uninitiated. The facade of the Louvre, for example, used to suffice to make it a building in the classical style; it took the acumen of a Wölfflin to prove that it really was "baroque." The more the artist struggled not to be of his time, the more, poor man, he betrayed to the analyst that he was of his time. The Louvre facade stands convicted of being "classicizing-baroque."2 · 1. On Turner's view of the modern art of his time see John Gage, Color in Turner: Poetry and Truth , pp.97-105. On his literary education and taste see the seminal essay by Jerrold Ziff, "Turner on Poetry and Painting, " Studies in Romanticism 3 no. 4 : 193-215. Turner's poetical writings have been edited by Jack Lindsay, The Sunset Ship: The Poems of J.M.W. Turner . For the most recent and also most elegantly practical introduction to the work and life of Turner, see the catalogue of the Turner Exhibition of the Royal Academy and the Tate Gallery, Turner, 1775-1851 . · 2. This is now a commonplace of art historical teaching. See, for example, Gardner’s Art Through the Ages, 6th ed. Horst de la Croix and Richard G. Tansey , p. 632. On the theory behind the application to the particular case, see Heinrich Wölfflin, Principles of Art History, trans. M. D. Hottinger . Philipp Fehl, artist and art historian, is currently preparing a collection of essays, Art and Morality: Studies in the History of the Classical Tradition. He is a professor in the department of art and design at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "Farewell to Jokes: The Last Capricci of Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo and the Tradition of Irony in Venetian Painting" was published in Summer 1979 in Critical Inquiry. (shrink)
Traditionally, definitions of art have been concerned with the characteristics of the art object, the process of its creation or the reactions to it. in this paper i suggest to concentrate on the circumstances of the object's existence and the process by which it comes to exist. these circumstances, which differ in different periods and in different societies, are: (a) it's being declared, either by the artist, or by an exhibition catalogue, or by a collector, or by an art expert, (...) that x is art; (b) it's being understood that the said object in a museum, gallery, concert-hall, living room, is located or arranged or hung in such a way as to indicate that it is being exhibited as a work of art; (c) the said object's resembling objects previously recognized as being works of art; (d) the said declaration, referred to in (a), being made in the proper media--those recognized as having authority in the realm of art. (edited). (shrink)
A review of Peter Steele’s: The Whispering Gallery: Art into Poetry, in which Steele writes poems on and to paintings and the sculpture Black Sun (By Inge King) in the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia. Each work on which there is a poem is reproduced. In this book Steele writes more to the ‘contour’ of the topic-work than he did in Plenty. His poems – as ever sidenoted – are tensed between the topicality of the work of (...) art in question, and Kant’s aesthetic which involves ‘the free play of the cognitive faculties’. In ths tension lies the particular pleasure of Steele’s poetry. (shrink)
According to Arthur Danto, post-modern or post-historical art began when artists like Andy Warhol collapsed the Modern distinction between art and everyday life by bringing “the everyday” into the artworld. I begin by pointing out that there is another way to collapse this distinction: bring art out of the artworld and into everyday life. An especially effective way of doing this is to make street art, which, I argue, is art whose meaning depends on its use of the street. I (...) defend this definition and show how it handles graffiti and public art. (shrink)
I discuss the aesthetic power of painful art. I focus on artworks that occasion pain by “hitting too close to home,” i.e., by presenting narratives meant to be “about us.” I consider various reasons why such works may have aesthetic value for us, but I argue that the main reason has to do with the power of such works to transgress conversational boundaries. The discussion is meant as a contribution to the debate on the paradox of tragedy.
To analyze the relations between art and science, philosophers and historians have developed different lines of inquiry. A first type of inquiry considers how artistic and scientific practices have interacted over human history. Another project aims to determine the contributions that scientific research can make to our understanding of art, including the contributions that cognitive science can make to philosophical questions about the nature of art. We rely on contributions made to these projects in order to demonstrate that art and (...) science are codependent phenomena. Specifically, we explore the codependence of art and science in the context of a historical analysis of their interactions and in the context of contemporary debates on the cognitive science of art. (shrink)