Vol. 5 No. 1 (2016) Aesthetic Inquiries 2

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Jason Holt

Collision. Epiquotation:  Why We Sometimes Misquote Stubbornly (pp. 4-15)

Most misquotations are owing to carelessness or willful misrepresentation and perpetuated by ignorance. More interesting, however, are those that persist despite being widely recognized as erroneous. Such memes are culturally selected for, and this can be explained by what I call the SIC hypothesis: compared with their originals, such misquotations are uniquely symbolic (S), improving (I), or compressive (C). In such cases, a loss of fidelity is compensated by aesthetic enhancement. But the apparent conflict between truth and beauty here evaporates as these are not simply misquotations, paraphrases, or interpolations but a different phenomenon entirely, which prompts the coinage of “epiquotation” (n) or some such neologism, together with punctuational revision. As tropes, epiquotations are quotation-adjacent, true to the presumed spirit of their originals, unique mnemonic keys, and aesthetic frames; and though they are extrinsic, they become essential addenda to the originals, which prompt yet fail to realize such potential expression. So construed, the epiquote phenomenon has paradoxical implications for retroactively describing the original works whose cultural reception has deemed them epiquotable.

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Jane Forsey

Collision. The Aesthetic Force of the Unpleasant (pp. 15-24)

Of the three forms of reflective judgment analyzed in Kant’s third Critique, the pleasant has received the least attention because it is seen in part as purely subjective, in part as a mere foil for his theory of judgments of beauty. This paper makes a case for the philosophical consideration of this kind of judgment by focusing on its converse: the unpleasant is a form of aesthetic response that is initially negative but has great motivating power. More modest and common than judgments of the purely beautiful or ugly and more rational than our visceral responses to the disgusting, the unpleasant can capture the aesthetic tenor of our daily lives and concerns.

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David Goldblatt

The Extended Body and the Aesthetics of Merleau-Ponty (pp. 25-46)

An extended “restless” body was the center of perceptual and ontological importance for Merleau-Ponty — a source of insight into how persons navigate and understand the world. But he was sufficiently aware as well of the roles an extended body played in art. This paper considers two stages in Merleau-Ponty’s work, roughly corresponding to his early and late writings, where the boundary between body and world can be flexible and complex but where the body’s extension is artistically significant. After Fred Rush’s coinage of “prosthetic effect,” I utilize prosthesis metaphorically to illustrate the use of an extended body in the production and reception of art when the world demands an immediate response and the imposition of engagement and where the potential for aesthetic identification has greater explanatory power as a unit than as a body separate from that environment. The second use deals with Merleau-Ponty’s more difficult notions of flesh and chiasm to consider an intersecting world unfolding itself — reversing the direction of the usual dialogue between artist and a soliciting world, as Merleau-Ponty sees it. In the course of doing so, this essay includes a discussion of Paul Klee’s painting, The Ventriloquist in the Moors, Descartes on phantom limb pains and artistic identity. While technology has fostered digital devices, which appear as prostheses and form significant aspects of our culture, Merleau-Ponty had imagined our extended bodies in more ubiquitous and quotidian ways.

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Renata Lemos Morais

Collision.  A New Aesthetic of Postnature: Tara Donovan’s Material Modulations (pp. 47-57)

The work of Tara Donovan represents a new aesthetics that manifests the conceptual nuances of posthuman thought via material assemblages. Her work creates a detour that, instead of having the fluidity of digital networks as its point of departure, starts with material objects and repetition as textual elements that create postnatural landscapes permeated with biomorphic, organic, fluid motions that seem to expand our understanding of the natural. I compare her aesthetics to James Bridle’s New Aesthetics. New Aesthetics embody the technological properties of the digital by accumulating virtual traces of material networks, documenting and curating various examples of immaterial physicalities. Tara Donovan’s work represents a reversed form of New Aesthetic that, instead of bringing the ‘digital’ into the ‘physical’ in an automated and mechanical way, infuses and shapes materials according to the fluid possibilities of the natural — organically and meticulously. Both artistic movements — be it from the virtual into the physical or from the natural into the artificial and vice versa — are conducive to a new aesthetic territory: a postnatural landscape that manifests as immaterial physicality.

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Sacha Golob and Kathleen McKay

The Holzwege of Heidegger and Finlay (pp. 58-87)

On both conceptual and methodological levels, this article explores the relationship between Martin Heidegger’s philosophy and the work of the poet and visual artist Ian Hamilton Finlay. At the center of Heidegger’s account of experience is the notion of the clearing or the open, a space within which and against which entities are “disclosed” or become fully apparent. The purpose of this text is to examine how Finlay’s work might be seen as a response to this Heideggerian framework. In particular we look to the poet’s garden Little Sparta, part of which instantiates Heidegger’s vision of the clearing and of the “Holzwege” or “wood paths” that shape it. We demonstrate the way in which Little Sparta sustains a distinctive form of aesthetic inquiry, from our initial state of doubt in the Holzwege thicket to a deeper understanding of the process of meaning.

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Ana Ramos

Collision.  On Consciousness-with and Virtual Lines of Affection (pp. 88-97)

If we wish to think experience primarily as a relational dimension in which dynamic forces are activated, then we may need to conceive the body as both a crossroads and a threshold across which events burst forth. First, the body is a crossroads of virtual lines of affection where consciousness becomes a with-ness in which bodies-things-percepts-sensations collide: intertwined movements of becoming. But it is also a threshold because the body is a multidimensional place where events are reported – or not. Like a black hole, it is constantly attracting affectivities and engulfing them: it is affected by its surroundings. But what becomes of these affectivities? The body is not just a black hole; it is also a musical instrument: it resonates with its surrounding, emitting affective forces through the pulsation of its presence. The body is affected as much as it affects its situation. To conceive experience as an aesthetic process contributes to an acknowledgement of the affective dimension of experience in the process of communication, thus allowing sense to be felt as an event.

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Joshua M. Hall

Slanted Truths:  The Gay Science as Nietzsche’s Ars Poetica (pp. 98-117)

This essay derives its focus on poetry from the subtitle of Die Fröhliche Wissenschaft: “la gaya scienza.” Nietzsche appropriated this phrase from the phrase “gai saber” used by the Provençal knight-poets (or troubadours) of the eleventh through thirteenth centuries — the first lyric poets of the European languages — to designate their Ars Poetica or “art of poetry.” I will begin with an exploration of Nietzsche’s treatment of poets and poetry as a subject matter, closely analyzing his six aphorisms which deal explicitly with poets and poetry. Having considered The Gay Science as a text about poetry, I will then briefly explore three further ways in which The Gay Science can be thought of as itself a kind of poetry. The result of these analyses is an understanding of Nietzsche’s own understanding of philosophy (and of the best way to live) as also a form of poetry.

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Ashley Woodward

Lyotard on Postmodern Music (pp. 118-143)

This paper delineates the idea of postmodern music as it is found in the writings of Jean-François Lyotard. Lyotard’s concept of the postmodern in general has informed debates about what “postmodern music” might be, but his own writings on music have not been given their due weight in such debates. While he never defines such a concept explicitly in his writings, it may be extrapolated from them. In the essay “Music and Postmodernity,” he draws an analogy between the liberation of humanity in socio-political modernity and the liberation of sonic material in musical modernity. While Lyotard does not quite make this explicit, the implication is that for him, an event analogous to the well-known “end of metanarratives” which signals the transition to postmodernity is evident in the history of music. Just as the development of the Enlightenment project has resulted in a breakdown of the narratives of the emancipation of humanity, so too the successful liberation of sound in musical modernity has led to the explosion of a coherent narrative of musical “progress,” instituting something like a musical postmodernity. Instead of any idea of general eclecticism following from this, however, Lyotard is clear about the stakes of postmodern music (as of all art): those stakes concern the aesthetic of the sublime and mean searching for “the inaudible” in the audible through any and all means of experimentation on sonorous matter. The upshot is that while Lyotard endorses a kind of heterogeneity in his approach to postmodern music, he denies the loss of all critical stakes which is often thought to attend such a position.

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