Vol. 2 No. 3 (2013) Aesthetic Histories

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Mandy-Suzanne Wong

Introduction (pp. 1-6)


Prudence Gibson

Collision:  The House on the Hill:  Art Experience and Fictions 

This Collision explores the relationship between Object-Oriented Ontology theory, the “aesthetic experience” of a contemporary artwork (Iris Haussler’s He dreamed overtime from 2012) and the creeping hand of fiction. OOO is a useful theory to apply to contemporary art, as it charts a philosophical return to all things as objects, rather than their relations or networks. It is also timely for understanding the changing nature of multi-media art, wherein experience, interactivity, spectatorial agency and contingent narratives are key.

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Jason Hoelscher

Autopoietic Art Systems and Aesthetic Swarms:  Notes on Polyphonic Purity and Algorithmic Emergence (pp. 15-39)

This paper proposes a prolegomenal model for the mechanisms through which new styles and schools of art – Cubism or conceptual art, for example – undergo the catalytic, evental transition from potential to actual. The model proposed herein, of fine art as a complex adaptive system that emerges and grows in a manner analogous to that of certain specific forms of biological organization, is predicated on a shift from the residual traces of Greenbergian disciplinary and mediumistic differentiation – grounded in an analytic autonomy – to modes of interaction and aesthetic signal exchange emergent from an autopoietic autonomy – a systemic process of autocatalysis and transformation similar to the recursively generative feedback relations seen in cell metabolism and in ecosystems. This conceptual recalibration leads to a model of artistic eventalization and change that algorithmically unfolds from the adjacent possible as an emergent phenomenon, analogous to the aggregative and spontaneous, self-organizational swarm behavior seen in the flocking of birds or the schooling of fish, applied here to schools of art.

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Sarah Snyder

Art and the Possibility of Metaphysics:  Theodor Adorno on Tragedy as the Origin of Aesthetic Autonomy

In his Aesthetic Theory, Theodor Adorno remarks that “tragedy, which may have been the origin of the idea of aesthetic autonomy, was an afterimage of cultic acts that were intended to have real effects.” This statement and its Kantian undertones are the basis for this essay, which will take up the question of the origin of the idea of tragedy in order to elucidate the basis for Adorno’s thinking on aesthetic autonomy. I will discuss Kant’s concept of human reason and its relationship to the autonomous will and the concept of necessity in order to show that the notion of humanity grounds the idea of tragedy and that without a focus on the human in matters of autonomy, tragedy is a lost art form. Finally, I will undertake to tease out the metaphysical and aesthetic aspects of tragedy in a discussion oriented towards Adorno’s relationship with metaphysics and the possibility of removing the Kantian block. The essay will conclude with a reflection on the mourning character of reason and its relation to Adorno’s “principle of Auschwitz” with a view to examining the metaphysical grounds for the tragic in modernity.

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Joanna Demers

Reading:  The Novelty of Looking Back:  Simon Reynolds’ Retromania (pp. 53-57)         


Theodore Gracyk

Music, Indiscernible Counterparts, and Danto on Transfiguration (pp. 58-86)

Arthur C. Danto’s The Transfiguration of the Commonplace is one of the most influential recent books on philosophy of art. It is noteworthy for both his method, which emphasizes indiscernible pairs and sets of objects, and his conclusion, which is that artworks are distinguished from non-artwork counterparts by a semantic and aesthetic transfiguration that depends on their relationship to art history. In numerous contexts, Danto has confirmed that the relevant concept of art is the concept of fine art. Examples of music that are not fine art demonstrate that semantic and aesthetic transfiguration does not require a relationship to art history or art theory. Appropriate interpretation and individuation of a great deal of music can be achieved by listeners who do not grasp art theory and who do not guide their interpretation by reference to the concept of art.

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