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A. W. Eaton, , . ‘A Lady on the Street but a Freak in the Bed’: On the Distinction Between Erotic Art and Pornography
2018, British Journal of Aesthetics 58 (4): 469-488
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Abstract: How, if at all, are we to distinguish between the works that we call ‘art’ and those that we call ‘pornography’? This question gets a grip because from classical Greek vases and the frescoes of Pompeii to Renaissance mythological painting and sculpture to Modernist prints, the European artistic tradition is chock-full of art that looks a lot like pornography. In this paper I propose a way of thinking about the distinction that is grounded in art historical considerations regarding the function of erotic images in 16 th -century Italy. This exploration suggests that the root of the erotic art/pornography distinction was—at least in this context—class: in particular, the need for a special category of unsanctioned illicit images arose at the very time when print culture was beginning to threaten elite privilege. What made an erotic representation exceed the boundaries of acceptability, I suggest, was not its extreme libidinosity but, rather, its widespread availability and, thereby, its threat to one of the mechanisms of sustaining class privilege.

Comment: The paper has implications reaching far beyond the pornography debate. Could similar power relations not impact art classification elsewhere? It might be useful to discuss this in the context of Larry Shiner’s ‘The Invention of Art,’ where the historical processes leading to the establishment of the modern Western system of the arts are analysed, including examples such as the exclusion of weaving as it became a female-dominated profession. Reaching even further, this can be applied to attitudes to art of other cultures, with (post)colonial power relations impacting on the way works are classified. Finally, Eaton’s text can serve as a sceptical argument against the classificatory project altogether: could all our attempts to distinguish art from non-art be just expressions of discrimination along various lines of priviledge?

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Abell, Catharine, , . Art: What It Is and Why It Matters
2012, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 85: 671–91.
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Content: The first three sections of this paper offer a very useful overview of modern definitions of art. Most major types of definitions are introduced and explained in a succinct way, followed by a discussion of selected objections they face. First, Abell introduces functionalism and discusses its problems with extensional adequacy. Second, procedural theories including Dickie’s institutional and Levinson’s historical definitions are discussed, and criticized for their circularity and inability to account for art’s value. Next, Abell considers two mixed theories, formulated by Robert Stecker and David Davies. She shows how they can overcome the difficulties discussed above, but run into their own problems. Finally, Berys Gaut’s cluster account is introduced and criticized for its circularity and difficulties in determining all sufficiency conditions for being an artwork. In the remainder of the paper Abell focuses on developing her own version of the institutional theory.

Comment: This text can provide the students with an overview of modern definitions of art. Theories are presented in a clear, succinct way, with their main features, strengths and weaknesses identified. The selection of objections discussed, however, is not representative – rather it serves the aim of developing Abell’s own definition. The later sections of the text are excellent, but address much more complex issues and are significantly less accessible for undergraduate students. They might be used in Masters level teaching or as advanced further reading on the institutional definition.

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Abell, Catharine, , . Pictorial realism
2007, Australasian Journal of Philosophy 85 (1):1 – 17.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Christy Mag Uidhir

Abstract: I propose a number of criteria for the adequacy of an account of pictorial realism. Such an account must: explain the epistemic significance of realistic pictures; explain why accuracy and detail are salient to realism; be consistent with an accurate account of depiction; and explain the features of pictorial realism. I identify six features of pictorial realism. I then propose an account of realism as a measure of the information pictures provide about how their objects would look, were one to see them. This account meets the criteria I have identified and is superior to alternative accounts of realism.

Comment: [This is a stub entry. Please add your comments to help us expand it]

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Abhinavagupta, , . Abhinavabhāratī
2006, In M.M. Ghosh (ed.) Nāṭyaśāstra of Bharatamuni: Text, Commentary of Abhinava Bharati by Abhinavaguptacarya and English Translation.Delhi: New Bharatiya Book Corporation.
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Summary: Abhinavagupta’s famed commentary on Bharatamuni’s treatise on drama, the Nāṭyaśāstra, in which he details aesthetic expression and experience according to a theory of rasa, or aesthetic relish. Abhinavagupta’s theory is the most influential account of how the rasas or aesthetic emotions transcend the bounds of the spectator and artwork in a three-part process including depersonalization, universalization, and identification.

Comment: This text is appropriate for an in-depth study of Indian aesthetics. It requires an at least an introductory background in Indian philosophy to be accessible.

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Abíódún, Rowland, , . Àkó-graphy: Òwò Portraits
2013, in: John Peffer and Elisabeth L. Cameron (eds.), Portraiture & Photography in Africa, Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, pp. 287-312.
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Added by: Hans Maes, Contributed by:

Summary: Argues that the introduction of photography did not significantly interfere with, or terminate, the àkó legacy of portraiture. Shows instead that the stylistic elements of the àkó life-size burial effigy – a sculpted portrait that attempts to capture the physical likeness, identity, character, social status of a deceased parent – informed the photographic traditional formal portrait in Òwò, Nigeria.

Comment: Useful in discussing portraiture, as well as depiction and representation in general.

Artworks to use with this text:

Mamah, Carved, life-size, fully dressed second-burial effigy for Madam Aládé, EÌpelè- Òwò, Nigeria (1972)

Striking example of the practice. Demonstrates how the àkó tradition appears to have influenced the way elderly people posed for photographs.

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Adams, Laurie, , . Art on Trial: From Whistler to Rothko
1976, New York: Walker & Co
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Christy Mag Uidhir

Publisher’s Note: This book examines six modern art trials covering a wide range of legal and artistic considerations … the first in-depth examination of the art trial from every intriguing point of view.

Comment: Of particular interest is chapter 4: Traitor or forger? – Van Meegeren vs. Vermeer, dealing with issues of authenticity, forgery, and art ontology

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Author(s) Unknown, , . Yue Ji 樂記—Record of Music: Introduction, Translation, Notes, and Commentary
1995, Asian Music 26(2): 1-96.
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Summary: The earliest extant Chinese treatise on music. The Yue Ji presents largely Confucian ideas on the connections between music, self-cultivation, proper governance, and the realization of natural patterns. Human character is described as a musical progression with ties to the transformation of sound into a kind of music that is distinguished by its relationship to virtue. The exact identity of the author(s) is debated, and it is believed to have been compiled from various sources no later than the middle of the Western Han dynasty (206BCE-24CE).

Comment: This text is appropriate for an aesthetics (especially philosophy of music) and/or Chinese philosophy course. It is best accessed by a reader with a basic understanding of early Chinese philosophy (especially Confucianism).

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Bishop, Claire, , . Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics
2004, October 110: 51-79.
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Added by: Rossen Ventzislavov, Contributed by:

Summary: Bishop offers a critique of “relational aesthetics” – an approach to installation art that originated in the 1990’s and whose main proponent and interpreter was Nicolas Bourriaud. Bourriaud’s chief claim is that the art movement in question promotes intersubjective relationships (between artist and audience members and among audience members alike) and privileges social and political cohesion over other possible aspects of the aesthetic experience. While Bishop finds this ethos applicable to the work of the artists Bourriaud chooses to discuss (Rikrit Tiravanija, Liam Gillick etc.), she finds it difficult to reconcile relational aesthetics with the realities and concerns of the larger artworld. Antagonism is for Bishop just as viable a driving force in the making and appreciation of art as are social cohesion and intersubjective togetherness. Furthermore, as the history of early performance art and its reception shows, what makes art difficult, and thus politically important, is precisely the tensions that the makers and theorists of relational aesthetics attempt to quell.

Comment: This text offers a good introduction to relational aesthetics. Best if read together with (some of) Nicolas Bourriaud’s work on relational aesthetics.

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Brand, Peg Zeglin, , . Beauty as Pride: A Function of Agency’
2011, APA Newsletter 10(2): 5-9.
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Added by: Hans Maes, Contributed by:

Abstract: This is basically a paper about artistic evaluation and how multiple interpretations can give rise to inconsistent and conflicting meanings. Images like Joel-Peter Witkin’s First Casting for Milo (2004) challenge the viewer to look closely, understand the formal properties at work, and then extract a meaning that ultimately asks, Is the model exploited or empowered? Is Karen Duffy, pictured here, vulnerable and “enfreaked” or is she potentially subversive, transgressive, and perhaps self-empowered? I will offer an argument in agreement with artist/author/ performer Ann Millett-Gallant that favors the latter interpretation, but will augment and complicate the issue by also introducing a pointed question or two taken from a recent analysis by Cynthia Freeland on objectification. I judge the works by photographer Joel-Peter Witkin to be representations of disabled persons who are empowered through agency and pride, but I also worry about the risk of multiple, conflicting interpretations on the part of viewers who do not, or cannot, entertain such enlightened readings. Like second wave feminist views about pornography that depicted women in demeaning ways, or feminist critiques of Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party , Witkin’s photos can be judged as potentially offensive. But they are also objects of beauty – both in terms of aesthetic properties (they are magnificent studies in black and white, shadows, the human body, with many classical references) and because of the feeling of beauty and pride felt by the posers, who become performers of their own beauty and pride. I argue that beauty trumps offensiveness. Pride wins. But I’m not sure that everyone will agree.

Comment: Questions the ideal standard of beauty portrayed throughout the history of art, particularly in form of the female nude, and examines works of art that defiantly challenge that ideal. Argues that in certain representations of disabled persons the model is empowered and not exploited and that beauty trumps offensiveness. Pride wins.

Artworks to use with this text:

Joel-Peter Witkin, First Casting for Milo (2004)

Portrait of Irish artist Karen Duffy engaged in a silent performance of ‘disarming’ Venus. In her own words, she is aiming to ‘liberate herself from histories of oppressive representations of women and disabled women in particular.’

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Brand, Peg Zeglin, , . Glaring Omissions in Traditional Theories of Art
2000, in Theories of Art Today, ed. by Noel Carroll (London: The University of Wisconsin Press)
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Abstract: I investigate the role of feminist theorizing in relation to traditionally-based aesthetics. Feminist artworks have arisen within the context of a patriarchal Artworld dominated for thousands of years by male artists, critics, theorists, and philosophers. I look at the history of that context as it impacts philosophical theorizing by pinpointing the narrow range of the paradigms used in defining “art.” I test the plausibility of Danto’s After the End of Art vision of a post-historical, pluralistic future in which “anything goes,” a future that unfortunately rests upon the same outdated foundation as the concept “art.”.

Comment: This text offers an overview of the feminist critique of the classificatory project. It assumes some basic knowledge and is best used after the main modern theories of art have been introduced. The pointed critique and clearly stated suggestions for constructing unbiased theories, make it excellent at inspiring a critical discussion on the subject of universalism and discrimination in both art practice and theory. Perhaps more importantly, the argument offered and the long lists of female artists and art theorists which support it, can have an empowering and validating role to many female students.

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Brand, Peg Zeglin, , . Revising the Aesthetic-Nonaesthetic Distinction: The Aesthetic Value of Activist Art
2010, In Peg Zeglin Brand & Carolyn Korsmeyer (eds.), Feminism and Tradition in Aesthetics. Penn State Press.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Christy Mag Uidhir

Introduction: This essay will explore the role that the aesthetic-nonaesthetic distinction plays in assessing activist art by women and artists of color. First, I shall review one traditional line of philosophical thought and show how it serves as the foundation for three types of reasons typically given for artworks reputed to lack aesthetic value. I develop two of the three reasons by examining the recent writings opposed to the aesthetic value of activist art by well-known art critic Donald Kuspit, pointing out his aberrant use of ‘obscene’. Kuspit’s examples of activist art – the work of Jenny Holzer, Barbara Kruger, and Adrian Piper – are presented in light of his charges. I then explore Piper’s art in depth in order to outline ways of expanding the notion of aesthetic value beyond its traditional confines. Finally, I suggest moving beyond entrenched, traditional patterns of assessment and invite underrepresented voices to contribute to the emerging discussion of the multiplicity of aesthetic values.

Comment: [This is a stub entry. Please add your comments to help us expand it]

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Camp, Elisabeth, , . Two Varieties of Literary Imagination: Metaphor, Fiction, and Thought Experiments
2009, Midwest Studies in Philosophy 33 (1):107-130.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Christy Mag Uidhir

Abstract: Recently, philosophers have discovered that they have a lot to learn from, or at least to ponder about, fiction. Many metaphysicians are attracted to fiction as a model for our talk about purported objects and properties, such as numbers, morality, and possible worlds, without embracing a robust Platonist ontology. In addition, a growing group of philosophers of mind are interested in the implications of our engagement with fiction for our understanding of the mind and emotions: If I don’t believe that Anna Karenina exists, can I really pity her, or hope or desire that she extricate herself from her tragic situation? And why is there no ‘morality fiction,’ analogous to science fiction? I suspect that philosophers have been especially comfortable thinking about fiction because it seems, at least prima facie, to employ the imagination in a way that conforms to a standard model of the mind. Specifically, contemporary philosophers tend to think of imagination as a form of mental pretense. Mental pretense can take two main forms: a cognitive attitude of supposing a set of propositions to be true (make-believe) or else an experiential state of imaging a scenario as if it were before one (imaging). Much of our pretense intertwines the cognitive and experiential modalities, of course. But both share a crucial common feature: all of one’s imaginative effort is invested in pretending that certain contents obtain. In this sense, we can understand imagination as the ‘offline’ simulation of actual beliefs and perceptions (and perhaps other attitudes as well), where we analyze these in the normal way, as states individuated by their attitude and representational content. While I share the burgeoning interest in fiction, I want to suggest that we also have a lot to learn from poetry, and in particular from poetic metaphor. I will argue..

Comment: [This is a stub entry. Please add your comments to help us expand it]

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Campbell, Shelley, , . Myra: a Portrait of a Portrait
2013, in: Hannah Priest (ed.), The Female of the Species: Cultural Constructions of Evil, Women and the Feminine, Oxford: Inter-disciplinary Press.
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Added by: Hans Maes, Contributed by:

Summary: Considers philosophical problems with representation, particularly in regard to the loss of particularity and individuality in instances when an identity takes on symbolic proportions. Hindley, the woman, has been totally merged with Hindley, the monster. Her particularity has been subsumed as a two-dimensional stereotype by having her photo treated with obsessive media attention by being repetitively linked to that same hated stereotype.

Comment: Useful in classes focused on depiction and representation.

Artworks to use with this text:

Marcus Harvey, Myra (1995)

Despite Harvey’s attack on reflex reactions to Hindley and his verbal protest to the contrary, his portrait has further incited public outrage and denied her a chance of fair treatment. There’s a clear discrepancy between what the artist has said in interviews and what the painting appears to express.

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Chakrabarti, Arindam, , . Ownerless Emotions in Rasa-Aesthetics
2011, In Ken-ichi Sasaki (ed.). Asian Aesthetics. National Univeristy of Singapore Press.
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Added by: Meilin Chinn, Contributed by:

Summary: Chakrabarti explores the possibilities of rasa theory via the question of whose emotion is experienced when an audience relishes a work of art. Chakrabarti argues for the existence of a “centerless non-singular subjectivity” according to which the special emotions savored in aesthetic experience do not have specific owners. These personless sentiments indicate an ethical relationship between aesthetic imagination and moral unselfishness.

Comment: This text could serve as both an overview of rasa theory in Indian aesthetics, as a basis for comparative work in cross-cultural aesthetics, as well as comparative philosophy.

Related reading:

  • Abhinavabhāratī. Abhinavagupta. In Nāṭyaśāstra of Bharatamuni: Text, Commentary of Abhinava Bharati by Abhinavaguptacarya and English Translation. M.M. Ghosh (ed.). Delhi: New Bharatiya Book Corporation, 2006.
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Chambers, Emma, , . Face to Face: Representing Facial Disfigurement
2010, in: Richard Sandell, Jocelyn Dodd, & Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, Re-presenting Disability: Activism and Agency in the Museum, London: Routledge, pp. 179-193.
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Added by: Hans Maes, Contributed by:

Summary: In-depth analysis of how the Saving Faces exhibition challenges stereotypes of disabled people as dependent invalids or exotic specimens. Discusses the artist’s rejection of experimentation in favour of a painting style that is as ‘straight’ as possible (and so makes for an interesting contrast with the use of cubist painting in Anita Silver’s essays). Also draws attention to the interaction between artist and sitter and to the process of portraiture.

Comment: Useful in discussing portraiture, as well as depiction and representation in general.

Artworks to use with this text:

Mark Gilbert, Saving Faces (2000)

Gilbert was artist-in-residence at the oral and maxillofacial surgery department of a London hospital. His brief was to illustrate what is, and also isn’t, possible with modern facial surgery; and to capture the emotional journey undertaken by patients in ways that standard clinical photography cannot.

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