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Devereaux, Mary, , . Protected space: Politics, censorship, and the arts
1993, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 51 (2):207-215.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Christy Mag Uidhir

Abstract: Anniversaries are appropriate times for reflection. On this, the 50th anniversary of the Ameri can Society for Aesthetics, I want to explore a complicated and confusing situation currently facing Anglo-American aesthetics. Works of art were once esteemed as objects of beauty. I In the past several years, however, artists have been accused of encouraging teenage suicide, urban rage, violence against women, and poisoning American culture. Museum directors have been indicted on obscenity charges, and artists and organizations receiving federal grants have been required to sign pledges that they will not pro mote, disseminate, or produce materials that may be considered obscene. Today in America, as in other times and places, artists face de mands for their art to conform to religious and moral criteria. These demands are not new, but they challenge the view that artistic expression falls under the protection of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment.2

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Dissanayake, Ellen, , . Becoming Homo Aestheticus: Sources of Aesthetic Imagination in Mother-Infant Interactions
2001, Substance 30 (1/2):85.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Christy Mag Uidhir

Introduction: Along with the vital abilities to cry and to suckle, human neonates are born with remarkable capacities that predispose them for social interaction with others. For example, newborns prefer human faces and human voices to any other sight or sound (Johnson et al. 1991, 11). They can imitate face, mouth, and hand movements and respond appropriately to another person’s emotional expressions of sadness, fear, and surprise. It is perhaps less well known that at birth, infants can also estimate and anticipate intervals of time and temporal sequences (DeCasper and Carstens 1980). They can remember these temporal patterns and categorize them in both time and space, and in terms of affect and arousal (Beebe, Lachman and Jaffe 1997). By six weeks of age, these innate perceptual and cognitive abilities permit normal infants to engage in complex communicative interchanges with adult partners–the playful behavior that is commonly or colloquially called “babytalk.”

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Ellen Dissanayake, , . Art and Intimacy
2000, University of Washington Press
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Christy Mag Uidhir

Publisher’s Note: To Ellen Dissanayake, the arts are biologically evolved propensities of human nature: their fundamental features helped early humans adapt to their environment and reproduce themselves successfully over generations. In Art and Intimacy she argues for the joint evolutionary origin of art and intimacy, what we commonly call love.It all begins with the human trait of birthing immature and helpless infants. To ensure that mothers find their demanding babies worth caring for, humans evolved to be lovable and to attune themselves to others from the moment of birth. The ways in which mother and infant respond to each other are rhythmically patterned vocalizations and exaggerated face and body movements that Dissanayake calls rhythms and sensory modes.

Rhythms and modes also give rise to the arts. Because humans are born predisposed to respond to and use rhythmic-modal signals, societies everywhere have elaborated them further as music, mime, dance, and display, in rituals which instill and reinforce valued cultural beliefs. Just as rhythms and modes coordinate and unify the mother-infant pair, in ceremonies they coordinate and unify members of a group.

Today we humans live in environments very different from those of our ancestors. They used ceremonies (the arts) to address matters of serious concern, such as health, prosperity, and fecundity, that affected their survival. Now we tend to dismiss the arts, to see them as superfluous, only for an elite. But if we are biologically predisposed to participate in artlike behavior, then we actually need the arts. Even — or perhaps especially — in our fast-paced, sophisticated modern lives, the arts encourage us to show that we care about important things.

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Eva Kit Wah Man, , . Issues of Contemporary Art and Aesthetics in Chinese Context
2015, Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer Berlin Heidelberg.
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Added by: Meilin Chinn, Contributed by:

Publisher’s Note: This book discusses how China’s transformations in the last century have shaped its arts and its philosophical aesthetics. For instance, how have political, economic and cultural changes shaped its aesthetic developments? Further, how have its long-standing beliefs and traditions clashed with modernizing desires and forces, and how have these changes materialized in artistic manifestations? In addition to answering these questions, this book also brings Chinese philosophical concepts on aesthetics into dialogue with those of the West, making an important contribution to the fields of art, comparative aesthetics and philosophy.

Comment: A timely discussion of the influence of the last century’s political, economic, and cultural changes in China upon its philosophical aesthetics. Man’s book addresses a number of key neglected topics of comparative aesthetics between China and the West, contemporary aesthetics and art in Hong Kong, the relation of gender and art in the politics of identity, and the role of tradition in new creative practices. Chapter 4 introduces the leaders of the major schools of aesthetics in new China, including Li Zehou. This text is best used in a comparative aesthetics context, especially in discussions of contemporary aesthetic mediums.

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Fusco, Coco, , . The Other History of Intercultural Performance
1994, The Drama Review 38(1): 143-167.
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Added by: Rossen Ventzislavov, Contributed by:

Summary: Fusco’s text chronicles the preparation, performance, and public reception of an artwork – “Two Undiscovered Amerindians” – she created in collaboration with Guillermo Gómez-Peña in 1992. The performance was intended as a critique of the contemporary artworld, whose shallow redemptive multiculturalism often sidelined important issues of racial difference and racialized aesthetic perception. It consisted of the two artists spending three days in a golden cage presented, in the manner of live ethnographic spectacles of the not so distant colonial past, as members of an exotic and newly discovered island nation in the Gulf of Mexico. Fusco contends that otherness is always performative and, as such, has held the entire history of performance art – from the Dadaists to the present day – captive. The resulting frequent gestures of appropriation, condescension and erasure discredit the social and intercultural consciousness most performance artists see themselves as representing. Ironically, the strange journey the “Two Undiscovered Amerindians” project has travelled has plentifully confirmed the iniquities the two artists set out to expose.

Comment: While not a philosophical text per se, this article is very helpful in discussions of the political dimension of the contemporary artworld, and the race dynamics within it.

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Goldberg, RoseLee, , . Identities: Feminism, Multiculturalism, Sexuality
2004, In: Performance: Live Art Since the 60’s. New York: Thames & Hudson. 128-145.
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Added by: Rossen Ventzislavov, Contributed by:

Summary: Goldberg provides a richly illustrated historical account of the intimate connection between identity and performance art. Starting from the feminist art of the 1960’s, the recognition and assertion of identity was a fundamental bid for social visibility. The next frontier was social recognition, which concerned ethnic and sexual minorities as much as it did women. The final frontier – political equality – is one that is still out of reach. Still, according to Goldberg, performance art continues to chart new territories of identification. In fact, while at the outset performance art used early feminist writing as inspiration, Goldberg recognizes a gradual reversal – today’s feminists are as likely to chart new philosophical directions as they are to follow the exploratory charge of their performance art counterparts.

Comment: This text provides a historical background on the relationship between identity politics and art. It would be useful in classes on performance art, on the social context of art, as well as classes focusing on philosophy or race, gender and sexuality and ways to achieve social visibility.

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Hein, Hilde, , . What is public art? Time, place, and meaning
1996, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 54 (1):1-7.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Christy Mag Uidhir

Introduction: Public art is an oxymoron according to the standards of modernist art and aesthetic theory. Modern philosophical aesthetics focuses almost exclusively on subjective experience and a commodified work of art. Art is taken to be the product of an individual and autonomous act of expression, and its appreciation is, likewise, a private act of contemplation. By contrast, as a public phenomenon, art must entail the artist’s self-negation and deference to a collective community. It is interesting to observe that the recognized art of nearly all cultures, including that of the western European tradition prior to the late Renaissance, embraces just such a collective model, indulging the differences among individuals as variant manifestations of a common spirit. The celebrated treasures of Greece and Rome, as well as the Christian works of the Middle Ages and the age of the fresco that succeeded them, do not exalt the private vision of individual artists so much as they bespeak the shared values and convictions of cultural communities, and are accordingly to be found in those edifices and open places where people regularly gather to commemorate those same values and convictions. Privacy was for centuries a privative concept, demarcating the dissociated and limited experience of persons cut off from and below the level of full social humanity.

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Muñoz, José Esteban, , . Performing Disidentifications
1999, In: Disidentifications: Queers of Color and the Performance of Politics. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota. 1-34.
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Added by: Rossen Ventzislavov, Contributed by:

Summary: The concept of disidentification is Muñoz’ way of capturing the subversion of the token identities assigned by dominant cultural discourse. While this subversion is a common everyday practice for most members of minoritized groups, Muñoz contends that it is in art where it could achieve the political weight that leads to social change. One of the examples Muñoz uses is of gay Latino artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres whose work resists the dominant “representational economy” – it is not explicitly inflected towards and/or recognizable within the traditional symbolic parameters of sexual or ethnic marginalization. In fact, Muñoz sees Gonzalez-Torres’ art as exemplary of “tactical misrecognition,” i.e. the intentional obfuscation of pre-constituted identification. Performance art is the most natural medium for such misrecognition.

Comment: Best used in classes on sexual or ethnic marginalisation, and the social and political function of art, as well as on the social and political context of art.

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Silvers, Anita, , . From the Crooked Timber of Humanity, Beautiful Things Can Be Made
2000, in: Brand, Peg Zeglin (ed.), Beauty Matters, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, pp. 197-221.
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Added by: Hans Maes, Contributed by:

Summary: Starting from our appreciation of cubist portraits, asks why it to commonplace for us to contemplate distorted depictions of faces with eagerness and enjoyment but to be repelled by real people whose physiognomies resemble the depicted ones. Argues that the aesthetic process that permits our attraction to portrayed human anomalies can be expanded so as to offset the devalued social positioning of real people whose physiognomic features are anomalous. Presenting an anomaly as originality rather than deviance is crucial.

Comment: Useful in discussing portraiture and depiction, beauty, as well as the links between aesthetics and ethics.

Artworks to use with this text:

Pablo Picasso, Maya with a Doll (1938)

Cubist portrait of a child. Silvers interestingly compares this to a photo of a child with osteogenesis imperfecta.

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Silvers, Anita, , . From the Crooked Timber of Humanity, Beautiful Things Should Be Made!
2011, APA Newsletter, 10(2): 1-5.
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Added by: Hans Maes, Contributed by: Christy Mag Uidhir

Summary: Follow-up essay on her ‘From the Crooked Timber of Humanity, Beautiful Things Can Be Made’ (note the one-word difference in the title). Adds the idea that medical professionals have at least a mild duty to cultivate aesthetic judgment of individuals with biological differences. Also makes the case that beauty is not the same thing as attractiveness or normalcy.

Comment: Useful in discussing portraiture and depiction, beauty, as well as the links between aesthetics and ethics.

Artworks to use with this text:

Riva Lehrer, Susan Nussbaum (1998)

This portrait of disability activist Nussbaum invokes Picasso’s famous portrait of Gertrude Stein (1906). It is discussed in Garland-Thomson.

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Walsh, Andrea N., , Dominic McIver Lopes. Objects of Appropriation
2012, In Young, James O., and Conrad G. Brunk, eds. The Ethics of Cultural Appropriation: Blackwell Publishing.
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Added by: Erich Hatala Matthes, Contributed by:

Summary: Walsh and Lopes argue that some appropriation can be beneficial and productive: in particular, the appropriation of elements of dominant culture by members of culturally marginalized groups. They explore this idea through discussion of such appropriative artwork by a number of contemporary First Nations artists, which they argue challenges “the assumed alignment of appropriator with oppressor and appropriatee with victim”(227).

Comment: This text serves as a useful counterpoint to the general framework employed in much of the other cultural appropriation literature. It is also a useful selection for course units focusing on art practice.

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