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Eva Kit Wah Man, and . Issues of Contemporary Art and Aesthetics in Chinese Context

2015, Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer Berlin Heidelberg.

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.

Related reading:

Fusco, Coco, and . The Other History of Intercultural Performance

1994, The Drama Review 38(1): 143-167.

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.

Goldberg, RoseLee, and . Identities: Feminism, Multiculturalism, Sexuality

2004, In: Performance: Live Art Since the 60's. New York: Thames & Hudson. 128-145.

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.

Muñoz, José Esteban, and . Performing Disidentifications

1999, In: Disidentifications: Queers of Color and the Performance of Politics. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota. 1-34.

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.

Silvers, Anita, and . 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.

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.

Silvers, Anita, and . From the Crooked Timber of Humanity, Beautiful Things Should Be Made!

2011, APA Newsletter, 10(2): 1-5.

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.

Walsh, Andrea N., and Dominic McIver Lopes. Objects of Appropriation

2012, In Young, James O., and Conrad G. Brunk, eds. The Ethics of Cultural Appropriation: Blackwell Publishing.

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.