The inexpressible does not reside in an over there, in another word, or another time, but in this: in that (something) happens.
—Jean-François Lyotard, ‘The Sublime and the Avant-Garde’
Surveying the central concepts in debates on aesthetics, one quickly recognises how these are continually constructed, revised, and challenged. A notion such as creativity, for instance, has entertained connotations that range from artistic genius to transgression to divine illumination to, more recently, entrepreneurship and innovation. The notions of art, beauty, and the sublime themselves have been subject to extensive rethinking and reconfiguration. Treading further conceptually, debates in aesthetics have engaged with the core concepts in the repertoire of philosophy, such as truth, value, ethics, reality, representation, and form. While these concepts have illuminated philosophical debates on aesthetics, philosophy does not have a monopoly over concepts, and these core concepts also form part of many other domains; moving between discourses, new pathways of thought—and questions—about aesthetics emerge.
And thus what are the categories of contemporary artistic expression and judgement? In what manner do we see expressed the commodification of art and beauty in contemporary cultures? How are we to challenge the standardisation of aesthetic norms in capitalist societies, and what are the links between aesthetics, taste, and class? To what extent do artistic productions and creation, as well as aesthetic perceptions, function as critical propellants inspiring and instigating reflection and change? In short, what is the place of the aesthetic in contemporary times?
This issue of antae aims to challenge sedimented ways of thinking by moving beyond the established disciplinary boundaries that segregate the aesthetic from the non-aesthetic. While recognising the continuing role of both established and relatively recent aesthetic forms, this issue explores the outcomes of when the aesthetic spills over, as it seems to do by necessity, into other discourses and practices. It seeks to locate the aesthetic in the literary’s multifarious styles, tones, and modes. On this, debates on aesthetics and art must be sensitive to the variety of media and emerging art forms, as well as to how each form might defy the notion of medium. While aesthetics in traditional debates might have been more immediately associated with literature, painting, sculpture, photography, and film, this association has been widened. Not only have the performing, digital, and applied arts quantitatively widened the realm of aesthetic productions and their media, but they also necessitate a radical rethinking of what art is, where it could be looked for, and who gets to decide what constitutes it. The increasing presence of visual images and film, through the spread of digital media, also needs to be critically theorised. In how far can traditions of aesthetics inform such an approach?
Moreover, in recognising that to discuss aesthetics today means also to explore the history of aesthetics, one may turn to the history of philosophy, rich with differing accounts of what constitutes “the aesthetic”. The notion of beauty, often seen as the concern of aesthetics, has been invoked and debated by canonical thinkers such as Plato, Aquinas, Rousseau, Kant, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Derrida, and others. Besides contemporary explorations of such debates, antae encourages critical investigations of connections between aesthetics and constructions of gender, race, class, and politics more generally. Often constructed as opposites in notions of aesthetic autonomy, the relationship between aesthetics and politics has also been debated in many other ways. Whilst hegemonic discourses tend to consider politically committed art as automatically being of lower aesthetic value, other conceptions, such as Rancière’s, productively explore links between politics and aesthetics. In this context, the role of perception (aisthesis) in the political realm can be studied as well as, for example, questions of the interconnection between aesthetic norms and politics pertaining to the body or to changing views of nature and the built environment. A problematic aestheticisation of politics (Benjamin) can also be observed in current political media practices and spectacles; at the same time, it is highly relevant to ask how Benjamin’s positive counter-concept, the politicisation of art, is or can be theorised and practiced today.
As suggested above, the aesthetic is truly and necessarily trans-, multi-, and inter-disciplinary, and intersects with a vast range of disciplines that include also psychology, cognitive science, theology, disability studies, game studies, sociology, and anthropology. In as much as the study of aesthetics intersects with multiple disciplines, it necessarily invites analyses informed by multiple disciplines. No one discourse comes anywhere close to exhausting aesthetics, and this necessary flexibility leads to an openness to interdisciplinary or even anti-disciplinary approaches. In light of this, the editors of antae (ISSN 2523-2126) welcome complete essay submissions on or around the topic of Aesthetics. The authorial guidelines are available on www.antaejournal.com, and the deadline for submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org is the 20th of July, 2019. Submissions should be in the form of articles between 5000 and 7000 words and accompanied by a brief biographical note.
Issues and topics relevant to this publication include, but are not limited to:
- Literature and Aesthetics
- Media and Aesthetics: visual, performative, applied, digital
- Bodies and the Aesthetic
- Aesthetics of film, sculpture, painting, music, photography, dance
- Psychoanalysis and art
- Aesthetics and the senses: the gaze, the touch, the pitch, the palate; beyond epistemology
- Environmental Aesthetics; eco-aesthetics
- Queer(ing) Aesthetics
- Political Aesthetics: from hegemony to protest
- Aesthetics and ideology; power and aesthetics
- Aesthetics, art, and institutions
- Feminism and/or feminist Aesthetics
- High, low, pop culture
- Core notions in aesthetics: beauty, form, the sublime, expression, creativity, the emotive
- Aesthetics and phenomenology, postmodernism, ontology, materialism