Everyday Aesthetics

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Everyday Aesthetics is a recent subfield of philosophical aesthetics focusing on everyday events, settings and activities in which the faculty of sensibility is saliently at stake. Alexander Baumgarten established Aesthetics as a discipline and defined it as scientia cognitionis sensitivae, the science of sensory knowledge, in his foundational work Aesthetica (1750).[1] This field has been dedicated since then to the clarification of fine arts, beauty and taste only marginally referring to the aesthetics in design, crafts, urban environments and social practice until the emergence of everyday aesthetics during the ‘90s. As other subfields like environmental aesthetics or the aesthetics of nature, everyday aesthetics also attempts to countervail aesthetics' almost exclusive focus on the philosophy of art.

Grounding aesthetics in experience[edit]

Aesthetic inquiry on everyday life owes much of its approach to John Dewey’s (1934) pragmatist aesthetics, even if he was interested in grounding mainly artistic experience. Dewey pointed at a variety of circumstances in which sensibility is present emphasizing the importance of feeling, energy, and rhythm in every creature's intercourse with its environment. He thus stressed not only the artistic but the everyday doings and undergoings that involve alertness and intensity of experience.[2] Dewey explored aesthetics from the subjects' experience rather than from objects' status as artworks and museum collections. This turn would allow overcoming object-centric approaches to aesthetics that hindered any consideration of the aesthetic beyond artistic and beautiful things justifiable by intrinsic qualities categorized as aesthetic.[3]

Social dimension of everyday aesthetics[edit]

The neglect of aesthetic theory to consider the role of sensibility in everyday life was first pointed out by Katya Mandoki who in 1994 coined the word Prosaics[4] (drawing a distinction from Aristotle’s Poetics[5] focused on art) to denote a sub-discipline that would specifically inquire the aesthetics involved in daily activities emphasizing the styles and forms of expression in face-to-face and context determined interactions. Prosaics or the theory of everyday aesthetics analyzes in this and subsequent texts the social conventions on what is considered acceptable or not by implicit standards of taste in each institutional setting (school, family, religion, politics, artworld, medical practice, sports). Six books and several articles i.e. Everyday Aesthetics; Prosaics, social identities and the play of culture (2007)[6] consistently analyze the wide spectrum of the non-artistic within personal and collective experience. The role of the aesthetic is examined through symbolic interaction, identity negotiation and dramaturgical performance to produce specific sensitive effects and impact upon sensibility. As a multi-sensorial phenomenon, prosaics pays attention to the whole range of sensorial display for affecting participants' sensibility (body language, the visual, setting and props, intonation and styles of language) and not only sight and hearing as has been customary in aesthetics.

Political dimension, violence and negativity in everyday aesthetics[edit]

An approach to everyday aesthetics involves both the positive and negative, the enriching and the toxic effects operating on sensibility. Joseph H. Kupfer brought to the attention of aesthetic inquiry the importance of focusing on the effects of violence and ultraviolence in modern society. Kupfer makes explicit the aesthetic ground of violence in society and emphasizes destruction as an aesthetic process producing vivid sensations.[7] He highlighted also the need of incorporating aesthetics to education not only by means of teaching art but aesthetically, i.e. in the manner itself of educating through the rhythm, organization of subject matter, and method of presentation to engage students with the content of study. Mandoki points at the negative use of aesthetics for manipulating emotions in the political sphere and refers to Nazi propaganda as a case in point that exemplifies the deliberate use of aesthetics for exerting violence.[8] The utilization of aesthetics for political agendas, specifically in the legitimation of the nation-state is dealt by this author.[9] Arnold Berleant has stressed the negative aspect of everyday aesthetics pointing at the importance of the aesthetic impact of terrorism as well as the use of aesthetics in the political sphere. Berleant brings up other extreme situations that provoke perceptual injury or damage as contemporary urban overcrowding and visual over stimulation, space pollution, claustrophobic and oppressive conditions.[10] For Berleant, aesthetics implies active, intense aesthetic engagement and is thus involved in both positive and negative effects of everyday contemporary urban settings.[11] For Berleant aesthetics of the environment has been a sustained object of research for more than two decades.[12] Since 1970, he has insisted on the importance of aesthetics as a field of experience and active engagement in which our quality of life depends.[13]

Beauty in daily life, environmental aesthetics and artification[edit]

Yi-Fu Tuan proposed that we should apply the traditional aesthetic categories of beauty, contemplation, disinterestedness, and distancing in valuing daily life through different non artistic objects and locations.[2][14] Already in 1974 he insisted on the need of paying due attention to the environment as object of aesthetic appreciation.[15] Along this line Crispin Sartwell also proposed in 1995 applying aesthetics to life itself.[16] Yuriko Saito, an environmentalist aesthetician specializing in Japanese aesthetics, argues for paying attention to weather as worthy of aesthetic appreciation and for making moral and aesthetic judgments on everyday artifacts, landscapes, lawns, and neighborhood eyesores[17] that are conflicting with the harmony of the environment.[18] Saito advocates a self-critical artification of everyday life and warns about the risks of artificating business.[3] Paulina Rautio has performed qualitative analysis by interviews and epistolary exchange with women in regards to their experience of beauty through non artistic items and their contexts such as hanging laundry in Lapland where the opportunity of drying clothes under the sun is rare.[19] There is a common interest in this approach for understanding aesthetics as a theory of art and beauty following traditional categories and at the same time attempting to go beyond conventional borders of art by artificating the non art and extending its scope to everyday objects, environments and to living itself. That is the case of Horacio Pérez-Henao who tries to interpret literature under the scope of everyday aesthetics by pointing out how fictional characters experience aesthetics into their daily lives.[20]

Sports and food as art[edit]

Every work of art has, since the Renaissance, tried to expand themes worthy of artistic expression and concepts of artistic value to include new subject matters, techniques and styles in painting and sculpture, new harmonies, consonances or dissonances in music, new attitudes, gestures, and different genres and requirements of quality. However the initiative of applying the concept of art literally to non artistic activities within a theoretical framework related to everyday aesthetics came from philosophers like David Best, Wolfgang Welsch and Lev Kreft proposing to consider sports as an art form.[21][22][23] Feminist aestheticians are also advocating for the inclusion of other senses beyond the two traditional sight and hearing, as in taste (Carolyn Korsmeyer) and smell (Emily Brady), that can render aesthetic experiences in daily life.[24] Carolyn Korsmeyer, M. Quinet and Glenn Kuehn argue for including food among aesthetically relevant objects and experiences.[25][26]

The categories of the ordinary as aesthetic[edit]

Another line emerging from analytic aesthetics and the American Society of Aesthetics has been lately discussing the expansion of aesthetics’ category repertoire to include other qualities (cuteness, prettiness, messiness, neatness, cuddliness, loveliness, organized, disorganized)[27][28] as well as other types of ordinary experiences (i.e. scratching an itch, playing with a pencil).[29]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Aesthetica scripsit Alexand.Gottlieb Bavmgarten. impens. I.C. Kleyb. 1750.
  2. ^ Dewey, John Art as Experience (New York: Perigee,1934)
  3. ^ Updating Dewey’s pragmatism, Richard Shusterman validates aesthetic experience and emphasizes the role of the body in what he defines as soma-aesthetics also related to everyday life. C.F. Shusterman, Richard Body Consciousness: A Philosophy of Mindfulness and Somaesthetics ( Cambridge University Press 2008). See also Shusterman, Richard. 1992. Pragmatist Aesthetics: Living Beauty, Rethinking Art. Cambridge: Blackwell.
  4. ^ Mandoki Katya, Prosaica; introducción a la estética de lo cotidiano (México: Grijalbo, 1994)
  5. ^ Poetics (Aristotle)
  6. ^ Mandoki Katya, Everyday Aesthetics; Prosaics, social identities and the play of culture (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007), Estética cotidiana y juegos de la cultura: Prosaica I (México: Siglo XXI editores, 2006, Prácticas estéticas e identidades sociales: Prosaica II (México: Siglo XXI editores, 2006), La construcción estética del Estado y de la identidad nacional: Prosaica III (México: Siglo XXI editores, 2007), Estética y comunicación; de acción, pasión y seducción (Bogotá: Norma, 2007), “Quotidian Aesthetics” New Perspectives in Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art. Annales d’ esthétique. Volume 42/2003-2004. Athens: Panayotis and Effie Michelis Foundation. Pp. 103-110. ISSN 1105-0462. "L'esthétique du quotidien" Diogène 2011/1-2 (n° 233-234). [1]
  7. ^ Kupfer Joseph H., Experience as Art: Aesthetics in Everyday Life (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1983)
  8. ^ Katya Mandoki, "Terror and Aesthetics: Nazi Strategies for Mass Organisation," in Fascism: Critical Concepts in Political Science, vol. III, Fascism and Culture, Part 7: Fascism as the Negation or Revolution of Culture, ed. Roger Griffin (New York: Routledge, 2003), pp. 21-38.return to text
  9. ^ Katya Mandoki, La construcción estética del estado y de la identidad nacional. (Mexico: Siglo veintiuno editores, 2007)
  10. ^ Berleant, Arnold Sensibility and Sense; The aesthetic transformation of the human world ( Imprint Academic 2010)
  11. ^ Berleant, Arnold. 1991. Art and Engagement. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
  12. ^ Arnold Berleant The Aesthetics of Environment (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1992. Paperback edition, 1994). Greek trans., (Athens: Michelis Institute, 2004). Chinese trans. (Hunan Publishing Group, 2006). ISBN 978-1-56639-084-2. Chinese trans.,(Beijing: The Commercial Press, 2011.), Arnold Berleant Aesthetics and Environment, Theme and Variations on Art and Culture (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005). Arnold Berleant Living in the Landscape: Toward an Aesthetics of Environment (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1997).
  13. ^ The Aesthetic Field: A Phenomenology of Aesthetic Experience (Springfield, Ill.: C. C. Thomas 1970). 2nd edition (Cybereditions 2001. ISBN 978-1-877275-25-8, Arnold Berleant Art and Engagement (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1991. Paperback edition, 1991)
  14. ^ Tuan Yi–Fu Passing Strange and Wonderful; Aesthetics, Nature and Culture (New York, Tokyo, London: Kodansha 1995).
  15. ^ Tuan,Yi–Fu. Topophilia; A Study of Environmental Perception, Attitudes and Values(Englewood Cliff, N.J.: Prentice Hall 1974)
  16. ^ Sartwell, Crispin The Art of Living: Aesthetics of the Ordinary in World Spiritual Traditions. (Albany: State University of New York Press 1995)
  17. ^ Eyesore
  18. ^ Saito, Yuriko. 2008. Everyday Aesthetics. New York: Oxford University Press
  19. ^ Rautio, Pauliina, Rautio, P. (2010). Beauty in the Context of Particular Lives. Journal of Aesthetic Education, Vol 44, No4, Rautio, P. (2009). On hanging laundry. The place of beauty in managing everyday life. Contemporary Aesthetics, Vol 7, No9.
  20. ^ Pérez-Henao, Horacio. “Estética cotidiana y ficción: el clima como elemento de significación en la novela Pequod de Vitor Ramil”. Anclajes XX. 1 (enero-abril 2016): 20-34. DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.19137/anclajes-2016-2012
  21. ^ Best, David. 1988. “The Aesthetic in Sport,” in Philosophic Inquiry in Sport, ed. William J. Morgan and Klaus V. Meier. Champaign: Human Kinetics Publishers
  22. ^ Welsch, Wolfgang "Sport–Viewed Aesthetically, and Even as Art?" in Light, Andrew & Smith, Jonathan M. (eds.) The Aesthetics of Everyday Life (New York: Columbia University Press. 2005).
  23. ^ Kreft, Lev "Aesthetics of the beautiful game" Soccer & Society 2012: 1-23
  24. ^ Brady, Emily "Sniffing and Savoring: The Aesthetics of Smells and Tastes" in Light, Andrew & Smith, Jonathan M. (eds.) The Aesthetics of Everyday Life (New York: Columbia University Press 2005); Korsmeyer, Carolyn Making Sense of Taste: Food & Philosophy (New York: Cornell University Press 1999).
  25. ^ Quinet, M.L. 1981. “Food as Art: The Problem of Function”. British Journal of Aesthetics. 21, 1: 159-171
  26. ^ Kuehn, Glenn "How Can Food Be Art?" in Light, Andrew & Smith, Jonathan M. (eds.) The Aesthetics of Everyday Life (New York: Columbia University Press. 2005).
  27. '^ Leddy, Thomas. 1995. 'Everyday Surface Aesthetic Qualities: "Neat", "Messy", "Clean", "Dirty"Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 53, 259-68
  28. ^ See also Leddy, ThomasThe Extraordinary in the Ordinary: The Aesthetics of Everyday Life (Broadview Press 2012)
  29. ^ Irvin,Sherri “Scratching an Itch,” Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 66, 1 (2008), 25-35.

Further reading[edit]

  • Bourdieu, Pierre Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste (London: Routledge Kegan Paul 1984).
  • De Certeau, Michel The Practice of Everyday Life (Berkeley: University of California 1998).
  • Dickie, George "The Myth of the Aesthetic Attitude” Philip Alperson (ed). The Philosophy of the Visual Arts (New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press 1992).
  • Dufrenne, Mikel In the Presence of the Sensuous Roberts, Mark.S. Gallagher, Dennis. (eds). (New Jersey: Humanities Press International 1987).
  • Goffman, Erving Interaction Rituals (New York: Doubleday 1967).
  • Kolnai, Aurel On Disgust Korsmeyer, Carolyn and Barry Smith ( eds). (Open Court Press, 2004).
  • Naukkarinen, Ossi Aesthetics of the Unavoidable; Aesthetic Variations in Human Appearance. (Lahti: International Institute of Applied Aesthetics 1998).
  • Parret, Herman Le sublime du quotidien (Paris : Hadès 1988).
  • Vercelloni, Luca The Invention of Taste. A Cultural Account of Desire, Delight and Disgust in Fashion, Food and Art (London: Bloomsbury, 2016)