Contemporary Aesthetics does not publish book reviews.
However, to inform our readers of new publications of interest, we do
publish brief descriptions extracted from information provided by the
publishers. These notices do not necessarily represent the views or
judgment of this journal. Readers are invited to send us such
information about books they think will interest other readers of CA.
The Life of Reason in
an Age of Terrorism, edited by Charles Padrón & Krzysztof Piotr
Skowronski (Brill Rodopi, 2018).
The Life of Reason in An Age of Terrorism brings
together seventeen essays that discuss George Santayana's (1863-1952) social
and political thought within the context of contemporary considerations,
especially terrorism, as well as fanaticism, barbarism, and madness.
Pedro Reyes: Ad Usum /
To Be Used (Focus on Latin American Art and Agency), edited by José Luis
Falconi (Cultural Agents Initiative at Harvard University, 2018), 520 pp.
For more than a decade the Mexico City–based artist,
architect, and cultural agent Pedro Reyes has been turning existing social
problems into opportunities for effecting tangible change through collective
imagination. By breaking open failed models and retooling them with space to
project alternatives, Reyes’s art enables productive diversions of otherwise
destructive forces. Ad Usum: To Be Used is the second volume in the
series Focus on Latin American Art and Agency, which is dedicated to
contemporary cultural agents, a term that is perhaps best understood through
the words of Reyes himself: “changing our individual habits has no degree of
effectiveness” as “progress is only significant if you start to multiply by 10,
by 100, by 1,000.” Rather than to merely illustrate his work, this collection
of images, interviews, and critical essays is intended as an apparatus for
multiplying the possibilities when art becomes a resource for the common good.
This full-color illustrated survey of Reyes’s projects
includes critical essays by José Luis Falconi, Robin Greeley, Johan Hartle,
Adam Kleinman, and Doris Sommer, as well as interviews between the artist and
such thinkers as Lauren Berlant, Michael Hardt, Alejandro Jodorowsky, and
Paolo D'Angelo, Sprezzatura:
Concealing the Effort of Art from Aristotle to Duchamp (New York: Columbia
University Press, 2018), 170 pp
The essence of art is
to conceal art. A dancer or musician does not only need to perform with
ability; there should also be a lack of visible effort that gives an impression
of naturalness. To disguise technique and feign ease is to heighten beauty. To
express this notion, Italian has a word with no exact equivalent in other languages,
sprezzatura: a kind of unaffectedness or nonchalance.
In this book, philosopher of art Paolo D’Angelo considers sprezzatura in
its own right, reconstructing the history of concealing art, from ancient
rhetoric to our own times. The word sprezzatura was coined in 1528 by
Baldassarre Castiglione in The Book of the Courtier to mean a kind of
grace with a special essence: the ability to conceal art. But the idea reaches
back to Aristotle and Cicero and forward to avant-garde works such as Duchamp’s
ready-mades, all of which share the suspicion of the overt display of skill.
The precept that art must be hidden turns up in a number of fields, from
cosmetics to interior design, politics to poetry, the English garden to shabby
chic. Through exploring different articulations of this idea, D’Angelo shows
the paradox of aesthetics: art hides that it is art, but in doing so it reveals
itself to be art and becomes an assertion about art. When art is concealed, it
appears as spontaneous as nature, yet, paradoxically, also reveals its
indebtedness to technique.
Language, Beauty, and the Environment, edited by Peter Quigley & Scott
Slovic (Indiana University Press, 2018), 219 pp.
This collection of essays explores the vital role of beauty
in the human experience of place, interactions with other species, and
contemplation of our own embodied lives. Devoting attention to themes such as
global climate change, animal subjectivity, environmental justice and activism,
and human moral responsibility for the environment, these contributions
demonstrate that beauty is not only a meaningful dimension of our experience
but also a powerful strategy for inspiring cultural transformation. Taken as a
whole, they underscore the ongoing relevance of aesthetics to the ecocritical
project and the concern for beauty that motivates effective social and
Glenn Willmott, Reading for Wonder (Palgrave Macmillan,
2018), 226 pp.
In a world awash in awesome, sensual technological experiences,
wonder has diverse powers, including awakening us to unexpected ecological
intimacies and entanglements. Yet this deeply felt experience, at once cognitive,
aesthetic, and ethical, has been dangerously neglected in our cultural
education. In order to cultivate the imaginative empathy and caution this
feeling evokes, we need to teach ourselves and others to read for wonder. This
book begins by unfolding the nature and artifice of wonder as a human capacity
and as a fabricated experience. Ranging across poetry, foodstuffs, movies,
tropical islands, wonder cabinets, apes, abstract painting, penguins and more, Reading
for Wonder offers an anatomy of wonder in transmedia poetics, and explores
its ethical power and political risks from early modern times to the present
day. To save ourselves and the teeming life of our planet, indeed to flourish,
we must liberate wonder from ideologies of enchantment and disenchantment,
understand its workings and their ethical ambivalence, and give it a clear language
Robert Kilroy, Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain (Palgrave Pivot, 2018), 168 pp.
marks the centenary of Marcel Duchamp’s
Fountain by critically
re-examining the established interpretation of the work. It introduces a new
methodological approach to art-historical practice rooted in a revised
understanding of Lacan, Freud and Slavoj Žižek. In weaving an alternative
narrative, Kilroy shows us that not only has Fountain been
fundamentally misunderstood but that this very misunderstanding is central to
the work’s significance. The author brings together Duchamp’s own statements to
argue Fountain’s verdict was strategically stage-managed by the
artist in order to expose the underlying logic of its reception, what he terms
‘The Creative Act.’
Aesthetics Between Art and Society: Perspectives of
Arnold Berleant’s Postkantian Aesthetics of Engagement. Espes
Vol 6, No 2 (2017), Aleksandra Lukaszewicz Alvarez, ed. http://www.casopisespes.sk or https://espes.ff.unipo.sk/.
A special issue of Espes, the journal of the
Society for Aesthetics in Slovakia, has just been published with an editorial
essay and seven papers commenting on Berleant's aesthetics. Contributors
include Aleksandra Lukaszewicz Alvarez, "Introduction to
Arnold Berleant's Perspective;" Arnold Berleant, "Objects into
Persons: The Way to Social Aesthetics; Yuriko Saito, "The Ethical
Dimensions of Aesthetic Engagement;" Cheng Xiangzhan, “Some Critical
Reflections on Berleantian Critique of Kantian Aesthetics from the Perspective
of Eco-aesthetics;" Mădălina Diaconu, "Engagement and Resonance: Two
Ways out from Disinterestedness and Alienation;" Katarzyna Nawrocka,
"Architecture of Movement;" Benno Hinkes, "Approaching
Aisthetics or Installation Art and Environmental Aesthetics as Investigative
Activity;" Thomas Leddy, "A Dialectical Approach to Berleant’s
Concept of Engagement." Espes is an open-access electronic journal
and is directly accessible online.
Giovanni Aloi, Sepeculative Taxidermy (New York:
Columbia University Press, 2018), 315 pp.
Taxidermy, once the province of natural history and
dedicated to the pursuit of lifelike realism, has recently resurfaced in the
world of contemporary art, culture, and interior design. In Speculative
Taxidermy, Giovanni Aloi offers a comprehensive mapping of the discourses
and practices that have enabled the emergence of taxidermy in contemporary art.
Drawing on the speculative turn in philosophy and recovering past alternative
histories of art and materiality from a biopolitical perspective, Aloi
theorizes speculative taxidermy: a powerful interface that unlocks new
ethical and political opportunities in human-animal relationships and speaks to
how animal representation conveys the urgency of climate change, capitalist
exploitation, and mass extinction.
A resolutely nonanthropocentric take on the materiality of
one of the most controversial mediums in art, this approach relentlessly questions
past and present ideas of human separation from the animal kingdom. It situates
taxidermy as a powerful interface between humans and animals, rooted in a
shared ontological and physical vulnerability. Carefully considering a select
number of key examples including the work of Nandipha Mntambo, Maria
Papadimitriou, Mark Dion, Berlinde De Bruyckere, Roni Horn, Oleg Kulik, Steve
Bishop, Snæbjörnsdóttir/Wilson, and Cole Swanson, Speculative Taxidermy contextualizes
the resilient presence of animal skin in the art gallery space as a productive
opportunity to rethink ethical and political stances in human-animal
New Essays in Japanese Aesthetics, edited by Minh Nguyen
(Rowman & Littlefield, 2017), 520 pp.
This collection presents twenty-seven new essays in Japanese
aesthetics with an extended forward by Stephen Addiss. The introduction surveys
the history of Japanese aesthetics and the ways in which it is similar to and
different from Western aesthetics. This work brings together a variety of
disciplinary perspectives, including those of philosophy, literature, and
cultural politics, to shed light on the artistic and aesthetic traditions of
Japan and the central themes in Japanese art and aesthetics. The contributors
write about Japanese-aesthetical concerns and their application to Japanese
arts (including literature, theater, film, drawing, painting, calligraphy,
ceramics, crafts, music, fashion, comics, cooking, packaging, gardening,
landscape architecture, flower arrangement, the martial arts, and the tea
ceremony). This collection moves from
the philosophical groundings of Japanese aesthetics and the Japanese aesthetics
of imperfection and insufficiency to the Japanese love of and respect for
nature and the paradoxical ability of Japanese art and culture to absorb
enormous amounts of foreign influence and yet maintain its own unique
identity. New Essays in Japanese
Aesthetics is intended as a resource for the classroom or anyone interested in
gaining a deeper understanding of Japanese aesthetics.
Aesthetics: A Reader in Philosophy of the Arts, fourth
edition, edited by David Goldblatt, Lee B. Brown, & Stephanie Patridge (New
York and London: Routledge, 2018), 541 pp.
Aesthetics: A Reader in Philosophy of the Arts, fourth
edition, contains a selection of ninety-six readings organized by individual
art forms as well as a final section of readings in philosophical aesthetics
that cover multiple art forms. Sections include essays on topics such as painting, photography and movies, architecture, music,
literature, and performance, as well as contemporary subjects such as mass art,
popular arts, the aesthetics of the everyday, and the natural environment. Readings
are brief, accessible for undergraduates, and conceptually focused, allowing
instructors many different syllabi possibilities using only this single volume. The fourth edition is expanded with nineteen new essays Nevertheless, this edition does not neglect
classic writers in traditional aesthetics: Plato, Aristotle, Hume, Kant, Hegel,
Heidegger, Collingwood, Bell, and writers of similar status in aesthetics.
Paul Christiansen, Orchestrating Public Opinion: How Music
Persuades in Television Political Ads for US Presidential Campaigns, 1952-2016
(Amsterdam University Press, 2017), 276 pp.
ISBN 978 94 6298 188 1
Orchestrating Public Opinion examines in detail music's
persuasive role in political ads for US presidential campaigns. Studies of
political ads tend to consider music something of an afterthought, innocuous
accompaniment for a narrator. In this book Christiansen takes an opposing view,
arguing that music is crucial to an ad's construction. In some cases, it is
even determinative: that is, all other elements - images, voiceover, sound
effects, written text, and so on, can be circumscribed by and interpreted in
relation to music. This book presents correspondence between campaign officials
and ad agencies, storyboards, and music scores related to ads such as
Eisenhower's "I Like Ike" or Reagan's "Morning in America."
Engaging music seriously through detailed musical analysis
as well as exploring music's relation to visual and textual elements in ads,
Orchestrating Public Opinion brings together disparate approaches toward understanding
the surreptitious rhetoric of music.
Pavle Levi, Jolted
Images: Unbound Analytic (Eastern European Screen Cultures) (Amsterdam
University Press, 2018),
Jolted Images brings together a large cast of
mainstream and avant-garde cineastes, artists, photographers, comics
creators, poets, and more to reflect on a wide range of phenomena from the
realms of cinema and visual culture in the Yugoslav region, Europe more broadly,
and North America. Far from a staid monograph, the book takes a cue from
filmmaker Dušan Makavejev, who once wrote that there are times when it is
necessary "to jolt art, no matter what the outcome." To that end, the book infuses its
analysis with a playful, creative
transfiguration of its material.
Constance Classen, The
Museum of the Senses: Experiencing Art and Collections (Bloomsbury, 2017),
Traditionally sight has been the only sense with
a ticket to enter the museum. The same is true of histories of art in which
artworks are often presented as purely visual objects. In The Museum of the
Senses, Constance Classen offers a new way of approaching the history of
art through the senses, revealing how people used to handle, smell, and even
taste collection pieces. Topics range from the tactile power of relics to the
sensuous allure of cabinets of curiosities, and from the feel of a Rembrandt to
the scent of Monet's garden. The book concludes with a discussion of how
contemporary museums are stimulating the senses through interactive and
Will Daddario, Barogue,
Venice, Theatre, Philosophy (Springer, 2017), 261 pp.
This book theorizes the baroque as neither a time period nor
an artistic style but as a collection of bodily practices developed from
clashes between governmental discipline and artistic excess, moving between the
dramaturgy of Jesuit spiritual exercises, the political theatre-making of
Angelo Beolco (aka Ruzzante), and the civic governance of the Venetian Republic
at a time of great tumult. The manuscript assembles plays seldom read or viewed
by English-speaking audiences, archival materials from three Venetian archives,
and several secondary sources on baroque, Renaissance, and early modern epistemology
in order to forward an argument for understanding the baroque as a gathering of
social practices. Such a rethinking of the baroque aims to complement the
already lively studies of neo-baroque aesthetics and ethics emerging in
contemporary scholarship on (for example) Latin American political art.
Aesthetic Practice of Cookery, eds. Nicolaj van der Meulen & Jӧrg
Wiesel (Germany: transcript, 2017), 324 pp.
Kitchen, cooking, nutrition, and eating have become omnipresent
cultural topics. They stand at the center of design, gastronomy, nutrition
science, and agriculture. Artists have appropriated cooking as an aesthetic
practice, and cooks, in turn, are adapting the staging practices that go with
an artistic self-image. This development is accompanied by a crisis of eating
behavior and a philosophy of cooking as a speculative cultural technique. The
volume investigates the dimensions of a new culinary
turn, combining contributions from the theory and practice of cooking.
Yuriko Saito, Aesthetics
of the Familiar: Everyday Life and World-Making (Oxford University Press,
2017), 246 pp.
Aesthetics of the
Familiar explores the nature and significance of the aesthetic dimensions
of people's everyday life. Everyday aesthetics has the recognized value of
enriching one's life experiences and sharpening one's attentiveness and
sensibility; however, Yuriko Saito draws out its broader importance for how we
make our worlds, as citizens and consumers. Saito urges that we have a social
responsibility to encourage cultivation of aesthetic literacy and vigilance
against aesthetic manipulation and argues that ultimately, everyday aesthetics
can be an effective instrument for directing humanity's collective and
cumulative world-making project for the betterment of all its inhabitants.
Everyday aesthetics has been seen as a challenge to
contemporary Anglo-American aesthetics discourse, which is dominated by the
discussion of art and beauty. Saito responds to controversies about the nature,
boundary, and status of everyday aesthetic and argues for its legitimacy. Aesthetics of the Familiar highlights
the multifaceted aesthetic dimensions of everyday life that are not fully
accounted for by the commonly held account of defamiliarizing the familiar.
Carsten Strathausen, Bioaesthetics:
Making Sense of Life in Science and the Arts (University of Minnesota
Press, 2017), 305 pp.
In recent years, bioaesthetics has used the latest
discoveries in evolutionary studies and neuroscience to provide new ways of
looking at both art and aesthetics. Carsten Strathausen's exploration of this
emerging field is a comprehensive account of its ideas, as well as a timely
critique of its limitations. Strathausen familiarizes readers with the basics
of bioaesthetics, grounding them in its philosophical underpinnings while
articulating its key components. He delves into the longstanding "two
cultures" problem that separates the arts and the sciences. Seeking to
make bioaesthetics a more robust way of thinking, Strathausen critiques it for
failing to account for science's historical and cultural assumptions. At a time
when humanities departments are shrinking and when STEM education is on the
rise, Bioaesthetics makes vital
points about the limitations of science while lodging a robust defense of the
importance of the humanities.