Projective Aesthetics as a New Discourse

Projective Aesthetics as a New Discourse

Boris Orlov


Today’s situation in aesthetics seems to be problematic. The former methodologies such as Analytics, Systematics, Hermeneutics, Deconstruction, etc. still exist, but fail to grasp current changes in culture and art. Besides assessment, these challenges of our time need a new theoretical vision with a practical orientation. In this regard, we suggest the term “projective aesthetics” (B. Orlov, I. Lisovec). Its conceptual marking is not so important. The main idea of this term is its ability to cover the peculiarities of a new discourse.

Contemporary culture has drastically changed its vector in the direction opposite to Post-post-post…, in other words – towards Proteism, a term coined by Mikhail Epstein, the main hope of which is the Future. Therefore, projectivism for contemporary discourse in the humanities appears to be highly important. In his Projective Philosophical Dictionary, Epstein distinguishes contemporary “cultural studies” and “culturonics.” The latter is:

…the construction of new activity forms
in culture, new techniques of communication and learning, new models of
perception and creativity. Cultural studies deal with projections, or interpretations of objects in symbolic systems of different cultures. Culturonics deals with projects,
in other words, with symbolic systems that have not yet become practices and
institutions of any culture, and form a plan for possible transformations of
the whole culture.

So, there are cultural projects, among which there is projectivity, especially concerning aesthetics. The latter allows us to understand the aesthetics more practically, or, in other words, in the aspect of “aesthetic engagement” suggested by Arnold Berleant. According to him, the aesthetic experience is included (“engaged”) in human everyday life.

If we turn to the history of aesthetics, the main question here comes to be not the object or even the methodology of aesthetics, but the problem of why we need aesthetics at all. Without going into any details on this question, certain hypothesis can be formulated. If the object of aesthetics in some advanced version coincides with its transition to a variant of praxis, then the focus of aesthetics on what is called aesthetic and artistic sets its main trend of functionality.

In this regard, the main purpose of aesthetics comes to be the aestheticization and artification of being at a certain level – in close connection with the aesthetic and artistic. If by the aesthetic and artistic one understands the whole experience of this type, the aestheticization and artification can be seen as something that at least contributes to making this experience meaningful and vital. Moreover, such experience in a unique, individual, free, and genuine way refers to the strategies of the existential modus of being.

The problem of projectivity of our being can be solved only by ourselves. The solution comes when we try not only to find the meaning of our life, but also to suggest this meaning based on the aesthetic and artistic projectivity of being. For us, the most important question concerns the criteria of aestheticization and artification. The limits of meaning here are associated with philosophizing on the “aesthetic interpretation” of our being. To put it simply, the question is what aestheticization and artification are practically needed for, and what should be done with them to provide practical transition from theory to praxis (i.e. to the “engaged aesthetics”).

The ultimate aesthetic meaning of our being is apparently in the Pleasure, and the artistic meaning is in the Otherbeingness. Their absence means the absence of meaning – meaninglessness, which lacks prospects for the further development of being and, therefore, is alienated from being. Therefore, the proper meaning of  aestheticization and artification is to saturate our life to the maximum (or, at least, to a minimal degree) by means of the peculiarities of its activity. It is the ability to aesthetically partake and potentiate our being that is a special function of projective aesthetics.

Aestheticization and artification assume existential projection. In other words, this is an “aesthetic design.” From the practical point of view, this means attempts to transform a sensory reality into something that is close to us by means of our own possibilities. This reality changes into aesthetic and artistic senses of our being, i.e. into something existentially significant to us, something that will let us experience the taste and opportunities of life in the most appealing way.

The aesthetics of projectivism involves a number of projects relating to the spheres of theory and praxis. The aesthetics of the environment, somaesthetics, the art of life, contemporary art practices, media aesthetics, etc. suggest projects, which should evidently promote the creation of aestheticization and artification in the real life.


Boris Orlov, Ph.D.

Boris Orlov, born in 1951, is Associate Professor in Aesthetics, Department of Philosophy, Ural Federal University (Yekaterinburg, Russia). He is a member of the IAA EC, Vice-President of Russian Society for Aesthetics. His current area of scientific research is projective aesthetics and philosophy of contemporary artistry. The main publications (in Russian) are: Subject, Object, Aesthetics; Spiritual Values: Problem of  Alienation; American Philosophy of Art (the second half of the 20th century); Artistry as It Is; The Artistic “Melancholies.” He is also the author and curator of the projects: Art and Business: Unexpected Associations; International Electronic Glossary of Contemporary Artistry.

Published May 22, 2020.