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 on the book cover or accompanying literature. 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.
Naukkarinen, Ossi, Art of the Environment (Helsinki: OKKA - Foundation for Teaching, Education and Personal Development) (www.okka-saatio.com) , 2007), 143 pp.
Art of the Environment explores one of the most vital areas in contemporary art: environmental art and adjacent fields, something that escapes traditional categorization, seeking instead new frontiers. Verbalizing art is one of the key objectives of Art of the Environment; it provides conceptual tools for making, teaching and receiving contemporary art and justifies examples of the relevance of these tools. In comparison with traditional textbooks on art, this book links art with environmental issues, something which is often considered beyond the scope of and irrelevant to art discourse. How should artists pay attention to ecological considerations such as material waste and pollution? What has environmental responsibility to do with the reception of art? This book shows that art is not an island with no connections to environmental discourse, but an active and responsible partner. The book analyzes several concrete examples and has four-color illustrations.
Moore, Ronald, Natural Beauty, A Theory of Aesthetics beyond the Arts (Peterborough, ON: Broadview, 2008), 273 pp.
Natural Beauty presents a new philosophical account of the principles involved in making aesthetic judgments about natural objects. It surveys historical and modern accounts of natural beauty and weaves elements derived from those accounts into a "syncretic theory" that centers on key features of aesthetic experience, specifically features that sustain and reward attention. In this way, Moore's theory sets itself apart from both the purely cognitive and the purely emotive approaches that have dominated natural aesthetics until now. Natural Beauty shows why aesthetic appreciation of works of art and aesthetic appreciation of nature can be mutually reinforcing; that is, how they are cooperative rather than rival enterprises. Moore also makes a compelling case for how and why the experience of natural beauty can contribute to the larger project of living a good life.
Wilson, Carl, Let's Talk about Love; A Journey to the End of Taste (New York & London: Continuum, 2007), 164 pp.
A book both in and of pop culture, Let's Talk about Love takes its title from the singer Céline Dion's 1999 hit album. Wilson sets himself to answer why millions of people love Céline and millions can't stand her. He examines her Quebec roots, her enormous voice, and her tear-jerking sentimentality. As Wilson strives to understand Céline's immense global popularity, he faces the question of what drives personal taste and whether it's possible to change it.
Towards a Theory of Musical Reproduction, Theodor W. Adorno, ed. Henri Lonitz, trans. Wieland Hoban (Malden, Ma: Polity Press, 2006).
Towards a Theory of Musical Reproduction is a series of notes and drafts for a major work on the performance of music and its interpretation that Adorno planned to write. No other texts document more vividly Adorno's intimate experience of music through performances of it, including his own, and the central role of that experience in his life and philosophy. The choice of the word 'reproduction' as opposed to 'interpretation' indicates the supposition that there is a clearly defined musical text whose precision exceeds what is visible on the page, and that the performer has the responsibility to reproduce it a accurately as possible beyond simply 'playing what is written.' This task, according to Adorno, requires a detailed understanding of all musical parameters in their historical context, and his reflections on this task lead to a fundamental study of the nature of notation and musical sense. This book makes a case for a performance practice that eschews historical 'objectivity' and irrational subjectivity in favor of a theory of musical notation and interpretation.
Berleant, Arnold and Allen Carlson, editors, The Aesthetics of Human Environments (Peterborough, Ont., Canada: Broadview, 2007), 312 pp.
The Aesthetics of Human Environments is a companion volume to Carlson and Berleant's The Aesthetics of Natural Environments. While the earlier collection focused on the aesthetic appreciation of nature, The Aesthetics of Human Environments investigates philosophical and aesthetic issues that arise from our engagement with human environments ranging from rural landscapes to urban cityscapes. The essays in this collection consider the aesthetic appreciation and value of our experience of public spaces such as shopping centers, theme parks, and gardens, as well as the impact of our personal living spaces on the routine activities of our everyday life. This volume will appeal to any reader concerned about the aesthetic quality of the world in which we live.
Winters, Edward, Aesthetics & Architecture (New York: Continuum, 2007), 179 pp.
Aesthetics & Architecture places analytical philosophical aesthetics at the heart of thinking about, and looking at, architecture. It looks at classic and contemporary aesthetic and philosophical views of architecture, and considers how Classicism, Modernism, Structuralism, Post-structuralism and Situationism have influenced architectural aesthetics and shape our view of the built environment. The book also explores the challenges to the various intellectual and cultural movements that inform how people create and look at buildings, then moves on to investigate the aesthetic qualities, demands, and approaches specific to architecture and architectural thinking. It concludes with a "programme for contemporary architecture."
Strayer, Jeffrey, Subjects and Objects: Art, Essentialism, and Abstraction (Netherlands, Boston, MA: Brill, 2007).
The subject matter of Subjects and Objects is the limits of abstraction in art. The notion of abstraction, its development in art history, and the relation of art and philosophy regarding abstraction are considered in addition to identifying and examining things that are essential to art works. Any artwork has an identity, and comprehension of that identity depends on a perceptual object. A subject's apprehension of such an object creates an "artistic complex" of which the object, the subject, and the apprehension are constituents. The essential elements of this kind of complex are the subject of the final part of the work. Its concluding section considers these elements as material to be used to determine the limits of abstraction.
Mandoki, Katya, Everyday Aesthetics: Prosaics, the play of culture and social identities (U.K., Vermont: Ashgate, 2007).
Katya Mandoki advances the thesis that it is not only possible but crucial to open up the field of aesthetics toward the richness and complexity of everyday life. She argues that in every process of communication, whether face to face or through the media, fashion, and political propaganda, there is always an excess beyond the informative and functional value of a message. This excess is the aesthetic. Following Huizinga's view of play as an ingredient of any social environment, Mandoki explores how various cultural practices are in fact forms of playing, using the elaboration and application of a semiotic model for the simultaneous analysis of social interactions in the four registers - visual, auditory, verbal, and body language, to detect the aesthetic strategies deployed in specific situations.
Odłamki rozbitych luster . Rozprawy z filozofii kultury estetyki i sztuki (Pieces of Shattered Mirrors, Essays in Philosophy of Culture, Aesthetics and Art ) in honor of Prof. Alicja Kuczyńska, ed. Iwona Lorenc (Warsaw: Wydział Filozofii i Socjologii, 2005).
This Festschrift in honor of the distinguished Polish aesthetician Alicja Kuczyńska, contains twenty-nine contributions by an international array of aestheticians, including five in English: "Aeschylus and Medical Knowledge in the Prometheus" by Aphrodite Alekandrakis , "Works of Art and the Transcendent" by Terry J. Diffey, "On Beauty: Tradition, Negation, Change" by Grazia Marchianó, "Representational Meaning" by Richard Woodfield, "Aesthetics with Poetic Eyes" by Sonja Servomaa, and "The Symbolism of the Cave in Ithaca: Porphyry's Interpretation of Homeric Wisdom" by Christos C. Evangeliou.
Samier, Eugenie, ed., Special Issue: Aesthetics and Government, in Halduskultuur nr 8 (Estonia: Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences, Tallin University of Technology, 2007).
This special issue of Halduskultuur is devoted to the exploration of an emerging field in administrative studies: aesthetic analysis. The papers grew out of a joint conference in April 2006 of the Departments of Political Science and Aesthetics at the University of Helsinki and Halduskultuur, held for one day at the University of Helsinki and the following day at Tallinn's Museum of Occupations. As part of the discussions, it became apparent that an aesthetic of administration was inextricably part of the aesthetics of politics, and so the scope of the conference was broadened to the "Aesthetics of Government." This issue includes articles on public administration and politics, including a comparative study of police stations in three countries by Markku Temmes and an analysis of financial public management by Pertti Ahonen, as well as an exploration of the "Aesthetic Tension between Politics and Government" by Kyösti Pekonen, and a study of political advertising in Finland by Juri Mykkanen.
Josh Hermand and Gerhard Richter, editors, Sound Figures of Modernity: German Music and Philosophy (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 2007), 280 pp.
This volume traces the political, historical, and philosophical trajectories of a specifically German tradition in which thinkers take recourse to music, both as an aesthetic practice and as the object of their speculative work, during the period of modernity that extends from early German Idealism to the Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School.
The contributors examine the texts of such influential writers and thinkers as Schelling, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Bloch, Mann, Adorno, and Lukács in relation to individual composers, including Beethoven, Wagner, Schönberg, and Eisler. Their explorations of the complexities that arise in conceptualizing music as a mode of representation and philosophy as a mode of aesthetic practice thematize the ways in which the fields of music and philosophy are altered when either attempts to express itself in terms defined by the other.
Seppo Knuutila, Erkki Sevänen and Risto Turunen, editors, Aesthetic Culture: Essays in honour of Yrjö Sepänmaa on his sixtieth birthday, 12 December 2005 (Finland: Maaheni Co., 2007), 374 pp.
Yrjö Sepänmaa, Professor of Environmental Aesthetics at the University of Joensuu in Finland, has published widely on, and is internationally known for, environmental aesthetics. He was appointed a Professor of Finnish Academy from 200-2005, and was president of the 13th International Congress of Aesthetics, held in Lahti, Finland, in 1994. As a theoretician of art, he has, in particular, reflected upon anti-art (or meta-art) and the phenomena that are marginal in art worlds or those situated outside art worlds altogether. In the area of literary studies, he has worked on the concept of authorial persona - the picture of a writer - and also he has acted as a literary critic for newspapers and journals.
According to Sepänmaa, a factor that all of these areas or objects have in common is aesthetic culture. Although the idea of aesthetic culture seems to be self-evident, contemporary art theorists express certain reservations about it. This anthology, to a certain extent, helps clear up this topic, and is a tribute to and celebration of his life and work.
Dorothea Olkowski, The Universal (In the Realm of the Sensible): Beyond continental philosophy (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007), 256 pp.
Straddling a course between formalism and conventionalism, Olkowski develops the concept of an ontological unconscious that arises from our "sensible" relation to the world - the information we absorb and emit that affects our encounters with the environment and others. Olkowski rethinks the space-time relations put forth by Irigaray's notion of the "interval," Bergson's "recollection," Merleau-Ponty's idea of the "flesh," and Deleuze's "plane of immanence." Drawing on the work of de Beauvoir, Sartre, and le Doeuff, among others, and addressing a range of topics from the Asian sex trade to late capitalism, quantum gravity, and Merleau-Ponty's views on cinema, Olkowski stretches the limits of continental philosophy and introduces a new perspective on political structures.
Colin Martindale, Paul Locher, and Vladimir M. Petrov, editors, Evolutionary and Neurocognitive Approaches to Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts (Amityville, NY: Baywood, 2007), 256 pp.
All known societies produce and enjoy arts such as literature, music, and visual decoration or depiction. Judging from prehistoric archaelogical evidence, this arose very early in human development. Furthermore, Darwin was explicit in attributing aesthetic sensitivity to lower animals. These considerations lead us to wonder whether the arts might not be evolutionary based. In this book, aesthetics, creativity, and psychology of the arts are approached from a point of view that is biological or related to biology, and questions are answered with new methods and theories. The book examines ten theories of the evolutionary function of the arts, as well as the possible evolutionary function of specific arts such as music and literature. Several chapters give overviews of neurocognitive and neural network approaches to creativity and aesthetic appreciation. The book concludes by describing brain-scan research on what happens in the brain during creativity, presenting a close examination of the relationship between genetically transmitted mental disorder and creativity.
Series: Foundations and Frontiers in Aesthetics
Series Editors: Colin Martindale and Arnold Berleant
Jerome Carroll, Art at the Limits of Perception: The Aesthetic Theory of Wolfgang Welsch (Switzerland: Peter Lang, 2006), 284 pp.
This book traces the significance that the modulations of sensory perception have had for thinking about aesthetics and art in the last two and a half centuries. Beyond a discussion of the philosophical significance of beauty, or the puzzle of aesthetic representation, aesthetics is conceived broadly as a means of describing our relationship to the world in terms of the habits of perception, and indeed the overturning of these habits, as in the modernist aesthetic of defamiliarization. In the light of the ideas of the contemporary German aesthetic theorist, Wolfgang Welsch, this book offers the first discussion of the theory and practice of art that operates at the poles of perception: sensory experience that exceeds conceptual organization, and the imperceptible, or what Welsch calls the 'anaesthetic.' The author discusses categories such as the indeterminacy of meaning, the shared focus on the habits and modulations of sensory perception, and the boundary between art and that which surrounds it, and applies them to art practice, in particular to the theater of Peter Handke, Samuel Beckett and Heiner Müller.