– Aesthetic Experience

11 11 2012

(σκέψεις για τη φύση και τη λειτουργία της αισθητικής εμπειρίας)

Is aesthetic experience a result of the aesthetic attitude of the observer or of the qualities of the work of art?

Much has been said and written on the appropriate way of experiencing a work of art, a way traditionally considered as distinguishable from that of other kinds of experiences, described as an aesthetic experience. Different emphasis has at times been placed on whether the aesthetic experience can result from a range of qualities of the object experienced (Bell’s significant form, Sibley’s grace, unity, gaudiness etc.), or from a certain attitude on the part of the observer or beholder, described as aesthetic attitude1.

The idea of an aesthetic attitude, requiring both an involvement and a detachment from the perceived object can be traced back to Aristotle’s στάσις, or Aquinas’s aesthetic contemplation, but it was Kant who carefully and systematically analysed the concept of disinterestedness as central in aesthetic appreciation. Kant’s idea of disinterestedness was thought of as a kind of impartiality, as the absence of the kind of interest that relates to one’s own advantage or disadvantage. In Schopenhauer’s notion of the loss of will, one loses awareness of the self and becomes purely contemplative. Despite their fundamental differences in the nature of aesthetic experience2, Kant’s disinterestedness and Schopenhauer’s will-lessness do share a common ground as far as the aesthetic experience is concerned..

Bullough’s view of  ‘psychical distance’ is grounded in a similar suggestion that aesthetic attitude is a necessary condition of aesthetic experience. It does not follow, however, Kant’s analytical description of the free play of imagination and understanding. Nor does it follow Schopenhauer’s metaphysical interpretation of the intellect freeing itself from the demands of the will. It is rather founded on a psychological basis and presented to us with suggestive examples that try to encompass the variety of aesthetic experience and to define it in terms of the psychical distance.

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– Do we need to know what the creator of the work intended?

10 11 2012

Do we need to know, when interpreting a work of art, what the creator of the work intended?

Last week I gave a lecture on Art History to primary school teachers. During the discussion that followed a lady said: “What you’ve been telling us is fascinating, but I was wondering, do I have to know all this in order to enjoy a work of art? And what if I don’t have someone around to explain, will I still be able to understand what it means and enjoy it?” We discussed it further on and as I was leaving, there came another lady who asked me privately and somehow secretly: “I am going to see the Miro exhibition on the island of Andros this weekend. What do I have to read before going?”

I was reading the Intentional Fallacy at the time and I kept thinking that I may be doing something wrong, by referring so extensively to external evidence when interpreting a work of art. I couldn’t help referring to Gauguin’s life and travels so as to explain that it was a kind of a quest for primitive values that led him to his intention to abandon three-dimensional representation and not lack of competence.

My discipline, of course, is Art History not Philosophy and a certain number of external references are legitimate and unavoidable since I use a combination of two kinds of enquiry, the critical and the biographical. But even so, in the light of our discussion, there were many questions raised: Do we need to know about the artist and his life in order to appreciate a work of art? Does this kind of knowledge enhance or impoverish our aesthetic experience. Is what I understand that a work means, the same as what the author intended it to mean? Does it make any difference if it is not? And so on and so forth.

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– Theo Angelopoulos: A tribute

7 02 2012

Theo Angelopoulos left us some days ago, but it seems that only his physical presence has passed away. His films will always be here, continuing to reveal the inner dialectics of our existence. In Angelopoulos’ cinema, the landscapes of Greece join the neighbourhoods of the world and offer ground for universal symbolism, haunted by the presence of the people whose deeds and desires clash with the inevitable hopelessness of their fulfilment.

In an Angelopoulos’ film, the story evolves on the borderline, where presence and absence, need and desire, time and place, individual and collective, emotion and conscience, meet, collide and coexist in a silent or a melodic way. Its beauty and power come from the universality of these encounters.

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– Art history lectures in Kardamyli, Mani

2 09 2008

Καρδαμύλη 2008

On 28, 29 and 30 August, I presented a series of lectures on ancient Greek art, in English, in the courtyard of Kamara, Kardamyli, Mani, Greece. This was the second year I was invited to give these lectures, and it seems that this will continue for several years to come. This year’s topic was Geometric and Archaic Greek Art. We examined how Minoan and Mycenaean art evolved into Geometric art and then to Archaic art. We talked about the social, economic, religious and art circumstances that led to this change. In these three days we got a grasp of how art developed during these 400 years, and were able to appreciate Geometric and Archaic art contrary to the widespread belief that this art is much inferior to Classical art. Our appointment was renewed for next year, when we will talk about Classical Art.

 

 

 

 

See a 5 min video on Geometric Art

 





– Τhe interpretation of a work of art and the intention of its creator

18 05 2007

Do we need to know, when interpreting a work of art, what the creator of the work intended? 

Last week I gave a lecture on Art History to primary school teachers. During the discussion that followed a lady said: “What you’ve been telling us is fascinating, but I was wondering, do I have to know all this in order to enjoy a work of art? And what if I don’t have someone around to explain, will I still be able to understand what it means and enjoy it?” We discussed it further on and as I was leaving, there came another lady who asked me privately and somehow secretly: “I am going to see the Miro exhibition on the island of Andros this weekend. What do I have to read before going?”

I was reading the Intentional Fallacy at the time and I kept thinking that I may be doing something wrong, by referring so extensively to external evidence when interpreting a work of art. I couldn’t help referring to Gauguin’s life and travels so as to explain that it was a kind of a quest for primitive values that led him to his intention to abandon three-dimensional representation and not lack of competence. Read the rest of this entry »





– The Olympic Games in Ancient Greece

17 05 2007

The religious character of the games from the 7th to the 4th century b.C.

The Olympic games were the most important of the four great panhellenic games in ancient times. Held at Olympia every four years, on the second full-moon after the summer solstice, they lasted, almost without interruption, for more than a thousand years (from their beginnings in 776 BC to their abolition in AD 393), making them one of the most enduring institutions in the history of culture. Their importance lies not only in their influence as a sporting occasion, but chiefly in the way in which they became part of a complicated framework in which religious, social, political and cultural values were formed and expressed. Because of the fame of the games, which soon spread throughout the Greek world, the sanctuaries where they were held became places where temple architecture and monumental sculpture evolved and developed, where works of poetry, philosophy and music were presented, and where the values and cultural ties that bound together the Greek city-states were formed and expressed. Read the rest of this entry »





– Erotic scenes on ancient Greek vases in the Archaic and Classical periods

16 05 2007

Erotic scenes in ancient Greek iconography constitute an important and significant corpus which until fairly recently was unknown outside a limited number of specialists. This relative obscurity was not due to the lesser aesthetic value of such representations, but rather to the fact that 20th century society views sex and erotic art differently. For the ancients sexual activity could be depicted without any sense of shame or guilt; multiple love affairs (virtually a type of polygamy), pederasty, homosexuality and group sex were regarded as conventional and were regulated by a moral code totally different from our own. We must, therefore, understand the social and institutional contexts in which the ancients expressed sexual desire if we are to properly understand and appreciate their iconography. From the art-historical point of view, the intricate network of erotic relationships comprises, much more than mere sexual consummation; it is also a way of looking at social relationships in the making. Read the rest of this entry »