Art And Engagement

Art And Engagement

Copyright Date: 1991
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Art And Engagement
    Book Description:

    In this book Arnold Berleant develops a bold alternative to the eighteenth-century aesthetic of disinterestedness. Centering on the notion of participatory engagement in the appreciation of art, he explores its appearance in art and in aesthetic perception, especially during the past century. Aesthetic engagement becomes a key, both on historical and theoretical grounds, to making intelligible our experiences with both contemporary and classical arts. In place of the traditional aesthetic that enjoins the appreciator to adopt a contemplative attitude, distancing the art object in order to ensure its removal from practical uses,Art and Engagementexamines the ways in which art entices us into intimate participation in its workings.

    Beginning with the historical and theoretical underpinnings of the idea of engagement, Berleant focuses on how engagement works as a force in different arts. Successive chapters pursue its influence in landscape painting, architecture and environmental design, literature, music, dance, and film.

    Art and Engagementargues forcefully for the originality and power of aesthetic perception. Demolishing the conceptual barriers erected by the Western world's limiting tradition, the book discloses the condition of engagement that has always been present when our aesthetic encounters have been most effective and suggests a new direction for aesthetic inquiry.

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0542-5
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xvi)
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    AESTHETICS IS A STUDY WITH A LONG HISTORY AND A SHORT IDENTITY. Like its root discipline philosophy, aesthetics has struggled to establish both itself and its subject matter, its material and its methodology, its proper problems and its structure, its order of working and its order of work. Yet aesthetics differs from some other regions of philosophical inquiry in that neither its origins, its data, nor its concepts are exclusively philosophical. The very existence of aesthetics as a discipline emerges from the effort to understand the activities and occasions of the arts and the appreciation of nature. And the aesthetician...


    • CHAPTER ONE Experience and theory in aesthetics
      (pp. 9-31)

      FROM THE EARLIEST TIMES ART HAS BEEN INTEGRAL TO HUMAN culture. Both fascinated and perplexed by the arts, people have tried, since the age of classical Greece, to understand how they work and what they mean. Philosophers wondered at first about the nature of art: what it is and how it relates to the cosmos. They puzzled over how art objects are created and they extolled human skills that seem at times godlike in their powers. But perhaps the central question for such philosophers as Plato and Aristotle concerned our involvement with art: the response we have to beautiful things,...

    • CHAPTER TWO The unity of aesthetic experience
      (pp. 32-50)

      THE ARTISTIC TRANSFORMATIONS THAT CONTRADICT THE INHERITED aesthetic of the eighteenth century are no anomaly in the history of the arts. They must not be dismissed as deviant, an unhappy though temporary digression from the true and proper course of things. They move, in fact, close to the far older tradition of artistic integration that is still a vital part of non-industrial cultures. Yet the philosophical landscape that has dominated both understanding and appreciation for some two centuries has shaped an aesthetics of separation, isolation, contemplation, and distance. So powerful has this doctrine been that criticism, explanation, and response have...


    • CHAPTER THREE The viewer in the landscape
      (pp. 53-75)

      PAINTING IS THE ART OF OBJECTSPAR EXCELLENCE.PAINTINGS ARE things, stretched canvases covered with colored oil, paper saturated with tinted water, firm surfaces coated with pigments that have been mixed with a vehicle so they can be spread, blended, and fixed in place. Paintings are typically hung on walls or placed on racks. They are produced individually by artist craftpersons, valued for their uniqueness, judged by their intrinsic properties, appraised for their ability to command a price on the auctioneer’s block, considered by the astute a sound investment of stable value, collected to join other treasured things. So much...

    • CHAPTER FOUR Architecture as environmental design
      (pp. 76-104)

      HOWEVER MUCH THE OTHER SENSES JOIN IN THE PERCEPTUAL EXPERIENCE of landscape painting, vision predominates. Because it is necessary for pictorial perception, the visual is the leading sensory strand, for without sight the kinesthetic, haptic, and other modalities of sensory awareness cannot join in. Even so, when we view a pictorial landscape as a participant, the senses combine synaesthetically, and the painting changes from a contemplative object into a world that we enter and in which we engage. Strether’s experience of the French countryside becomes our own.

      The perception of the physical environment resembles the experience of landscape painting, although...

    • CHAPTER FIVE The reader’s word
      (pp. 105-131)

      IT IS ONE OF THE DISCOVERIES OF RECENT LITERARY CRITICISM, perhaps its most far-reaching claim, that a text does not stand alone. A text requires a cohort of critics and readers, a literary public, a linguistic system, all surrounded by a larger society with its conventions and beliefs, and all placed in an ordered historical perspective to be interpreted and understood. Gone is the illusion, now known to be naive, that a literary text possesses a self-sufficient integrity, an integrity that imposes its own demands on anyone who comes to it, whether as innocent reader or deferential student. Moreover for...

    • CHAPTER SIX Musical generation
      (pp. 132-150)

      MUSIC SUFFERS IN DISCUSSION MORE THAN MOST ARTS. THE DIFFICULTIES of grasping the workings of an art whose materials of sound are intangible, elusive, and ephemeral are increased by the usual practice of employing physical and other alien metaphors to convey the activities of musical creation and appreciation. It is common to hear even musicians speak of constructing a composition, as if music were an object to be structured by joining together tones, chords, or melodic elements and arranging them in acceptable order by conformity to established metrical and formal patterns. The very word for the creation of music,compose,...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN Dance as performance
      (pp. 151-172)

      IT IS COMMONPLACE IN AESTHETICS TO DISTINGUISH BETWEEN those arts that center on a stable, relatively permanent object, such as a painting, a sculpture, or a building, and those that appear in the ephemeral form of a transient activity, such as music, theater and, most especially, dance. This division of the realm into performing and nonperforming arts has a certain common-sense plausibility that pleases our desire for order. Divide and organize has been the theme of Western intellectual life since classical times, reaching its zenith in the modem age of scientific analysis and technological mastery. Are there any alternatives to...

    • Illustrations
      (pp. None)

    • CHAPTER EIGHT Cinematic reality
      (pp. 175-189)

      FILM IS THE MASS ART OF OUR DAY. IT APPEARS TO PURVEY FANTASY to a huge market of people hungry for distraction from dull routine and for deliverance from a sense of anonymity and powerlessness. But cinema is not so much an art of escape as an art of entry. In this modem equivalent of crystal gazing everyone becomes his or her own clairvoyant, able to see beyond the ordinary limits of time and place to the farthest distances of artistic imagination. For film is a composite of magic carpet and time machine, capable of transporting us instantly to any...

    • CHAPTER NINE The realities of art
      (pp. 190-208)

      IN AN EXHIBITION IN THE MID-1980s AT THE POMPIDOU CENTER IN Paris, the philosopher J.-F. Lyotard attempted to show how our postmodern sensibility cannot allow us to accept the world simply as it is perceived. Reality, he holds, has become transformed into a complex and infinite network of meanings and codes, so that the appearances of our modern world offer only uncertain and unstable messages. These infinitely complex “immaterials” underlie and subvert the realities of our time, and the only recourse for perception and imagination, overwhelmed by the transformation of reality into elusive and indeterminable meanings, is to the concept...

    • CHAPTER TEN Epilogue: art and the end of aesthetics
      (pp. 209-214)

      PURSUING THE COURSE AND SIGNIFICANCE OF ART IN EXPERIENCE, history, and theory has led us beyond aesthetics proper into regions of philosophical query that we have only begun to probe. Yet the connections of aesthetics with other domains of philosophy are not casual, and there are unusual insights to be found here. Strong bonds tie aesthetics with epistemological and metaphysical inquiry, since taking experience as foundational leads to common or related concepts and structures. There are ethical and social implications, as well, carefully excised though they were during the eighteenth century, for normative experience is pervasive and knows no disciplinary...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 215-246)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 247-259)