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Archive of the posts written by author : nannyrhops.

“What if…?”:

What if we just took the “what if?” state of mind to be playing? I find I really need a definition, and this is both simple and versatile (I can’t be the only one who finds the concept of play both critical —…

What can’t be photographed

The photographs sent back to earth from Mars have a kind of “signature,” something that both acknowledges the colossal technical achievement of the mission and clearly signals its photographic limits. In particular, many of the images released by NASA are composites or mosaics.…

Honeywell

At the September meeting of Telltales (writing group based in Falmouth), I read “Honeywell”, a short piece about the Minneapolis company now gone global.  It was a response to the theme chosen for that session, which was “honey” in all thinkable compounds, e.g.…

Writing and Digging

  My first reading at Telltales (the writers group in Falmouth–see last post) was called “Daisies”.  It’s pretty much a description of something that happened to me–hard to say exactly when, but within the past year.  Gardening, which for me meant first digging…

The Blind Photographer

I recently reviewed this book (in Source: The Photographic Review 87).  The information–both the images and the slight details about the photographers–is more than sufficient to provoke a rethinking of vision itself.  I would have appreciated a more considered organizational structure and more…

True Translation

Translation was such an integral part of Flusser’s writing practice that it seems intrusive to translate again, or to translate what he did not.  He was not in any way reassuring about the issue either:  “…I believe that the only ‘true’ translation is the…

The Visibility of the Image

I am pleased to be the translator of this, the second edition of Lambert Wiesing’s Die Sichtbarkeit des Bildes.  The book, first published in 1996,  draws on the history of formal aesthetics to present an introduction to contemporary image theory.  The publisher gives a…

Flusser and Habits

Flusser uses the word “habit” [Gewohnheit] almost exclusively to mean something that is not conscious, something that in fact obscures or inhibits conscious reflection.  He frequently referred to habits as “veils,” obscuring possibilities of thinking freshly.  He also described the responsibility of an…

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Aesthetic Education

I hope against hope that someday “aesthetic” might be widely understood as something that is NOT always, inevitably, associated with art. If that were the case, perhaps more people would see that we are all making aesthetic judgments, decisions, “gestures” as Flusser put it, all the time (“gestures” include speech and writing as well as, say, genuflection), and that such expressions “say” a great deal about us, what’s basic about us. For human beings’ most logic-resistant loyalties, ranging from harmless preferences to the fiercest commitments, are fundamentally aesthetic.  “I like it” or “I don’t like it” is probably the most familiar expression of an aesthetic judgement (although it can, sometimes, misleadingly refer to a logical or ethical decision).  An aesthetic judgment aligns the speaker on his or her own grounds, without implying any logical or ethical foundation or imposing any tacit obligation to explain or defend.  There is invariably some aesthetic dimension in any of our judgments, whether other people, ideas, rituals, institutions, substances, sounds or tastes. It is NOT restricted to arts!

If you are in conversation with someone about an activity that involves aesthetic decisions (this is likely to be cooking or gardening or shopping for clothes, but it could be anything), the sentences in the exchange will probably include plenty of logical or ethical propositions: does the object or material or plant or fabric serve an intended purposes, fit in a given space, appropriately mark an occasion?  But there will also be statements about aesthetic preferences. When you hear a phrase such as “If it were me, I’d buy that one” or, “That recipe is too complicated for me,” your conversation partner is acknowledging the aesthetic dimension in what you are doing, expressing an awareness that aesthetic responses will differ, and offering reassurance that he or she is prepared to accept this particular difference.   

Suppose that big commitments, such as religious belief or sexual orientation are just as aesthetic at heart as more familiar, less binding ones, such as what you like for breakfast, or which art works resonate with you, or how you feel about trying something new. If the aesthetic dimension really is critical with respect to the big questions, it would be worth building it into even the most basic education.  If people could be more aware of their own aesthetics – their own values – and of how these differ from other people’s, we might be able to heal some of the rifts that currently make us so miserable.  

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