Wednesday, July 17, 2019
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Aesthetics Equals Politics

The essays in Aesthetics Equals Politics make the case for a reignited understanding of aesthetics—one that casts aesthetics not as illusory, subjective, or superficial, but as a more encompassing framework for human activity. Such an aesthetics, the contributors suggest, could become the primary discourse for political and social engagement. Departing from the “critical” stance of twentieth-century artists and theorists who embraced a counter-aesthetic framework for political engagement, this book documents how a broader understanding of aesthetics can offer insights into our relationships not only with objects, spaces, environments, and ecologies, but also with each other and the political structures in which we are all enmeshed. The contributors—philosophers, media theorists, artists, curators, writers and architects including such notable figures as Jacques Rancière, Graham Harman, and Elaine Scarry—build a compelling framework for a new aesthetic discourse. The book opens with a conversation in which Rancière tells the volume’s editor, Mark Foster Gage, that the aesthetic is “about the experience of a common world.” The essays following discuss such topics as the perception of reality; abstraction in ethics, epistemology, and aesthetics as the “first philosophy”; Afrofuturism; Xenofeminism; philosophical realism; the productive force of alienation; and the unbearable lightness of current creative discourse. Excerpt from the Preface of Aesthetics Equals Politics: New Discourses across Art, Architecture, and Philosophy, edited by Mark Foster Gage: “…this book speculates about how aesthetics might become the primary discourse for a next generation of social and therefore ecological, spatial, and political engagement. In contrast to commonly held opinions that these issues are antithetical to the aesthetic, this book explores the belief that such political and ontological problems might be best addressed, even exclusively, as aspects of aesthetic experience, particularly for creative practices that actively seek to be socially engaged through new formats. This book, as such, is an act of speculation regarding how a reignited discourse of aesthetics and the extended space of its influence can prompt new understandings of not only objects, spaces, environments, and ecologies, but also with each other and the political structures in which we are all enmeshed.” Contributors to the book include – Mark Foster Gage, Jacques Rancière, Elaine Scarry, Graham Harman, Timothy Morton, Ferda Kolatan, Adam Fure, Michael Young, Nettrice R. Gaskins, Roger Rothman, Diann Bauer, Matt Shaw, Albena Yaneva, Brett Mommersteeg, Lydia Kallipoliti, Ariane Lourie Harrison, Rhett Russo, Peggy Deamer, Caroline Picard Aesthetics Equals Politics is published by the MIT Press and is available for sale at

Science, philosophy, politics and art: Josiah McElheny at Stanford museum

A master in the craft of glasswork, beginning in 2004 he took upon himself the four-year task of reinterpreting the Met’s so-called “sputniks” for his work “Island Universe.” The five sculptures he made, along with related works on paper and a 20-minute film, are on view at Stanford University’s Cantor Arts Center through Aug. 18. Following repair in 2016 of the machinery that raises and lowers the Metropolitan Opera’s crystal chandeliers, the Met produced this video to announce that the light fixtures “once again rise elegantly to the ceiling to signal the beginning of each performance.” The chandeliers partly inspired Josiah McElheny’s “Island Universe.” This video by the Metropolitan Opera, used by permission, is not the artist’s film shown in the exhibition. McElheny was awarded a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” in 2006. He is surely the only glass artist to achieve that distinction, and it was based primarily upon the conceptual rigor of his work, not his exquisite craftsmanship. Or, as in the case of “Island Universe,” teases out the significance that lies behind the ornamental surface of utilitarian objects. Hans Harald Rath, designer for the Austrian glassware company Lobmeyr, worked closely with architect Wallace K. Harrison, who so wanted to invoke space and the stars that he sent to Rath a book by a prominent astrophysicist, marking specific pages. It was 1963, just as the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe was entering popular consciousness. McElheny’s installation at the Cantor is evidence of an ever deeper investigation, referencing ideas of our universe as just one “island” among many. “The center is everywhere,” Blanqui wrote, which suggests a democracy of the physical world. “Josiah McElheny: Island Universe”: 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Wednesday-Monday; until 8 p.m. Thursdays.

Progressive politics have done nothing to help black America

During a lecture at the Library of Conservatism in Germany, British philosopher Sir Roger Scruton described conservatism as a philosophy that recognizes and acknowledges that good things are easily destroyed but not easily created, such as law, peace, freedom, civility, the security of property and family life. He states “the work of destruction is quick, easy and exhilarating.” “The work of creation is slow, laborious and dull.” For the African American, the journey from captivity to slavery, to eventual freedom was indeed painful and laborious. The life and community they once enjoyed were easily destroyed. Out of their struggle was born “Black Conservatism” that became inherent to future generations. The emphasis was born out of their struggle and was a means by which they could preserve themselves and their developing culture and heritage. African Americans are the quintessential example of it means to be conservative. Black Americans have not benefited from their loyalty to experimental and foreign beliefs of the left. African Americans can no longer be indifferent to this failure and must return back to their conservative roots and be skeptical of both political parties, while spreading their influence with their vote to both parties, enabling the maximization of political power, while conserving and preserving their interest. As Sir Scruton accurately stated, it is easy to destroy, but to create is a slow, arduous and dull process. That is not to say that Republicans should automatically get the African American vote because that trust must be earned, but the African American can slowly dictate the future of the Republican Party by participating in selecting the best candidates who are representative of Conservatism that has the interest of African Americans.

Jason Kander has written a book that’s more philosophy than politics

WASHINGTON • Jason Kander has written a book that is as much about his fealty to Taco Bell, baseball and pop culture as it is a paean to politics, the profession that he writes he will never apologize for pursuing. “Outside the Wire,” which is due to be released Aug. 7 by the Hachette Book Group, is mostly about the 2016 Missouri Senate candidate’s life philosophy. But Kander, a Democrat who last month announced that he would run for mayor of Kansas City, makes it clear that his life’s vocation will center around seeking public office. “Outside the Wire” refers to Kander’s tour in Afghanistan as an Army intelligence officer. He joined the military in the wake of 9/11, he writes, because of a “burning sense of obligation” to serve his country. “Outside the wire” is a reference to convoys out of American military bases in Afghanistan, where U.S. troops have fought for 17 years. Everything from “The West Wing” to “Blazing Saddles” is invoked. Kander says he didn’t reject raising money from big donors because it would have been akin to his Kansas City Royals giving up their designated hitter in the “name of ideological purity” while opponents kept their DH. Blunt beat Kander by less than 3 points. • Although Kander singles out a few Missouri politicians and political figures for criticism (he writes that Republican mega-donor Rex Sinquefield’s hobby is “collecting Missouri politicians”) Kander tends to dispense his barbs to groups.