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Art and Adaptability

Consciousness and Cognitive Culture

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Gregory F. Tague

Art and Adaptability argues for a co-evolution of theory of mind and material/art culture. The book covers relevant areas from great ape intelligence, hominin evolution, Stone Age tools, Paleolithic culture and art forms, to neurobiology. We use material and art objects, whether painting or sculpture, to modify our own and other people’s thoughts so as to affect behavior. We don’t just make judgments about mental states; we create objects about which we make judgments in which mental states are inherent. Moreover, we make judgments about these objects to facilitate how we explore the minds and feelings of others. The argument is that it’s not so much art because of theory of mind but art as theory of mind.

Cognitive Iconology

When and How Psychology Explains Images

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Ian Verstegen

Cognitive Iconology is a new theory of the relation of psychology to art. Instead of being an application of psychological principles, it is a methodologically aware account of psychology, art and the nature of explanation. Rather than fight over biology or culture, it shows how they must fit together. The term “cognitive iconology” is meant to mirror other disciplines like cognitive poetics and musicology but the fear that images must be somehow transparent to understanding is calmed by the stratified approach to explanation that is outlined. In the book, cognitive iconology is a theory of cognitive tendencies that contribute to but are not determinative of an artistic meaning. At the center of the book are three case studies: images depicted within images, basic corrections to architectural renderings in images, and murals and paintings seen from the side. In all cases, there is a primitive perceptual pull that contribute to but do not override larger cultural meaning. The book then moves beyond the confines of the image to behavior around the image, and then ends with the concluding question of why some images are harder to understand than others. Cognitive Iconology promises to be important because it moves beyond the turf battles typically fought in image studies. It argues for a sustainable practice of interpretation that can live with other disciplines.

Art in the Offertorium

Narcissism, Psychoanalysis, and Cultural Metaphysics

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Harvey Giesbrecht and Charles Levin

This book proposes a new approach to the problem of aesthetic experience in Western culture. Noting how art world phenomena evoke conventional psychoanalytic speculations about narcissism, the authors turn the tables and “apply” aesthetic questions and concerns to psychoanalytic theory. Experimenting with Freudian and post-Freudian concepts, they propose a non-normative theory of the psychic drive to address and embrace deep tensions in the post-Renaissance aesthetic project, the rise of modernism, and the contemporary art world. It is argued that these tensions reflect central conflicts in the development of patriarchal civilization, which the emergence of the aesthetic domain, as a specialized range of practice, exposes and subverts. The postmodern era of aesthetic reflection is interpreted as the outcome of a complex narcissistic dialectic of idealization and de-idealization that is significant for the understanding of contemporary culture and its historical prospects.

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Edited by Pascale Guibert

Too many landscapes have been reduced to silent commodities by being put into golden frames on top of our fireplaces. Too many landscapes have been reified by being considered as objects holding forth referents to an omnipotent looker-on, with his/her language ever ready to seize and transcribe. The articles gathered here, prolonging an international conference held at the University of Caen Basse-Normandie (France), 14-16 June 2007, set the landscapes loose again by engaging with their essentially relational quality.
What makes this volume particularly stimulating and critically innovative is this initial acknowledgement of a landscape’s reflectiveness – that is the fact that it contains unthought thought, and thus presents itself to us both passively and actively. This straightaway appraisal of the lines of flight in the seemingly static, tranquil images facing us, has opened the way to deeply critical readings bent on questioning old tracks, testing new itineraries, denying the closure of the subject. At the same time, and by way of consequence, it leads us to encounter the force in landscape. A force like an energy, an impetus, which makes it possible – if not advisable! – to still compose, read and enjoy landscapes in the XXIst century.

Patterns of Creativity

Investigations into the sources and methods of creativity

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Kevin Brophy

Patterns of Creativity reflects on the implications of recent neuro-science findings, evolutionary theory and linguistics for ideas about creativity and the practice of creativity.
Kevin Brophy approaches questions of art and creation from-the-inside, that is as a poet himself. The conclusions about what it might mean to be a creative writer are counter-intuitive. What might it mean to understand the production of art as an evolutionary process with no endpoint and no goal? If consciousness is a minor player in decision-making and problem-solving as recent neuro-science findings suggest, how best might an artist manage conscious intentions while seeking to make original art?
Brophy argues that consciousness must be managed in new ways if creativity is to be sourced, that much of what we learn in education is learned without consciousness being involved, that a writer must read with a particular agenda, that writing is itself a particular kind of communication beyond speech, requiring specific skills. He argues that the metaphor is not merely a poetic device but is central to the way human thought proceeds and the way communication happens. It is the strange and surprising view-from-within informed by those views science offers to art that preoccupy these investigations.

Touching Surfaces

Photographic Aesthetics, Temporality, Aging

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Anca Cristofovici

Who isn’t seduced by the idea of an affinity between aging and aesthetics? Yet, when does aging truly begin? What attributes does the aesthetic embrace? Looking into startling photographic art of the past three decades, this book is prompted by such questions and turns them into a meditation on how aesthetics mediates our relation to time.
The photographic approach of the corporeal is at the center of the book. Within a phenomenological framework, Cristofovici brings into focus the physical and the psychic body to read aging as a process of change and becoming over time. Her understanding of aging sees beyond difference into larger patterns of perceptions that we share.
Offering valuable insights into aging as a process of subject construction, this book will be of interest to students and scholars of visual culture, photography, art history, age studies, and theories of knowledge. This cross-disciplinary study that puts theory to the test of life’s and art’s paradoxes in an evocative style will also appeal to a wider readership interested in how photography and aging illuminate each other.

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Laurence Simmons

Freud’s Italian Journey takes the psychoanalytical texts of Freud on the visual arts and literature as its objects for analysis. While the biographical figure of Freud appears throughout its pages, it is not simply a psychobiographical reading of Freud, his personal circumstances and their relationship to his texts. Rather the processes of interpretation begun by Freud are turned on Freud himself, thus eventually displacing and questioning his theoretical mastery. Freud’s Italian Journey also argues that Freud’s interest in, frequent journeys to, and obsession with Italy profoundly shaped and informed his elaboration of psychoanalysis. The volume organizes its material around the major Italian cities which were the destinations of Freud’s travel, and the sites of the artworks he examined. Freud’s many Italian holidays were crucial for his self-analysis and methodology, but it is also argued here that his papers on Italian subjects must be read as texts marked by fascination and allurement, crossed with anxiety and resistance, inscribed by memory and forgetting. Journeys to Italy heightened Freud’s sense of the visual, and it is contended that the visual dimension of Freud’s writing is crucial to an understanding of his elaboration of the theory of psychoanalysis. The relation between image and text is at the heart of Freud’s analysis of works of art as he founds a critical methodology in which the two are interrelated, image illustrating idea and idea needing to express itself in image, but neither finally resolvable into the other. Thus the argument of Freud’s Italian Journey follows as its model the famous elaboration of the fort:da game by Freud, moving back and forth between Freud’s life and his texts, between psychoanalytical and philosophical systems, between the written and the visual. This leads to the broader conclusion that Freud might provide the key to a new practice of criticism, and a new way of ‘seeing’ and understanding visual images.

Picturing Mind

Paradox, Indeterminacy and Consciousness in Art & Poetry

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John Danvers

In this book the author takes an unusual multi-disciplinary approach to debates about contemporary art and poetry, ideas about the mind and its representations, and theories of knowledge and being. Arts practices are considered as enactments of mind and as transformative modes of consciousness. Ideas drawn from poetics, philosophy and consciousness studies are used to illuminate the conceptual and aesthetic frameworks of a diverse array of visual artists. Themes explored include: the interconnectedness of existence; art as a way of interrogating appearances; identity and otherness; art and the self as ‘open work’; Buddhist concepts of ‘emptiness’ and ‘suchness’; scepticism, mysticism and the arts; and mind in the landscape. The book contains an important and distinctive visual dimension with photographs and drawings by the author and texts employing unorthodox syntax and layouts that exemplify the themes under discussion. The author hints at a new aesthetics and philosophy of indeterminacy, paradox, uncertainty and discontinuity - a contrarium - in which we negotiate our way through the instabilities and contradictions of contemporary life. Written in a lively and accessible style this volume is of interest to scholars, arts practitioners, teachers and to anyone with an interest in art, poetry, consciousness studies, philosophy and nature.
Artists, poets and philosophers discussed, include: Cy Twombly, Helen Chadwick, John Ruskin, Ad Reinhardt, Richard Long, James Turrell, Anish Kapoor, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Agnes Martin, Land Art, Arte Povera, Minimalism, Charles Olson, Kenneth White, Robin Blaser, Fred Wah, Gary Snyder, RS Thomas, Alice Oswald, John Cage, Jorge Luis Borges, Guy Davenport, Kenneth Rexroth, Heidegger, Marjorie Perloff, Thomas McEvilley, Merleau-Ponty, Spinoza, Wittgenstein, Roland Barthes, Umberto Eco, David Abram, Thomas Merton, Pyrrho & Nagarjuna.

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Edited by Godela Weiss-Sussex and Franco Bianchini

Urban mindscapes are structures of thinking about a city, built on conceptualisations of the city’s physical landscape as well as on its image as transported through cultural representation, memory and imagination.
This book pursues three main strands of inquiry in its exploration of these ‘landscapes of the mind’ in a European context. The first strand concerns the theory and methodology of researching urban mindscapes and urban ‘imaginaries’. The second strand investigates some of the representations, symbols and collective images that feed into our understanding of European cities. It discusses representations of the city in literature, film, television and other cultural forms, which, in James Donald’s phrase, constitute ‘archives of urban images’. The third and last section of the volume concentrates on the relationship between the collective mindscapes of cities, urban policy and the practice of city marketing.