Session II: The View from Today (Taney Roniger)

From the identification of form with the creatural and feminine all the way to Whitehead, the verbing of form, and the origins, original intentions, and valuable dimensions of humanism: the ground covered over the last few days has been as expansive as it has been rich. Although today brings with it a new set of questions, panelists are encouraged to further pursue any issues raised in Session I that beg deeper exploration. Below is the introduction to Session II along with some new points to consider.

Session II

The View from Today: Rebuilding Foundations

Sunday, December 6 – Monday, December 7


In light of new understandings in the sciences about the intelligence of the human body and the shift toward posthumanist ontologies in contemporary philosophy (the various new materialisms, ecophilosophy, relational ontology), art is being called upon to revise some of its longstanding assumptions. In this session we will explore how posthumanist thinking in other fields can help us reconceive the nature of aesthetic form, the form/content dichotomy, and how form acts on the human body.



2.1 If the human organism is now understood to be part of a complex web of biological, ecological, and cosmological relations, can aesthetic form be reimagined as a means by which we engage with that larger complexity?


2.2 Given recent advances in cognitive science that have brought to light the emotional and somatic underpinnings of human reason, can meaning in art be reconstrued so that it includes more than just discursive meaning?


2.3 With those same advances suggesting the inseparability of the senses from cognition, can we retire once and for all the form/content dichotomy? Can we advance a new understanding of form that expands the term to enfold content within it – a distinctly anti-Greenbergian kind of form that takes us out of ourselves, out of art, and into the world beyond us?


2.4 If visual perception is now understood to be something we do with our entire bodies, how does visual form act on the body of the viewer?


2.5 If the perception of form can be considered an act of cognition, what is the nature of this kind of thinking?


2.6 Given posthumanism’s ecological understanding of the self, can we conceive of a new generation of identity art (the current trend that focuses on the racial and gender identity of the artist) that would reflect this more complex and distributed sense of selfhood? Is there a role for form in identity art’s transition away from its fixation on the separate individual?



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