The other day, while stumbling around in my research on anxiety & fear, I came across Sianne Ngai. Her studies of (& writings on) minor feelings is absolutely great! Her thoughts are very provocative to me as an art critic (that is to me as a person trying to make sensible evaluations & assessments of art), and extremely liberating & enjoyable to me as a feminist.
Here is from an interview conducted in 2011:
Sianne Ngai on the underlying connection between affects and aesthetic experience:
I think Gerard Genette is right to say that all of our aesthetic predicates are “objectifications” of feeling. To make an aesthetic judgment, with all its necessary claims for universality, is to project one’s feelings onto the object in such a totalizing fashion that the “actually subjective” basis of the judgment of aesthetic quality ends up being somewhat incidental to how we experience or understand that quality.
I wonder – what would Kant say to this?!
Contemporary theorists continue to attribute the specificity of aesthetic experience to the presence of a special, singular emotion like “disinterestedness.” Yet most of our aesthetic experiences are based on combinations of ordinary feelings.
Ordinary feelings – wonderfully inclusive, isn’t it?!
And here is to the critic in me:
The justification of aesthetic judgments, which will always involve an appeal to extra-aesthetic judgments—political, moral, historical, cognitive, and so on—is, I think, the really interesting heart of all aesthetic discourse and experience. Aesthetics is a discourse not just of pleasure and evaluation, but of justification. How we talk about pleasure and displeasure turns out to be a very rhetorically tricky and socially complicated thing.
I must admit Ngai is too theoretical for me. It is of course mine and not her problem. I take philosophy only in minor dosages these days. Still I must say I find her discussion on aesthetics … (hm, what shall I say)… interesting – yes, definitively interesting. But if I was to continue thinking about minor feelings, I would have had to interweave my research with lots of everyday ordinary art.
sketcher, reader, writer