To make an aesthetic judgment

Further musings on Fear & Anxiety 

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?!

brotherus-elina-4

Elina Brotherus: Rotten Tomatoes2014

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.

 


ps: Ngai is actually also a great companion to Grace Paley

2 comments on “To make an aesthetic judgment

  1. 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 don’t really understand what she is saying. Justification of what? The art or the critics opinion about it? And when she says it is complicated trying to convince others of an opinion (again I am not sure if it is about that or the thing…) coming up with a way that appeals to all social strata, well, duh, or does “socially complicated” mean something else.
    But I have to admit, I feel like I am swimming through molasses just reading those few paragraphs of hers.
    As far as the church of Art goes, I am one of those believers who just gets a kick out of coming in out of the cold for while to enjoy a free glass of communion while marveling at some of the really amazing stuff these lunatics are doing. Even when it’s less than amazing I still feel happy to know the monkeys are still throwing it at the wall and getting invited to parties.
    I just started reading “The Art of Rivalry” by Sebastian Smee. Great gossipy fun.

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