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Practical Aesthetics: Events, Affects and Art After 9/11

Practical Aesthetics: Events, Affects and Art After 9/11

Practical Aesthetics brings a pursuit long seen as rarefied and indulgent out of the ivory tower and down to Ground Zero. Theoretically ambitious and fiercely original, it is a radical new account of art’s foundation in the social world and of the value of aesthetics to contemporary society.

Beginning with the cultural watershed of 9/11, internationally renowned scholar, Professor Jill Bennett, explores artistic developments in relation to current events to argue that understanding aesthetics is as vital to social and political theory as it is to the arts.

Taking as a starting-point a definition of art as the critical, self-conscious manipulation of media, Bennett examines a wide range of events from the War on Terror to the football World Cup to elucidate how aesthetic perception works in a social field—a process that begins with the rich emotional content of the visual imagery with which we are constantly bombarded. Now more than ever, Bennett argues, understanding how what we see informs what we do is not merely an artistic endeavour but one that is fundamental to our very being.

Part of the "Radical Aesthetics, Radical Art" series, this book challenges the notion that art and ‘real life’ are somehow opposed. Practical Aesthetics proposes a new way of reading contemporary artworks—and a new understanding of how fundamental art is to our social survival.

“Jill Bennett is one of the strongest as well as most subtle voices in contemporary art criticism and theory… Her approach vigorously refutes any attempt to lock art up in disciplines be they art history of visual culture. Instead, she proposes whole-field analysis and, taking her cue from the art itself, she demonstrates the value of such an approach beyond disciplinary boundaries.” Mieke Bal, University of Amsterdam

“…Bennett proposes a radical rethinking of aesthetics ... indispensable and richly suggestive for cultural studies, critical theory, and contemporary art.”
Abigail Solomon-Godeau, University of California

“Bennett…is not out simply to resuscitate aesthetics and formalism, but rather expand how we might engage with them... Moments like her analysis of Havoc find the compelling balance between attention to form and the cultural baggage it carries.”
Los Angeles Review of Books


I.B. Tauris

Published date

October, 2012