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

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

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Practical Aesthetics brings a pursuit, long seen as rarefied and indulgent, out of the ivory tower and down to Ground Zero. Theoretically ambitious, fiercely original, it is a radical new account of art's rootedness in the social world and of the value of aesthetics to contemporary society. Beginning with the cultural watershed of 9/11, internationally-renowned scholar 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 its 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 which 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.

Author Info

Jill Bennett is Professor and Director of the National Institute for Environmental Arts, and Associate Dean of the College of Fine Arts at the University of New South Wales. She is the author of Empathic Vision (2005), a study of art and traumatic events.


'Jill Bennett is one of the strongest as well as most subtle voices in contemporary art criticism and theory. Her work on affect has been widely recognized. Starting from the position of art as contemporary defined as orientation to real-world experience Bennett here develops a range of perspectives and concepts to understand how art can address world-shattering disasters as well as mundane but incisive developments in visual culture. 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 Cultural Theorist, Critic, Video Artist and Professor at Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA), University of Amsterdam

‘[the book] itself is a kind of encounter, inspiring further creative thinking ... Practical Aesthetics will play a key role in reattaching art to the social.’
Amelia Jones, Professor and Grierson Chair in Visual Culture at McGill University, author of Seeing Differently: A History and Theory of Identification and the Visual Arts

‘In her remarkable new book, Jill Bennett proposes a radical rethinking of aesthetics ... indispensable and richly suggestive for cultural studies, critical theory, and contemporary art.’
Abigail Solomon-Godeau, critic, curator and Professor Emeritus of History of Art at the 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

'A highly significant intervention in contemporary efforts to think through relationships between art and politics... [Practical Aesthetics] is a major contribution to contemporary art theory.'
Nicholas Chare, The Year’s Work in Critical and Cultural Theory

Bibliographic Info

Imprint: I.B.Tauris
Publisher: I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd.
Series: Radical Aesthetics Radical Art

ISBN: 9781780761459
Publication Date: 29 Aug 2012
Number of Pages: 256
Height: 216
Width: 134
Illustrations: 30 integrated bw illustrations, 24 colour in 16pp plates

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