Aesthetic Practice

It occurs to me that there may be some value in conceiving a notion of aesthetic practice. Aesthetics typically appears as a field that is secondary to the primary phenomenon of art (and art practice), but I wish to argue otherwise: both that aesthetics precedes the contemporary notion of art; and also that aesthetic practice is broader than art practice. The value of this conception is not only that it acknowledges the philosophical breadth of aesthetics, but also that it enables a reflection beyond the dilemmas of art – its awkward cultural and institutional positioning. Art practice, in my view, is an aspect of aesthetic practice, but it does not exhaust it. Aesthetic practice is not limited to the field of art. This is not simply a matter of conceptual definition and redefinition. It gets to the heart of the scope and the potential of aesthetics as form of rich and at time incisive cultural practice. It may seem strange to associate ‘aesthetics’ as a realm of philosophical reflection with ‘practice’ as a realm of social action. My notion of aesthetics will suggest a critique of the perceived gap between reflection and action, which can, of course, be related to the social and economic distinction between consumption and production. I am suggesting a soft notion of practice that questions and unsettles this binary schema. Practice need not be restricted to the realm of the conventionally productive – of making. It can, for instance, also be about repetition and maintenance. It can also represent a lived relation to the existent.

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