DFG-Graduiertenkolleg 2477 - Ästhetische Praxis

The Research Training Group 2477 "Aesthetic Practice", funded by the German Research Foundation, seeks answers to the question of what happens when people become artistically active. In doing so, we expand the focus of traditional European aesthetics and art studies, which since the establishment of aesthetics in the 18th century has been on aesthetic experiences, perceptions, and judgments, to include a practice-theoretical component. The focus of attention is on aesthetic forms of making and performing that can, but do not have to, enter into the production of works of art.

The research work of the Kolleg focuses on a total of three areas: First, the cultural studies analysis of such diverse arts as theater, performance, visual arts, literature, and music as practices. Second, the study of non-European, especially East Asian, aesthetic practices, opening up an intercultural and postcolonial perspective. Third, the elaboration of a comprehensive social and cultural theory of practice that allows us to adequately describe the relationship between artistic and non-artistic practices.

In the second funding period, three new emphases will be set within these areas. Firstly, the focus will be on critical aesthetic practices and possible aesthetic forms of articulating critique. The focus is thus on the potential of critique associated with the performative sense of aesthetic practice, for example of reified forms of practice and life, as well as the corresponding epistemic orders of justification.
Secondly, the intersections between decolonization and aesthetic practice will be examined. The decolonization of basic aesthetic concepts and methods not only takes place via a self-critique of European philosophical aesthetics, but also takes up a decolonial critique that is being articulated from different directions worldwide today. The aim is to explore the possibilities of decolonizing aesthetics in order to critically analyse the manifold colonial entanglements of the European art world as well as the theoretical foundations of Western aesthetics that have neglected practice. Thirdly, the question of how practice can be adequately observed and, above all, described will be methodologically elaborated. The aim is to establish a descriptology of practice that pays particular attention to the temporality, processuality and transformative potential of practices.

In the RTG "Aesthetic Practice", ten doctoral positions and two postdoc positions are funded.

The positions in the third doctoral cohort (TV-L E13 65%, duration: 01.04.2025 - 31.03.2028) will be advertised in fall 2024.

Project duration: 01.04.2019 - 30.03.2028

Latest news:
The Research Training Group congratulates Simon Niemann and Marie-Charlotte Simons on the successful completion of their doctorates with the thesis defense in the summer semester 2024! We are pleased with you, thank you very much for the time together.

Photos in the Burgtheater by Daniel Kunzfeld, Photos outside by Clemens Heidrich

 

Concept

The Centre examines aesthetic practice as a phenomenon sui generis. In doing so, we expand the focus of traditional philosophical aesthetics and art studies, which since the establishment of the concept of aesthetics in the 18th century has been on the specifics of aesthetic experiences, perceptions and judgements, from a practice-theoretical perspective. Forms of making and performing the aesthetic, which can culminate in the production and reception of works of art, but are by no means limited to this, move to the centre of attention. The praxeological turn in aesthetic and cultural studies that we propose is motivated by a reflexive development of the arts that has been recognisable since late modernism and which has increasingly referred to the practical contexts of art in recent decades, as well as by a newly awakened philosophical and cultural studies interest in forms of activity beyond actions that can be described in intentionalist terms. The renaissance of an understanding of practice as an act was in turn influenced by the increasing academic exploration of non-European aesthetic practices. Accordingly, the research work of the research group focuses on three areas: 1) the cultural-scientific analysis of such diverse arts as theatre, performance, visual arts, literature and music as practices. From a comparative perspective, 2) the integration of non-European aesthetic practices - with a focus on East Asia - and the accompanying theory formation in tradition and the present, an intercultural perspective that will serve as a corrective to the forgetfulness of practice in a European tradition of norm-forming aesthetic concepts. 3) Based on the theoretical combination of both research areas as well as current debates on praxeology and the practice turn, a comprehensive theory of aesthetic practice will be developed and constellated in an interdisciplinary manner. The focus on aesthetic practices is also intended to prepare an expanded understanding of practice as a whole and to extend current praxeological debates beyond their hitherto largely social-scientific framework. This specific approach is embedded in a qualification concept that is dynamically adapted to the doctoral phase, which is based on the tradition of cultural studies research in Department 2 Cultural Studies and Aesthetic Communication and is also integrated into current transdisciplinary research at the location. In particular, the theory-practice connection profiled in Hildesheim, which has proven itself not only in research but also in teaching, forms an important prerequisite for the research programme of the research training group.

 

Research

On the basis of performativity- and event-theory aesthetic analysis, the working definition of aesthetic practice can be described as performance or enaction, which is to be understood neither in terms of intentional and rule-governed activity nor of passive experience, but instead refers to a “middle ground” or “in-between” (in the sense of the reflexive verb, which is both or in between active and passive), a relationality in which subject and object first take shape. The term aesthetic is used here to describe a practice that both allows its results to become visible in the light of their performative enaction, as well as its performance to become visible through its results. Focusing on this understanding of aesthetic practice, the Research Training Group pursues the following research objectives:

 

1) We place the focus on the irreducible specificity (“Eigensinn”) of aesthetic activity with respect to its subjects, institutional frameworks, and results. The production, performance and reception of institutionalised and professionalised artwork, but also aesthetic forms of activity outside established art institutions, are described and analysed from a cultural-studies and philosophical perspective on the basis of the forms of practice that facilitate them and are facilitated by them. Further, we aim for a practice-theoretical transformation of the aesthetics of philosophy and individual academic disciplines that would no longer be restricted to work-centred approaches nor primarily analyse aesthetic practices as preliminary to the production of works of art. We here understand the specific character of aesthetic practice to constitute an irreducibility of the practical to pre-given structures or agents.

From this perspective we thus look beyond the restriction of traditional aesthetic, art-studies and cultural-studies research to the artefacts and productions of high culture or the “fine arts”. Aesthetic practices of the past and present are not limited to the works that happen to have found their way into established cultural archives; hence they must also be investigated in other contexts, in the so called minor or applied arts as well as in popular and everyday culture. Based on research on agency in British cultural studies, for example, we are also interested in the varied forms of interaction between (classical) cultural archives and quotidian creative activity.

 

2) With the International Congress of Aesthetics in Japan in 2001, international discourse on aesthetics took on a global orientation. The subsequent international congresses in Rio de Janeiro (2004), Ankara (2007), Beijing (2010), Krakow (2013) and Seoul (2016) testify to the further globalisation as well as the decolonisation of aesthetic discourses. In order to expand the perspectives of the Research Training Group beyond the European/Western horizon, aesthetic practices and theoretical approaches to art from East Asia (Japan, China) are included. This focus promises, on the one hand, the potential for illuminating contrasts when it comes to the organisation of the arts and their practices; on the other hand, perhaps no other non-European region has made as noteworthy a contribution to the field of aesthetics in the last hundred years. In our perspective this contribution forms an essential part of aesthetic theorisation. The latent eurocentrism of classical aesthetics will be further sidelined by the selection of invited guests with special areas of expertise in the global orientation of aesthetics, which in Europe is still in its early stages. The Research Training Group works to pave the way here.

 

3) On the basis of developments in praxeology (Reckwitz 2003, 2008, 2016; Schäfer 2016; Klein/Göbel 2017) and the practice turn (Schatzki 2001; Schatzki/Knorr Cetina/von Savigny 2001; Bernstein 2010) in cultural studies, as well as a renaissance of the concepts of praxis and poiesis in neo-Aristotelian work on the interrelations of second nature, forms of life, and forms of practice (McDowell 2001; Thompson 2011; Stekeler-Weithofer 2010; Kertscher/Müller 2015), the members of the Research Training Group develop methods that allow aesthetic practices to be described on the basis of experience, in a conceptually differentiated manner and in a concise form. In doing so, we are guided by ways in which the enaction of aesthetic production, performance and experience is reflected in individual arts and the activities of daily life. We interpret works and performances as the expression of an implicit practical knowledge corresponding to them, a knowledge that involves their social context and reception. We investigate what knowledge we may have of both artistic and everyday aesthetic practices, where the limits of this knowledge lie, and how these activities in turn respond to the limits of this knowledge. By focusing on practice, a genuine mode of human activity comes into view that, as Aristotle already showed, has its end in itself, in its performance, which is contingent in not being necessitated by any preceding conditions and, at the same time, is shared and experienced as in itself pleasurable and collectively meaningful. As an example of such a practice Aristotle cites music, which he considers to be a model, in its autotelic performability, for all other kinds of practice, especially political practice: as he writes in Politics, only one who has learned through aesthetic performances not “to be always seeking after the useful” can become a good citizen – one who, on the basis of an aesthetically practiced sense of freedom, participates capably in political action.

In accordance with these objectives, the Research Training Group establishes a practice-theoretical approach to the arts and aesthetic everyday practices that goes well beyond the European horizon. It assumes that aesthetic practice as a form of activity cannot be adequately understood in terms of an intentionalist theory of action, nor can it be reduced to mere effects of the self-reproduction of art as an autonomous institution, as a social system, or as a cultural economy. Utilising the results of anti-reductionist practical theory, as well as classical concepts such as Aristotelian praxis and poiesis, the Research Training Group examines what happens when people are aesthetically active and experience themselves as such. Participants in the Research Training Group investigate ways of engaging with and theorising this activity, an activity that often – though by no means in all cases – emerges in the form of “works of art”.