2005 Conference

AAANZ 2005 Conference

Transforming Aesthetics

Art Gallery of New South Wales

7–9 July 2005

Francesco Clemente, Water and wine 1981
gouache on paper 243 x 248 cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales © Francesco Clemente

Keynote Speakers | Nicolas Bourriard – Ernst Van Alphen – Jane Taylor – Sean Cubitt – Andrew Benjamin

The 2005 conference was presented by the Art Association of Australia and New Zealand (NSW Chapter) in association with the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Centre for Contemporary Art and Politics, UNSW.

View the program here (pdf)

Transforming Aesthetics explores the response of aesthetic theory to new forms of art and exhibition practice, emerging in relation to post-9/11 politics, globalisation, post-colonialism and the demise of Euro-centrism. The entanglement of art with politics frequently prompts art theorists to import concepts from cultural/political theory. But art is not simply a field of application for theory; rather, concepts and theories may be understood to emerge from the visual. For this reason it is crucial to attend to the specifics of visual or aesthetic languages. New forms of political and post-colonial practice call for a new set of critical terms – for an expansion and re-evaluation of the field of aesthetic theory. Thus this conference maps the ongoing transformation of aesthetics.

Framework and foci:
A significant trend in contemporary thought holds that the links between things are more important than the meaning of an object in isolation. Michel Serres argues that we no longer need ontology but desmology (desmos = link). Within contemporary art theory there has been a shift away from the study of meaning toward the study of process: in Deleuze’s words, art is defined not by what it means but by what it does. Nicolas Bourriaud has coined the term ‘relational art’, proposing that the art object is no longer materially or conceptually defined, but relationally.

Artists, curators and theorists have long understood that context – both physical and cultural – is fundamental to the perception of art. International ‘biennale’ exhibitions that survey contemporary practice provide a structure in which the issues of relationality become unavoidable: how does an artwork change when it is transplanted to a new setting and viewed in a new cultural, social or political context; and how do we understand the relations between different works, juxtaposed in an exhibition?

Postcolonialism and theories of globalisation have provided a framework for identifying new kinds of transcultural relationships in the arts – but what kind of aesthetics does this call for? In addition to Bourriaud’s ‘relational aesthetics’, theorists – as well as curators and artists – have advanced concepts such as ‘empathy’ as critical terms for understanding visual art dynamics.
Building on the previous AAANZ NSW Chapter conferences, this conference  focused on new understandings of the dynamics of art, and of the ‘links between’.

The conference sessions highlighted different concepts or tropes of relationality such as interculturalism, transnationalism/globalism and subjective relations such as ‘empathy’.

  • Sessions included:
    Relational aesthetics
    Rethinking the anti-aesthetic tradition
    How images shape contemporary thought (art-driven aesthetics)
    The impact of non-western and postcolonial art on aesthetic discourse
    The inter-cultural and the transcultural
    Distributed Aesthetics and new media art