Tag Archives: Adorno

Call for Papers: What is the relevance of Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory today?

International Conference Call for Papers

What is the relevance of Adorno’s
Aesthetic Theory today?

Organized through the Université Renne 2


In his Theory of the Avant-Garde Peter Bürger maintained that “the norm of all contemporary aesthetic theory is Adorno’s aesthetics.” What remains of this “norm” of Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory more than forty years after its publication?

This two-day international conference will take place at the University of Rennes 2, in October 2017, and will be presided by Christophe David (senior lecturer, History and Critique of the Arts) and Florent Perrier (senior lecturer, Practical Arts and Poetics). The conference will be conducted in French and English.

This call of papers is addressed to scholars working in aesthetics, in philosophy of art, in political philosophy, in sociology, in history of art, in musicology, in literary history, literary theory, and so on.

The questions we would like to explore during the two days of the conference are the following:

  • The pre-history of Ästhetische Theorie. The point is to explore how these questions, which became thematic in the 30s and 40s (the fetish character of art, dissonance, and so on) find themselves changed, or unchanged, in Ästhetische Theorie in the 60s, to determine the ongoing or transformed role of the decisive early influences (for instance, that of Georg Lukàcs) or the exchanges with his friends (Walter Benjamin, Ernst Bloch, Alfred Sohn-Rethel). What is the role of Schönberg in Ästhetische Theorie now that this artist no longer has a central position? What are the differences between the Schönberg of the first part of the Philosophie der neuen Musik (written in 1940-41) and that of the Darmstadt conferences?
  • The relation between Ästhetische Theorie and the courses on aesthetics of the 1950s (Vorlesungen. Ästhetik [1958-59], Surkamp, 2012).
  • The references to the aesthetic tradition (Baumgarten, Schiller, Rosenkranz, Corce, Dewey, Dilthey, and so on) and the “metacritical” moments (the critique of Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, Freud, and the other towering figures in the history of art criticism). The major aesthetic questions that are replayed or reinvented: appearance, mimesis, natural beauty, artistic beauty, the sublime, and so on. The relation between Ästhetische Theorie and Ohne Leibild. Parva aesthetica.
  • The major elements in the analysis of the critique of the culture industry. The dialectical opposition between autonomous art and administered art in the culture industry. What place does the critique of culture occupy in Ästhetische Theorie? And how might Ästhetische Theorie help inform the critique of culture today?
  • The articulation between Dialektik der Aufklarüng and Ästhetische Theorie is also played out in the identification of art as a symbolic form that partakes in (as a “secularization of transcendence”) the movement of emancipation from myth. The political and moral import of art as a symbolic form, then, as it emerges against the backdrop of Auschwitz, and against the epoch of the culture industry and the industries of culture.
  • The approach and analysis of the arts (music, literature, cinema, etc.) and of artworks (Ästhetische Theorie contains numerous highly suggestive analyses of works that evidently demand further development) the classical artists (Bach, Baudelaire, Beethoven, Goethe, Wagner) and the modern ones (Beckett, Brecht, Celan, Kafka, Picasso, Valéry) in Ästhetische Theorie. The question of the avant- gardes (and of all the “isms”). The treatment of contemporary art (by means, for example, of the young musicians of Darmstadt). The question of the relation of the philosophy of the arts. Philosophy, interpretation and criticism or critique.
  • The question of the political or of politics in Ästhetische Theorie. Works of art play a role in the political transformation of the administered world. Administered world and administered art. Aesthetic autonomy and political liberty. The question of utopia: “Every artwork has a utopian function to the extent that, through its form, it anticipates a reality that would at last be itself […] But because utopia—what is not yet—is veiled in darkness, it maintains through all its mediations that character of a memory, a memory of the possible against the real, something like the imaginary compensation for the catastrophe of universal history.” Is Ästhetische Theorie indeed a “materialist and dialectical aesthetics”? What relation does Ästhetische Theorie have to Marx?

The proposed papers may be sent in French, German, English or Spanish (a title and summary of no more than 15 or 20 lines) should be sent before October 20th 2016 to Christophe David (christophe.t.david@wanadoo.fr) and Florent Perrier (florentperrier@hotmail.fr). Please include a notice of 5 to 6 lines (full name, university affiliation if you have one, your most important articles or books). Your talk must not exceed 25 minutes and may be delivered in French or English.

Adorno and Art: Aesthetic Theory Contra Critical Theory

Dr James Hellings’s first monograph, Adorno and Art: Aesthetic Theory Contra Critical Theory, appeared recently with Palgrave Macmillan (2014). Hellings’s book shows how radical and revolutionary Adorno’s aesthetic theory of art’s double character remains, and how complex, imaginative and oppositional forms of art offer, perhaps, the best hope for overcoming damaged life. The caricatures of Adorno, his politics and his aesthetics, are well-known errors of judgement – widely repeated both by the academy and the Left. Adorno’s aesthetics have been accused of failing to keep pace with progressive artistic practices and for being socio-politically aloof. Despite the persistence of these caricatures, Hellings’s book shows how significant images and themes in Adorno’s theory remain relevant to the current situation of art, aesthetics, and politics. The Adorno on show in the book was no bourgeois mandarin, no arrogant aesthete, no esoteric mystic, no melancholy pessimist, and no academic expert holed up in the proverbial ivory tower.

Adorno and Art received a favourable (and unsolicited) review in the November issue of Art Monthly (2014). David Ryan wrote, “[O]ne senses throughout that Hellings is testing his own ideas and critical persuasions through, and with, Adorno, which is illuminating in the light of his rather good discussion of subjectivity and objectivity within both aesthetic theory and art making in general.’ ‘[Hellings] makes Adorno’s thought vivid for the present, especially in his attempts to think through contemporary artistic and political practices.”

Alongside his extensive teaching commitments between two art schools (Camberwell College of Arts and Birmingham School of Art), Hellings is currently researching and writing an article, which presents a clear and distinctive overview of Adorno’s materialist-dialectical aesthetic theory of art’s aura, together with Walter Benjamin’s critique thereof, in relation to contemporary art (Susan Hiller, Tacita Dean, Hito Steyerl). The article revises this important historical debate for the present situation of art and theory (Jacques Rancière, Peter Osborne, Jörg Heiser).

Hellings is particularly interested in working with progressive contemporary art practices and his research interests include: political (Marxian) social histories and theories of modern and contemporary art, aesthetics and continental philosophy (especially the critical theory of the Frankfurt school), the avant-garde, newness and contemporaneity. Hellings is interested in manifesting his ideas in a variety of forms and promotes the interdependency of art and theory through teaching and publishing.

Hellings will be launching his book and participating in a discussion event entitled Art, Aesthetics and Politics, Now! at South London Gallery on Friday 13th March. Professor Esther Leslie (Birkbeck), Dr Yaiza Hernández (CSM), and Professor Malcolm Quinn (CCW), will join Hellings in conversation about Frankfurt School legacies in contemporary art, aesthetics and politics.