The aesthetic imagination: speculative forms
Elizabeth Hodson (Newcastle University)
Paper short abstract:
This paper explores how anthropology might engage with the aesthetic imagination. Specifically it asks how an artist moves between the immanence of the art object and its relational context, and in so doing how the imagination reveals itself to the artist.
Paper long abstract:
This paper explores how anthropology might engage with the aesthetic imagination. Specifically it asks how an artist moves between the immanence of the art object and its relational context. Since Kant aesthetics has signaled art's autotelic potential. But it's emphasis on sensation and affect has also supported charges of inwardness. Alfred Gell's (1998) call for an 'agnostic' approach towards aesthetics has been instrumental in eclipsing a consideration of the specificity of the art object within anthropology. With its demise, imagination becomes correspondingly characterised as beyond anthropology's reach. For Edmund Husserl imaging was a form of 'nonactual' and 'irreal' experience that differed in kind to perception through it's relinquishing of the actual in favor of the speculative. But like perception the imagination is an intentional act (Kind 2016), or as I suggest in this paper, imagination is the means to realise intention and forms captured on the page evidence how this intentionality comes into being. Based on ethnographic research with Glasgow-based painter Louise Hopkins, I explore this intention anthropologically, and ask how the imagination exceeds the imagistic as generative projection. Hopkins appropriates found images and everyday fabrics into her work. Using them as a material support, their prior collective meaning is distilled through an aesthetic intervention on the pictorial surface that is both formal and indexical. Within each painting the weight between content and form is deliberately measured. This paper addresses the anthropology of the imagination through delineating how this oscillation occurs and how the imagination reveals itself to the artist.
Creative horizons: steps towards an ethnography of imagination