The Praxeological Model of a Different Aesthetics

As interdisciplinary analytical tool, the CRC develops the heuristic concept of ‘figures of aesthetic reflection’ based on a praxeological model of processes of exchange and transformation. Thereby, aesthetic acts and artefacts are not only considered in relation to the established knowledge of forms and composition, but also in relation to social practices. Therefore, they are mobile actors, oscillating between the exigencies of the inner logic of artistic processes and techniques on the one hand and a pragmatic, historical logic of everyday life in the context of social practices on the other. While this double orientation of aesthetic phenomena has been frequently described, the two orientations have mostly been weighted in a hierarchical or binary system of judgement. The project Different Aesthetics intends to convert these binary oppositions back into dynamic fields of tension and transformative processes. By means of this, we aspire to develop analytical instruments which, above all, are able to adequately capture the idiosyncrasies of pre-modern aesthetic phenomena. The following image illustrates the underlying heuristic model:

The model is based on the idea that aesthetic acts and artefacts can relate to the autological dimension on the one side, and the heterological dimension on the other, both options being equally viable. By autological dimension, we mean the available knowledge of forms and composition in the sense of technical skills, which, following the tradition of classic rules of rhetoric and of poetics, is designated by the term ars. This term comprises explicit artistic teachings (poetics, rhetoric, laws of proportion) as well as the entire repertoire of prior or implicit rules, models, topoi and traditions which function as practical and technical points of reference for artistic production. Conversely, the heterological dimension is concerned with pragmatic aims and purposes, the social environment and contexts. It is crucial that both dimensions in principle are interdependent and not mutually exclusive. This seems crucial to an adequate and differentiated description of how pre-modern aesthetic phenomena in particular are embedded in everyday environments.

To identify the evidence in which artefacts mirror, display and discuss the autological as well as the heterological dimension, the CRC puts forward ‘figures of aesthetic reflection’. ‘Figures of aesthetic reflection’ are understood as configurations which become apparent or materialize in concrete objects, texts, practices or institutions, and in which the tension between the inner logic of aesthetic acts and artefacts and their entanglement with non-aesthetic realms and facts becomes visible, i.e. the dynamic relationship between the autological and the heterological dimension. By focussing on ‘figures of aesthetic reflection’, we become aware of a fine-grained device that complements theoretically grounded, explicit aesthetics. In this way, a different aesthetics can be heuristically explored and systematically described.