Questioning Aesthetics

Questioning Aesthetics


Location: Metcalf Auditorium at Chace Center


***PLEASE NOTE: You must register for each day separately. If you plan to attend both days, make sure you register for TWO tickets: one for Friday, March 11th AND one for Saturday, March 12th. Tickets can be returned up to two days before the event.***

“Questioning Aesthetics Symposium-RISD” (QAS-RISD) is part of a series. Each QAS will explore, cultivate, and sustain new forms of transdisciplinary, international aesthetics research generated by contemporary art and design, new developments in aesthetics in other disciplines, current social-political conditions, or other instigators. While many topics and people involved in the first iterations of the Questioning Aesthetics Symposium are included in the second edition of the Encyclopedia of Aesthetics (Oxford University Press, 2014; Michael Kelly, Editor-in-Chief), the symposia have already expanded far beyond it. The symposium title reflects the dual roles of contemporary aesthetics as the subject and object of critical reflection on art, culture, and nature.

Each QAS is funded, in part, by the Transdisciplinary Aesthetics Foundation (TAF), which was established in September 2014 to “explore, cultivate, and sustain transdisciplinary research in aesthetics (critical thinking about art, culture, and nature) and educate the general public as well as members of the academic community and art world about the importance and relevance of this research. The emphasis is on “transdisciplinary” aesthetics because, although aesthetics is part of philosophy, it is also practiced in many other disciplines, in the arts, and in the public (e.g., in the media). Activities of the Foundation may include: organizing or financially supporting symposia, exhibitions, or the like devoted to transdisciplinary aesthetics; publishing (in print, online, or otherwise) some of the results of the symposia, exhibitions, or the like; or financially supporting students, artists, researchers, or the like participating in the above activities in transdisciplinary aesthetics” (from TAF ByLaws, as a private, nonprofit foundation, 501(c)(3) status pending).

So far, TAF has supported:

QAS-Pratt Institute, September 19-20, 2014—“Conceptualism, Computing, Diaspora, Participation, Race, Improvisation”; co-organized by Gregg Horowitz, Pratt Institute; George Lewis, Columbia University; and Tom Huhn, School of Visual Arts
QAS-Art Research Center, University of California at Berkeley, March 13, 2015—“When Is Art Participatory?” “When Is Computing Aesthetic?" & "When Is Art Contemporary?”; co-organized by Shannon Jackson and Whitney Davis
QAS-California Institute of the Arts, November 6-7, 2015—“When Is Art Political?”; co-organized by Arne DeBoever and Martin Plot

Future QASs will be held at:

California College of Art, in collaboration with the Open Engagement Conference, Oakland, April 28, 2016—“Prison Art & Aesthetics”; co-organized by Annabel Manning
University College Dublin, in collaboration with the National College of Art and Design, May 12-13, 2016—“Transformations in Art, Bodies, Society”; co-organized by Maeve Cooke (UCD) and Francis Halsall (UCAD)
NYU-Berlin, June 17-18, 2016—“Migratory Images and Images of Migration”; co-organized by Gregg Horowitz (Pratt Institute) and Karen Hornick (NYU)

For more information, please see

Michael Kelly
Founder & President
Transdisciplinary Aesthetics Foundation

QAS-RISD provides a timely opportunity for the RISD community to come together and critically examine the nature and ramifications of art and design practices. In recent years RISD education has been moving toward transcending traditional disciplinary boundaries to encourage more holistic, multi-faceted approaches to art and design practice. This symposium aims to promote cross- and trans-disciplinary dialogues on aesthetic issues not only through presentations by prominent scholars and practitioners but more importantly through sustained discussion by all participants and audiences.

As a scholarly discipline, aesthetics has been a branch of philosophy in the Western intellectual tradition. Recent developments in academia as well as in contemporary art and design discourses, however, have challenged aesthetics to go beyond its traditional disciplinary boundary and to work with practices that are actually engaged with aesthetic activities. At the same time, academic research has become integral to art and design practices in order to situate them in an appropriate context and to help explore theoretical issues. This mutual enhancement is gaining momentum in recent years at RISD, in particular by the productive collaboration between studio and liberal arts education.

To reflect and further promote this transdisciplinary commitment embraced by both TAF and RISD, this symposium encourages discussion across disciplines on wide-ranging issues that are particularly pertinent to the RISD community. The discussion also promises to be thought-provoking to the general public interested in and concerned with contemporary art, design, and museum practices.

This symposium was made possible by the generous support, both in funding and in-kind contribution, from TAF and many parts of RISD, namely the Office of Provost, the Office of Dean of Faculty, Division of Liberal Arts, Division of Experimental and Foundation Studies, Department of History of Art and Visual Culture, Department of Illustration, Division of Architecture and Design, Division of Fine Arts, Department of History, Industrial Design Department, Philosophy, and Social Sciences, Department of Literary Arts and Studies, Office of Intercultural Student Engagement, Graduate Studies, Museum, Research Office, and Library.

Yuriko Saito
Professor of Philosophy
Division of Liberal Arts
Rhode Island School of Design

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