Friday, July 22, 2011

Richard Shusterman: "Form and Funk: The Aesthetic Challenge of Popular Art" – summary and review

Richard Shusterman's "Form and Funk: The Aesthetic Challenge of Popular Art" (in "pragmatist Aesthetics: Living Beauty, Rethinking art" 1992) is a defense on popular culture or popular art's statutes as an aesthetic and artistic field. Philosophy of aesthetics has often refused to relate to popular culture as a form of art on account of it lacking certain aesthetic qualities. Richard Shusterman is attempting to demonstrate how these qualities do exist in popular art, and he uses the example of rap music to demonstrate his case.
Shusterman counts six common arguments against popular art:

That popular art offers no aesthetic satisfaction; that popular art does not provide as aesthetic challenge of promote an active response; that popular art is superficial and does not appeal to the intellect; that popular art is not creative and is not innovative in its forms and styles; that popular art is non-critical, conformist and formula based; and that popular art is not stylistically developed.

For every one of these arguments against the aesthetic value of popular art Shusterman is offering a counter example or claim in order to show how popular art (in his case, rap music) does have the traits that on account of their absence popular art is denied aesthetic value.

Richard Shusterman's "Form and Funk: The Aesthetic Challenge of Popular Art" and large parts of his aesthetic philosophy thought aims to oppose the elitist take against popular art, such as Dwight Macdonald's "A theory of Mass culture" which sees popular art as a threat to the "high arts" and the public's intellect. Shusterman does not subscribe to a normative judgment of high or popular art, but rather wishes to base aesthetic judgments on art's concrete everyday function in society.

suggested reading:
Pragmatist Aesthetics: Living Beauty, Rethinking ArtPopular Culture: A ReaderCultural Theory and Popular Culture: An Introduction (5th Edition)Performing Live : Aesthetic Alternatives for the Ends of Art

Richard Shusterman."Form and Funk: The Aesthetic Challenge of Popular Art" .in "pragmatist Aesthetics: Living Beauty, Rethinking art" 1992. Cambridge: Blackwell

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