ART TAIPEI 2022: Sustainability and Aesthetics

Oct 31, 2022 10:51AM

Discussing the Concept of Sustainability from the Development of Aesthetics. By Shih-Wei Tsai PhD (Université Jean-Moulin-Lyon-III), event planner and exhibition curator of Shuilin Arts Center.

ART TAIPEI is an essential art platform for Taiwan when facing the world. ART TAIPEI has exhibited countless works of artists in the past 29 years, showing the artistic thoughts of the modern Asia-Pacific region and the participating countries. Such an art platform is undoubtedly an important event in Taiwan's art education, for its value of fostering the public’s aesthetics and the discussion thereof. ART TAIPEI 2022 is opening up based on sustainability as its core and background concept, trying to open a dialogue between the environment, exhibitions, sustainability, commercial transactions, and aesthetics.

The Birth of Sustainability and Aesthetics

In 1750, Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten (1714-1762) published Aesthetica, which announced the birth of aesthetics as one of the disciplines of philosophy. This was the expansion and the reappearance of the field of philosophy itself and was also the start of philosophy taking over feelings and the arts. Before Baumgarten’s work, if we start the exploration from Plato, we would find that the field of philosophy itself rejects or shows disdain for the existence of art or emotions. As philosophy is the pursuit and practice of truth, it is naturally miles apart from the body, feelings, and the things that art follows. Regarding the concept of sustainability, philosophy itself is the eternal pursuit of man, the world, and truth; that is, philosophy is the proof and practice of sustainability. The birth of aesthetics in the mid-eighteenth century was based on this point, bringing feelings, these ephemeral, transient things into the discussion of what is eternally rational, and sublimating experiences and feelings into an object that can be spoken on and discussed. This allows art and feelings to be brought into the realm of philosophy, all leading toward the possibility of sustainability.

Aesthetics and Art

The birth of Aesthetica, however, was initially not related to what is known as art, for art was primarily a craft or technique and not a matter of feeling. It was not until the beginning of the 19th century that Schelling and Hegel's course on aesthetics confirmed the meaning of current aesthetics of art. This aesthetics of art also existed as the philosophy of art, so it was a discipline that established art in a philosophical way, and as a department of philosophy. It was divorced from art or was a reconstruction of the meaning of art. In that case, the meaning was different from the time when aesthetics first appeared. In addition to trying to expand the field of philosophy and what may be within reach of research, the construction of the aesthetic system in the 19th century still possessed a declaration of Germanic nationalism and the dominance of academia by philosophical disciplines. Art had a philosophy or art as a part of philosophy itself, no longer the same as the meaning Plato interpreted. Art was no longer just technology or a craft but the birth of a certain artistic concept or reason, thus becoming what we now mean by aesthetics.

The aesthetics of art itself

After the 20th century, philosophy no longer occupied the leading position in terms of knowledge, and aesthetics no longer belonged to philosophy but became the basic knowledge for various disciplines. In our time, aesthetics has even been transformed into some kind of support or periphery of art, as a concept or some kind of creative guiding principle. With the changes of the times, we have entered a new century in which there are no separate fields nor cross-cultural, cross-disciplinary, and cross-knowledge industries; even knowledge industries become the whole, the be-all, and end-all. On the one hand, this phenomenon responds to the question of philosophy as the mother of knowledge and the support and origin of knowledge. On the other hand, it declares a new understanding of the knowledge explosion or the problem of labor division in our era. Of course, it is also our strategy to respond to human beings or species of the new century and the era of big data. Exploring the social class which gave birth to aesthetics in the 18th century, the middle class, who constructed aesthetics at that time, took art and aesthetic experience as the core and constructed the influences of their class. In our current world, this middle class has already expanded to become the basic living standard and requirement for the people of every country, as Walter Benjamin said in Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Reproduzierbarkeit (The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction) (1936), “Everyone can enjoy the artistic experience however they want in their own world.” Therefore, two hundred years after its birth, the identity and role of aesthetics have also changed and continue to perpetuate the fundamental task of thought and contemplation in the artistic and aesthetic experience.

The environment and aesthetics

The theme of ART TAIPEI’s exhibition: Artificial, Evolution and Sustainable Future, uses large-scale art fairs to highlight the arrival of a new century for mankind and the possibility of integrating highly developed art. Taking the relationship between civilization and nature as the theme, ART TAIPEI responds to multi-faceted issues, including the world and the future, human survival, climate change, and carbon emissions, through contemporary artistic expression and curatorial concepts of caring for the environment. This exploratory journey of curiosity, toward nature and the world as well as toward expanding the human spirit, has existed since the birth of philosophy. This journey carries the name of natural philosophy with questions of human responsibility and duty attached. All of this explains that this exhibition brings up issues that we must seriously consider as we enter the future. These issues are also new topics and future directions for contemporary art aesthetics.

Living in today’s world, with the expansion of human civilization and art, and everything in all aspects at this point, this direction can be generally summarized under the heading of environmental aesthetics. This is the response and concern that we, living in the current world, can show by establishing and transforming aesthetics regarding the crisis awareness for our living space and the existence of a sustainable environment.