Dr. Clodagh Emoe
Research Interests

There have been numerous forms of critical engagement between art and philosophy, from classical Greek antiquity through to the emergence of modern aesthetics. Aesthetics is a comparatively recent discipline, having emerged in the 18th century. The German philosopher, Alexander Baumgarten secured the term from the Greek aisthãnesthai, in his text Aesthetica, (1750-58). Rather than developing the term from the Greek meaning, ‘perceive sensuously’, Baumgarten’s writings went further and in a certain sense ‘corrupted’ (Dixon, 1995, p.1) this term to describe a philosophical discourse on ‘taste’. Kant’s subsequent response and elaboration in The Critique of Judgment (1790) furthered this analysis through a rigorous examination of ideas surrounding judgements of beauty, and aligned this discourse with speculation on the nature of art. Hegel further developed this interpretation to align it specifically with a discourse on art. The term aesthetics has repeatedly been misused, or rather, used insufficiently in art discourse to describe the formal qualities of an art object. Through practice and theory my research attempts to re-address this deficit through an examination of the engagement between contemporary art and philosophy.


Prior to embarking on this research, specific experimental events were organized as a subsidiary dimension to the exhibition of my work. The work mainly took the form of installation that encompassed elements of sculpture, drawing, video and sound. The events were initially conceived to support the art objects within the exhibition context to provide additional context with respect to the philosophical themes that informed the exhibition. Since embarking on my current research a fundamental shift has occurred within the practice – these once subsidiary events now take precedence.


The research comprises four projects – Mystical Anarchism (2009), Cult of Engagement (2009), Metaphysical Longings (2010), and The Unveiling 2010. Although these projects differ in terms of media, format, context and thematics,they each take the form of an event, and require some form of a “gathering” in their composition. These “gatherings” have occurred within a formal contemporary gallery space, an empty museum, a forest at midnight and a community garden respectively. This emphasis on collective experience is fundamental to the work, and in ways similar to participatory art practices, the audience plays a crucial role in activating the work. However, rather than using terms such as ‘participatory practices’, ‘happenings’, etc. which have specific criteria, the term ‘event’ is used within the research as a portfolio term to include a wide-range of different situations.


This term “event” has an additional function within the research as it is philosophically interpreted within the traditions of continental philosophy. The work of Alain Badiou and Jacques Rancière is central to evental philosophy. Both philosophers have written extensively on aesthetics in relation to contemporary art. The recent circulation of their ideas in prolific discursive forms within contemporary art evidences a decisive shift and a re-engagement with aesthetics. The research is contextualised within this moment and looks towards these philosophers’ work, in particular to Badiou’s recent Handbook of Inaesthetics (2007), where a concept of “compossibility” is introduced. This term that is more readily associated with classical philosophy, and refers to one thing’s possibility of existing alongside another’s “without the opposition of one of the terms entailing the suppression of the other.” (Riera, 2005, p.69) This notion of “compossibility”, in the case of philosophy and contemporary art practice, is played out within the research.


Typically aesthetic discourse proceeds in the wake of the artwork and not as an integral aspect of its production. This research exists at the intersection of aesthetic discourse and actual artistic practice and through specific projects seeks to examine ways in which art and philosophy might coexist. Through Mystical AnarchismMetaphysical Longings, >i>Cult of Engagement and The Unveiling, the research seeks to disrupt the predominant view of aesthetics as interpretative, and to propose more appropriate actualisation of aesthetics within contemporary art as an active and discursive configuration of art and philosophy.

Institution Affiliation
DIT, School of Art, Design + Printing

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