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Cover of Aesthetic Action by Florian Klinger
Aesthetic Action
Florian Klinger


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January 2024
404 pages.
$80.00

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Hardcover ISBN: 9781503636972
Ebook ISBN: 9781503637627

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In this new book, Florian Klinger gives readers a basic action-theoretical account of the aesthetic. While normal action fulfills a determinate concept, Klinger argues, aesthetic action performs an indeterminacy by suspending the action's conceptual resolution. Taking as examples work by Tino Sehgal, Kara Walker, Mazen Kerbaj, Marina Abramović, Cy Twombly, and Franz Kafka, the book examines indeterminacy in such instances as a walk that is at once leisurely and purposeful, a sound piece that is at once joyous and mournful and mechanical, or a sculpture that at once draws one in and shuts one out. Because it has irresolution as its point, aesthetic action presents itself as an unsettling of ourselves, our ways, our very sense of who we are. As performers of such action, we don't recognize one another as bearers of a shared human form as we normally would, but find ourselves tasked anew with figuring out what sharing a form would mean.

In conversation with philosophers such as Kant, Hegel, Wittgenstein, and Anscombe; political thinkers such as Marx and Lorde; and contemporary interlocutors such as Michael Thompson, Sebastian Rödl, and Thomas Khurana, Klinger's book makes a case for a conception of the human form that systematically includes the aesthetic: an actualization of the form that is indeterminate and nevertheless rational. The book gives the project of Western philosophical aesthetics a long-overdue formulation for our present that aims to do justice to contemporary aesthetic production as it actually exists. It will appeal to those working in philosophy, art, and political thought.

About the author

Florian Klinger is Associate Professor in Germanic Studies and the College at the University of Chicago. He is the author of Theory of Form: Gerhard Richter and Art in the Pragmatist Age (2022).

"With ingenious, stunning readings, Klinger breaks new ground in aesthetics. This is a philosophy of art with which thinkers and scholars will contend for years to come."

—Henry W. Pickford, Duke University

"Aesthetic Action offers a highly original and substantial outline of a new understanding of aesthetics. This is an important and rigorous contribution to emerging conversations in philosophy, of highest interest for readers interested in giving an account of contemporary art."

—Rüdiger Campe, Yale University

"Klinger gives us an entirely new way of understanding the indeterminacy of our encounters with art. In his incisive analyses he offers a truly fresh view of art, one that opens the fields of interaction each work creates."

—Niklaus Largier, University of California, Berkeley

"This book rethinks action through aesthetics and aesthetics through action, providing us with a new insight into the kind of unsettling that the aesthetic is and affords."

—María del Rosario Acosta López, University of California, Riverside