The confederate battle flag flew atop the capitol building not far from the site of last year’s Eastern Division meeting. The controversy surrounding the flag, including a NAACP boycott of events in the state of South Carolina, may have accounted for the relatively light turnout at this meeting, but it was more likely the USAirways strike planned for the conference weekend and some confusion about the deep south venue that kept the numbers down.
The meeting was held from March 23rd to the 24the at the University of South Carolina Columbia campus. John Carvalho (Villanova) was the Program Chair and Martin Donougho (University of South Carolina) coordinated the local arrangements. The theme for the conference was “Environmental Aesthetics.”
The program included nine panels with two papers presented at each of them. Without prompting from an assigned respondent or commentator, each of the sessions included lively, sustained, and substantive discussion of the proposals advanced by the main speakers. This opportunity for a more developed exchange was quickly and consistently popular with conference attendees.
Besides Environmental Aesthetics (the subject of three panels) and aesthetic theory (the subject of three more panels) papers addressed more particular issues of aesthetic theory. D.C. Miller (University of South Carolina) explored the limits of “the abysmal self” in romantic poetry and Sondra Bacharach questioned Danto’s “defining art to end art” in one panel. Larry Jorgensen (University of South Carolina) drew from Heidegger’s “On the Origin of the Work of Art” to discuss the truth of art while William Irwin (King’s College, PA) plied Wittgenstein’s concept of family resemblances to discuss “literature and the literary” in another panel. In a third panel on traditional issues in aesthetics, Kim Nastick (Art History, Villanova) argued for an “ekphrastic impulse” inspired by a Foucauldean archaeology and genealogy and Garry Hagberg urged a “social ? but not institutional ? conception of art” developed, again, from Wittgenstein.
On the aesthetics of music, Robin James (Miami University, OH) proposed to bring music theory to terms with the “male gaze” while Lee Brown’s paper explored the complexity of “Amiri Baraka’s aesthetics” on one panel. George Tibbetts (Philadelphia) offered a study of “William Walton’s musical setting for Edith Sitwell’s Façade” and Per Broman (Fine Arts, Butler University) explained the “aesthetic placebo effect” in another panel. In the third music panel, Robert Hall (University of Vermont) discussed “musical meaning” in Schopenhauer and Jonathan Neufeld (Columbia University) drew from the Frankfurt School to discussed “philosophy and the musical public sphere.”
On aesthetics in the environment, James Sheppard (Binghamton University) on “nature, solitude, and aesthetic engagement in urban places” was paired with Earle Coleman (Virginia Commonwealth University) on “religion, science, and the aesthetic appreciation of nature.” Ira Newman (Mansfield University) presented the Land Aesthetic “dream of an autonomous natural aesthetic” and Barbara Sandrisser (New York) presented an “aesthetics of death” in another panel. Mark Stone (Furman University) presented the idea of an “evolutionary aesthetics” and Dabney Townsend (Armstrong Atlantic State University) developed the relation of aesthetics to “the representation of discovery” in the third panel on this subject. The were two plenary sessions. Arnold Berleant continued his work on the embodiment of musical performance and interpretation with a presentation titled “Embodied Music” which included text, discussion, and demonstrations at the piano. Our invited speaker, artist and writer Patricia Johanson, presented a discussion and slide show of her large scale public works that are designed to solved environmental problems. Endangered Garden, in Candlestick Cove, San Francisco, for example, is a thirty million dollar sewer designed to sit below ground with a roof designed as a thirty foot wide, 1500 foot long baywalk with access to Ribbon, Worm/Tide Pools a connected work that provides paths to the beach forming pools which, at high tide, fill with water “creating habitats for vertically zoned intertidal communities.”
A very pleasant and elegant reception was prepared for us to make the transition from the plenary talk to dinner at a local restaurant where the business meeting was conducted while waiting to be served. Part of the business included thanking Martin Donougho and his assistants for coordinating the local arrangements. At the Business Meeting, we also elected to appoint William Irwin (King’s College, Wilkes-Barre) and John Copeland (Drew University, Emeritus) to the Program Committee to replace Carol Gould (Florida Atlantic University) and Beth Ann Dobie (Alfred University). Irwin and Copeland join John Carvalho (Villanova University), Aaron Meskin (Texas Tech University), and Sarah Worth (Furman University) on the Program Committee for the 2001 meeting. Committee members ordinarily serve for four years. Sarah Worth is Program Chair and John Carvalho is site coordinator for the meeting to be held 6-7 April, 2001, in Philadelphia at the Double Tree Hotel.
Finally, in the discussion over dinner, several member wondered aloud about the possibility of meeting in Philadelphia every year, of following the example of the Pacific Division which meets in the same place every year, of using that model as a means of getting better control of our administrative operations. The same general idea had surfaced at the meeting in 1999 when Washington, D.C. was forwarded as a possible annual site. We will test the case for meeting in Philadelphia in April 2001 and try to settle on a permanent site for Eastern Division meetings of the ASA by next year.