Once again, the Pacific Division held its annual meeting at the Asilomar Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove, California on the Monterey Peninsula. The meeting ran from March 29th through the 31st. There was rain before we arrived on Wednesday and as we were leaving on Friday, but, luckily, the bulk of the conference took place in clear and mild weather.
The program covered a broad variety of topics and included papers on nature aesthetics (by William McCarthy, Christopher Stevens, and Allison Hagerman), music and emotion (by Stephen Davies), soundworks (by Federico Marulanda), the intersection (or lack thereof) between ethics, politics, and aesthetics (by Julie Van Camp, Ruth Lorand, and Christy Mag Uidhir), the ontology of dance (by Renee Conroy), the aesthetic character of ordinary experience (by Sherri Irvin), and the role of intention in engagement with artworks (by Derek Matravers). In a special session on film, presenters (Amy Coplan, Katherine Thomson-Jones, and Christopher Yates) explored film and different modes of film engagement. The history of aesthetics was not neglected - there was an excellent session on Hume (with papers by Christopher Williams and Eva Dadlez).
The conference featured three invited panels: In an Author-Meets-Critics session James Shelley, David Davies, and Matthew Kieran discussed Kieran’s recently published Revealing Art (Routledge). Joshua Shaw, Teresa Winterhalter and Monique Roelofs examined some wide-ranging topics in feminist aesthetics (from theories of sexiness, to feminist art and semiotics). James Hamilton and John Andrew Fish addressed two very different kinds of performance (theatrical performances and Andy Goldsworthy’s “nature” performances).
As should be clear from the sheer diversity of the topics listed above, this conference had no one overarching theme, which we believe was one of its strengths. Yet there was a common thread to many of the papers and that was a welcome engagement with particular artists or works. To name just a few examples: In discussing Film Feelings, Amy Coplan showed and analyzed clips from The Elephant Man and Alien (illustrating aesthetically significant differences between a zoom and a push-in). John Fisher screened the documentary Rivers and Tides (in its entirety, on Thursday evening) which introduced us to Goldsworthy’s breathtaking nature performances (or are they sculptures?). Julie Van Camp discussed the “art” (there was some worry among the participants as to the ontological status of his work) of Chris Burden, whose performances include being shot in the arm with a rifle. Teresa Winterhalter discussed the feminist art of American photographer Matuschka focusing on her photographs of women who have undergone mastectomies (which garnered much attention when they appeared on the cover the New York Times Magazine in 1993). Federico Marulando discussed the artistic processes which generate the soundworks of Yasunao Tone (and played an interesting excerpt of the noise, literally, which results).
This year we awarded the ASA Pacific Division’s First Annual Graduate Student Essay Award. The prize, in the amount of $200, was awarded to Christopher Stevens for his paper “Formalism and Anti-Formalism about Childlike Wonder and Natural Environments.” Perhaps because we offered this prize, essay submissions from graduate students increased in number this year. This allowed us to accomplish one of our main goals, which was to encourage participation of individuals new to the Asilomar meeting (potentially even new to the ASA). We were successful in this as is evidenced by the number of graduate students on the program (7 presented papers and 3 served as commentators) and the fact that the conference was the site of several other participants’ first (and hopefully not their last) Asilomar experience.
The conference would not have been possible without our commentators, chairs, and anonymous peer reviewers. They all did a magnificent job and have our deepest gratitude. Commentary was given by Tobyn DeMarco, Susan Feagin, Iskra Fileva, Kenton Harris, Peter Kivy, Deborah Knight (in absentia), Tom Leddy, Alex Neill, Glenn Parsons, Anna Christina Ribeiro, Joel Rudinow, Jason Simus, and Dennis Whitcomb. Session chairs were Mitch Avila, Lee Brown, Allen Carlson, Don Crawford, Michael Gettings, Don Habibi, Jennifer Judkins, and Edward Winters. Thanks are also due to the following individuals for serving as referees for the conference and/or on the graduate student essay prize committee: Sondra Bacharach, Emily Brady, Allen Carlson, Jinhee Choi, Tim Costelloe, David Davies, Tobyn DeMarco, Bob Fudge, James Harold, Gregg Horowitz, Dom Lopes, Terry MacMullen, Aaron Meskin, Alex Neill, Jonathan Neufeld, Yuriko Saito, Robert Stecker, and Sara Worth. Judy Goodwin at Appalachian State University was extremely helpful in the production of the conference proceedings.
James Hamilton takes over the reins next year, and Dustin Stokes has agreed to Chair the Pacific ASA in 2008. We are happy (and relieved) to pass on the responsibility to these two philosophers who will each undoubtedly assemble programs that are both intellectually and aesthetically engaging.