The XIIIth International Congress of Aesthetics was held at Lahti, Finland from August 1 through 5, 1995. The Finnish Society for Aesthetics and the Lahti Research and Training Centre of the University of Helsinki handled the program and local arrangements. Lahti is located about 65 miles northeast of Helsinki. The weather proved to be unusually warm for Finland, and conferees were blessed with many days of sunshine.
The International Congresses in Aesthetics are organized under the auspices of the International Association for Aesthetics. The terms for elected officers extend from one congress to the next. Arnold Berleant (USA) is the new president of the International Association for Aesthetics. Jale Erzen (Turkey) was elected Secretary-General. She teaches in the Faculty of Architecture at Middle East Technical University in Ankara. Professor Joseph Margolis (USA) was elected Honorary President.
The theme was “Aesthetics in Practice,” and numerous art events were made available to conferees in addition to an array of plenary sessions, symposia, and papers. Plenary sessions addressed the idea of aesthetics in practice from various perspectives, including both how applications of aesthetics were possible and how they could transform the field. Yrjo Sepanmaa began the congress with a case for applied aesthetics. Sepanmaa urged that aestheticians take an active part in the life of our culture through scholarly analyses of aesthetic aspects of the objects, events, charactersitics and conditions of society. Arthur Danto addressed “the first dogma of aesthetics:” aesthetic judgments are not practical judgments. He followed the dogma in critical practice from Kant through Clement Greenberg to Hilton Kramer. Arguing against equating aesthetic quality and quality in art, Danto contended that biology may show there is a universal aesthetics but it won’t show that you can have universal quality in art.
Also in a plenary session Marcia Eaton discussed the role of aesthetics in designing sustainable landscapes. In particular, she explored how to account for the relevance of non-perceivable facts about the landscape in an appreciation of it. Anne Cauquelin responded to the challenges to aesthetics raised by the use of computers in art, producing what she calls technimages. These images make use of a technical development that joins the object with the user, where the comment on the object becomes part of it. This process produces a work of art that breaks down distinctions by making the viewer a co-worker. Wolfgang Welsch maintained that aesthetics must surpass its tradition, not in degree but in kind. We should relinquish the quest for a universal aesthetics because it is a misleading end of aesthetic theory. Instead, we should seek theoretical coherence in an inclusive pluralism that takes the extra- aesthetic entanglements of art into account.
Over 450 participants registered for the conference, and papers presented during sessions ranged over a wide range of topics. Aesthetics as practiced in other parts of the world showed both contrasts and continuities with its practice in the United States. Eva K.W. Man (Hong Kong) described how fashion was a locus of struggles for identity for Hong Kong women in the 1960s, and how the lower economic classes were able to defy the the class system by making their own clothes modeled on styles from France. Morton Leith (Australia) explained the different aesthetic strategies in three twentieth century feminist Japanese poets. Doris Kowaltowski (Brazil) analyzed the social codes of self-built houses, where simplicity is avoided because it is seen as poverty, and where modifications to houses are not based on practical concerns, such as climatological factors, but on popularity of style. Emily Brady (Great Britain) developed a typology of the ways imagination informs and enhances our appreciation of nature: exploratory (generating metaphorical descriptions), projective (seeing-as), ampliative (producing new images), and revelatory (of truth). Stein Haugom Olsen (Norway) criticized the use of the methods of literary criticism to engage in cultural criticism, since it lacks the appropriate disciplinary constraints. Other papers dealt with such topics as Chinese aesthetics, the aesthetics of music, aesthetic education in Russia, aesthetics and technology, urban design, ecology, and historical preservation.
The major item of business of the Executive Committee concerned publication of a yearbook in aesthetics. At the XIIth International Congress in Madrid in 1992 the Association appointed a committee to explore the feasibility of publishing a yearbook in aesthetics, designed to reflect the interests and methodologies of philosophers and theorists of the arts the world over. At the meeting this year the Executive Committee voted to establish such a yearbook, to be called the International Yearbook in Aesthetics. The editor will be Göran Hermerén. The Swedish Council of Research for the Humanities and the Social Sciences has committed 30,000 Swedish Crowns ($4000 US) to the project for each of the first three years of the project. In addition, the Fornanderska Fonden has granted 10,000 Swedish Crowns ($1500 US) for the project for the first year. The IAA will also provide modest support for it, and member societies have been requested to make a contribution if they can. The ASA has agreed to contribute $500 towards the project for 1996. Hermerén is currently negotiating with publishers about the journal. Whether IAA dues will be increased to cover the cost of the journal for members (on the ASA model), or whether members will be able to purchase it at a reduced price has yet to be determined. It is expect that the journal will be self-supporting after about three years. To this end, it is requested that individuals urge their university libraries to subscribe.
The XIVth Congress will be held in Ljubljana, Slovenia, September 1-5, 1998. Serious efforts are being made to ensure that the XVth Congress will be held at a site not in Europe or North America. Interest in hosting the XVth Congress in 2001 has been expressed by Japan, Australia, and Rio de Janiero.