VIGNETTES ON CATEGORIZATION AND AESTHETICS
VIGNETTES ON CATEGORIZATION AND AESTHETICS is a multi-tiered series of entries weaving history in relation to storytelling, science fiction, poetry, art and visual culture, akin to the “constellation thinking” of Walter Benjamin. Various methodological approaches are used to illuminate how systems of categorization influence aesthetic discourse. The project jumps historical time periods and styles, a problem navigated by focusing on vignettes as instances and experiential cases that relate together the “cacophony” of history and aesthetics. The concept of “cacophony” is used in line with Jodi Byrd’s argumentation in The Transit of Empire: Indigenous Critiques of Colonialism, as a means to connect divergent histories and stories. Entry 1: Logical Horses: Or Several Historical, Aesthetic, Allegorical, and Mythical Vignettes was edited by several of the participants in the narrative, a move towards personal accountability in writing outside of the self. The first entry serves as an introduction to the subsequent two entries and their attendant themes, Entry 2: The aaaccc(k) is a healing correspondence co-authored with Angela Jennings and Entry 3: Almost Invisible Pleasures is a conversation with a collection of drawings and writings by Suzanne Herrera Li Puma. Entry 1 takes Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels as a point of departure regarding cultural and social othering as a broader issue, elaborating throughout how social othering relates to aesthetics. Other vignettes detail structures, such as Marxist thought, the history of Western ideas like the Great Chain of Being and institutions such as the College Art Association as participants in knowledge construction within aesthetics and art history. Each “idea” is analyzed as a participant in cultural tendencies, extending to how artists become authentic hierarchicalized producers of culture, or are excluded altogether by ongoing structures of separation. Systems of connoisseurship and validation belie how subjective preference precedes canonization, with language implicated as a tool for serving dominance or subverting it. Language is approached as capable of causing further rifts despite aiming to clarify or communicate. Concepts that decenter and shift emphasis, such as “liquid blackness,” a research collective and a term used by Black Studies scholars, “polysemy,” a term for multiple meanings used by Christopher Bracken, “haunting” used by C Ree, Eve Tuck and Avery Gordon to denote the incommensurability of history as a secure presence, “shapeshifting” and “forcefields,” coined in collaboration with Sarah Dziedzic and Suzanne Herrera Li Puma, are invoked towards hopeful futures where methodologies will melt, combine and start anew. Sneaking in through the fissures of polemics are interspersed fragmentary quotes, speculative science fiction narratives, poetic asides, all used as potential resistances to dominant paradigms expressed through content as well as deviation from singular writing styles. The aim of this project is to point to tensions within disciplinary narratives that trouble the stability of monolithic canonical histories. This seeking of hybridity and fragmentation as a methodology, admittedly troubled and imperfect, seeks to continue what Byrd describes as “opening doors” on the complex issues relevant to how colonialism, diaspora, cultural othering, politics, social life, phenomenology and aesthetics are inextricably interwoven. A variety of paths are presented for the reader, using words as personal and collective acts that trouble the canons with poetry, truncated stories, weird asides, and various other discordant tunes.