Session 18

Saturday, June 5

13:30–14:30 (Helsinki, EEST, UTC +3), Congress Room 2

Chair: Sanna Lehtinen

Gioia Laura Iannilli (University of Bologna, Italy):

Environmental Tension in Aesthetics: Crisis, Change, and Sustainability Between an “Aesthetics of the Environment” and an “Environmental Aesthetics”

The thesis underlying this contribution is that “the aesthetic” intrinsically possesses an environmental feature. In this sense, I claim that this latter should be considered as a general feature of aesthetics, too. In order to prove this claim viable I will tackle the implications of a so-called “environmental tension” that can be identified in aesthetics. This tension, which signals a specific “environmental momentum” for contemporary aesthetics, will be understood in a threefold sense. First, in the sense of a relationship between academic/theoretical/thematic environmental aesthetics and practical/operative environmental aesthetics that emphasizes the pluralistic character of the aesthetic. Second, in the sense of a relationship between backgrounds and foregrounds in aesthetic experience that emphasizes the potential character of the aesthetic. Third, in the sense of a relationship between quantities and qualities in aesthetic experience that emphasizes the irreducible first-hand, situated, or embedded character of the aesthetic. Tackling the implications of that “environmental tension” in the three senses that have just been described I believe can enable a discussion around issues related to environmental crisis and change, and possible sustainable responses to them from a specifically aesthetic viewpoint. In particular, one aspect that I would like to ponder in this paper has to do with the difference that can be drawn between reflections that address the environment as an object of aesthetic analysis and reflections that focus on the constitutive environmental component of aesthetics. A third element that shall be involved is a more general environmental modality that intrinsically and practically constitutes the quality of that relationship that we call aesthetic. This difference has been heuristically marked in my title by using the labels “Aesthetics of the Environment” and “Environmental Aesthetics”. They are not mutually exclusive but are simply different ways of dealing with or experiencing something, i.e. environmental crisis and change. The aim of this contribution, in other words, is to focus on the specific issue of environmental crisis and change and related sustainability strategies by comparing approaches that 1) tend to thematize the environment and quantify its features and those that 2) focus on the constitutive and more general environmental component, or quality, of aesthetics, while also taking into account the 3) overall environmental endowment of our aesthetic experience. Key conceptual tools for this comparison will be the notions of “problem setting” and “problem solving”.

Remei Capdevila-Werning (University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, USA):

The Pedra Tosca Park: Landscape Preservation and Intergenerational Aesthetics

The Pedra Tosca Park, literally “rough stone park,” is a 210-hectare area currently part of the Natural Volcanic Park of La Garrotxa, the only territory in the Iberian Peninsula with volcanoes. The area was formed 11.500 years ago from the lava flow of a nearby volcano and was covered with vegetation until the beginning of the 19th century, when the forest was felled and cultivation and agricultural usage began. The site degraded progressively because of the urban expansion of surrounding towns, illegal dumping, the loss of traditional crops, and the lack of irrigation. In 1985, the site became officially protected and the project to restore the area began. This entailed the revitalization of the ecological and environmental resources as well its cultural significance. Traditional agricultural and architectural techniques, all related to the volcanic orography of the site, as well as traditional crops were reintroduced and RCR Arquitectes, a team of local architects and now Pritzker Prize awardees, designed the area, including points of access and a series of labyrinthine paths for visitors to explore the site.

The aim of the preservation project is to bring back how the area looked like a century and a half ago and, to achieve this aesthetic outcome, the traditional crops and agricultural techniques were reintroduced as well. This entails, thus, that some contemporary technological advancements, such as solar panels, cannot be installed because they would interfere with the area’s aesthetic appearance, thus hindering the introduction of more sustainable energy options crucial for the overall preservation of the area. By examining the case of the Pedra Tosca Park, this paper explores the complex relationship between aesthetics and sustainability. Specifically, it discusses the preservationist decisions, which were made for a lived landscape constantly evolving, that may be at odds with pressing environmental concerns. It also explores the cultural values linked to the aesthetic appearance brought back by this preservation project, which may well be at odds with our current cultural values. By resorting to the issues discussed in intergenerational aesthetics, this paper aims to show how including the potential aesthetic experience and values of future generations may help in making more aesthetically and environmentally sustainable decisions.