Barnett Newman, Gandhi, and the Aesthetics of Nonviolence

Stephanie Chadwick

Assistant Professor, Art History, Department of Art, College of Fine Arts and Communications, Lamar University, Beaumont, Texas. Email:

Volume 8, Number 4, 2016 I Full Text PDF

DOI: 10.21659/rupkatha.v8n4.02

Received November 19, 2016; Revised November 25, 2016; Accepted December 15, 2016; Published January 14, 2017


Taking the painting Be I by famous American Abstract Expressionist painter Barnett Newman as a starting point, this paper explores relationships between Mohandas K. Gandhi’s aesthetic life and an emerging aesthetic of nonviolence in the post WWII era. A nonviolent aesthetic is considered in the painting and in relation to two key photographs featured in the exhibition “Experiments with Truth: Gandhi and Images of Nonviolence” at the Menil Collection in Houston, Texas from October 3, 2014 – February 1, 2015: Margaret Bourke-White’s now iconic photograph of Gandhi Spinning and an anonymous photograph of Gandhi’s Earthly Belongings published in a 1954 book by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Govt. of India, 1954.

 Keywords: Gandhi, Newman, Bourke-White, aesthetics, asceticism, nonviolence

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The Mute, the Stoic and the Rebel: Animals in the Works of Mikhail Bulgakov and Nabarun Bhattacharya

Dibyakusum Ray

 Assistant Professor in the National Institute of Technology, Silchar. ORCID: Email:

  Volume 8, Number 3, 2016 I Full Text PDF

DOI: 10.21659/rupkatha.v8n3.06

Received May 30, 2016; Revised July 20, 2016; Accepted July 30, 2016; Published August 18, 2016


This article attempts to trace the gradual ‘otherification’ of non-human entity, particularly animals, in Continental theory. This article would also explore how after presupposing the concept of subject as a human, with animals acting as “alive but no more” with no part in making judgments, Continental theory takes a turn. Levinas conceptualizes animals as “delightful” dociles facilitating human self-definition. Conversely, Derrida problematizes the multilayered man-animal/master-pet dialectics, as he points out the systematic exploitation of animals in society and artistic representation, as the animals are expected to be the mute receptacle of human vagaries—the perpetual ‘other’ who do not even speak or gaze back.  Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita and The Heart of a Dog, together with two of Nabarun Bhattacharya’s works would serve as specific case studies to analyze the evolution of animal imagery from meek placebos through stoic indifference into a force of dissent—ever irreconcilable to the ‘self’.

Keywords: animal studies, aesthetics, ethics, Levinas, Derrida, Bulgakov, Nabarun Bhattacharya

Sir Joshua Reynolds’ ‘Discourses’: Anticipating a Movement beyond the ‘Form’ towards Ontology in Art

Ashmita Mukherjee

Jadavpur University, Kolkata, India

Volume 7, Number 3, 2015 I Full Text PDF


The paper tries to read the ‘Discourses’ or speeches addressed between 1769-1790 by Sir Joshua Reynolds to his students as the first President of Royal Academy of Arts, London, as a gradual movement of aesthetics from interminable formal/particular debates to theories of romantic emanation or still later, of a sense of ontological being, complete with historical awareness and temporal situation. Reynolds’ statements require analysis not as mere pre-romantic ambiguities but definitive aesthetic reflections on ancient and contemporary art with an increasing cognizance of particularity as a tenet of modernity in art.

Keywords: Aesthetics, Ontology, Reynolds, Form, Particular, History Painting

Selfie and the experience of the virtual image

Gabriela Farías , Puebla, Mexico


 Don’t cry, I’m sorry to have deceived you so much, but that’s how life is.

Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita


People know the world through images; new realities are created and new identities are developed. Consequently, portraits may become a representation of one’s personality and a reflection of the society of spectacle. These digital pictures change the experience of memory and inherently trace back to photographs. Thus, the “screen” mediates the relations among people and the information flow carrying different meanings. In this way, the photographic material and the virtual image will be analyzed, and distinctions will be noted regarding the aesthetic experience, specifically regarding the self-portrait and the selfie.

Keywords: Photography, virtual image, selfie, self-portrait, and aesthetic experience.

The photographic image

Images are the core of society today; they have become the means of massive communication and, therefore, the essence of daily life. Humans have become homus photographicus. Almost every person has a camera, whether it is in a cellphone, iPad, tablet, point and shoot or any other device. People have learned to express emotions, ideas and concepts through images regardless of its complexity.

Photos may be digital images but not every image is a photograph. In this section, the photographic image will be considered as a print, different from the virtual image, based on their structure, materiality and distribution.

In general, the image is defined as a figure, the representation of something. That is, the copy of an object, a mental representation subject to cognition and interpretation. In that regard, Flusser (2001) writes about images as containers of signified meaning, as an abstraction of something projected into time and space. From ancient cultures and civilizations, the copy made of an object represents that entity along with other attributions given by individuals or a group. In that way, a symbol is created.

Pictures are a means to transmit ideas and even knowledge, since they are the bases of visual communication and they are also a cultural product.

When an artistic representation (drawing, painting, engraving) of an object is made, there is a certain distance between the copy and the original due to skills and techniques used by the author. This is what makes the art unique and provides an aura as Benjamin stated in 1936. However, upon the arrival of photography and the reproducibility of images, this gap is reduced to such an extent that the object depicted may be taken as the object itself conveying its authenticity. In this way, sight is the preferred sense emphasizing that seeing is believing. The image is proof of the subject’s existence, “it has been” as Barthes affirms, undeniably in a specific time and space.

However, the object portrayed no longer subsists, the photograph becomes a testimony, an index of a former event. Then, the picture has a diachronic relationship with the beholder, who has a memory and builds an emotional connection based on something that only exists in the past. In that regard, the image retains significance over time as if it were a ghost, the meaning remains on the surface. In fact, Brea argues that it (the material-image) remains static as a result of their production process in which there is a specific and unique time lapse (Brea, 2010; 113). The material photograph is always in delay, “it has been” and the significance is retrieved through diachronic memories.

Before the appearance of the virtual image, photographs (and previously painted portraits) were consumed, generally in a more intimate context, for example in a private album or they were displayed in the family room. The aesthetic experience was closer to a painting and according to Moxey (2013), the meaning was clear, that is, the viewers easily appreciated the significance since the portrait was conceived for a particular audience in a certain time. In contrast, virtual pictures are distributed in a different way and have diverse spectators.

Fig.1 Hippolyte Bayard, 1840
Fig.1 Hippolyte Bayard, 1840

The material images, under their production scheme, are prone to depict the world as a canvas, the medium determines how people look, read sings and tell stories. Additionally, the narratives are considered to be truthful because, in order to photograph an object, it has to exist; it has a referent, contrary to painting, where the artist may create chimeras based on imagination.

Nonetheless, the veracity of a picture may be questioned since it could be staged or transformed into something else, even something that is not as it appears in reality. For example, a portrait may be an idealistic version of a person, an alter ego or simply not the subject as known in daily life. To illustrate further, the case of Hippolyte Bayard becomes interesting to mention. In 1840, Bayard photographed himself as a drowned man, and people who saw the picture believed it was real. At the time, these images were believed to be real because a mechanic device, a camera, had taken them. In this way, Bayard created an alternative reality, where he was found dead.

In the 19th century people may have been keener to be deceived, but what happens when images are mass created? Presently, the sense of unreality is inherent and it is harder to believe that the subject “has been” the way it is portrayed….Access Full Text of the Article

CRBTs, LMAOs, ROFLs: Curtailing emotions through cyber-acronyms

Arafat Mohammad Noman, East West University, Bangladesh


Cultural symbols- such as arts, music, literature, movies, novels, history- when shared by the members of a particular culture, remain as dormant in them until and unless they get in contact with a different culture. The exposure to a different culture gives a scope to distinguish between one’s own culture and another. Similarly the technological advancement (basically in the field of communication) has gradually created two types of culture within a particular community/nation/group: a ‘real’ culture which is the embodied experience of a particular group of people or a community and the ‘cyber’ culture which is the result (or experience) of extensive consumption of computer mediated communication (CMC). This exposure in the computer-mediated area (basically known as cyberspace) creates a different level of behavioural pattern in human. By inviting the body and the senses into our dance with our tools, it has extended the landscape of interaction, to new topologies of pleasure, emotion and passion. Thus the current paper tries to discuss the rechanneled emotions through technossories and investigate if it is making us techno-bodies or tech-nobodies. The study is about differentiating emotions at two levels: the embodied emotion and the disembodied emotion. The paper deals with the issue that how far the technological adherence marks the alienation of long nurtured social bond that we used to know.


Emotion or e-motion?


Our passionate response to VR [virtual reality] mirrors the nature of the medium itself. By inviting the body and the senses into our dance with our tools, it has extended the landscape of interaction, to new topologies of pleasure, emotion and passion (Laurel, 1993).

-Brenda Laurel, Computers as Theatre

The proximity between technosorries (technological accessories) and human marked a new epoch in the language system. Besides oral and written form of language, a third type has evolved with its revolutionary image: electronic or computer-mediated language. Computer-mediated communication systems are believed to have powerful implications on social life. This system of communication transgresses what is collective and what is individual. Hence, a tension is created with identity: an offline identity and an online identity. The confusion, tension, imbalance whatever we like to tag it with the focus supposedly remains in the arena of how we are dealing with this self-anticipated duality.

Repudiated Self?

Marshall Mcluhan in his book Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (McLuhan 1994) gives an interesting idea about technology. He shows how we are becoming maimed while superficially being extended by the boon of technology. And my current paper somehow follows Mcluhan’s idea of amputation of human agencies while there is propinquity between technology and human. Interestingly we think ourselves as techno-bodies while there is a chance of being tech-nobodies in dealing with the items we are bestowed with. Every extensions of mankind, especially the technological extensions, have also the flipping side of amputating or modifying some other extensions. Just as the development of gunpowder maimed or curtailed the skill of archery or the invention of telephone extends the voice but maimed the penmanship, similarly the overwhelming usage of cyber technology curtailing our emotional expressions. Let us consider the chat history below:

Rachel: Dude m got fished up

Macklin: sup

Rachel: Moms gonna ban my going to gaming zone

Macklin: LOL

Rachel: CID

Macklin: Let’s see wat happens…FC Dude

Rachel: CRBT L

Definitely one would get confused after going through above chat history. Yes, this is the case when we are too much accustomed to online behaviour. Let me clarify some of the above acronyms: CRBT means Crying Real Big Tears; CID means Crying in Disgrace; FC means Finger crossed and I hope LOL need not to be abbreviated!

Let us try some theoretic consideration in depicting the relationship between human and technology. As structuralism tends to bind us in a structure we human habitually try to breach it and this is the result of breaching: avoiding the structured grammatical rules and way of addressing. The psychoanalytical explanation seems more interesting. Why do we think this virtual entity seems to be more exciting for us? What if I say this is the way of personality formation: an introvert turning out to be an extrovert and vice versa. The outcome of this online interaction is a formation of an e-identity, a virtual whole which is greater than its part and that not being real, is full of life and vitality. In seeking impunity from the age old norms and rules, the “self” gets its virtual identity as unrestrained, less accountable, a little bit on the dark side and unknowingly sexier. This e-personality can act as a liberating force for the real life individual, allowing the person to transcend debilitating shyness, let go of the stultifying and suffocating inhibition and forge him/her into new arena of expression which in real life would seem impossible. It is in many cases complements the real life persona and acts as an extension serving him with vitality, promptness and efficiency. It covers the instant hi hello area to the more vigorous forces that culminates in Revolution 2.0 in Egypt. Disdaining the implicit inertia it helps breaking ice with the significant other over e-mail and also let go of an awkward situation just by blocking and hiding which in real life seems embarrassing. And to sum up we can say having a virtual persona can be like having a proverbial third hand.

But are we so sure of the fact that this cyber world not creating an anarchy itself? Are we not fetishisized by its enticing ingredients? So, if we flip the other side of the coin we find desperation, confusion, pain, disorientation in real life. That is because the online persona is dangerous and irresponsible; making the “self” rough and reckless in its move and encourage attaining unrealistic and unhealthy goals. It nourishes selfishness and creates a sense of isolation yet lingering in a community. The other day I came across a facebook status and that provoked my thought. Here is the status:

Life is like Facebook… people will like your problems and comment on it.. but no one gonna solve them..coz everyone is busy updating their own

This status reminds me of the famous poem Leisure by William Henry Davies. We are too busy and indulged in maintaining “self” that we almost forgot we are in close tie with our surroundings. Wordsworth tripartite relationship seems to dissolve amidst this technocratic modification of us. We rely on technology to fill up our fellow-feeling and texting, chatting, messaging are a good source of marking our presence when needed. We just let our sympathy or empathy limited to GWS Bro (Get well soon brother), It’s K (it’s Okay), CRBT (Crying real big tears) etc. The online arena serves double edged effect here: I) It makes easier to cooperate II) It also make easier to behave selfishly; and not acknowledging our gradual transformation we deliberately lenient of the latter one. The reason behind this let go attitude, what I presume, is that the disembodied interaction does not allow us to get the gesture and posture of the person we are interacting and hence neglecting is easier. We are also in a constant better to say IM communication that allows us to meet more than one person at a time. We tend to forget what we have interacted a moment ago. I have named it as overshadowing effect: the previous condition or interaction is being over shadowed by the present one and it is in a perpetual state of changing, impeding us to focus on a single issue which is possible in real life interaction….Access Full Text of the Article

The Fruitful and the Fulfilled: Looking at Adi Rasa and Shringar Rasa in the Folk Aesthetics of Bihu

Prerana Choudhury, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

This paper seeks to explore the folk aesthetics of the springtime Bihu festival of Assam. The concept of Rasa, a significant part of the classical aesthetics found in Bharatmuni’s Natyashastra, has been outlined and illustrated through the Bihu songs- the dancing, the gestures as well as the overall ethos of the festival. A major aspect of the paper is the dialectics that form between the folk and the classical canon; an effort has been made to understand the juxtaposition of the two as well as the formation of the classical from the folk. Bihu as a celebration of eros, romance and fertility forms the core of the argument; adi-rasa and shringar-rasa form the primary essence of this celebration and this paper. This folk festival is undergoing rapid modernisation which has brought the dance form onto the urban stage that has led to the metamorphosis of the otherwise agricultural nomenclature of Bihu into a more ‘sanitised’ version of the same.

[Keywords: aesthetics, folk, rasa, adi-rasa, shringar-rasa, modernity, eros, romance, Natyashastra, gamusa, Huchori.]

I. Introduction
Rasa, the essence of a work of art, literally translates to ‘taste’ or ‘savour’. Theorised by the ancient sage Bharatmuni (between 200 BC and 200 AD), rasa refers to the specialised emotion inspired by the performers in an audience, which enables the viewers to relish the performance and engage with it in a manner that is deeper and more involved than in the actions of everyday living. It is what demarcates a performance, a work of art- or even a celebration- from the mundaneness of daily existence and thereby aestheticises the emotions provoked in the viewers by the ‘spectacle’ created to inspire good thought which in turn will inspire good living. The moral injunction within a classical framework such as that of the rasa theory is undeniable- it would be largely reminiscent of the question about art’s moral responsibility in place throughout history- specially in the context that the Natyashastra itself arrived at a time when society faced decadence, and it was left to the realm of the arts to elevate man from moral downtroddenness. (It is said that the four Vedas Brahma created- Rigveda, Samaveda, Yajurveda and Atharvaveda- were not allowed to be studied by the lower castes and the women of society; so Brahma created the Natyaveda to be studied and practised by all.) Is the experience of rasa subjective or objective? Different philosophers and scholars thoughout history have provided their own perspective on it based on their philosophical stances. Although the navarasas per se are objective categories in terms of codification of the aesthetic experience through particular words themselves, Bharata stated how rasa and emotionneed to be felt in experience while words exist as the suggestions of the same. This democratic rendering of rasa stresses on the ‘experiential or subjective side of poetic meaning’ which ‘seems rather pointless, for ultimately everything is an experience, such as a colour, taste, or emotion, and can be known as it is in itself only through direct acquaintance.’

II. “The Springtime Bihu of Assam”- a Celebration of Eros
One of the seven northeastern states of India, Assam encompasses numerous ethnic communities, each with its own distinct cultural flavour, thereby negating the notion of a homogenous ‘Assamese’ identity. The contours of such a representation would be multifaceted, then; not simply as a result of diverse tribal identities but also as a consequence of the interaction between the ‘greater’ mainland Hindu influence that has seeped into the region and interacted with ‘indigenous’ tribal faiths, ensuing a process of assimilation. This can be said to have been possible because “(t)he religion described as Hinduism is a body of beliefs and customs traceable to various sources- Aryan and non-Aryan, Indian and non-Indian, modern and old. It is absorptive in character and has an attitude which has found itself expedient in dealing with people of various grades of development- from believing in a super soul to worshippers of stones and trees… Indian folklore is as much the Hindu’s as it is the tribal’s.” A melting pot, hence, Assam fuses communities that trace their origin to the Aryavarta, the Tibeto-Burmans and the Ahoms who are descendants of the Shun community from China’s Unan province, alongwith traces of Dravidian and Austric people as well….Access Full Text of the Article

Pre-Romantic Concepts of Imagination

Arezou Zalipour, University of Waikato, New Zealand


The starting point of the history of imagination in poetry can be traced in the early attempts to define poetry, as in Aristotle’s Poetics. My investigation in the studies of imagination shows that while there are numerous comprehensive studies that provide a chronological survey of the idea of imagination as it appears in various fields, little has been done to investigate and examine the conceptual history of imagination in poetry. This article aims to explore the main developmental trends of the concept of imagination in poetry before its glorification during the Romantic period. I have structured these concepts according to the features that have appeared significant in the evolution of the concept of imagination from an imitating faculty to creative imagination in artistic creation and poetry. While this article presents a critical review of the available literature in the studies of imagination in poetry, it also conveys in an indirect manner the gaps and inadequacies in some of the most significant developments in the concept of imagination.

 Keywords: imagination, conceptual history, poetry, creative imagination, image


Referring to the quotation above, the present article is based on an overall project that traces the story of poetic imagination following Kearney’s maxim: to recall what poetic imagination was in order to understand poetic imagination now. The story of poetic imagination is tied to the story of imagination in philosophy and psychology especially in the early periods. The story commences with concepts of imagination in philosophy and in the early attempts to define poetry, as in Aristotle’s Poetics. My investigation in the studies of imagination shows that while there are numerous comprehensive studies that provide a chronological survey of the idea of imagination as it appears in various fields, little has been done to investigate and examine the conceptual history of imagination in poetry. This article aims to explore the main developmental trends of the concept of imagination in poetry before its glorification during the Romantic period. The conceptual survey reveals that imagination was initially examined by philosophers, including some minor and sometimes argumentative references to poetry. Later the concept of imagination was investigated in studies related to arts and artistic creation. This occurred at a time when creative dimensions of imagination began to receive greater recognition. In a comprehensive chronological survey of imagination across various fields, Engell (1981) tells us the idea of imagination in its general sense was actually the creation of the 18th century. Studies of imagination in poetry were simultaneously developed with examining this concept in the arts. Therefore, in order to collect and examine major features of poetic imagination within the realm of poetry, I was required to draw upon and organize the main characteristics of imagination in arts, philosophy and early psychology. I have organized these concepts according to the features that appeared significant in the evolution of imagination particularly with reference to poetry. While this article presents a critical review of the available literature in the studies of poetic imagination, it also conveys in an indirect manner the gaps and inadequacies in some of the most significant developments of the concept of poetic imagination. I will first provide an account of imagination in its early conceptualization to create a contextualization for the concepts that I have drawn as pre-Romantic concepts.

Imitation was an essential component of imagination particularly before the creative dimensions of imagination were discovered during the Renaissance. In the classical world, imagination was given an intermediary role between perception (senses) and thinking (thought), in relation to the soul, perception and memory. In De Anima, Aristotle considered imagination as part of common sense (sensus communis) – the belief in the sensory nature of imagination implying that imagination judges the perceptual traces and interprets these traces in various ways. By ascribing the functions of interpreting or judging to imagination, Aristotle, in fact, decreased the imitative attributes of imagination and prepared the groundwork for exploration of the role of imagination in appreciation and criticism of the arts and literature and also its creative potentiality…Access Full Text of the Article

Canonical Values vs. the Law of Large Numbers: The Canadian Literary Canon in the Age of Big Data

Carolina Ferrer, Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), Canada

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In this article, I propose an alternative technique to the traditional method of constitution of the literary canon. Instead of basing the determination of the canon on different values, I scrutinize the Modern Language Association International Bibliography database in order to determine the most cited authors and literary works. Specifically, I study Canadian literature. Thus, through the process of data mining, I obtain a sample of over 25,000 references that allows us to observe the chronological evolution and the linguistic distribution of the critical bibliography about Canadian literature. This quantitative technique yields a corpus of 151 titles and 295 writers that are cited more than 10 times in the database. Consequently, this bibliography is not the result of subjective selection criteria, but is based on the law of large numbers. Furthermore, this study shows that the quantitative analysis of bibliographic databases is an effective way to bring new light to the field of literary studies.

The Importance of Being Postmodern: Oscar Wilde and the Untimely

Jonathan Kemp, Birkbeck College, University of London
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“It is to criticism that the future belongs”

– Oscar Wilde[1]

 “In protesting the independence of criticism,

Wilde sounds like an ancestral …Roland Barthes”

– Richard Ellmann[2]

 “Postmodern is not to be taken in the periodizing sense”

– Jean-François Lyotard[3]

 The above three quotations delineate the typography of a particular trajectory within literary theory which covers more or less the entire span of the twentieth century.  Wilde’s prediction in 1891 seems to find its answer in Lyotard’s claim less than a hundred years later that postmodernism must not in any way be understood as a temporal marker, but rather as an aesthetic attitude or position.  For, if we are ‘in’ the postmodern we are in it precisely because we always already inhabit the possibility of its recognition, presentation or expression.  As such, texts or artworks that predate the critical emergence of the term can nevertheless be understood to be postmodern – and usefully so.  For it gives us permission to name, once again, though differently, perhaps, a particular phenomenon, or a particular convergence of phenomena; one we most typically name the avant garde.  In this essay I would like to use the above three quotations as markers for the trajectory of my argument.  In this sense, I will be using Wilde and Lyotard as both meetings points and end points for an arc that loops around to create a circuit, or a band, upon which – or within which – we might usefully place the concept of the postmodern/avant garde in ways which will shed light upon the notion of the untimely.  I would suggest that the postmodern and the untimely are, in short, other ways of naming and apprehending the avant garde as that which emerges without consensus, but which contains within it the criteria for its own assessment.  As Ellmann comments, Wilde seems, in his formulation of a new kind of art-criticism, to express something that Roland Barthes would develop sixty odd years later[4]: the self-sufficiency of criticism as an end in itself, or as a new form of aesthetic expression.  In this sense, Wilde’s work will be understood as posthumous, or untimely.[5]  That is, avant garde.

The Concept of Crisis in Art and Science

Eleni Gemtou,  University of Athens, Greece

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The concept of crisis in art and science is to be investigated through two approaches: a historical-sociological and a philosophical-ontological one. In the framework of the historical-sociological approach, the crisis that has been affecting both the scientific and the artistic community, has been due to external sociological causes or to the psychological inabilities and personal ambitions of their members. The traditional notions of pure science and high value-laden art have been often neglected, as both scientists and artists deviated from the ideal principles of their working codes. This approach reveals common structures and behaviors in human communities, independent from the differences in subjects, methodologies and purposes they serve. The philosophical–ontological approach to art and science and to the course of their development leads, however, to the opposite conclusion: both art and science as rational systems are incompatible with the concept of crisis due to different reasons in each case.

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