Papers, Pieces, Proceedings

works, publications etc by members of the ArtSense team


Daniel von Sturmer at the Anna Schwartz Gallery

2 FEBRUARY, 2019 – 23 MARCH, 2019

In CATARACT, 81 screens presented as a singular object, play short videos of small-scale ‘events’. A combination of impromptu recordings and staged scenarios, the work presents a dynamic array of moments that document everyday physical processes and occurrences: spinning, falling, breaking, burning, growing, slowing, starting, stopping… the world is full of happenings, but it is only through selective attention that meaning is found.

Wittgenstein stated that the world divides into facts. Our propositions about the world rest on the facts that we hold to be true, yet in perception we can only focus on a small number of concurrent events before we begin selecting through our own prejudice. We attend to what we deem worthy of attention. Read against or beside a multitude of other images, significance can be magnified or nullified by context. Things happen, all at once. Not a cacophony but a cataclysm.

CATARACT constructs an experience where the viewer is presented with a proposition about the world as a complex, synthesised totality, through its assemblage of discrete, atomised moments. The work emphasises the limitations of our cognitive perception – things are more readily either/or, this or that – rather than accepted as discursive, rhizomic, and refracted. Instead, CATARACT presents a series of unfolding contradictions and juxtapositions as a dynamic field of relations in time, space and perception.

Daniel von Sturmer, 2019

Aesthetic Hedonism

Mohan Matten & Zach Weinstein

Oxford Bibliographies Online

Jennifer A. McMahon is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Adelaide, Australia. She is the author of Art and Ethics in a Material World: Kant’s Pragmatist Legacy (Routledge 2014) and Aesthetics and Material Beauty: Aesthetics Naturalized (Routledge 2007).

Social Aesthetics and Moral Judgment: Pleasure, Reflection and Accountability

Edited by Jennifer A McMahon

This edited collection sets forth a new understanding of aesthetic-moral judgment organized around three key concepts: pleasure, reflection and accountability. The overarching theme is that art is not merely a representation or expression like any other, but that it promotes shared moral understanding and helps us engage in meaning-making.

This volume offers an alternative to brain-centric and realist approaches to aesthetics. It features original essays from a number of leading philosophers of art and aesthetics, including Elizabeth Burns Coleman, Garrett Cullity, Cynthia Freeland, Ivan Gaskell, Paul Guyer, Jane Kneller, Keith Lehrer, Mohan Matthen, Jennifer McMahon, Bence Nanay, Robert Sinnerbrink and Nancy Sherman.

Part I of the book analyses the elements of aesthetic experience—pleasure, colour, preference and imagination—with the individual as part of a particular cultural context and network of other minds. The essays in Part II explain how it is possible for cultural learning to impact these elements through reflection, emotional expression and consensus building. Finally, Part III looks at the moral and political implications of social aesthetics and aesthetic pluralism. The essays in this last part converge on the role of dissonance, difference and diversity in promoting cultural understanding and advancement.

Social Aesthetics and Moral Judgment will appeal to philosophers of art and aesthetics, as well as scholars in other disciplines interested in issues related to art and cultural exchange.Published by Routledge, 2018.


From Pleasures to Principles Jennifer A. McMahon
Part I: Aesthetic Elements: Pleasure, Colour, Preference & Imagination

    1. Aesthetic Hedonism Mohan Matthen
    2. Art and Philosophy of Colour Cynthia Freeland
    3. Aesthetic Naivety Bence Nanay
    4. Imagination Jennifer A. McMahon
      Part II: Aesthetic Experience: Critique, Expression & Reflection
    5. Art, Exemplars and Consensus Keith Lehrer
    6. Objectivity & Shared Experience: Art & Morality Garrett Cullity
    7. Reflections on Emotional Expression: Dancers & Soldiers Sharing the Dance Floor Nancy Sherman
    8. Twofoldness, Threefoldness & Aesthetic Pluralism Paul Guyer

Part III: Aesthetic Judgment: Dissonance, Difference and Diversity

  1. Aesthetic Judgment & the Transcultural Apprehension of Material Things Ivan Gaskell
  2. For an Audience? Inalienable Objects & Aesthetics Elizabeth Burns Coleman
  3. Perception, Imagination, Emotion: Exploring Cinematic Experience Robert Sinnerbrink
  4. Aesthetics and Communication Jane Kneller

A New Question about Colour

Cynthia Freeland

Abstract: Philosophers of art have advanced our understanding of the role of color in realistic representation in painting. This article addresses a new question about how color functions expressively in art. I sketch some ways to answer this question, using examples of paintings by Mark Rothko and light art installation works by James Turrell and Olafur Eliasson.
Note that Cynthia acknowledges ArtSense ARC grant support in the final footnote.

   The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 75:3 Summer 2017: 231-48.

Call for Open Commentaries

Australasian Philosophical Review

The Australasian Philosophical Review (APR) is the Australasian Association of Philosophy’s (AAP’s) new open peer commentary journal. It publishes invited target articles by authors from all areas of philosophy, together with invited and open peer commentaries on those invited target articles, and authors’ responses to those commentaries.

Each issue has a different curator, chosen by a committee of the AAP; the curator is responsible for the choice of the authors of the invited target article and the invited commentaries. Volume 1, Issue 1, featuring work by members of the ArtSense project team, has been curated by Jenny McMahon.

APR cover

Volume 1, Issue 1

Curator: Jennifer McMahon

Theme : Aesthetic Pleasure

Target Author : Mohan Matthen

Target Article : The Pleasure of Art

Invited commentaries from:
Cynthia A. Freeland, Paul Guyer & Robert Sinnerbrink

To view the target article & invited commentaries for future issues, register with APR as an open peer commentator.

APR 1:1 was published online on 26th March 2017. Hard copy to follow.

All libraries which presently subscribe to the Australasian Journal of Philosophy will automatically receive the APR.

We Hunt Mammoth (2015)

Claire Healy & Sean Cordeiro

121 bagged components (entire Honda) in jute and bamboo using traditional Japanese method for packaging, installed in the Yorii-za, Kamiyama.

Images courtesy of the artists.

  Our installation has been variously described as a “Time slip” or “Grandma work”; in our eyes both descriptions are correct. We have created a work that has welded two different eras together. An installation has been produced that draws attention to the lifecycle of an object within our consumer culture. This has been achieved through the utilisation of traditional Japanese packaging techniques to parcel up individual pieces of a dissected automobile. Like a giant mammal that has been hunted down and shared out within the tribe our Honda Today lies chopped and bundled up on the floor of the Yorii-zain Kamiyama: pointing towards the obsolescence of the automobile and a possible hunter gatherer future trajectory for humanity.  

Claire & Sean

Immediate Judgment and Non-Cognitive Ideas:
The Pervasive & Persistent in the Misreading of Kant’s Aesthetic Formalism

Jennifer A. McMahon, 2017
In Matthew C. Altman (ed.), The Palgrave Kant Handbook, Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 425-446. The introduction to the chapter and the section headings are provided here.
Introduction : Three Apparent Dichotomies

The key concept in Kant’s aesthetics is “aesthetic reflective judgment,” a critique of which is found in Part 1 of the Critique of the Power of Judgment (1790). It is a critique inasmuch as Kant unravels previous assumptions regarding aesthetic perception. For Kant, the comparative edge of a “judgment” implicates communicability which in turn gives it a public face; yet “reflection” points to autonomy and the “aesthetic” shifts the emphasis away from objective properties to the subjective response evoked by the object. Contrary to the view he had inherited, Kant did not treat aesthetic judgments as confused perceptions or inferior cognitions, but rather put them in a category of their own.

For Kant, aesthetic reflective judgments implicated not only the processes involved in understanding the empirical world but also the processes involved in ascribing ideas or meaning to experience (which go beyond what is given in perception/cognition). This “going beyond cognition” may have been referred to by Kant as non-cognitive, but it is conditioned on a way of cognizing the object. Kant describes the features of such judgments in the Analytic of the Beautiful before addressing their possibility in subtle ways throughout the Deduction of Pure Aesthetic Judgments.

Kant’s critique gives rise to three apparent dichotomies between immediate intuition and prior learning; autonomy and communicability; and non-cognitive response and aesthetic ideas. An interpretation of Kant’s theory can be deemed correct to the degree that it succeeds in showing that the contradictions are only apparent. I will argue that the resulting positive account of Kant’s aesthetic theory offers an understanding of aesthetic reflective judgment that is quite different from the standard formalism that the critics of formalism usually target and by which they misrepresent Kant’s aesthetic theory.

At times throughout this chapter I refer to Kant’s formalism, but I mean something quite different by this than what is meant by “standard formalism.” The latter is the representation given Kant’s formalism by its contemporary critics and is the typical account of formalism found in the art theory and philosophy of art literature, as will be demonstrated.


  • Three Apparent Dichotomies
  • Intuition: Immediate judgment & prior learning
  • The “form of purposiveness”: Autonomy & communicability
  • Disinterest: Non-cognitive engagement and aesthetic ideas
  • A positive account: Public sentiment to parallel public reason

The Space of Reception: Framing Autonomy and Collaboration

Jennifer A. McMahon and Carol Ann Gilchrist, 2017
In: Who Runs the Artworld: Money, Power and Ethics, edited by Brad Buckley and John Conomos. Faringdon UK: Libri, 2017, pp201-12.

The Drag (2015)

Claire Healy & Sean Cordeiro

Rover P6; 2-channel video.
Colour, sound. 28 minutes.

Production still: Claire Healy & Sean Cordeiro
Videographer: Gotaro Uematsu

Images courtesy of the artists &
Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery & Gallery Wendi Norris

 → Read Jennifer McMahon 100 word review 

Read Hesse McGraw Review

In Jenner, Felicity (ed) (2015) People Like Us. Exhibition Catalogue: Art Gallery of NSW

Future Drag

by Hesse McGraw

There will definitely come a day when all our fossil fuel reserves run out… this artwork is a drag race without gasoline – Claire Healy and Sean Cordeiro

The end is near, and we expect ecstatic visions. We hope against reason for a terrible beauty. Our pending collapse froths magnetic seduction.

Werner Herzog’s burning wells, Cormac McCarthy’s scorched earth, and Interstellar’s dust storms are pregnant images of human demise, coated with we-deserve-this pathos. These crafted, formal, perhaps iconic images of destruction present the epic flameout of post-20th century reliance on finite resources. The apocalypse is upon us, but it will be stunning high definition.

In the United States, automobiles account for one-fifth of emissions, while globally 15% of manmade carbon dioxide is produced by transportation. Claire Healy and Sean Cordeiro’s work The Drag… (After the peak) (2015) isolates our carbon dreams against their imminent catch. The work elegantly asks What’s the trade-off of our fossil fuel reliance? but also What does the end look like? Is our vanishing point an incinerated tarmac or ordinary human ingenuity?

Healy and Cordeiro’s dual-screen projection presents a seemingly Sisyphean effort, yet one for which our man is fully equipped. He moves between the screens and is methodical, confident, and silent. A Rover P6 at first sits inert on the left screen, and then he begins his transfixing operation — off come the front wheels, the seats, the steering wheel, he cuts the car in half, jacks up the front end, has a snack, naps on a tire.

In a race against himself, or us, he moves the Rover P6 to the second screen and begins reassembly. Our payoff, as viewers, is in his disciplined and precise action — we are watching an engineering feat, yet, in the end, the car is simply the car, without gas.

Healy and Cordeiro have referred to the automobile as an ‘embodiment of the individual will’ that ‘denies the collective knowledge and cooperation needed for its existence’. One might read The Drag…as a celebration of human self-sufficiency, but their position is perhaps more fatalist. They ask, What will happen once the oil runs out? Will the rebel without a cause ride a bicycle instead of a motorcycle? We might spin our wheels attempting to reconcile the opposition between human achievement and its global consequence, yet Healy and Cordeiro’s alarm is authentically urgent.

British artist Richard Hamilton’s 1973 Porsche 911S recently went to auction during Bonham’s Festival of Speed Sale. During their promotion of the sale, Bonham’s intoned, For a great artist to see such synergy between fine art and the design of a motor car is a wonderful endorsement of the craftsmanship, style, and design involved in their creation. It’s a vintage platitude for which it seems Healy and Cordeiro’s work was made.

The work dream ride 5,6,7 (2010) by the New York-based collaborative Ghost of a Dream similarly captures the endless trade-off cycle represented by Healy and Cordeiro. dream ride 5,6,7 is a to-scale Lamborghini Countach fully wallpapered with discarded lottery tickets. A delirious irony of the work’s production is the source of the tickets — Ghost of a Dream were gifted the tickets by the son of a man who had amassed thousands of losing tickets in pursuit of an unfulfilled lake house dream.

The radical pragmatism of The Drag… (After the peak) counters both human striving and apocalyptic fever — only through its loss, might we see the purest forms of human excess defeat themselves.


Hesse McGraw is a curator and writer and is vice president for exhibitions and public programs at San Francisco Art Institute.

Aesthetics is the grammar of desire

Jennifer A. McMahon (2015)

Aesthetic Investigations
Vol 1, No 1, pp156 – 164

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Aesthetic Investigations journal cover (extract)

Collaboration between philosophers and artists

Newcastle, Australia, September 2015

Curated by Jenny McMahon (Philosophy, Adelaide) and Sean Lowry (Creative Arts, Newcastle), a panel of philosophers provided commentary on performances/presentations by nineteen artists/musicians/actors over a two day Symposium presented by the School of Creative Arts, University of Newcastle.

We identified an interface between philosophy and art by considering what constitutes the bare essentials of creative practice.

Elizabeth Coleman (Monash)
David Macarthur (Sydney)
James Phillips (UNSW)
Daniel von Sturmer (Monash)

Jenny McMahon (Adelaide)

Jennifer A. McMahon, Elizabeth Burns Coleman, David Macarthur, James Phillips & Daniel von Sturmer.
“Between Philosophy and Art: A Collaboration at The Lock-Up, Newcastle”,
Australasian Journal of Popular Culture 5: 2/3 pp. 135-150.,id=202/
DOI: 10.1386/ajpc.5.2-3.135_1