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Gernot Böhme Paperback 978-88-6977-029-6 108 2017 $ 12.00 / £ 8.00 / € 10,00


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Aesthetic Economy is a theory of the recent development of capitalism in our national economies. Basic needs are easily satisfied and, as a result, most commodities are no longer intended for consumption, but for the staging of our lives. That is, they are used to produce atmospheres. Applications of the theory are found wherever staging is performed: in commodity aesthetics, in marketing, as well as in the sphere of production. As to technology, we find a turn from useful to joyful technology. And the technology of entertainment has become a huge part of the general economy. Similarly, a further horizon of Aesthetic Economy is to be seen in the aestheticization of politics, the staging of sporting events and the management of culture.

Gernot Böhme (born 1937) studied mathematics, physics, and philosophy at Göttingen and Hamburg, and completed a PhD in 1965 at Hamburg University. As a research scientist, he worked at the Max-Planck-Institute with Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker and Jürgen Habermas. From 1977 to 2002, he was Professor of Philosophy at Technical University of Darmstadt and, from 1997 to 2001, he was Speaker of the Graduate School Technification and Society. Today, he is Director of the Institute for Practicing Philosophy, IPPh, and Chair of the Goethe-Association/Darmstadt.

Gernot Böhme

Excerpt from the book

“Aesthetic economics sets out from the ubiquitous phenomenon of an aestheticising of the real, and takes seriously the fact that this aestheticisingis an important factor in advanced capitalist national economies. To understand this situation, the concept of aesthetic work is first introduced. Aesthetic work refers to the totality of activities aimed at giving things, human beings, towns and landscapes an appearance or look, endowing them with a radiance or glow, an atmosphere, or producing an atmosphere within ensembles. This terminology deliberately dispenses with a qualitative evaluation of the products of aesthetic work, that is, with a distinction like that between art and kitsch, so fundamental to the theory of the culture industry. The concept of the aesthetic worker covers the whole spectrum from the house painter to the artist, from the designer of products or stage sets to the producer of muzak.It encompasses all the human activities which impart to things, people and ensembles that something more which goes beyond their physical presence and availability, their thing-ness and utility. Because this something more has taken on an economic meaning of its own, the term staging value or show value has been coined for it. A decisive feature of the aesthetic economy is that a quantitatively significant sector of the total economy is devoted to creating show values, so that providing a commodity with show value plays a major part in the production of that commodity. The aesthetic economy is therefore one which, to a large extent, produces values that no one actually needs, and thus shows itself to be a special stage in the development of capitalism. I have called the phase of capitalism in which we are now, that is, the phase which comes after the development of capitalism through the economic saturation of the private sphere, aesthetic capitalism. I use this term because further economic growth in this phase is possible only through the enhancement of life, through the production of means for staging oneself, that is, through the production of aesthetic values. There is a difference, which is important for us here, between a need in the narrower sense, which can be satisfied, and a desire, which is intensified in being met. The social conditions governing this situation, summed up here by the catchphrase discontent in prosperity, especially the economic conditions, must be held responsible for this malaise. But as these conditions cannot be expected to change, but, rather, the economic compulsions are likely to intensify further, one has to ask how the individual is to come to terms with this situation. In view of the finitude of existence, one cannot afford to go through life with a constant feeling of dissatisfaction, suboptimality and stress. One should learn not to allow needs to be transformed into desires in one’s emotional economy, in the same way as one avoids addictions. This act of caring for oneself is, admittedly, related to classical asceticism, but it certainly does not mean simply a renunciation of consumption and enjoyment. It does, however, require the discipline of not letting oneself be drawn into an upwardly-open spiral of increase, as urged by the consumer world in the aesthetic economy. To achieve this discipline one needs to gain insight into the structure of that world, and an awareness of how one’s own emotional economy can be shaped by it. It is the aim of this book to help to promote that awareness.”

Simmons students creating the shared canvas sequence

Once the leaves had been catalogued, we worked as a class to assemble the known leaves in order in a IIIF shared canvas. Fragmentarium makes sequencing images simple with a drag-and-drop feature. Once the images are in order, one click creates the shared canvas reconstruction (click the “thumbnails” link at the bottom and the “metadata” link at the left for the full experience).The students were familiar with the basic structure of a Book of Hours, so once they had identified the contents of each leaf, it was fairly straightforward to put the leaves in order and create a record for the reconstructed manuscript (this work was made even easier by the survival of folio numbers on some of the leaves!).

The next step demonstrated why such reconstructions are worthwhile. Using the cumulative liturgical evidence of the reconstructed manuscript – much more evidence than survives on a single leaf – the students conducted original research to determine its origin and provenance. By analyzing the saints in the reconstructed Litany and the liturgy of the Office of the Dead, the students concluded that the manuscript was originally written for the Use of Paris (no other portions of the manuscript that might have provided supporting evidence – such as the Calendar or the Hours of the Virgin – survive). By searching the dimensions and known contents of the reconstructed manuscript in the Schoenberg Database , they were able to identify several early-twentieth-century sales of the whole manuscript and identify it as the manuscript purchased by collector C. L. Ricketts from dealer Bernard Quaritch in 1922 (see de Ricci, Census I:634, no. 116) and sold by Parke-Bernet Galleries in 1939. It was dismembered by Ege or his business partner Philip Duschnes soon thereafter. As a final step, I updated the Schoenberg Database to reflect these discoveries, creating a new manuscript record that links the provenance records. These discoveries by my students were completely original. Instead of considering these a scattered group of pretty leaves, we now know that this manuscript was made for the Use of Paris and, from details in the Parke-Bernet catalogue, we know it had 189 leaves and seven miniatures and that it had been bound by Rivière. We know it was offered by Quaritch several times before being bought by Ricketts in 1922. We know it was bought and broken sometime after 1939. And now we can see, at least in part, how it once looked.

When I remember sitting on my living room floor with scissors and paste, I am truly awed and inspired by the beauty, simplicity, and effectiveness of the Fragmentarium model. Next year, my students will use Fragmentarium to reconstruct and study FOL 29. Who knows what we’ll find? Stay tuned.

A leaf of “Fifty Original Leaves” no. 29 ( Special Collections, Archives Preservation, University of Colorado Boulder, Ege 29 )

And I really do think it’s time for Gottschalk to go digital.

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The River Cut in Bracknell is a tributary of the mighty River Thames and is, typically for a heavily urbanised catchment, challenged in many ways. At least 3 sewage treatment works discharge along its course, and historically the channel was dredged and straightened at a time when this was considered necessary to avert flooding.

Add to this several large weirs which block fish migration, together with year-round run-off from roads and industrial estates, and the result is a river under pressure. But amazingly, wildlife still finds a way, and with a few simple improvements we can start to see it flourish, even in and around an urban centre like this.

The River Cut project site is adjacent to a public recreation centre run by Bracknell Town Council, which already hosts a range of amenities including tennis, mini-golf and basketball. Working with a public land owner is really advantageous, especially when they’re as supportive and insightful as our hosts here. The council have long recognised the value of angling and nature as both an amenity and a therapy to the rigours of urban life, for adults and children alike.

One of the reasons the council was able to attract funding from a diverse range of sources is the high percentage of junior anglers registered with the recently formed Braybrooke Community Nature and Fishing Club. The club started out on a local pond and has juniors sitting alongside adults on the committee. Now the aim is to introduce members to the challenge of fishing on a flowing river. A successful application to the Angling Trust resulted in a grant from its Angling Improvement Fund which has allowed 10 fishing platforms to be built, 2 of which will soon have wheelchair access.

But the club didn’t want to stop there. What if they could improve the river for fish and wildlife? Better habitat would bring more aquatic plants, insects, birds and of course fish. So next they applied to the Environment Agency’s Fisheries Improvement Programme, which was set up for exactly this purpose. By matching the cash grant with labour, and keeping down costs by sourcing wood and brush locally, the partnership has started to transform this once neglected stream into a productive and accessible fishery for all.

As we thin out the tree canopy, light streams into the river and encourages aquatic plants to grow. Much of the river is over-wide and choked with silt, so by creating marginal berms (literally new bits of bank) with the harvested trees, we can make the river meander and increase the flow velocity in the channel. This in turn forces silt downstream, revealing clean gravel below.

Being sited on the edge of an urban centre brings inevitable challenges and this year the river has unfortunately been polluted on several occasions. But rather than being deterred, the partnership has taken this as a cue to engage the local public and business communities in an awareness campaign that is steadily gathering strength. Thames Water, which oversees the drainage network below Bracknell, has joined forces with the Environment Agency to investigate and send out a strong message to deter dumping of oil and chemicals into roadside drains.

As the threat of pollution now looks to be receding, l decided it was safe to boost the river’s native stock of fish from our national fish-rearing facility in Calverton. So on Thursday 14 December 2017, we introduced around 2,000 juvenile chub, roach and dace to help ensure a brighter future for this remarkable little river.

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