The Aesthetics of the Performing Arts in the Contemporary Landscape

A special issue of Philosophies (ISSN 2409-9287).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 10 November 2024 | Viewed by 1222

Special Issue Editors

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Guest Editor
Department of Philosophy and Education Sciences, University of Turin, 10124 Torino, Italy
Interests: aesthetics; philosophy of art; philosophy of music and the performing arts; theory of image; creativity and improvisation; habits and aesthetic experience; German idealism; normativity; philosophy of action; hermeneutics & contemporary philosophy; theory of subjectivity

Co-Guest Editor
Department of Philosophy, Communication and Performing Arts, Roma Tre University, 00146 Rome, Italy
Interests: aesthetics; philosophy of art; philosophy of music; philosophy of art conservation and restoration; everyday aesthetics

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The history of the performing arts weaves together theater, dance, music, performance art, and other expressive practices, including circuses and stand-up comedy. Despite their profound impact on human culture, philosophical explorations of the performing arts have often been overshadowed by those of the visual arts, leaving their intricacies and depths unexplored.

In our evolving contemporary world, where art continually adapts to epochal transformations, it is crucial to reinvigorate the philosophical and aesthetic discourses surrounding performance, performativity, and the performing arts. These art forms possess specific ontological properties, different from visual arts, warranting further investigations into their aesthetic consequences.

In this Special Issue of Philosophies, we invite contributions exploring the philosophy and aesthetics of the performing arts from diverse traditions and methodologies. Topics of interest include:

  1. Ontology: Ontological inquiries into the realm of the performing arts have often been parasitic on the ontology of the visual arts, limited to discussions that, though often insightful and sophisticated, focus on distinctions such as type/token or autographic/allographic arts. However, the performing arts possess specific ontological properties. For instance, certain aspects of the artistic production process—a composition or an interpretational rendition—are presented to the audience, either live or through a recording. Moreover, whether one believes in the possibility of repeating a performative work or not, the ontological consistency and "portability" of the performing arts differ from those of the other arts. These, among other aspects, have aesthetic consequences worthy of further investigation;
  1. Performative beauty: In the realm of the performative arts, beauty takes on a dynamic form. Performers not only aim to create aesthetically pleasing visuals, gestures, or sounds, but also engage in a deliberate act of conveying emotions, stories, and ideas through their artistry. This act of expression becomes an embodiment of “performative beauty,” where the performers actively shape and influence the audience's perceptions and emotional responses. "Performative beauty," in the context of the aesthetics of the performative arts, encompasses the active and transformative nature of beauty in artistic expression and, arguably, also highlights the collaborative nature of the arts;
  1. Time and space: The temporal and spatial dimensions of music, theater, dance, and related practices deserve exploration. Inquiries may delve into how time influences artistic expressions and audience perceptions, and into the interplays between time, memory, technology-mediated performances, and artistic experiences. Further, the spatial elements and concepts contributing to artistic expressions and aesthetic experiences in relation to theater, choreography, music, and performance art, as well as the connections between spatial and temporal aspects of the performing arts and their aesthetic impact, deserve philosophical reflection;
  1. Emotions, expressivity, and aesthetic experience: Expressivity lies at the core of performing arts, where artists evoke emotions and ideas through their medium, eliciting affective and cognitive responses from their audiences. We invite articles exploring how expressiveness manifests through different media in performing arts and contributes to the overall aesthetic experience. Contributions may investigate various theories of emotions as applied to artistic practices and their aesthetic significance, or they could discuss conceptual notions, such as the idea of an "aesthetics of imperfection," in order to account for the contingent nature of performers' actions. Philosophical analyses of the expressive aspects of the creativity in play in the performing arts are encouraged;
  1. Modes of signification: How do the performing arts produce meaning through various sensory elements, movement, gestures, and symbolic representations? Artists convey messages not only through spoken or written language, but also through multi-sensory and symbolic elements. The use of symbols, metaphors, and allegories in dance, theater, and music raises questions about their interpretation and emotional resonance. Interdisciplinary approaches examining the relationships between signifiers and the signified in performing arts are welcome, including connections with literature, visual arts, and digital technologies;
  1. Reality and fiction: Philosophical inquiries into the interplay between reality and fiction within the performing arts explore how performers navigate the boundaries between self-expression and fictional personas. Moreover, the performing arts have a unique capacity to transport audiences into imagined worlds, prompting questions about truth and illusion. How does fiction intersect with "lived experiences"? How do performers embody fictional characters while still remaining authentically expressive? How can a staged representation evoke genuine emotions and resonate with the real-life situations of people? Exploring audience perceptions of reality and fiction uncovers the complex dynamics of interpretation and experience, delving into the transformative power of fictional representations;
  1. Authenticity and interpretation: Authenticity and interpretation are aesthetic and ethical concerns in the performing arts. Articles could focus on the following related subjects: the different types of authenticity (ontological, historical, expressive, interpretative), dimensions (artistic, aesthetic, ethical), and their impact on successful performances in various art forms; the interpretative modalities available to performers, the differences between performative and critical interpretations, and the relationships between interpretations and audience appreciation; the creative aspects of interpretations in practices such as cover songs, re-enactments, and mash-ups. Philosophical explorations may also touch on truth and interpretations in the performing arts, and the role of authenticity in the audience's judgments;
  1. The role of atmospheres in the performing arts: Expressive atmospheres play an important role in the aesthetic experience of performing arts. The ways in which artists craft atmospheres to evoke specific moods, sensations, and responses from the audience, as well as the interplays between atmospheres and emotions in performances, and the impact of lighting, soundscapes, set designs, and spatial arrangements, are among the topics that could be discussed;
  1. Body, movement, and embodied cognition: The physicality of performers and audience experiences shape the creation, perception, and understanding of performances. Articles may address issues related to embodied cognition and how movement and kinesthetic experiences impact the artistic meanings of performances, analyze the performers’ use of the body as an artistic expression, integrating movements, gestures, and facial expressions, and examine the audience's corporeal experiences and their role in interpretation;
  1. Improvisation in the performing arts: Improvisation is a key practice in all performing arts. Its role for the aesthetic merit of an artistic performance deserves discussion. Thus, articles could investigate the tensions between planned structures and spontaneous creativity in various artistic practices, explore the impacts of embodied knowledge and muscle memory on the improvisational process, and analyze the unpredictability of improvisation and its effects on audience experiences, authorship, creativity, and expressiveness;
  1. Types of presence and mediality: Telematic performances and digital platforms impact the nature of presence in the performing arts. The dynamic interplays between physical and virtual realms and their impact on the ontology and significance of the performative act, as well as the relationships between virtual and live performances and the audience's sense of presence, could be philosophically investigated;
  1. The role of the audience: The ways audiences aesthetically experience performances should be philosophically discussed. Articles could analyze the audience's impact on artistic works and the related performers’ responses, and investigate the audience’s engagement, embodiment, and interactions in immersive performances or virtual environments. Moreover, they could discuss the perceptual and cognitive engagements of listeners and spectators;
  1. Genre in performing arts: The evolution, intersections, and hybridization of genres in various art forms deserve exploration. Genres from different disciplines influence each other, leading to innovative styles and expressions. Hence, the inquiry of the impact of cross-genre collaborations on the production and experience of performing arts is a further task for philosophical discussion;
  1. Performing arts and everyday aesthetics: Articles could examine the transformative potential of public engagements with the performing arts, turning ordinary spaces into sites of aesthetic experiences. In addition, they could explore the significance of amateur performing arts in shaping everyday aesthetics, and investigate how festivals, street performances, and public art installations could impact the cultural fabric of society;
  1. Ethics and politics: Related to inquiries into specific aesthetic aspects of artistic practices is the investigation of their ethical and political aspects and impacts. Contributions may focus on the ethics of interpretation and the ethical themes tackled by the performing arts; analyze how art forms communicate messages related to identity, equality, oppression, and social change; examine the transformative potential of the performing arts as a means of resistance and protest; discuss how ethical and political flaws of artistic performances may impact their aesthetic value; and vice versa. An important, more specific subject is the relationship between performance and gender: contributions may address how performing arts have historically shaped societal norms around gender, and how contemporary artists challenge traditional representations, or they could explore queer aesthetics and performances as a means to reimagine gender and identity;
  1. Sport and the performing arts: Sports are also performances. Thus, the parallels and distinctions between sports and the performing arts could be discussed. Articles could, for instance, investigate how physicality, discipline, and creativity intersect in both domains, and/or analyze the incorporation of athleticism in contemporary dance and the fusion of martial arts and dance in theater performances.

In conclusion, the purpose of this Special Issue is to provide a rich and innovative framework for the philosophical understandings of the performing arts, keeping up with the changes of the contemporary world.

The Special Issue welcomes submissions from participants of the World Congress of Philosophy (Rome, 1–8 August 2024):

I look forward to receiving your contributions!

Prof. Dr. Alessandro Giovanni Bertinetto
Dr. Lisa Giombini
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

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  • performing arts
  • aesthetic experience and performative beauty
  • ontology of art
  • emotions and expression
  • authenticity
  • interpretation
  • improvisation
  • fiction and performance
  • aesthetic atmosphere
  • audience and spectatorship
  • artistic genres and styles
  • aesthetics, ethics and politics

Published Papers

This special issue is now open for submission, see below for planned papers.

Planned Papers

The below list represents only planned manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts have not been received by the Editorial Office yet. Papers submitted to MDPI journals are subject to peer-review.

Title: On the identity of musical improvisations

Abstract: The problem of identity is central to ontological orientation reflection on art. It has often been revived with regard to musical works; less frequently, more recently, it has been addressed in the case of improvisations. Clarifying the assumptions that, from the point of view of a listener/spectator come into play in such identification, in its specific difference from what we categorize as "work" or "composition," is within the aims of this paper.

Title: Performative aesthetic value in participatory art

Abstract: Departing from a functionalist account of art criticism, I seek to outline a theoretical framework to assess the aesthetic value insofar as it is a goal for works of participatory art. My paper raises the issue of whether and how current accounts of artistic value that establish a condition of dependence for the aesthetic character at stake as being evoked by a particular artifact, can apply to the criticism of participatory art, whose aesthetic qualities arise in the activity of the audience detached from the specific artifacts; detachment that varies within forms of participatory art, from interactive art such as installations to fully collaborative artistic projects.

Title: Landscape. From visual to performative arts

Abstract: I aim to show how, during the last century, landscape is no longer a prerogative of the visual arts and has become increasingly sensitive to the performing arts. This parallels a transformation in the very conceptualization of the landscape, which I will address and expose in the article

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