Aesthetics & Media

Aesthetics & Media Studies by Christiane Wagner

For my Ph.D. thesis in the sciences of art and aesthetics at the University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, my research focused on contemporary image analysis of concept innovation (first-class honors thesis/magna cum laude). Other than that, for postdoctoral research, I have been working on digital media, the concept of mediated reality, visual culture, and their sociopolitical relevance. This research focuses on the following question: Can “true” symbolic values of democracy prove facts through images concerning their impact on global culture? For this analysis to proceed, it is necessary to ground this research in aesthetics and the essential values that underscore visual culture. In this sense, this research concentrates on the values of human existence in global visual media with regard to the impact that this media exerts upon international politics.

Art and literature history have shown effective modes of influencing the configuration of images that impose the perception of their meanings and methods of structural or semiological analyses (Barthes 1982). Therefore, art as a symbolic commodity exists only for those who hold the means to decipher and appropriate it (Bourdieu 1991). An image remains subject to a variety of interpretations. We must realize it as an aesthetic experience before moving on to an understanding of the full meaning of the image. In this way, I consider in my studies that the definitions are restricted to a specific realm of cognition or common sense because judgments based on subjective values are significant concerning the polysemy of the image, especially given the immense diversity of possible interpretations. As such, cultural, social, political, and economic histories have always been transferred to art.

Thus, current artistic dynamics can be analyzed by contextualizing the image production process, techniques, and means prevailing to the historical moment, in the Hegelian sense. The production process is explained when the authenticity criterion of art transforms the artistic production. Such a process is related to contemporary art, in respect of cultural value as political and social progress, seeking the “democratization of art” ideal. One of the aims of this visual study is to demonstrate that the experiential aspects of images involve the dichotomy between illusion and reality. This aim is achieved by elucidating the contemporary analyses and the interpretations of artifacts that stimulate visual perception. Also, this research illuminates the aesthetic and historical aspects of images regarding them as artistic ideas and architectural achievements (Giedion 1982), giving meaning to the architectural space, public artworks, several cultural events, and endless forms within the media embodying the metropolises’ rhythms. Namely, whether contemporary art and architecture are in interdependence with institutional and globalized market structures, finding social solutions, or just focusing on their own milieu or mass culture entertainment. On the one hand, artistic achievements are part of the cultural development within its territorial limits. On the other hand, concerning a deterritorialization, they are related to space-time in the face of the digital interface. Therefore, it is not trivial to distinguish the social fact in its political and economic aspects from its immediate needs for solutions for the urban environment. In this sense, this study discusses the historical achievements of practical and aesthetic development, through artistic actions, design, and architecture, that take into account the public space, physical or digital, through images and projects that represent local and global challenges toward a sustainable environment. In this sense, the scope of environmental aesthetics applies to the relationship of the natural environment influenced by humans, as well as the things that relate to the environment (Daniel 2001). Therefore, an observation that involves aesthetics associated with the arts and everyday objects and environments of public life and its political and cultural implications is essential (Crawford 1983).

The variety of visual studies—cinematography, photography, sculpture, architecture, and design—aims to discuss democracy as well as the sociopolitical context in terms of inequality, post-colonialism, exploitation of minorities, immigration, race, gender, and climate change. In this sense, I am able to continually address this issue in the fields of arts, media, culture, society, and knowledge. Consequently, visual culture is analyzed by means of media studies, aesthetics, art history (Bürger, Danto, De Duve, Derrida, Chateau, Foster, Goodman, Greenberg, Krauss, Lyotard, McLuhan, Rosenberg, Seel, Warnke, and Welsch), iconology, iconography (Belting, Bergson, Bohnsack, Gombrich, Panofsky, and Riegl), and semiology (Baudrillard and Barthes), as well as the critical theory—the Frankfurt school of critical theory.

In conclusion, my interests lie in the analysis of visual phenomena’s transformation through digital technology, political and social processes of change, digital media, and how, in view of the political impact of global visual culture, they relate to new images broadcasted by the digital media. The study of images proposes an overview of the message, emphasizing the character of novelty, from conception to realization. That is renewed through the transformation of current meanings, determining actions, and in its media trajectory as a worldwide trend of mass culture seeking new messages through the image.

This visual analysis is based on the symbolic aspects of the elements that constitute the imagery of a democratic society. Apparently, communication is no longer restricted to the old symbolic or opinion investigations, but scientifically attempts to achieve results using facts and social phenomenon analyses. So far, to respond to new trends and cultural phenomena, publications presented here need to be understood as a process of investigation.

My published books and articles, as well as my bio, portfolio, recent international conference participations, and research networks, can be found on this homepage.

Thank you for your interest.