Valie Export, “Tap and Touch Cinema,” 1968-1971


Valie Export’s “Tap and Touch Cinema” (1968-71) was a work of interactive art with feminist aims. Presenting the work to the public, Export invited men, women, and children to feel her breasts through a curtained box that resembled a cinema or theater. “Tap and Touch Cinema” reminds us of our own inappropriateness in the way that Kathleen Higgins alludes to in her description of Nicolas Roeg’s “Bad Timing.” In “Whatever Happened to Beauty: A Response to Danto,” Higgins writes that the juxtaposition and violent maneuvering between love-making to an emergency room scene draws the viewer out of a state of pleasurable voyeurism into one of “distressing self-awareness” (283). Export’s work similarly transfigures the pleasurable voyeurism we experience from viewing the naked female figure on television, into one of uncomfortable self-awareness when we are allowed to transcend the one-way gaze into the television screen into a two-way encounter in which the male gaze is confronted. Similarly, the male must come to terms with his own actions, of his own accord, as he goes beyond the realm of harmless, pleasurable viewing, into a moment of crisis in which one most reconcile the decision to cross and meaning of crossing into the forbidden and violent realm that characterizes touching as altercation.

Higgins writes: “We realize after one of thees jolting juxtapositions that we have allowed ourselves to wallow in fantasy aroused by beautiful images of the very character who (in the film) we know to be presently suffering. The beauty is inappropriate, but it reminds us of our own inappropriateness. Thus, while the beauty is inappropriate, the film is not” (283). In an interactive encounter with “Tap and Touch Cinema,” the viewer must acknowledge that they are indulging in an act that is mired in the objectification and oppression of women. While Export’s work invites a scenario that is “inappropriate,” the work itself is appropriate for by translating our hidden thoughts into visible action, it challenges us to come to terms with our character and the limits we are willing to go to in realizing our private selves in public.

Source: Kathleen Higgins, “Whatever Happened to Beauty? A Response to Danto,” 1996.





Proposal: A Case for the Pure Artistic Sublime

I would like to explore whether there is room in Kant’s theory of the sublime, for an experience of a pure mathematical sublime in an encounter with a work of art. I will approach this question by looking at the sculptural work of Giambologna from a formalist perspective that takes into account figuration only as it serves this purpose. I find this question a worthwhile pursuit because previous scholars have at most, posited circumstances in which an “impure” artistic sublime could exist, or demonstrated parallels between the experience of the sublime and the experience of beautiful art produced by genius. However, Kant’s own language leaves a loophole in which a case for pure artistic sublimity can be made.

I hope that this line of inquiry will contribute to the field of art history by demonstrating an alternative understanding of the shift that occurred in visuality/perspective between the Renaissance and Mannerist eras, or in the shift from pre-modern to modernity. In addition, I aim for my inquiry to open doors to understanding how a concomitant rupture in perspective occurred in the East and West during the mid- to late-sixteenth century…but I won’t get this far in my essay.


  1. Robert Wicks, “Kant on Fine Art: Artistic Sublimity Shaped by Beauty” (1995)
  2. Uygar Abaci, “Artistic Sublime Revisited: Reply to Robert Clewis” (2010)
  3. Robert Clewis, “A Case for Kantian Artistic Sublimity: A Response to Abaci” (2010)
  4. Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgement (1790)



Kazemir Malevich, “Suprematist Composition: Airpline Flying” (1915), Pippin pg. 1


In the midst of painterly abstraction taking full international swing during the early twentieth century, artists in Russian developed novel experiments in art of the avant-garde, inaugurating new, architectonic visuals of Modernism. In the style of Russian Suprematism, Kazemir Malevich rejected the conventions of representational painting and turned to complete abstraction as a mode of realizing realism, not in the figurative sense, but in terms of its most “real,” fundamental components that define it as painting. For Malevich, this toolbox consisted of color, line, and brushwork–elements best understood through juxtapositions and overlays of solid-colored, two-dimensional geometric forms. Malevich’s white backgrounds represented the “boundless space of the ideal.”

Robert Pippin invokes the example of a painting by Malevich in order to introduce the emergence of abstract part in the early part of the twentieth century in the context of its production, appreciation, and commodification (1). For Pippin, the art of Malevich demonstrates self-conscious reflexive on what it is to paint, what painting is, and painting that answers these questions. He attributes to Hegel the idea that abstraction may be a logical culmination of modernist self-consciousness, elaborating on this concept to posit the the necessity of “non-image-based art” in the service of human spirit (Pippin 2).




MoMA Website:

Robert Pippin, “What was abstract art?”

“A Throw of the Dice will Never Abolish Chance” -Stéphane Mallarmé (Caroll, pg. 588)


See poem here


Above is an English translation of “Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira pas la hazard”–a poem by French Symbolist poet, Stéphane Mallarmé. Mallarmé was influenced by the work of Charles Baudelaire and helped catalyze artistic movements such as Dadaism, Surrealism. He eschewed linear narrative in favor of a formalist approach to poetry. Encylopedia Brittanica writes, “By 1868 Mallarmé had come to the conclusion that, although nothing lies beyond reality, within this nothingness lie the essences of perfect forms.” He believed that these abstract poetic forms would materialize from what we know as reality.

Noel Carroll invokes Mallarmé to emphasize a shift away from an Aristotelian theory of art as mimesis towards a traditional Kantian theory of beauty as propounded by Levinson. Carroll summarizes Levinson’s position by stating, “…something is truly dance only if it possesses perceptible choreographic form.” Mallarmé’s poem, “Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira pas la hazard,” embodies a dance-like quality through its idiosyncratic yet rhythmic arrangements of text. By focusing on molding the aesthetics of the words, lines, and stanzas he creates aural and physiological effects of pause, breath, and suspense. Mallarmé’s emphasis on visuality and action supersedes textually evident semantic legibility.

Despite choreographing or suggesting a certain embodied reading, Mallarmé’s poem is inherently rooted in a “free play” of the imagination. Carroll specifically writes: “Mallarmé’s attribution of salutary ineffability to the dance symbol recalls the Kantian conviction that the beautiful is not subsumable under a concept…” (588). Kant writes that beauty is found in aesthetic idea, or “a representation of the imagination that occasions much thinking, though without it being possible for any determinate thought'” (49, 314 in Ginsborg 33). By presenting known words in intentionally ambiguous and indecipherable arrangements, Mallarmé presents the conditions for “general conditions for the application of concepts to objects that are presented to our senses, yet without any particular concept being applied” (Ginsborg 21). The reader is left with the ability to comprehend the presence of the text through pre-existing conceptual frameworks, which the poem nonetheless evades through its creative evasion of rules governing form and meaning. As such, Mallarmé’s poem gives rise to an aesthetic quality that capitalizes on the imagination, making possible judgements of beauty that are based upon disinterested feeling rather than in “objective sensation” and cognitive judgement.


Hannah Ginsborg, “Kant’s Aesthetics and Teleology,” Stanford Encylcopedia of Philosophy