Last July, Spain hosted the 5th Edition of the Mediterranean Congress of Aesthetics. Entitled “Art, Emotion, and Value”, it was organized by both the University of Murcia and the Technical University of Cartagena and took place in the campus of the latter. The venue of the conference was particularly unique: the old Navy Training Barracks, a stunning old military building which has recently been refurbished. Its huge windows and awnings provoked games of light and shadow in the best tradition of Mediterranean architecture, and so created a singular atmosphere that drew the admiration of all the participants. The plenary room offered impressive views over the city harbour, which could also be enjoyed in a pleasant rest room where the debates continued over the beautiful sea view. What is more, the building had a charming interior patio covered by geometrically shaped awnings where the welcome dinner and breaks were hosted.
The choice of venue was one of the many correct decisions of the Organizing Committee, all from the area of Aesthetics and Theory of Arts (University of Murcia) in collaboration with the College of Architecture and Building Engineering of the Technical University of Cartagena. They not only dealt efficiently with all the practical issues but also hosted the visitors with kind hospitality, which favoured a friendly and relaxed atmosphere. During the official Opening session, professor Dyonisis A. Zivas, from the National Technical University of Athens, and organizer of the First edition of the Congress in Greece in year 2000, thanked Matilde Carrasco and the rest of the Organizing Committee for their efforts in giving continuity to an initiative that aims to reinforce the cultural relations shared by the diverse peoples of the Mediterranean for thousands of years.
Following the line of the previous encounters, and given that the common link is a geographical space and not a particular language, the Congress had English, French, and Spanish as official languages. The participants came from various countries of the South of Europe, the North of Africa and the Middle East, but there were also people from Brazil, Canada, USA, Switzerland, or the Czech Republic, which confirms the drawing power and the consolidation of these encounters beyond the natural boundaries of the Mediterranean. This geographical diversity was combined with the multi-disciplined nature of the conference as philosophers, historians of art, researchers from communication sciences or theatre, and artists attended. It should be emphasized that many young researchers, new doctors and PhD. students participated, giving vitality to the discussions.
The Congress lasted five days, however, the large quantity of papers forced their organization in three parallel sessions and so demanded of the participants a similar division that consequently fragmented the debate. This might be the only regrettable aspect of the conference and far from being exclusive to this event, it is currently a problem in most international meetings, which could be even more serious in other more crowded fields of knowledge. We will have to learn to deal with this difficulty to reap the benefits of internationalization and multidisciplinarity.
The subject of the congress, “Art, Emotion and Value”, led to two main kinds of discussion in particular. On the one hand, the issue of the relation between art, ethics and politics, a wide debate in which many people work nowadays and which is attracting more all the time. The relation between art and politics was the main subject, for example, in the last conference organized by the Nordic Society for Aesthetics, hold last spring in Copenhagen, and it will be of others already planned for 2012. On the other hand, there was the relation between art and emotions: the analysis of the emotions expressed by artworks and the emotional responses of the public to art, a line in which the researchers of the Area of Aesthetics and Theory of Art from the University of Murcia have been working hard on for many years. However, besides these two principal issues, other papers focused on aesthetic experience and judgement, aesthetics of nature, the analysis of the role of senses in aesthetic appreciation, and so on.
Four keynote speakers were invited to the Congress. Dominique Chateau, from the University of Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne, gave a very clear talk that addressed the debate on contemporary art and particularly the tension between the values of art and post-art, giving shape to a sort of “dialectical image”, in the sense of Benjamin.
Rachida Triki, from University of Tunis, could not finally travel and personally attend the conference. Her university colleague Sondes Hébiri read professor Triki’s paper “Aesthetic Value, Creation and Emotion” in which she offered a new vision on the central notion of aesthetic experience.
Anna-Christina Ribeiro, currently working at Texas Tech University, gave a talk where she reflected on the reasons why sad poetry can lead to enjoyment. Her account combined a very fine ability for discussion and analysis with an exquisite aesthetic sensibility, synthesizing then probably the two most valuable characteristics that a paper in aesthetics should contain.
The last plenary session was given by Gerard Vilar, from the Autonomous University of Barcelona, who approached the phenomenon of “de-artification” of contemporary art, and its “de-aesthetization”, as part of the same process, in relation to the possibilities that art has nowadays for offering a critical view of society or carrying out actions with clear political commitment.
Alongside the four plenary sessions, the interest created by the rest of the papers presented contributed to what was the main achievement of the conference, namely, the many discussions held during those five intensive days and the links created that no doubt will contribute to making research in aesthetics more international and multidisciplinary.
During the assembly, which brought together all the participants, a proposal for the next edition was approved. It was proposed that the 6th Mediterranean Congress of Aesthetics would be held at the Villa Finaly, Florence, Italy, owned by the Sorbonne University, Paris, France. Still in project, contacts are to be established with the French and Italian associations of Aesthetics. The Proceedings of the 5th Edition of the Mediterranean Congress of Aesthetics “Art, Emotion, amd Value” will be published soon on-line in the web: http://www.um.es/vmca/.
Autonomous University of Barcelona