John Dewey (1859-1952), an American pragmatist philosopher, who placed experience as a central axis in the construction of thought and democracy, had a very great influence in the first half of the 20th Century, in politics, psychology, philosophy, pedagogy (Célestin Freinet, for example, claimed to be inspired by Dewey’s thought). Then it was forgotten, seen as too optimistic.
John Dewey’s ideas have come back to the forefront since the beginning of the 2000s. In my opinion, they are valuable tools to accompany the implementation of efficient systems of human cooperation: in his book The Public and its Problems (1927), he postulates that no political system can function if it is not capable of questioning itself in depth as it experiments. In his work Art as experience (1934), he argues that art is first and foremost a lived, shared experience, and not an external and superior object.
The work of art is generally identified with the building, book, painting or statue whose existence is on the fringes of human experience. Since the true work of art is in fact composed of the actions and effects of that product on experience, this identification does not promote understanding.
I find John Dewey inspiring because, in contrast to the quest for “good principles”, his approach supports the legitimacy of concrete and agile methods of experimentation, which seem to me the most adapted to actions, especially cultural ones, in our uncertain and constantly changing world, due to the upheavals linked to digital technology, ecological mutations, and others. This agility seems to me to be necessary so that culture can be one of the incarnate tools of a living democracy.
“Art as experience”, or restoring the continuity between art and life
By Colette Tron
In his famous book “Art as Experience”, the pragmatist John Dewey argued that experience is the secure basis on which the theory of art and aesthetics can be founded, all aesthetics coming from experience, thus restoring its meaning to the Greek term aisthesis as sensation, or sensible experience.
“There is constantly experience”, wrote Dewey, but its completion and its unity towards the aesthetic consists in “composing an experience”, passing by “the realization of a process” and consisting in an interaction between the man and his environment, his realities, raising thus the link “significant with the conditions of appearance” of the culture and the art.
However, he wrote: “Once an artistic product is recognized as a classical work, it is somehow isolated from the human conditions that presided over its creation and from the human consequences that it engenders in the real life and experience. When artistic objects are separated from both the conditions of their origin and their effects and actions in experience, they become surrounded by a wall that renders their overall meaning almost opaque.”
Dewey’s conceptual goal is to “restore this continuity”, or to abolish “the distinction”, between “the refined and intense forms of experience that are works of art” and everyday life, its events, as constitutive elements of experience, i.e., to “understand aesthetics, its formation, its genealogy, or generation (the philosopher Bernard Stiegler had developed the idea of”genealogy of the sensitive“) in the ordinary conditions of the life, individual and collective,”raw material of the experience“, of its activities, in the vitality, the presence and the attention to the world that every individual invests there. This participation in the world passing by the senses as much as by the spirit, by the sensitive with the intelligible. It is a question of understanding the cultural context and the living practices which give place to the realization of the works, and to their significance, whatever their nature. Against”a separation between the art and the objects and scenes of the ordinary experience" and the decline of the aesthetic experience.
And again, according to Dewey: “The works of art which are not distant from the ordinary life and are widely appreciated by a community are the signs of a welded collective life”.
Sharing my interest in an inspiring personality.
The notion of “cultural rights” is increasingly present in the debates within the cultural sector. They are seen by many as being at the heart of the issues and processes of change in the field of culture. But they are controversial, their very (...)
Interview with Benoît Labourdette (4’39s, 2020).
Video presentation of Benoît Labourdette’s approach to the democratic dimension of cultural action.
Interview of Benoît Labourdette by Jean-Yves de Lépinay (11’37s, 2020).
Sharing examples of audiovisual creation workshops conducted in the spirit of cultural rights: moving from “participation” to “interaction.”This trust we choose to put in others is a risk we take, it changes us. We take the risk of being able to (...)
What methodology should be adopted to build cultural projects that have the capacity to tame uncertainty and thus become more deeply rooted in their objectives? Methodological proposal, based on the thesis of Nassim Nicholas Taleb, the (...)
Lecture by Benoît Labourdette for proposals for philosophical and practical tools of thought on the challenges of digital and images. The aim is to collectively equip themselves to carry out popular education initiatives in the 21st Century in (...)
A film by Benoît Labourdette (5’27s, 2018).
Discovering in the materiality of the world that a work of art is not what it seems.
Essay, by Emmanuel Vergès
In the construction of cultural proposals, focus attention on the lived and shared experience. Short essay on the philosophy of action and the function of art.Benoît Labourdette’s work, between By my window and street projections, makes me think (...)
A film by Benoît Labourdette (53s, silent, 2017, pseudonym: John B.).
Write the language differently, reinvent our place in the world.
The “cultural rights”, which derive from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, are a concept developed and defended by researchers, sociologists, philosophers, political leaders and actors of the cultural world. Present in a certain number of (...)