By DONOVAN IRVEN, October 2020
Art is a way for people to make sense of their world. It is not reducible to this alone, but among the primary roles of art in society is that of making meaning. It shares this in common with philosophy. Their modes of engaging the world are different, but they share the basic function of helping us make sense of the conditions we encounter, of the situation we find ourselves in, the future yet to be disclosed. Art and philosophy meet in art criticism, in the effort to explicitly grapple with the meaning embodied in art as it appears in its historical moment and speaks from its place in time to an audience that receives its messages.
Filo Sofi Arts is dedicating this column to the philosophical interrogation of art and the art world. It is about art and philosophy together. We will draw from interviews and dialogues with artists, curators, critics, collectors, dealers, with makers and lovers of art, to deepen our own understanding of how art discloses the world and share those discoveries with our readers. These conversations are timely. It is not Filo Sofi’s mission to retread the movements of art history, but to help write the immediate history of our current moment by listening to those who try to make sense of it. In the context of these essays, art history becomes important as a means of understanding the world today and the influences, adaptations, appropriations, and recurrences that reverberate from the past into the contemporary art scene.
Filo Sofi Arts was founded by Gabrielle Aruta as an art gallery with a unique vision. Aruta has assembled a team of expert aestheticians to cultivate a gallery experience that brings our relationship to art and its meaning into question. It is the spirit of questioning that makes this column an extension of Filo Sofi’s educational practice. The tagline “...inquire philosophically within” invites readers to a dialogue with and about art, between the artist, their audience, the critic, the collector, and the curator. These relationships shape the presentation of art, how it might speak to us, how we can approach and interrogate the art, and on what terms. Disclosures brings these relationships to the fore and highlights their role in the creation of an art work’s meaning.
The goal is to deepen our understanding and appreciation of art and its world by providing a philosophical lens through which we can look anew. This approach makes us less certain, less sure, that we have all the answers about a work and its relationships. To inquire philosophically within is not only an invitation to enter the gallery, but also a welcome opportunity to look within ourselves to better understand our own place in the world and our own relationship with art.
Each of us must be mindful of our own place in the world, our own position and prejudices, our privileges and disadvantages, and we can listen earnestly and openly to the others who speak to us. But we received these words, this art, these communications, always from where we are, where we have been, with an eye to where we are going. To speak about art that comes from a range of experiences will require, will demand, that we seek out philosophers and thinkers who themselves have developed the necessary expertise on the matter. Many of these articles will be written by me, Filo Sofi’s Director of Philosophical Praxis, but many voices will be required to sing fully with the chorus of the art world’s many ensembles.
Art will speak to all who will listen. Art may not be for everyone, or speak to everyone, but it does address those who make themselves available to receive it. This requires work. It requires understanding. It is not natural or easy. It is a labor of love capable of building a profound solidarity.
Ultimately, it is perhaps this solidarity that we hope most earnestly to disclose. Through the work of art, it becomes possible to take the radical particularities of individuals and their communities and, through form and style, embody those particularities as universal. In this way, we can communicate with one another and rediscover the joy our differences might bring.
We hope you will join us, inquire philosophically within, and rediscover the wonder of art and its disclosures. WM
Filo Sofi Arts Disclosures is a series of philosophical reflections on art and its place in the world. It has grown out of owner Gabrielle Aruta's progressive mission to bring art and philosophy together in thoughtful public engagement.
Donovan Irven is a philosopher, essayist, and writer of fiction currently serving as the Director of Philosophical Praxis for Filo Sofi Arts. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @donovanirven.view all articles from this author