The Aestheticization of History and the Butterfly Effect

Visual Arts Series

Nancy Wellington Bookhart (Ed.)

by Kathe Albrecht (Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts), Kate Farrington (Montserrat College of Art), Christina Corfield (University at Buffalo), Paige Lunde (Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts), Rob Anderson (Boston Architectural College), Kathryn McFadden (Independent Scholar), Delanie Joy Linden (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Nicholas Pacula (Yale University)

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“The Aestheticization of History and the Butterfly Effect” stands as an important contribution to current debates concerning the future of art and philosophy as these ways of human expression inform the question of an uncertain future. Nancy Wellington Bookhart’s lead essay expertly historicizes the aestheticization of Western historiography and thereby situates the butterfly effect at the very center of these debates. The essays she includes in her collection exemplify the very best in contemporary critical philosophy. These range from Kathe Albrecht’s brilliant critique of the intertwinement of art and history, Robert Anderson’s equally brilliant continuation of this theme vis a vis race and gender circa 1893, and Kate Farrington’s superb transhistorical engagement with dOCUMENTA (13). The essays that follow round out the collection as a striking encounter with the possible.

Dr. George Smith
Founder and President
Edgar E. Coons, Jr. Professor of New Philosophy
Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts

This book reflects our contemporary moment. Editor Nancy Wellington Bookhart brings together the voices of eight scholars, curators, and artists (sometimes a single individual author has backgrounds in all three of these different roles) who actively rethink our histories of what art has been in order to provide insight into what it might be in the future. This is done as a provocation into the possibilities of what art might do. The book differs from older traditions of art history and criticism that have attempted to define how history creates a sense of inevitability of what comes next. Instead, these authors reenter history and the philosophy of ideas to ask how we might be able to think anew. The Butterfly Effect speaks to how small, even seemingly insignificant reimaginings of the past might produce a dramatically different present from which we enter the future. The book brings together a rich variety of voices that revise the past as we strive for new possibilities in the ways visual art allows us to reinvent ourselves and our communities of discourse. With its focus on scholarly attention on the critique of history to expand the prospects for making, this book will be of strong interest to visual arts programs, from undergraduate to doctoral study, that frame art making and scholarship as grounded in research and the critical examination of ideas.

Dr. Richard Siegesmund
Professor Emeritus, Art and Design Education
Northern Illinois University

Bookhart’s audacious approach to history and art in this transhistorical undertaking, "The Aestheticization of History and the Butterfly Effect" seeds generations the Kantian promise of the subject-object relationship in the restaging of narratives once constructed and perceived vis-à-vis the law of perception belonging to colonized schools of thought.

Doris Wellington
Independent Scholar
Founder of The Great Commission Humanitarian Project
Author of 'I Waltzed with God the Morning of Genesis: The Human Mosaic'

'The Aestheticization of History and the Butterfly Effect: Visual Arts Series' introduces the audience to philosophical concepts that broach the beginning of the history of Western thought in Plato and Aristotle to that of more modern thought in the theoretician Jacques Rancière in which the main conceptual framework of this anthology is predicated. The introduction is mainly concerned with Rancière’s concept of the distribution of the sensible, which is the arrangement of things accessible to our senses, what we experience in real-time and space— compartmentalization and categorization of all things. These things do not just involve tangible items, but audible speech, written language, and visibilities. Rancière’s theory of the regimes of art is undertaken as the unfolding of the distribution. Such is evoked in the various genres of visual art forms, from two-dimensional paintings to three-dimensional sculptures and architectures. Understanding the aesthetic regime of art is crucial for grasping how art performs time travel. One way of understanding this phenomenon is in terms of embodied philosophy imbued vis-à-vis art forms, which are subsequently challenged by contemporary artists. The contributing essays examine these reiterations, reevaluations—performances. Aesthetics is a term deriving from the 18th-century European Enlightenment. It is here that aesthetics as the study of beauty is probed for its political potential after the failure of the French Revolution. Many major thinkers during this period signed on to the aesthetic moment, recognizing that Reason in its present state failed to develop humankind beyond barbarism. J.E.B. Stuart's statue is part of an equestrian theme that approximates the Western canon of power and class in the pursuit of domination. But such power and domination will be dethroned in the restaging of history and the redistribution of said canon. This reimagining of the form not only alters perception but constitutes a new narrative.

List of Figures
The Question Concerning History
Nancy Wellington Bookhart
Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts

Chapter 1 Art Reimagines the Incomplete Past
Kathe Hicks Albrecht
Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts

Chapter 2 Missed Opportunities for Progressive Change: Marginalization, Race, and Gender at the Columbian World’s Exposition of 1893
Robert [Rob] Curtis Anderson
Boston Architectural College

Chapter 3 Cultivating Alternative Historiographies: Media Archeology, Craft, Paper
Christina Corfield
University at Buffalo

Chapter 4 Time Travel and the Twinning of Alighiero e Boetti and Mario García Torres at the One Hotel at dOCUMENTA (13)
Katherine Paige Farrington
Montserrat College of Art

Chapter 5 The Valadon Effect
Kathryn A. McFadden
Independent Scholar

Chapter 6 True, False, Fictive: Walid Raad’s Atlas Group Project and the Aesthetics of History, 1989-2004
Nicholas Pacula
Yale University

Chapter 7 The Aestheticization of History: Aestheticizing a Counter-Memory
Paige Lunde
Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts

Chapter 8 Polychromy, Painting, & the Chromatic Turn in Early Nineteenth-Century France
Delanie J. Linden
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

List of Contributors

Dr. Nancy Wellington Bookhart is an artist-philosopher who models the aesthetic framework which argues art and philosophy as equals in the development of humankind. Her research focuses on the intersection of race, history, and art as a social experiment in Western schools of thought. She received her doctorate degree in Philosophy, Aesthetics, and Art Theory from IDSVA (Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts). Dr. Bookhart interrogates the invention of race and stereotypes in her dissertation, 'The Black Veil of Freedom: On Kara Walker and the Aesthetic Education of the Black Man'. Bookhart is an avid presenter at national conferences on the theme of art theory, philosophy, and aesthetics. Bookhart is a contributing author for the text 'Diversity Matters: The Color, Shape, and Tone of Twentieth-First-Century Diversity', edited by Dr. Emily Allen Williams.

She recently completed a book review on Rebecca Peabody’s text, 'Consuming Stories: Kara Walker and the Imaging of Race in America' for Art Inquiries Journal. Bookhart is working on several provocative titles, 'We Piss, We Shit, We Die: A Philosophical Discourse on Living, Dying, Being', post-dissertation text, 'SURVIVAL: The Black Man and Darwinian Discontent', 'Fashioning a Dissensus: Politics, Class, Capital', as well as a work of fiction on poverty. The fiction work on poverty is an extension of her studio work. Bookhart has exhibited locally, regionally, and nationally. She is the founder and director of 'The Museum Initiative at Paine College', active from 2008-2015, curating dozens of exhibitions. The 'Initiative' was founded on the idea that art participates in forms of humanity and is essential in molding minds in the acquisition of intelligibility. Bookhart is an Assistant Professor of Art at Paine College and serves as chair of the Humanities Department.

Jacques Rancière, Slavoj Zizek, science fiction, Butterfly Effect, performativity, Plato, Suzanne Valadon, media archeology, paper art, craft, Alighiero Boetti, Mario Garcia Torres, Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, dOCUMENTA (13), One Hotel, Katherine Farrington, twinning, spatial thinking, time travel, positionality, Steampunk, machine anxiety, conjure woman, worm-hole, polychromy, painting, Nineteenth-Century France, marginalization, race, gender, architecture

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Bibliographic Information

Book Title

The Aestheticization of History and the Butterfly Effect

Book Subtitle

Visual Arts Series





Number of pages


Physical size

236mm x 160mm


54 B&W

Publication date

May 2024