My research draws on both analytic and continental approaches to aesthetics and the philosophy of art, and is informed by recent debates in art history and theory. Recently, it has focused on two main goals:
1. To defuse antipathy to aesthetics in art theory by showing that kinds of art typically thought challenging to aesthetics can be accommodated by a sufficiently rich aesthetic theory. To this end I have drawn on the neglected semantic potential of Kant's supposedly theory of art, and endeavoured to show that a variety of supposedly anti-aesthetic artforms can be accommodated by the resulting aesthetic theory.
2. To contest widespread assumptions in the philosophy of photography regarding the nature of photography, particularly as an artistic medium, in part by showing that it is predicated on a narrow diet of examples that distorts philosophers' understanding of the field, and in part by developing an alternative conception of photographic agency. The former draws on resources in art history, the latter on the philosophy of action.
There is a book project associated with each of these goals. The former, 'Art after Aesthetics? A Critique of Theories of Art after Modernism,' is in progress. The latter, 'On Photography: A Philosophical Inquiry,' has recently appeared. Both involve substantive engagement with recent art and photography. Artists whose work has been important for these projects includes: (1) Brian Barry, Lawrence Weiner, Art & Language, Sol LeWitt, Adrian Piper, Richard Long, Martin Creed and Jeremy Deller; and (2) Ed Ruscha, James Welling, Jeff Wall, James Coleman, Thomas Ruff, Rineke Dijkstra, Lee Friedlander, Gerhard Richter, Chuck Close and William Kentridge.
3. I am also at the early stages of a collection of essays on the work of individual contemporary artists in relation various concepts attributing values and disvalue, provisionally titled Values in Contemporary Art and Photography. Projected chapters include: Martin Creed (aspiring to stupidity), Jeremy Deller (the idea of political engagement), Lee Friedlander (shame and its transcendence), Sol LeWitt (proof and redundancy), Richard Long (treading lightly on the earth), Adrian Piper (humour and hubris), Simon Starling (transfiguration), Jeff Wall (attentiveness), Lawrence Weiner (materiality) and James Welling (trust in the world), among others.
From 2004-2012 I was a member of the British Society of Aesthetics executive committee, from 2008-12 as Chair of the Society. I have been a Leverhulme Senior Research Fellow, 2004-5, and Humboldt Experienced Researcher at the Institut für Philosophie, Goethe Universität, Frankfurt, 2012-13. From 2007-11 I was Co-Director, with Margaret Iversen (Dept of Art History & Theory, University of Essex), of the AHRC research project, ‘Aesthetics after Photography.' There have been three special journal issues, various publications and conferences, and an exhibition associated with this project. I was a member of the AHRC's Peer Review College, between 2010-14.
I am happy to consider PhD applications from candidates wishing to work in related areas of research.
Work in progress
'Without Shame: Lee Friedlander's Late Self-Portraits' (article)
'On the Very Idea of "Political" Art: the Curious Case of Jeremy Deller' (article)
Values in Contemporary Art and Photography (monograph)
On Photography: A Philosophical Inquiry, London: Routledge, October 2018: here
2. Edited Collections and Special Journal Issues
The Life and Death of Images: Ethics and Aesthetics. Co-edited with Dominic Willsdon, London: Tate Publishing and Cornell UP, 2008: here
3. Journal Articles:
'New Theory Reconsidered: Reply to Scott Walden and Dominic McIver Lopes', Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism (forthcoming, 2019)
'Spontaneity and Materiality: What Photography Is in the Photography of James Welling,' co-authored with Dominic McIver Lopes, forthcoming in Art History 42:1 (Feb 2019)
'Whither Photography Theory? Reply to Catharine Abell and Paloma Atencia-Linares' in 'The New Theory of Photography: Symposium on Dominic McIver Lopes, The Four Arts of Photography and Diarmuid Costello, On Photography, Aisthesis, 11:2 (Dec 2018) (special issue on the Aesthetics of Photography).
'What is Abstraction in Photography?', The British Journal of Aesthetics 58:4 (October 2018)
'What's So New About the "New" Theory of Photography?,' Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 75th anniversary issue, 75:4, Fall 2017, 439-452.
'"But I am killing them!" Reply to Palermo and Baetens on Agency and Automatism', Critical Inquiry, 41:1, Fall 2014, 178-210.
"Action and Automatism" in NONsite, Issue 11: Photography and Philosophy (Winter 2013/14), np.
'Pictures, Again,’ Australian and New Zealand Journal of Art, 8:1, 2008, pp. 11-42.
'On the Very Idea of a "Specific" Medium: Michael Fried and Stanley Cavell on Painting and Photography as Arts,' Critical Inquiry, 34:2, Winter 2008, pp. 274-312.
'Whatever Happened to "Embodiment?:" The Eclipse of Materiality in Danto's Ontology of Art,’ Angelaki, 12:2, 2007; pp. 83-94: here
Translated as: 'Cosa mai è successo all'"incorporazione"? L'eclisse della materialità nell'ontologia dell'arte di Danto', a special issue of Rivista di Estetica 'Artworld & Artwork: Arthur C. Danto e l'ontologia dellarte' ed. Tiziana Andina e Alessandro Lancieri, 35:2, 2007; pp. 113-128.
‘Greenberg’s Kant, and the Fate of Aesthetics in Contemporary Art Theory,’ The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 65: 2, Spring 2007; pp. 217-228.
‘On Late Style: Arthur Danto’s The Abuse of Beauty,’ British Journal of Aesthetics, 44:4, October 2004; pp. 424-439.
'Lyotard’s Modernism' in 'To Jean-François Lyotard,' special issue of Parallax (17); October 2000; pp. 76-87: here.
4. Papers in Edited Collections:
'S T U P I D A R T,' forthcoming in Elisabeth Schellekens and Davide Dal Sasso (eds.) 'Martin Creed and Philosophy', London: Bloomsbury, 2019.
'Xenophobia, Stereotypes and Empirical Acculturation: Neo-Kantianism in Adrian Piper's Performative Conceptual Art,' in Connie Butler and David Platzker (eds.) Adrian Piper: A Reader, New York: MoMA Press, 2018; pp. 64-117.
'On the (So Called) Problem of Detail: Michael Fried, Roland Barthes, and Roger Scruton on Photography and Intentionality,' in Mathew Abbott (ed.) Michael Fried and Philosophy: Modernism, Intention, and Theatricality, London: Routledge, 2018; pp. 151-170.
'Doing Justice to the Art in Photography,' in Dominic McIver Lopes, Four Arts of Photography, Wiley-Blackwell, 2016; pp. 135-146.'Leaning into the Wind: Poiesis in Richard Long' in Aron Vinegar and Amanda Boetzkes (eds.) Heidegger and the Work of Art History, Ashgate 2014; pp. 141-169.