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Gastvortrag | Lona Gaikis: Art as a Life Form: thinking with Susanne K. Langer

April 11 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Logician and philosopher of art Susanne K. Langer (1895–1985) is a remarkable figure of twentieth-century thought. She devoted her philosophical engagement to mathematical and linguistic questions, and had a deeply ingrained curiosity for the meaning of the forms of art. In this, Langer continued Ernst Cassirer and Alfred North Whitehead’s analytical attempts to unveil the reach of symbolization processes that secure the mental substrata from which the matrices of meaning are woven. Langer regarded artistic expression as a symbolic form of its own (as presentational, non-discursive symbol), thereby “scouting the possibility that rationality arises as an elaboration of feeling” (Langer 1957). Intriguingly enough, her theory positioned the form of music at the very core of a comprehensive theory of the arts.

This presentation will illuminate the “new key” in Langer’s thought and extract core ideas that make her philosophy so applicable, and worthy of continuation in an age in which the boundaries of the artwork, concepts of authorship and aesthetic principles are challenged. I will look at the current example of Chinese artist Tianzhuo Chen’s 12-hour multidisciplinary sprawling of music(s) in TRANCE, shown 2024 at the Sonic Acts Biennial, Amsterdam, as an example of art performed as a life form. This event embedded various forms of artistic expression in matrix-like settings, involving the audience on various levels of engagement, and intensities. This session is, furthermore, curious to reach out to possible theoretical junctions between Langer’s philosophy and musicology. (Lona Gaikis)


Institut für Musikwissenschaft Wien


Institut für Musikwissenschaft Wien
Spitalgasse 2-4
Wien, Wien 1090 Österreich
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