Aesthetic Politics

This project sets out to establish terms for an ecocritical aesthetics for the 21st century in three thematic groups, Truth, The Good and Beauty.

Aesthetic Politics

Truth will investigate realism, data visualisation, glitch and abstraction. Realism addresses truth to perception, with a focus phenomenological aspects of aesthetic politics. Data Visualisation addresses truth to objects, and begins an enquiry into knowledge based, epistemological aspects of aesthetic politics. Glitch turns to truth to materials, and the ontological aspects of aesthetic politics. Abstraction attends to truth to the subject, extending beyond humans to the organic and inorganic universe and establishes an anthropology of aesthetic politics.

The Good takes up four more terms: imagination, peace, love and happiness. Imagination engages with the production of proximal and distant places and past and future times, responding to the first investigations into ontology established in the section on Glitch. Peace engages with discourses of security, advancing the project’s epistemological enquiry. Love addresses the dynamics of desire and its socialisation, extending to encounters with the non-human Other, expanding the enquiry into phenomenology. Happiness has a dual function: to establish the idea that aesthetic politics concerns the contest between various Goods, and to query the condition of happiness itself. It forms the anthropological element of this quartet.

Beauty is planned to address elegance, absolute beauty, the beholder and permanence.

Drawing on ecocritical discourses in the arts and social sciences, the series will analyse media and visual arts, literature, design, music and popular media as well as a range of ostensibly non-aesthetic forms including maps, medals, logos, stamps and graffiti. Truth, the Good and Beauty will be framed in relation to media categories of capture, storage and processing, ecocritical and indigenous categories of ancestors, the commons and gods, and secular virtues consideration, hope and wonder.

Outcomes / activities

I am currently in discussion with Goldsmiths Press / MIT Press on a series of publications. These will be preceded by a number of catalogue essays written with and for contemporary artists, archive projects in the UK and EU, collaborations with indigenous and decolonial researchers, multimedia collaborations, and scholarly conference papers, book chapters and journal articles. Truth is the subject of an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery bid under preparation with colleagues at the University of Melbourne and University of New South Wales with an international team currently in formation. This bid will include a workshop conference in Melbourne.


The publication series is intended to bridge scholarly and trade publication, drawing on my experience in magazine and gallery publishing including the Whitechapel / MIT Documents of Contemporary Art series, and in curating art exhibits and online forums.


A project website is planned with Goldsmiths / MIT incorporating sound, audiovisual and high-resolution colour images. It is hoped that Truth will also be the subject of a wiki-based development of Theory Culture and Society’s New Encyclopaedia Project.

Project details


The project benefits from participation in a successful ARC application on digital photography. A further application to the Australia Research Council on Truth is in preparation

Research partners

Theory Culture and Society, Goldsmiths Press / MIT Press

Project team

Professor Sean Cubitt, University of Melbourne
Professor Scott McQuire, University of Melbourne
Professor Nikos Papastergiadis, University of Melbourne
Professor Robert Hassan, University of Melbourne
Professor Daniel Palmer, RMIT University
Professor R Harindranath, University of New South Wales
Professor Celia Lury, Warwick University
Dr Graham Harwood, Goldsmiths, University of London
Professor Ryan Bishop, University of Southampton
Professor Marie-Luise Angerer, Potsdam University


Professor Sean Cubitt