THE AESTHETICS OF COMMUNICATION AND THE COMMUNICATION OF CULTURAL AESTHETICS: A PERSPECTIVE ON IAN DUNLOP'S FILMS OF ABORIGINAL AUSTRALIA

Authors

  • HOWARD MORPHY

    1. Howard Morphy received his Ph.D. in anthropology from the Australian National University in 1978. His research interests include visual anthropology, the anthropology of art and material culture, museum anthropology, religion and social organization and the history of theory in anthropology. His most recent publication is a multi-media biography of the Yolngu artist Narritjin Maymuru. He is the director of the Centre for Cross Cultural research at the Australian National University.
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Abstract

This article is concerned with both the aesthetics of the subject and the aesthetics of the film itself. The concept of aesthetics can be applied at many different levels: from the visual properties of a particular artwork to the affective sensual experience of being in the world. At its most general, a societal or cultural aesthetics concerns the particular environment of sense experience people are socialized into, what David MacDougall refers to as an “aesthetic landscape,” a social abstraction and a form of poetics. In Ian Dunlop's films I consider both the general level of aesthetics, such as the sense of time in Western Desert and Arnhem Land cultures, and more specific instances such as the aesthetics of dance, song, and material culture objects. Equally relevant is Dunlop's use of aesthetics to convey his own interpretations of the significance of Aboriginal ways of life, his feelings about Aboriginal culture and the Australian environment.

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