We have amazing interns here at BMCM+AC. Case in point, Carmelo Pampillonio: Late last year, he formed his own reading group to delve deeper into BMC’s history and legacy + art theory and art education in general. Using our two extensive public libraries, as well as other outlets, he and his friends meet weekly for dynamic discussions. In this post, he shares what sparked the idea + what the group has read so far. Feel inspired to form your own “BMCM+AC book club”? Check out the suggested reads listed below, then stay tuned right here to our blog for what Carmelo’s group is reading next.

By Carmelo Pampillonio

A recent graduate of UNCA, I found myself longing for the discourse-based settings that university classes offered me, and I wanted an avenue to read/discuss literature informally with friends. Taking my opportunity as a Windgate Intern at BMCM+AC, I organized a small reading group with close friends this past December that meets weekly at the museum.

The texts we’ve chosen to read so far oscillate between aesthetic theory and art history. Our first few meetings focused on specific chapters of John Dewey’s Art as Experience—not only because of its rich theoretical content, but also because of Dewey’s connection to Black Mountain College. John Andrew Rice, the founder and initial rector of BMC, took influence from Dewey’s pedagogical philosophy. Dewey visited Rice’s classes at Rollins and even visited BMC twice in its fledgling years.

Once we were ready to move on from Dewey, group members put texts and reading suggestions on the table for future discussions. After all, our aim in holding the weekly cenacle is not only to read and discuss texts, but to do so in a comfortable and democratic setting. As almost everyone in the group is a practicing artist in one medium or another, we’re all curious to hear what arts-related readings the others have taken influence from, and eager to challenge our intellectual imaginations together.

We’ve read excerpts from Nicolas Bourriaud’s Relational Aesthetics, linking them to both Dewey’s text and our personal experiences when possible. We’ve discussed various phenomenological aspects of the aesthetic experience, how differing cultures place value on art, art’s relationship to the economy, being an artist in a post-internet society, and the pros and cons of putting artworks in museums, as opposed to keeping art a part of public or daily life.

Our past few meetings have centered around comparative readings of various arts-related manifestos, such as Luigi Russolo’s The Art of Noises, Antonin Artaud’s The Theatre of Cruelty (which was translated by BMC teacher M. C. Richards), Martine Syms’ The Mundane Afrofuturist Manifesto, and more. This week, we’re discussing an essay titled Manifesto for a Theory of the ‘New Aesthetic’ by Curt Cloninger, an associate professor of new media at UNC Asheville who’s also on BMCM+AC’s Board of Directors.

It’s been an honor to host these meetings, as not only have they facilitated a deeper engagement with texts through discussion, but they’ve helped us bridge more connections to the concentric circles of the college’s legacy. BMCM+AC’s two libraries—with their extensive and pleasingly obscure book collections as readily available resources—have proven to be the perfect backdrop.

Open Book: Recommended Readings from Our Libraries 

to get your group started…

1. Art as Experience by John Dewey: A collection of Dewey’s writings, this book examines aesthetics through philosophical and psychological lenses, ever keeping in mind our intrinsic relationship to our environment. In this work of pragmatic cultural criticism, Dewey’s main intent is to shift the emphasis of artistic appreciation from being exclusively about the “art object” to being inclusively about our biological, affective, and psychological experiences of it. This text can be found in the 56 Broadway library.*

Reading Group2. Io Anthology’s Ethnoastronomy Issue: A work of archaeoastronomy, anthropology, sociology, physics, and poetry, this issue of Io’s research series focuses on studies of astronomical, architectural, alchemical, mythological, and occult beliefs/practices of a myriad of cultures throughout human history. It includes a deluge of accompanying illustrations, photos, glyphs, and diagrams. This text can be found in the 69 Broadway library.*

3. Visual and Auditory Perception by Gerald M. Murch: Although this book was published in 1973, it still offers a fresh approach to bridging the gap between classical psychological theories and modern empirical and phenomenological research. Visual and auditory material are fascinatingly integrated in every section of analysis, investigating color theory, afterimages, concepts of thresholds, pattern recognition, Gestalt, depth perception, time perception, and illusions. This text can be found in the 69 Broadway library.*

Stay tuned to future posts for more recommended readings…

* Books cannot be checked out but can be read on-site.