The Aesthetics of Everyday Life

By Andrew Light; Jonathan M. Smith | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7
Wim Wenders's
Everyday Aesthetics

Andrew Light

I don't ever want to make another film in which a car or a petrol station or a
television set or a phone booth aren't allowed to appear.

—Wim Wenders

AN INQUIRY INTO the aesthetics of everyday life tempts a normatively social as well as a more purely aesthetic form of inquiry. For if we can argue that the world around us is beautiful or not, then we beg the question of whether we want to live in a world configured so that it preserves and respects that beauty, or else goes on indifferent to it. In this chapter I explore this intuition with respect to the representation of an aesthetics of the everyday, with strong social (even moral) overtones, in the work of the German filmmaker Wim Wenders.1 In particular I will look at Wenders's portrayal of our relationship to built space in his 1973 film Alice in the Cities. My intention here is not so much to examine this film (or Wenders's broader body of work) as an aesthetic object in itself, but to argue that Wenders's work reflects a broader view of how we should aesthetically understand, and consequently value, certain kinds of spaces encountered in everyday life.

Rather than analyzing this film by itself, I frame this discussion in the context of a relevant debate currently under way in philosophy of technology, a subfield of philosophy that ought to be able to say something about the social, and perhaps aesthetic dimensions of everyday material life. In particular I look at the debate between Albert Borgmann and Andrew Feenberg on the possibility of technological reform for the purpose of enriching everyday life and consequently mitigating the pernicious effects of some modern technologies on social interaction. So, in addition to the general issue of what Wenders's Alice tells us about the normative dimensions of an everyday aesthetic, it will also be interesting to see if thinking

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