On «Thinging Beauty. Anthropological Reflections on the Making of Beauty and the Beauty of Making» by Lambros Malafouris, Maria Danae Koukouti
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This essay offers a critical review of Thinging Beauty: Anthropological Reflections on the Making of Beauty and the Beauty of Making (Malafouris, Koukouti 2020). In their article, the authors take an insightful step forward in the anthropology of aesthetics by grounding their theory in embodied material praxis and Material Engagement Theory (MET; Malafouris, 2013) which argues for a radical continuity between mind and material culture. They suggest that aesthetic consciousness (experience and judgment) is a process encompassing «the creation, perception, as well as our emotional response and affective attunement with materials, forms, or evocative performances» (p. 213) by which selected aspects of the world come to acquire the ability to move us via aesthetic agency. In their initial outline of the concept, Malafouris and Koukouti focus on a novel perspective of this experience: the performative aesthetic associated with making, a mode of immersive attention they call creative thinging or «attentive material engagement». Their ethnography of master potters situated in the midst of creative thinging suggests that the artisans’ expertise is revealed in their feeling of and for clay. The concept of thinging beauty is also introduced as both a performative and appreciative form of aesthetic consciousness. By introducing a novel approach to aesthetic experience, Malafouris and Koukouti offer a unified path toward an anthropology of aesthetics encompassing the aesthetic consciousness of both those creating and appreciating an object or performance.