Makings of the Sea is an inquiry into the makings of the Mediterranean imagination in the 20th century, focusing on specific cases in the visual and performing arts, music and literature. It also questions a number of populist perceptions of the Mediterranean and its cultures. Following a thematic structure that falls broadly under the headings of journey, doubt and nostalgia, this is an essay on Mediterranean aesthetics.
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In Thodor Angelopoulos’s Ulysses’s Gaze it is poetically claimed that God’s first creation was the journey after which came doubt and nostalgia. Anyone who knows the Mediterranean will recognise that claims of this sort go beyond their poetic packaging. Makings of the Sea presents the Mediterranean as a horizon of journey, doubt, and nostalgia. Readers are invited to follow the journey as that which casts the Mediterranean as a universal aesthetic imaginary; where through doubt, a hybrid imaginary emerges over a horizon stretched between utopia and crude fact; and where we are all invited to reconsider nostalgia as the ground without which no one might properly converse with the nuances of everyday life.
Engaging with 20th century Mediterranean visual and performing arts, literature and music, this book invites the reader to consider how everyday aesthetics inhabit and define the Mediterranean as a common cultural horizon founded on difference. The author entertains no illusions on how this region is ‘shared’ between its peoples and their histories. Instead, he urges the reader to attend to what Albert Camus identifies as “the light” which Mediterranean men and women “have been able to keep.” Yet one must never forget that Camus’s statement is further qualified with a warning: “just as the Mediterranean sun is the same for all men, the effort of men’s intelligence should be a common inheritance and not a source of conflicts and murders.”
The first book of a trilogy that explores Mediterranean aesthetics, Maltese born author, John Baldacchino begins his ‘Odyssey’ with as much richness, complexity and depth as the expansiveness and sublimity of Theo Angelopoulo’s film Ulysses’s Gaze. He turns to the Sea to begin weaving the geopolitical specificity of the Mediterranean imagination. In a series of poetic chapters, Baldacchino deftly charts a journey that willingly faces doubt as to the vistas he presents, but always returns home so that he can begin anew. Baldacchino starts his quest by tracing a horizon against which a host of artists, poets, and writers are drawn upon, all the while keeping the significance of the Sea at play as he takes the reader to home shores so that the second volume can begin to appear on a new horizon. The book is an important achievement in Mediterranean geopolitical aesthetics. We await its sequels.
—jan jagodzinski, Professsor of Visual Art and Media Education, University of Alberta
John Baldacchino is Associate Professor at Columbia University’s Teachers College, New York. He was also member of Faculty at Gray’s School of Art in Scotland and at the University of Warwick in England. He writes on the visual arts, aesthetics, critical and cultural theory, philosophy of art and education and political theory. He is the author of Post-Marxist Marxism: Questioning the Answer (1996), Easels of Utopia: Art’s Fact Returned (1998), Avant-Nostalgia: An Excuse to Pause (2002), Education Beyond Education: Self and the Imaginary in Maxine Greene’s Philosophy (2008) and Art’s Way Out (forthcoming).