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Jozef Kovalčik studied philosophy and aesthetics, receiving his Ph.D. in philosophy from Trnava University, Slovakia. He is a research fellow and vice rector at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava, where he teaches theory of art and theory of design. His research focuses on the relation between high and popular culture, but he is also interested in a contemporary understanding of artistic research. He is completing a book on this topic, entitled Aesthetics of Popular Culture, which is co-authored by Max Ryynänen (Slovart, 2014). He also edited High and Low (Slovart/VSVU, 2009). He is also an active curator of contemporary art and design.

John Frow. Cultural Studies and Cultural Value. Oxford University Press, 1995.

Within the domain of cultural studies, the distinction between high and popular culture is perceived as a social fact that has been crucial for organization of the cultural field. The dominant position of high culture, seen as the vehicle of cultural value, has been replaced by popular culture. Frow questions this position of cultural studies, which is anathema to diversified contemporary cultural production and consumption. On the other hand, in a dialogue with the post-structuralists and the post-Marxists, he argues that in spite of the numerous changes, within the cultural field the distinction high/popular is still present. However, it should be understood and organized in a different way––less populist, more democratic, and with regard to various (class and social) positions of intellectuals. Frow develops his argument by analyzing the distinction between high and popular culture from many perspectives, but his examination of the concept “popular” is the most profound and comprehensive of the entire book. He demonstrates that detailed philosophical investigation of basic concepts, so rare in cultural studies, is the best way to be innovative and inspiring.

David Novitz. The Boundaries of Art. Christchurch, New Zealand: Cybereditions Corporation, 2003.

The place of art in society is mostly defined by phenomena that exist on its fringes. This simple fact is widely accepted along with the rejection of art as a disinterested discipline, though it is only rarely considered in mainstream philosophy. David Novitz challenges common ways of thinking about the relation between art and everyday life through analyses of friendship, self-deception, pretense, love, appearance, seduction, conflict and commitment. He particularly focuses on the distinction between high and popular art and describes how it emerged in the 19th century. Novitz understands the arts as social facts, and so what is more important for the nature of the distinction between them is the social context rather than physical or structural properties. In the same way, high art gained its status in relation to popular culture, which has been defined as commercial, simple or designed for the masses. Novitz predicts that the time may come when the popular will be articulated as something valuable as such.

Richard Shusterman. Pragmatist Aesthetics: Living Beauty, Rethinking Art. Oxford: Blackwell, 1992.

A collection of comprehensive, profound and readable analyses of the most typical arguments opposing and defending popular culture presented in one book seems like an unrealistic expectation. Nevertheless, a fine example is offered by Richard Shusterman, whose text deals very smoothly and elegantly with the “classical” and contemporary problems concerning the relationship between high and popular culture. He describes his position as meliorism, which he situates between the radical extremes: the rejection of popular culture and the uncritical acceptation of popular production. As for high culture, Shusterman’s approach is sensible but very critical of elitism and the separation of high art from ordinary problems. From a position that is close to American neo-pragmatism, he emphasizes the role of aesthetic experience as the key aspect of any aesthetical judgments of high or popular art production. The book includes an essay about hip-hop, which has inspired and influenced many analyses of the topic.