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Diarmuid Costello[/media]

"Miss Piper, you're about as black as I am," a talk on the relation of Adrian Piper's art and philosophy to questions of race at the "Deconstructing the Truism of Race as a Social Construct" conference, UCLA Hammer Museum of Art on 3 November 2018. My talk runs from 1.30.10 through 2.09.10.


Current Research

My research draws on both analytic and continental approaches to aesthetics and the philosophy of art, and is informed by recent debates in art history and theory. Until recently, it focused on two main goals:

1. To contest widespread assumptions in the philosophy of photography regarding the nature of photography, particularly as an artistic medium, in part by showing that it is predicated on a narrow diet of examples that distorts philosophers' understanding of the field, and in part by developing an alternative conception of photographic agency. The former draws on resources in art history, the latter on the philosophy of action.

2. To defuse antipathy to aesthetics in art theory by showing that kinds of art typically thought challenging to aesthetics can be accommodated by a sufficiently rich aesthetic theory. To this end I have drawn on the neglected semantic potential of Kant's theory of art, and endeavoured to show that a variety of supposedly anti-aesthetic artforms can be accommodated by the resulting aesthetic theory.

There is a book project associated with each of these goals. The former, On Photography: A Philosophical Inquiry, was published by Routledge in 2018. The latter, Aesthetics after Modernism, will appear in Oxford University Press's 'Thinking Art' series in 2024. Both involve substantive engagement with recent art and photography. Artists whose work has been important for these projects, respectively, include: (1) Peter Henry Emerson, Alfred Stieglitz, Walker Evans, Berenice Abbott, László Moholy-Nagy, Paul Strand, Lee Friedlander, Garry Winogrand and James Welling, and; (2) Robert Barry, Lawrence Weiner, Art & Language, Sol LeWitt, Jeff Wall, Gerhard Richter, James Coleman, William Kentridge and Ed Ruscha.

3. I am now working on a book that proposes a new model for doing substantive work in the philosophy of art that departs from dominant methodologies in both analytic and continental aesthetics. I call the proposed methodology "philosophical criticism." Provisionally titled Spurs to Thought: Engaging Philosophically with Contemporary Art, it consists largely of stand alone essays, each of which considers a small number of works by a particular artist in relation to a concept of philosophical interest, and associated philosophical debates. I present these essays as a kind "proof of concept" for the proposed methodology. Projected chapters provisionally include: Martin Creed (stupidity as a value); Adrian Piper (racism from the inside); Lee Friedlander (self-portraiture and the asymmetry of shame); Rineke Dijkstra (self-presentation and trust); Santiago Sierra (the morality of staging exploitation as art); Jeremy Deller (political agency versus political art); Richard Long (treading lightly on the earth); Zina Saro-Wiwa (the metaphysics of habitat); Elisabeth Price (the seductions of readymade discourse), and Stephan Balkenhol (metaphysics of the everyman). These will be book-ended by methodological chapters on how my approach departs from dominant approaches to art in philosophy, whether analytic or continental.


Academic Biography

From 2004-2012 I was a member of the British Society of Aesthetics executive committee, from 2008-12 as Chair of the Society. I have been a Leverhulme Senior Research Fellow (2004-5, and 2023-5), and a Humboldt Experienced Researcher at the Institut für Philosophie, Goethe Universität, Frankfurt, 2012-13. From 2007-11 I was Co-Director, with Margaret Iversen (Dept of Art History & Theory, University of Essex), of the AHRC research project, ‘Aesthetics after Photography.' There were special journal issues, various publications, workshops and conferences, and an exhibition associated with this project. I was a member of the AHRC's Peer Review College, between 2010-14. In 2023-25 I will be on leave as a Leverhulme Research Fellow to work on Spurs to Thought: Engaging Philosophically with Contemporary Art.

I am very happy to hear from PhD candidates wishing to work on projects connected to any of the research areas detailed above.


Work in progress

'Felix Eats Garri and Egusi Soup: Zina Saro-Wiwa and the Metaphysics of Habitat,' co-authored with Katrin Flikschuh (journal article, in draft)

Spurs to Thought: Engaging Philosophically with Contemporary Art (monograph, in progress)


Work forthcoming

'Abstraction in Photography, Revisited' in Chiara Ambrosia and Julia Sánchez-Dorado, forthcoming in Abstraction in Science and Art: Philosophical Perspectives (London: Routledge, 2024)

Aesthetics after Modernism, will appear with Oxford University Press (NYC), in September 2024: here 


Work Published


1. Books

On Photography: A Philosophical Inquiry (London: Routledge, 2018): here.Link opens in a new window Now translated into Farsi by Iman Amirteimour for Aban Book, Tehran (2003).


2. Edited Collections and Special Journal Issues

'Agency and Automatism: Photography as Art since the 1960s', a special issue of Critical Inquiry. Co-edited with Margaret Iversen and Joel Snyder, Vol. 38, No. 4 (Summer 2012): here
'The Media of Photography', a special issue of The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism. Co-edited with Dominic McIver Lopes, Vol. 70, No. 1 (Winter 2012): here
Also published in book form by Wiley-Blackwell, 2012.
‘Photography after Conceptual Art’, a special issue of Art History. Co-edited with Margaret Iversen, Vol. 32. No. 5 (Dec 2009): here
Also published in book form by Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.

The Life and Death of Images: Ethics and Aesthetics. Co-edited with Dominic Willsdon, London: Tate Publishing and Cornell UP, 2008: here


3. Journal Articles:

'Aesthetic judgement after de Duve or what, exactly, did Kant 'get right'? 44 (Oct 2023):

'Conceptual Art and Aesthetic Ideas,' Kantian Review 26:4 (Dec 2021), 603-618: 

'On the Very Idea of a "Political" Work of Art,' The Journal of Political Philosophy 29:1 (March 2021), 25-45:

'New Theory Reconsidered: Reply to Scott Walden and Dominic McIver Lopes', Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 77:3 (Summer 2019), 313-320.

'Spontaneity and Materiality: What Photography Is in the Photography of James Welling,' co-authored with Dominic McIver Lopes, Art History 42:1 (Feb 2019), 154-176.

'Whither Photography Theory? Reply to Catharine Abell and Paloma Atencia-Linares' in 'The New Theory of Photography: Symposium on Dominic McIver Lopes, The Four Arts of Photography and Diarmuid Costello, On Photography, Aisthesis, 11:2 (Dec 2018) (special issue on the Aesthetics of Photography), 230-234.

'What is Abstraction in Photography?', The British Journal of Aesthetics 58:4 (October 2018), 385-400.

Reprinted in: Kresimir Purga (ed.) The Iconology of Abstraction: Non-Figurative Images and the Modern world (London: Routledge, 2020).

'What's So New About the "New" Theory of Photography?Link opens in a new window,' Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 75th anniversary issue, 75:4 (Fall 2017), 439-452.

'"But I am killing them!" Reply to Palermo and Baetens on Agency and Automatism', Critical Inquiry, 41:1, Fall 2014, 178-210.

"Action and Automatism" in NONsite, Issue 11: Photography and Philosophy (Winter 2013/14), np.

'Kant and the Problem of Strong Non-Perceptual Art,' in The British Journal of Aesthetics, 53:3 July 2013, 277-298.
'Photography between Art History and Philosophy' (co-authored with Margaret Iversen) in Critical Inquiry 38:4 Summer 2012, 679-693.
Reprinted in: Raphael Pirenne and Alexander Streitberger (eds.) Heterogeneous Objects: Intermedia and Photography after Modernism, Leuven: Leuven University Press, 2013.
'The Question Concerning Photography', The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 70:1 Winter 2012, 101-113.
'Photography after Conceptual Art’ (co-authored with Margaret Iversen) in Art History, 32:5, Dec 2009, 825-835.
'Automatism, Causality and Realism: Foundational Problems in the Philosophy of Photography' (co-authored with Dawn Phillips), Philosophy Compass 4:1, 2009, 1-21.

'Pictures, Again,’ Australian and New Zealand Journal of Art, 8:1, 2008, 11-42.
Reprinted in: Sunil Manghani (ed.) Images: Critical and Primary Sources, London: Bloomsbury, 2013.
Translated as: 'Sur l'idée même d'un médium "spécifique:" Michael Fried et Stanley Cavell sur la peinture et la photographie en tant qu'arts," in Alexis Anne-Braun and Laure Blanc Benon (eds.) Philosophie de Photographie (Vrin: Textes Clefs, 2024).
'Whatever Happened to "Embodiment?:" The Eclipse of Materiality in Danto's Ontology of Art,’ Angelaki, 12:2, 2007, 83-94: here
Translated as: 'Cosa mai è successo all'"incorporazione"? L'eclisse della materialità nell'ontologia dell'arte di Danto', a special issue of Rivista di Estetica 'Artworld & Artwork: Arthur C. Danto e l'ontologia dellarte' ed. Tiziana Andina e Alessandro Lancieri, 35:2, 2007; pp. 113-128.
Greenberg’s Kant, and the Fate of Aesthetics in Contemporary Art Theory,’ The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 65: 2, Spring 2007, 217-228.
Translated as: 'Kant Podle Greenberga, Aneb Osud Estetiky V Soucasné Teorii Umení' in Sesit pro Umení, Teorii a Príbuzné Zony (Notebook for Art, Theory and Related Zones, No. 6-7, 2009), Yearbook of the Academic Research Centre of the Academy of Fine Arts, Prague; pp. 44-66.
On Late Style: Arthur Danto’s The Abuse of Beauty,’ British Journal of Aesthetics, 44:4, October 2004, 424-439.

'Lyotard’s Modernism' in 'To Jean-François Lyotard,' special issue of Parallax (17); October 2000, 76-87: here.


4. Papers in Edited Collections:

'S T U P I D A R T,' in Elisabeth Schellekens and Davide Dal Sasso (eds.) Martin Creed and Philosophy, London: Bloomsbury, 2022.

'Photography as a Category of Art,' in Sonia Sedivy (ed.) Art Representation and Make-Believe: Essays on the Philosophy of Kendall L. Walton, New York: Routledge, 2021, pp. 177-195.

'Without Shame: Lee Friedlander's Late Self-Portraits,' in Hans Maes (ed.) Portraits and Philosophy, London: Routledge, 2020, pp.171-188.

'Xenophobia, Stereotypes and Empirical Acculturation: Neo-Kantianism in Adrian Piper's Performative Conceptual Art,' in Connie Butler and David Platzker (eds.) Adrian Piper: A Reader, New York: MoMA Press, 2018; pp. 64-117.

'On the (So Called) Problem of Detail: Michael Fried, Roland Barthes, and Roger Scruton on Photography and Intentionality,' in Mathew Abbott (ed.) Michael Fried and Philosophy: Modernism, Intention, and Theatricality, London: Routledge, 2018; pp. 151-170.

'Doing Justice to the Art in Photography,' in Dominic McIver Lopes, Four Arts of Photography, Wiley-Blackwell, 2016; pp. 135-146.

'Leaning into the Wind: Poiesis in Richard Long' in Aron Vinegar and Amanda Boetzkes (eds.) Heidegger and the Work of Art History, Ashgate 2014; pp. 141-169.
'Kant, l'opera d'arte, l'immagine' in Daniele Guastini, Dario Cecchi, Alessandra Campo (eds.) Alla fine delle cose: Contributi a una storia critica delle immagini, Firenze: VoLo, 2011; pp. 109-122.
Retrieving Kant’s Aesthetics for Art Theory after Greenberg: Some Remarks on Arthur C. Danto and Thierry de Duve’ in Francis Halsall, Julia Jansen and Tony O’Connor (eds.) Re-Discovering Aesthetics, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2009; pp. 117-132.
Reprinted in Stefano Marino and Pietro Terzi (eds.) Kant’s Critique of Aesthetic Judgment in the Twentieth Century: A Historical and Critical Comparison of Its Main Interpretations (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2020)
Danto and Kant, Together at Last?’ in Kathleen Stock and Katherine Thomson-Jones (eds.) New Waves in Aesthetics, Palgrave MacMillan, 2008; pp. 244-266.
Reprinted in Mark Rollins (ed.) Danto and his Critics, 2nd Edition, Wiley-Blackwell, 2012; pp. 153-171.
'Kant after LeWitt: Towards an Aesthetics of Conceptual Art' in Peter Goldie and Elisabeth Schellekens (eds.) Philosophy and Conceptual Art, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007; pp. 92-115.
'After Medium-Specificity chez Fried: Jeff Wall as a Painter, Gerhard Richter as a Photographer' in Photography Theory, ed. James Elkins, London: Routledge, 2007; pp. 75-89: here.
‘Overcoming Postmodernism’ in Art History versus Aesthetics, ed. James Elkins, London: Routledge, 2006; pp. 92-98: here.
‘Intención e interpretación: aporías de la crítica a la Teoría Estética de Danto’ (‘Intention and Interpretation: Aporias in Danto’s Critique of Aesthetic Theory’) in Francisca Pérez Carreño (ed.) Estética después del fin del arte. Ensayos sobre Arthur Danto, Madrid: Antonio Machado, 2005; pp. 233-256: here.
Aura, Face, Photography: Re-reading Benjamin Today,’ in Andrew Benjamin (ed.) Walter Benjamin and Art, NYC/London: Continuum, 2005; pp. 164-184.
Translated as: 'Aura, Rostro, Fotografía: releer a Benjamin hoy' in Alejandra Uslenghi (comp.) Walter Benjamin: Culturas de la Imagen. Buenos Aires: Eterna Cadencia Editora, 2010; pp. 99-140.
Reprinted in: Kresimir Purga (ed.) The Palgrave Handbook of Image Studies (London: Palgrave MacMillan, 2020).
‘“Making Sense” of Nonsense: Conant and Diamond Read Wittgenstein’s Tractatus’ in Barry Stocker (ed.), Post-Analytic Tractatus: A Reader, Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004; pp. 99-125.
‘Museum as Work in the Age of Technological Display’ in Dana Arnold and Margaret Iversen (eds.), Art and Thought, Oxford: Blackwell, 2003; pp. 174-196: here.
Translated as: 'Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Ausstellbarkeit' in Dorothea von Hantelmann and Carolin Meister (eds.) Die Ausstellung: Politik Eines Rituals Berlin: Diaphanes, 2010; pp. 161-189: here


5. Curatorial Projects:

"Inventory:" James Welling and the Space of Photographic Possibility, Curated by Diarmuid Costello in collaboration with James Welling: in development.
Hannah Starkey: Twenty-Nine Pictures, Curated by Diarmuid Costello, Mead Gallery, University of Warwick: 14 January-12 March 2011: see Daily Telegraph and Independent

6. Exhibition Catalogues:

Painting through Photography, Photography through Painting: Some Thoughts on Chuck Close's Contrarian Modernism' in Chuck Close: Family & Others, London: White Cube, 10 Oct- 17 Nov 2007, and The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, 2008; pp. 49-54: see White Cube London and The State Hermitage St. Petersburg
Hannah Starkey: Twenty-Nine Pictures, Mead Gallery, University of Warwick, 2011: 88pp catalogue published by Mead Gallery and Maureen Paley, London with contributions by Diarmuid Costello and Margaret Iversen.