Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Venus in Exile

Beauty as a type of communication and not a thing or quality. Instead it represents a form of recognition between two beings. The perceived: artwork, object, female, takes a passive position while the viewer is active and male.

“Modernists vilified aesthetic pleasure, defining the sublime aspirations of art as unrelated or antipathetic to the pleasures of feminine allure, charm, comfort... Their violent break from an aesthetic of passive allure now frees us (women), paradoxically, to contemplate new possibilities in beauty and its female symbolism.” pg 45-46

“We must stop treating beauty as a thing or quality, and see it instead as a kind of communication...It is the name of a particular interaction between two beings, a 'self' and an 'Other." pg 46

"Even when we use the term in a purely artistic context, a beautiful object is something we value, and we value it because it touches our dearest concerns. In our gratitude towards what moves us so, we attribute to it the property of beauty, but what we are actually experiencing is a special relation between it and ourselves." pg 48

"Sympathy is the product of the interaction that we call beauty, an interaction in which both parties become aligned in value and, in the process, become in some sense equal."

"Value is thus always central to the meaning of beauty."

An aesthetics of mutuality, embracing both the male and female subject of art.

For Kant "enjoyment" is the result when pleasure arises from sensation, but judging something to be "beautiful" has a third requirement: sensation must give rise to pleasure by engaging our capacities of reflective contemplation. Judgments of beauty are sensory, emotional and intellectual all at once.

Viewer interpretations of beauty possess two concepts of value: aesthetics and taste. Aesthetics is the philosophical notion of beauty. Taste is a result of education and awareness of elite cultural values; therefore taste can be learned. Taste varies according to class, cultural background, and education. According to Kant, beauty is objective and universal; thus certain things are beautiful to everyone. The contemporary view of beauty is not based on innate qualities, but rather on cultural specifics and individual interpretations.

In his Critique of Judgment (1790)[11] , Kant investigates the sublime, stating "We call that sublime which is absolutely great"(§ 25). He distinguishes between the "remarkable differences" of the Beautiful and the Sublime, noting that beauty "is connected with the form of the object", having "boundaries", while the sublime "is to be found in a formless object", represented by a "boundlessness" (§ 23). Kant then further divides the sublime into the mathematical and the dynamical, where in the mathematical "aesthetical comprehension" is not a consciousness of a mere greater unit, but the notion of absolute greatness not inhibited with ideas of limitations (§ 27). The dynamically sublime is "nature considered in an aesthetic judgment as might that has no dominion over us", and an object can create a fearfulness "without being afraid of it" (§ 28). He considers both the beautiful and the sublime as "indefinite" concepts, but where beauty relates to the "Understanding", sublime is a concept belonging to "Reason", and "shows a faculty of the mind surpassing every standard of Sense" (§ 25). For Kant, one's inability to grasp the enormity of a sublime event such as an earthquake demonstrates inadequacy of one's sensibility and imagination. Simultaneously, one's ability to subsequently identify such an event as singular and whole indicates the superiority of one's cognitive, supersensible powers. Ultimately, it is this "supersensible substrate," underlying both nature and thought, on which true sublimity is located.[12]

On Beauty and Being Just

Presenting the viewer with an opportunity to witness fairness, beauty assists us in our attention to justice. A beautiful object renders fairness, an abstract concept, concrete by making it directly available to our senses. Beauty has been accused of two things in political critique. First: beauty is a distraction and preoccupation from the intended social argument in an artwork, possibly leaving the viewer indifferent. Second: the gaze of the viewer is destructive to the object.

-The Political Arguments Against Beauty are Incoherent-

“The sublime (an aesthetic of power) rejects beauty on the grounds that it is diminutive, dismissible, not powerful enough. The political rejects beauty on the grounds that it is too powerful, a power expressed…” pg. 40

"Staring, as we earlier saw, is a version of the wish to create; it is directly connected to acts of drawing, describing, composing, lovemaking. It is odd that contemporary accounts of 'staring' or 'gaze' place exclusive emphasis on the risks suffered by the person being looked at, for the vulnerability of the perceiver seems equal to, or greater than, the vulnerability of the person being perceived..." pg 37

Binaries between beauty and the sublime:





-Beauty Assists Us In Our Attention To Justice-

For those who actively seek beauty, what precisely does the perceiver expect to experience within themselves when pursuing beauty? “Could one pursue truth if one had no interest in becoming knowledgeable? Is there a way to approach goodness while keeping oneself free of becoming good?” pg 41

-Fairness As ‘A Symmetry Of Everyone’s Relation To One Another-

Scarry's cave of beauty is similar Plato's Allegory of the Cave.

A Response To Danto

Robert Motherwell, Elegy to the Spanish Republic, 1958

What is the role of art in an age of 'moral indignation'?

Define activist art.

Is political art always activist?

Does beauty have a place in activist art?

Danto suggests both art and beauty have limitations as moral provocateurs. "The problem, as he sees it, is that when art designed to inspire moral response fails as art, it also 'fails morally, extenuated only by the good intentions of the artist'". pg 31

Pablo Picasso, Guernica, 1937

Eddie Adams' photograph of Nguyễn Ngọc Loan executing Nguyễn Văn Lém on February 1, 1968

Catherine Opie, Self Portrait/Nursing, 2004

Guerrilla Girls

Lacey Jane Roberts

Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Untitled (Perfect Lovers), 1987-90


Saturday, February 6, 2010

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Commodity of Beauty

Andy Wahol
Beauty is Shoe, Shoe Beauty

Does the commodification of beauty make its presence in contemporary art intellectually cheap?

Mapplethorpe and Bourgeois

"To seduce is a harmonious merger of , and it is the greatest art of all. Sculpture, which is my raison d'etre, is motivated by my obsessive, unsuccessful attempt to seduce...Art comes from the inability to seduce...Seduction is a form of convincing. I am the indefatiguable seducer. Beauty is the pursuit of 'the Other'. " - Louise Bourgeois, 1997

Lou, NYC (Finger Fuck), 1978

Self Portrait, 1980

Thomas, 1987

Braque, Bourgeois and Modern Beauty

"I couldn't portray a woman in all her natural loveliness. I haven't the skill. No one has. I must, therefore, create a new sort of beauty, the beauty that appears to me in terms of volume, of line, of mass, of weight, and through that beauty interpret my subjective impression... I want to expose the Absolute, and not merely the factitious woman." - Georges Braque, 1910

"To put it another way, experiences are sorts of pleasures that involve verbs. The fallacy occurs in taking the experience "I like X" and referring to "X" as beauty. The process is similar to what T.S. Elliot said of Wordsworth, "Wordsworth found in stones the sermons he had planted there." In fact, beauty is only a mystified expression of our emotion." - Louise Bourgeois, 1997

Apollinaire and Modernism

"Wishing to attain the proportions of the ideal, to be no longer limited to the human, the young painters offer us works which are more cerebral than sensual. They discard more and more the old art of optical illusion and local proportion, in order to express the grandeur of metaphysical forms."
- Guillaume Apollinaire

Williem de Kooning
Woman V

Beauty Was

-linked to kindness and justice
-tied to the idealized female form
-art's principle aim

Beauty Is

-local and partial
-part of commodity exchange
-necessary condition for life as we would want to live it - Arthur Danto
-complicit with political power
-denial of the value of ugliness
-subjective condition
-inevitably socially inscribed
-purity of form

A Família Real de Carlos IV