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De-aestheticization and the Dialectics of the Aesthetic and Anti-aesthetic in Contemporary Art

Part of the Sociology of the Arts book series (SOA)

Abstract

Modern and contemporary art rejects in general market and capitalism. Artists try to avoid the commodification of his works and a subsequent neutralization of its critical power. The recent art history can be read as a search for strategies to resist the forces of market, leading first to the refusal of beauty and the adoption of other aesthetic qualities, including even disgusting. Latter, since the 1980s, many artists have embraced a program of de-aestheticization known as “Anti-aesthetic.” Recently, we can see a decline of the anti-aesthetic and even a return of the beauty. Fashion, design, advertising, decoration, and body are the realm of beauty in these times, but the revival of beauty today is a new strategy against the moral and political ugliness of this world.

Keywords

  • Critical art
  • Aesthetics
  • Anti-aesthetics
  • De-aestheticization
  • Beauty

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Robert Morris: “The undersigned … being the maker of the metal construction entitled Litanies … hereby withdraws from said construction all aesthetic quality and content and declares that from the date hereof said construction has no such quality and content.” Quoted in Harold Rosenberg (1972, 28). Joseph Kosuth in his text of 1969, Art after Philosophy: “It is necessary to separate aesthetics from art.” Since art once had an important decorative function, “any branch of philosophy that dealt with ‘beauty’ and thus, taste, was inevitably duty bound to discuss art as well. Out of this ‘habit’ grew the notion that there was a conceptual connection between art and aesthetics, which is not true.”

  2. 2.

    “Today more than ever, the buzz word among American collectors is ‘interesting’. These four bland syllables are in fact highly coded. The earlier word was ‘quality’, whose utterance was meant to mark off a given artwork from the swarm of others and confirm the precision of a collector’s taste. Interesting has the opposite effect. It suspends judgment, covers the rear, and defends the vacuum-cleaner habits of a cultural mass market without precedent in art history. It states, with a sort of coy defiance, that buying this, uh, thang may not be a mistake, even though its owner does not know what to say about it. It acknowledges that by the time thoughtful aesthetic judgment is passed – a distant prospect, given the promotional state of too much American art criticism – the price has trebled, the boat has sailed, the artist has turned 31, and it is now time to chatter about ‘contemporary masterpieces’, meaning formerly ‘interesting’ art that after four years, carries a $20000 to $50000 price tag. ” Robert Hughes, “Careerism and Hype amidst the Image Haze,” Time, June 17, 1985, 46.

  3. 3.

    “So long as progress, deformed by utilitarianism, does violence to the surface of the earth, it will be impossible – in spite of all proof to the contrary – completely to counter the perception that what ante dates the trend is in its backwardness better and more humane. Rationalization is not yet rational; the universality of mediation has yet to be transformed into living life … Natural beauty is the trace of the non-identical in things under the spell of universal identity. As long as this spell prevails, the non-identical has no positive existence. Therefore natural beauty remains as dispersed and uncertain as what it promises, that which surpasses all human immanence” (Adorno 2002, 64, 73).

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Vilar, G. (2018). De-aestheticization and the Dialectics of the Aesthetic and Anti-aesthetic in Contemporary Art. In: Alexander, V., Hägg, S., Häyrynen, S., Sevänen, E. (eds) Art and the Challenge of Markets Volume 2. Sociology of the Arts . Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-64644-2_8

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-64644-2_8

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