Questions about Beauty


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A presentation for Art1020 at the UCONN School of Fine Arts by Justin Good. This presentation covers the concepts of aesthetic distance, the relation between aesthetics and ethics, theories of taste and the objective side of beauty.

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Questions about Beauty

  1. 2. Vincent Van Gogh “ Pieta” (1889)
  2. 3. Andy Warhol, “Onion Soup” (1968)
  3. 5. 1. What is an Aesthetic Attitude?
  4. 6. The concept of aesthetic distance: The experience of beauty is different from the experience of pleasure generally.
  5. 8. <ul><li>If a ripe strawberry in my garden has a ruby color, texture, and odour that are so delightful that I pop it into my mouth, then the judgment of beauty has been contaminated. </li></ul>
  6. 9. <ul><li>“ The sight of certain things gives us pain, but we enjoy looking at the most exact imitations of them, whether the forms of animals which we greatly despise or of corpses.” </li></ul><ul><li> - Aristotle, Poetics (360 BCE) </li></ul>
  7. 10. Two aspects of beauty Formal : the look of the thing Content : the reality of the thing
  8. 11. Lucien Freud, “Naked Man” (1991)
  9. 12. <ul><li>Andreas Serrano </li></ul><ul><li>“ Piss Christ” (1989) </li></ul>
  10. 13. Art critic Lucy Lippard defends the piece using very traditional criteria for evaluating artworks.
  11. 15. <ul><li>… a darkly beautiful photographic image… </li></ul><ul><li>Lucy Lippard </li></ul>
  12. 16. <ul><li>“ The small wood-and-plastic crucifix becomes virtually monumental as it floats, photographically enlarged, in a deep golden, rosy glow that is both ominous and glorious…” </li></ul>
  13. 17. <ul><li>“ Serrano does not regard body fluids as shameful but as natural… The artist wanted to condemn the way that culture pays only lip service to a religion without truly endorsing its values.” </li></ul>
  14. 18. Andres Serrano , “The Morgue” (1995)
  15. 20. “Triumph of the Flesh” (2000)
  16. 22. If you fantasize about doing something, would the pleasure of the fantasy experience be greater or less if the experience was in fact real?
  17. 23. Paul Cezanne, “Still-life with apples” (1895)
  18. 24. “ With an apple, I will astonish Paris.” - Paul C ézanne (1870)
  19. 25. “ Of an ordinary painter’s apple, you say ‘I could take a bite out of it.’ Of Cezanne’s apple, you say ‘It’s beautiful.” - French painter and theorist Paul Serusier (1863)
  20. 26. Beauty as aesthetic versus pleasurable The perception of beauty is disinterested : If you find something beautiful, you are valuing it for it’s own sake, not for any value that the object has for your sake. You are distinguishing it from reality (art versus a mere thing).
  21. 27. Two different attitudes toward these bodies?
  22. 28. Can anything be ‘aestheticized’? If so, should it be?
  23. 30. “ The greatest work of art?”
  24. 31. Wow! Cool! It’s Beautiful!
  25. 32. “ The greatest work of art?” The “greatest work of art imaginable for the whole cosmos”?
  26. 33. <ul><li>“ Asked at a press conference on Monday for his view of the events, Karlheinz Stockhausen answered that the attacks were &quot;the greatest work of art imaginable for the whole cosmos .&quot; According to a tape transcript from public broadcasterNorddeutscher Rundfunk, he went on: &quot;Minds achieving something in an act that we couldn't even dream of in music, people rehearsing like mad for 10 years, preparing fanatically for a concert, and then dying, just imagine what happened there. You have people who are that focused on a performance and then 5,000 people are dispatched to the afterlife, in a single moment. I couldn't do that. By comparison, we composers are nothing. Artists, too, sometimes try to go beyond the limits of what is feasible and conceivable, so that we wake up, so that we open ourselves to another world.” </li></ul><ul><li>- “ Monstrous Art,”
Julia Spinola, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
 Sep. 25, 2001

  27. 35. Graydon Parrish, The Cycle of Terror and Tragedy
  28. 36. 2. Beauty as a form perceived through a faculty of TASTE.
  29. 39. Three Views of Taste <ul><li>Objectivist (David Hume) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>- Taste protects the Intellect </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Sociological (Pierre Bourdieu) </li></ul><ul><li>- Taste is a tool for creating class distinctions </li></ul><ul><li>Anti-aesthetic (Marcel Duchamp) </li></ul><ul><li>- Taste is a prejudice in the way of perception </li></ul>
  30. 40. Objectivist View
  31. 41. David Hume English Philosopher, 1711-1776
  32. 42. “ Taste preserves minds free from prejudice.” -Hume
  33. 43. “ It is natural for us to seek a Standard of Taste; a rule, by which the various sentiments of men may be reconciled; at least, a decision, afforded, confirming one sentiment, and condemning another.”
  34. 44. <ul><li>The study of aesthetics is the attempt to find the key with the leathern thong. </li></ul>
  35. 46. But is taste objective? Universal? If so, why all the disagreement?
  36. 47. Sociological View
  37. 48. Def. snob : One who makes birth or wealth the sole criterion of worth. Taste as a tool of the snob.
  38. 49. <ul><li>Th e place to look for the snob is in the middle class. Worried a lot about their own taste and about whether it’s working for or against them, members of the middle class try to arrest their natural tendencies to sink downward by associating themselves with the imagined possessors of money, power and taste. </li></ul><ul><li>– Paul Fussell, “Cl ass ” </li></ul>
  39. 52. Edo uard Manet, Olympia (1863)
  40. 53. Andres Serrano, Piss Christ , 1989
  41. 54. Chris Ofili, &quot;Holy Virgin Mary” (1999)
  42. 59. Does taste exist?
  43. 60. <ul><li>How is it possible to explain the possibility of </li></ul><ul><li>Objectively good taste or bad taste? </li></ul>
  44. 61. Anti-aesthetic View of Taste
  45. 62. <ul><li>“ Taste is the enemy of art” </li></ul>
  46. 64. &quot;During forty-eight years it has kept the characteristics of a true readymade: no beauty, no ugliness, nothing particularly aesthetic about it...&quot;
  47. 65. Aspects of the “aesthetic situation” <ul><li>• The subject / viewer </li></ul><ul><li>• The object / event </li></ul><ul><li>The context / circumstances </li></ul>
  48. 66. Aspects of the “aesthetic situation” <ul><li>• The subject / viewer (psychology - faculty of taste, aesthetic attitude, analysis of perception) </li></ul><ul><li>The object / event (formalism, geometry, functionalism) </li></ul><ul><li>The context / circumstances (ecology, systems theory, history, cosmology, sociology) </li></ul>
  49. 67. What is it about beautiful things as objects which makes them beautiful?
  50. 69. What about the beauty of nature?
  51. 70. And why do so many people find the same things beautiful?
  52. 72. 3. Beauty as the subjective effect of a specific geometry
  53. 73. Immanuel Kant German Philosopher (1724-1804)
  54. 74. What does it mean, to call something “beautiful”? (From Kant’s Critique of Judgment (1790) <ul><li>1) you have a distinterested relation to it. </li></ul><ul><li>2) form , not appearance, is what is significant to the experience of thing. </li></ul><ul><li>3) aesthetic judgments are universal , not subjective (“I like trees”), or objective (“trees are woody plants”) but intersubjectively valid . </li></ul><ul><li>4) a beautiful object stimulates your whole mind , integrating your experience and creating self-presence. </li></ul><ul><li>5) beauty depends on purposiveness, the look of having a purpose. </li></ul>
  56. 76. FORMALISM
  58. 79. <ul><li>PURPOSIVENESS </li></ul><ul><li>WITHOUT A PURPOSE </li></ul><ul><li>(FORM WHICH IS </li></ul><ul><li>MEANINGFUL </li></ul><ul><li>AND FREE) </li></ul>
  59. 82. Beauty is purposiveness without a purpose. <ul><li>The pleasure we derive from beauty is connected to the sense of pleasure as a feeling that arises on the achievement of a purpose. Consequently, to see functionality as form shaped by purpose, is pleasurable, and it is the perceived purposiveness which strikes us as beautiful. </li></ul>
  60. 83. Form follows function means: beauty is a quality that indicates a utility or efficiency of the form as a means to an end.
  61. 85. To be beautiful= To be well-designed= To be functional. And functionality is valuable because efficiency is valuable.
  62. 88. Are there rules for making beautiful faces?