Dangerous Aesthetics


Well, I thought I’d post my first real term paper of my PhD program. It is entitled “Dangerous Aesthetics.” I have tried to make it as readable as possible, but I’ll let you be the judge! The paper is an exploration of the morality of aesthetics. In other words, is it possible to use those things that give us visual pleasure to manipulate us? The Nazis used visual imagery like it was going out of style. Walter Benjamin called this politics made aesthetic, that is, you turn the regime into something that generates visual pleasure of one sort or another. What I’ve done is to look at the issue from the standpoint of Immanuel Kant’s aesthetics, and ask if there is a way of protecting beauty from being used for purposes of terror? I’ll be giving a shortened version of this paper while I am in New York, as part of my IDSVA residency. I’ll add some images for the presentation, and share them with you, too,

Vagabond Shoes Are Longing to Stray

I’m off to New York City in January for an intensive residency with IDSVA (Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts). Last spring we were in Italy, and in the meantime we’ve been force-fed a diet of Kant, Hegel, Marx, and Freud. Someone asked me on Christmas Day: “Does philosophy help you to live your life?” It’s a great question. After all, philosophy, along with art and religion, is the field that asks “What is the meaning of life?” Philosophy has the problem of being an ambiguous science (with its soul-mates art and religion best not making the claim that they are sciences). It’s the one science with no clear boundaries. My answer, though (to cut my story short, which I can see would go on forever!), was that philosophy gives us a means of analysis. It does not as much answer, but asks questions. That sounds uninspiring, but it is not. It gives us a way to clarify problems, to nibble at them. We are naturally seekers; just think what a letdown it often is to buy something, get it home, and realize it was more fun to think about getting it than to actually have it. Asking is more interesting than answering.