Wednesday, May 10, 2006

beauty and politics

I was looking around for a way to think about Gusky's very good post about Saltz in Modern Painters and read Winkleman's very good post about political art, and have been thinking about HighLowBetween's comment (in the comment's at Artblog Comments) whew...

I would argue that beauty may actually be a democratic approach to connecting to a wider audience on important issues and concepts
something I wonder if Kentridge thinks about -Kentridge being Winkleman's example of good political art. And I think I agree with Winkleman about Kentridge.
Now, I have not read Saltz's article in Modern Painters. And I think I take a little bit of issue with Highlowbetween's choice of the word "democratic" up there, I would probably like to choose a word like civil or civic to describe the approach, but all that said, I like thinking that Beauty is a pretty easy way of making complex issues and ideas complicated.

Is beauty not the preferred way of making an issue identifiable and empathy-worthy to a given audience ? I have never been a huge fan of Kentridge's, but I think there is beauty littered throughout the work. The ugly example that Winkleman chooses, that of some lying apologist that the US Administration is hoping for some chance of a better future for the Iraqi's while the USA's beautiful future lays in ruins, is an example of just this - creating a beautiful fantasy Iraqi future in order to seduce it's intended audience. But as Winkleman says:
any exploration of the issue that dismisses such a possibility out of hand cannot do justice to the issue, and therefore would not make for "good" political art.
But not only would it make for bad political art, it is just plain bad politics, politics that deny the possibility of beauty, of ambiguity, of possibility. Yes, I think beauty is about possibility, and that is why Republican politics are always so fucking ugly. There is so much certainty in that ideology, that ownership leads to responsibility and nuclear families are the only model, etc, etc, etc, that the only way to a better Iraqi future is through ugliness and barbarity.

The soft diplomacy of the other side, the Canadians and the rest of the world, is on the side of art, on the side of ambiguity and possiblity. On the side of good political art. And this is why I find the certainty of ugly art, art that is so certain that beauty has no role, that beauty plays into the hands of barbaric little non-art people so utterly unbecoming a democratic people. I find the out-of-hand dismissiveness performed by these 70s people with their ugly art to be unable to do justice to their issues and, therefore unable to do "good" art. Stretching Winkleman's argument perhaps for the worse, Justice is Beautiful.

1 comment:

  1. I find your point about certainty being at odds with beauty to be really resonant. There's something beautiful about uncertainty. It seems to lead to discovery, extending ones self beyond assumptions and presumptions. It seems more gentle in its tentative aspects. Certainty is often quite vulgar. That really connects for me.