What is beautiful III – Ugliness permits us…

Painting workhops Tuscany
Orlan, African Self-Hybridisation, (c. 2002)

Reflecting, reflecting during our art workshop in Italy.

To follow-up on my last posts, during the last few weeks, I hired four astounding professors from various universities to work on the following question: “What is beautiful”? Their answers will be available shortly in the form of short presentations on Vimeo. The serious Kantian Daniel Dumouchel, from the Université de Montréal concentrated his talk on “the curse to beauty”.  Evidently, the concept of beauty as we understood it during Plato’s time, disappeared in the 20th century.  Of course, 19th century artists painted horrible and nightmarish subjects such as Goya’s Horrors of War.

But since World War I, artists began to turn their backs to the aesthetic dimension of the artwork to the point that they are consciously cursing it. The time of the beautiful form has passed as if talent is no more needed to imitate or mimic the reality.  Anything can be art! Of course that doesn’t mean that art is “any thing”.  Now let’s think. Beauty is not necessarily an artistic value, nor a moral value.  However, it is also true that the search for artistic, natural, moral and religious beauty gives us a reason to live.  But why neglecting beauty? What is then the purpose of ugliness?

Ugliness permits us, as Dumouchel advances, to reflect in another way. It allows us to denounce social injustices and permits us to distrust beauty… meaning that life cannot be always beautiful, nor politicians’ beautiful speeches; nor the beautiful man’s charming words.  Orlan’s face and body transformations tells about women’s obsessive cult of beauty and its destructive consequences.  Andy Wathol’s Brillo boxes tell us that we are under the spell of consumerism. Is consumerism beautiful? No!

To conclude, beauty still exists in our society but mostly in consumer goods.  In the field of visual arts, the artist has the final choice to use it or not.  But as spectators, we must accept the true work of art, even if it is not beautiful. Surely, the work will be interesting and upsetting, making you truly reflect on life!



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