• TheMadFool
    4.7k
    There are two extreme positions traditionally taken with respect to the relationship between art and morality; one is autonomism, or aestheticism, which is the view that it is inappropriate to apply moral categories to artworks, and that only aesthetic categories are relevant, while at the other end of the scale is moralism, the view that aesthetic objects should be judged wholly or centrally with respect to moral standards or values. Both autonomism and moralism are widely recognised to be problematic, as they are based on inadequate conceptions of art and aesthetic value. — Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

    I'm surprised that there's such a thing as autonomism because it implies that the so-called artistic license includes even a license to kill i.e. immoral things can be done in the name of art.

    Morality is, to my understanding, a defining element for humanity and it's significance to the overall health of humanity can't be overstated. Yet, we have a group of aestheticians who claim that art needn't worry about morality and that anything is permissible. I don't know who said it but I'm reminded of the assertion that if god doesn't exist anything is permissible: "permissible" here being an euphemism for chaos and "god" here stands for a moral system and not necessarily a deity.

    Take the subject that has the maximum benefit for humanity - science in general and medicine to be specific. Even these subjects are expected to remain within the boundaries of morality: animal experiments are monitored and stem-cell research hasn't received a unanimous stamp of approval. What of art then? I'm not saying art is of less worth than science or medicine but if scientists and doctors must "behave" then artists shouldn't be exempt from this requirement to be moral no matter how aesthetically pleasing their works are.

    If one considers the harmony in any society we realize that it can be wholly chalked up to the existence of a moral system, divine or not. Ergo, if one is to preserve this peace we must ensure that everything we do be morally sound. Therefore, art must not be allowed to flout moral laws. Autonomism is impermissible; Moralism is necessary.
  • Gnomon
    433
    I'm surprised that there's such a thing as autonomism because it implies that the so-called artistic license includes even a license to kill i.e. immoral things can be done in the name of art.TheMadFool
    Never heard of Autonomism, and don't know how it has been applied to morality. But in general, art has been held to be beyond Good & Evil, because it is a subjective (private) value system, and Morality is a value system between moral agents (public). So, an artist may feel justified in displaying a crucifix in a vat of urine, because it's art, a communication between aesthetic agents. But, insofaras art has emotional effects on people, there is always an element of morality. Yet, in the interest of free expression we make allowances for some moral indignation, as long as people are free to ignore the insult. A Jew must tolerate Neo-Nazi soapbox rhetoric, as long as he is free to walk on by. The problem of censorship applies to Art only in where to "draw" the line between tolerable and intolerable.


    "Your freedom to swing your arm ends at my nose".___Oliver Wendell Holmes
  • Brett
    1.6k


    I’ve never heard of the Autonomism either. But the idea that art need have no morality is probably related to statements made by artists in the past. The portrait of a nude woman, not as a metaphor or representing Greek myth but as a real woman, showing her age, her personality, her attitude, her body exposed, would have gone against the imposed morality of its time.

    But it can be taken a step further when Matisse went and painted his wife with a green streak down the middle of her face, or Picasso painted Dora Maar as a shrieking demented creature. These are all challenges to how things “should” be.

    When art is to be judged by moral standards and values you get the work of Soviet Russia extolling the virtues of the Revolution. That is immoral to me.

    So art, which is not just the visual arts, challenges standard ways of seeing the world. Unfortunately some artists make use of the shock value to promote themselves, and of course it gets harder and harder to shock so more shock is required.
  • god must be atheist
    1.6k
    the so-called artistic license includes even a license to kill i.e. immoral things can be done in the name of art.TheMadFool

    equivocation

    Artistic licence does not carry a legal weight. A five-year-old artist can't drive a car or get married to his mother quoting his or her poetic licence.

    And as far as I know, artistic licence is not a government issued licence to enable one to create art, either.
  • god must be atheist
    1.6k
    I’ve never heard of the Autonomism either.Brett

    Okay, I'll jump on the bandwagon. I’ve never heard of the Autonomism either. But there are an infinite number of other things as well (literally, and figuratively both) that I haven't heard of.

    Autonomism in my days was called "l'art pour l'art".

    Now I'm wrecking my brain, trying to think of something smart to say about autonomism. We, here, all of us, are incredibly well-informed experts on things we've never heard of before.

    Something smart about autonomism, like "your freedom to swing your arms ends at my nose".

    How 'bout "An autodidacta will never write a negative review on his or her teacher, unless of course the pupil happens to be a genius who can't live up to his own expectations"?
  • Brett
    1.6k


    We, here, all of us, are incredibly well-informed experts on things we've never heard of before.god must be atheist

    It was the word I was unaware of, not the practice.

    Radical autonomism holds that it makes no sense to evaluate artworks ethically. It is rejected by arguing that ethical evaluation of an artwork is equivalent to evaluating ethically what the artist(s) did in the artwork, the artistic acts performed therein. Moderate autonomism holds that the intrinsic ethical merits or demerits of artworks are never aesthetically relevant. (Oxford Scholarship Online)
  • god must be atheist
    1.6k


    I appreciate that you may have known the concept beforehand. I have a little devil that sits on my shoulder and asks me, "why does anyone need to quote** an online reference to explain or define the meaning of a concept they are familiar with?

    ** Please note well: it is not the CONCEPT that I contest you'd needed to look up, but it is that I am surprized you needed to quote the DEFINITION of a concept you are familiar with. I appreciate, however, that you can conclude that your earlier unnamed concept coincides with the correct definition if you look up the definition ONLY IF you compare the two.
  • Brett
    1.6k


    I put up the quote because it elaborates on the meaning of autonomism.
  • god must be atheist
    1.6k
    thank you for putting up the quote.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.6k
    I don't know who said it but I'm reminded of the assertion that if god doesn't exist anything is permissible:TheMadFool

    Dostoyevsky sort of said: if God is dead, then everything is permitted. The literal quote from The Brothers Karamazov, (where Dmitri speaks first) is

    "But,' I asked, 'how will man be after that? Without God and the future life?

    "It means everything is permitted now, one can do anything?' 'Didn't you know?' he said. And he laughed. 'Everything is permitted to the intelligent man,' he said."

    Is autonomism "Art for art's sake?" Oscar Wilde (as a critic) takes the 'art for art's sake' view.

    Take two art works that depict an event in Roman mythology -- the Rape (or more properly, abduction) of the Sabine Women -- an event where Roman men went woman-hunting. The ME TOO movement does not approve, I'm pretty sure.

    In the presumably mythic event, Romulus led a band of Roman men into the Sabine cities near Rome to acquire wives. The Sabines didn't want to feed Rome (who they correctly thought would become a disruptive rival), so the Romans just walked in and grabbed a batch of wives and took them back to Rome. It seems highly unlikely that the women consented to their abduction.

    An ideologue literalist looks at the painting or sculpture and sees propaganda encouraging violence against women. Literalist ideologues are why security in museums has been beefed up. The artists wanted to produce a representation of the event, whether it was morally good, bad, or indifferent.

    The sculpture is from around 1580, a complex 3-figure composition carved from marble. The painting is by David (the 'official painter of the French Revolution')

    dbf3b3b37696a08fb95f7ec5115a4976751ce524.png

    89c372a9a020e6d86120be0ff29133849ef56af9.jpg
  • Bitter Crank
    8.6k
    So, an artist may feel justified in displaying a crucifix in a vat of urine, because it's art, a communication between aesthetic agents.Gnomon

    It was just a glass of his own urine, not quite a vat; the crucifix was not very big--which is neither here nor there.

    When New York artist Andres Serrano plunged a plastic crucifix into a glass of his own urine and photographed it in 1987 under the title Piss Christ, he said he was making a statement on the misuse of religion.

    Controversy has followed the work ever since, but reached an unprecedented peak on Palm Sunday when it was attacked with hammers and destroyed after an "anti-blasphemy" campaign by French Catholic fundamentalists in the southern city of Avignon.

    The violent slashing of the picture, and another Serrano photograph of a meditating nun, has plunged secular France into soul-searching about Christian fundamentalism and Nicolas Sarkozy's use of religious populism in his bid for re-election next year.
    . The Guardian

    The Right probably wouldn't like Smokey's song "I wanna be your piss slave" either.
  • TheMadFool
    4.7k
    But in general, art has been held to be beyond Good & Evil, because it is a subjective (private) value system, and Morality is a value system between moral agents (public).Gnomon

    So art, which is not just the visual arts, challenges standard ways of seeing the world. Unfortunately some artists make use of the shock value to promote themselves, and of course it gets harder and harder to shock so more shock is requiredBrett

    equivocationgod must be atheist



    Firstly, I think people will be especially concerned about what Gnomon said, that art has been held to be beyond Good & Evil. Maybe I'm committing the slippery slope fallacy here but if it's true that morality doesn't apply to art and that art is beyond Good & Evil then a situation may arise where a clearly immoral act e.g. murder may be presented as art and we'd be asked to ignore any moral consideration on the matter and instead focus our attention on the artistic nature of the killing.

    All the examples of art in conflict with morality have been either depictions of immoral acts (rape of Sabine women & war) or the art is itself immoral (Piss Christ). I have no problem with the former because done with dexterity depictions of immorality can help us understand our own nature, the nature of morality, our history, etc. but art that, instead of depicting immorality, are in and of themselves immoral e.g. the Piss Christ could be that small chink in the moral armor that could eventually widen into a big gaping hole through which all forms of immoral acts can be introduced, even rape and murder, in the name of art. Of course this seems to require the artist to be an idiot to try a stunt like that but there was a case of an artist, name forgotten, who put 3 goldfish in a blender and asked the audience if they'd like to turn on the devices. I believe one person did and the result was well-blended goldfish. Police arrived on the scene and arrested the artist for cruelty to animals. This, to me, is a first small step to greater acts of cruelty/evil in the name of art.
  • Brett
    1.6k
    An artist can create a piece that’s about art, ways of looking at the world, or he can create a piece about the subject. Sometimes the subject is not even apparent or there is no subject. Abstract art has no subject except itself. Sometimes it’s only about the subject, and the technique, the work, serves the subject. Sometimes the work is only about the artist; their feelings, their life, etc.

    What purpose does “Piss Christ” serve? What was the artist trying to say? Was it a failure in the attempt to say something?

    Was it about asceticism? I don’t think so, I think it was about an idea, of the artist. Are ideas art? If so why not just write the idea on a piece of paper? And was there anything new or relevant in the work that we had not already considered, something that opened our eyes to the world? I don’t think so.

    So it wasn’t necessary to produce this work. So why produce it?

    I think the work makes the artist immoral in terms of art. He’s pretending to produce something of value by the fact that he creates a response that attacks the work that creates its value through the work becoming a victim. So now the work is the subject of a moral divide. What’s achieved? A discussion? A discussion about something already totally understood that was predictable and pointless.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.6k
    the Piss Christ could be that small chink in the moral armor that could eventually widen into a big gaping hole through which all forms of immoral acts can be introduced, even rape and murder, in the name of art. Of course this seems to require the artist to be an idiot to try a stunt like that but there was a case of an artist, name forgotten, who put 3 goldfish in a blender and asked the audience if they'd like to turn on the devices. I believe one person did and the result was well-blended goldfish. Police arrived on the scene and arrested the artist for cruelty to animals. This, to me, is a first small step to greater acts of cruelty/evil in the name of art.TheMadFool

    You may remember that in the 1980s there were a series of kerfuffles over Robert Maplethorpe's photography of gay men, some dressed, some not. Piss Christ and the Blessed Virgin painting with elephant dung pieces attached were another installment in the saga. There were also uproars over performance artist Karen Finley rubbing chocolate all over her naked self (at Lincoln Center, not at an avant garde gallery), another artist who cut himself on stage at the tony Walker Art Center, soaked up the blood on thin towels, and then waved the towels over the audience (it had something to do with AIDS), and the case of a band that threw feces at the audience (literally, not their crappy music). And the liquified goldfish. (But then, oysters are still alive when they are opened and eaten, and they are related to the brainy octopi, and lobsters are alive when dropped in boiling water.)

    Back in the day when artists were carving large blocks of marble, or meticulously painting large canvases, one has to assume that they were serious about A R T. I am suspicious that people who do things like Finley's chocolate bit, the act with the bloody towels, or the goldfish are using provocation in place of artistic technique and skill.

    We have to maintain some sort of standard of what art is, or go with Marcel Duchamp and just accept that anything people call art is art. I'll grant that artists who have followed Duchamp and used "found objects" in art have sometimes been successful. "Urinal" (it was a bathroom fixture) was deliberately and self-knowingly provocative--aimed at the A R T establishment of the day. But Duchamp's view that if somebody thinks something is art, then it is art is just resigning the effort to have a critical opinion that is worth hearing.

    Provocation has a place in the world; I've enjoyed some provocations quite a bit. But we don't have to get all confused about whether someone provoking a strong reaction (for whatever reason) is producing A R T just because they say so. John Water's movie Pink Flamingos is a deliberately provocative scatty comedy. It's well done comic provocation; I loved it. But nobody is comparing Waters with Fellini or Bergman.
  • Brett
    1.6k


    Sally Mann us another interesting example of morals and art. She took photos of her young children, most of them naked because they were taken swimming at the river or playing around the country property free of clothing. The objections are fairly predictable. But does the argument against her work mean that we must never look on the naked body if a child. Now I know one of the arguments is that the children did have the opportunity to give or withhold permission, that Mann took that right away from them. And that is a problem, but I don’t think that was the real problem. The problem was the morality of the nude body. Her photos are images of innocence but the controversy turned them into more than that.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.6k
    I quite agree that the controversy corrupted the images. Some parents who photographed their naked young children (not as art, but just as casual photo-documenting) have been subject to very unfriendly and IMHO, unreasonable scrutiny. I haven't seen Mann's photos recently, but they struck me as perfectly acceptable.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.6k
    Now I know one of the arguments is that the children did have the opportunity to give or withhold permissionBrett

    Of course they did not have the opportunity to give or withhold permission. Why on earth would they even be asked? Parents get to make decisions about their children without consulting the child.

    Yes, kid, you are going to bed now. Yes, you are going to get a measles shot, Yes, you are going to get a bath. Yes, I'm going to photograph you today, however much you may resent it 15 years from now. You are also going to stop hitting your sister, you are going to eat the food we give you (or you can go eat somewhere else -- which is what our parents told us) and so on.

    Parents are on-the-scene decision-makers--legitimate in loco parentis. Sorry kid, your ma and pa are the boss of you.
  • Brett
    1.6k


    But the problem was the photos were made public in exhibitions and books.

    Edit: however, they had faith in their mother and father and as far as I know there have been no regrets.
  • Brett
    1.6k


    Art is risky and exciting, as it should be. Which is why the whole moral aspect mentioned in the OP is a problem; “ Autonomism is impermissible; Moralism is necessary.”

    I don’t believe that art of any sort harms anyone. Some if it is visually and intellectually insulting, but I know people like that too, but have no intention of trying to get rid of them. Besides all that what exactly a moral is in this art sense seems to me to be far removed from what we regard as moral. I think the list of morals is pretty short and concise. So I think we’re talking about something else here.
  • TheMadFool
    4.7k


    "Provocation" is the keyword I believe. Art, back in the day, was about beauty and expressing that in stone, canvas and pages. Now, since we're in the grips of a creed that worships novelty we see artists taking on the mantle of provocateurs who're mostly concerned with the shock-value of their "art". The idea, in its most sophisticated form, seems to be akin to a cardiac defibrillator: to deliver a jolt with the express purpose of reviving us from what the artist probably assumes is a deep slumber.

    I'd like to discuss Dostoevsky's claim that if god is dead then everything is permissible and how it relates to autonomism. I don't believe that a god exists but if he did then this universe , this world, with all that's good in it and all the bad - genocide, mass murder, slavery, etc. - can be thought of as divine art. If so, can the autonomist be accused of contradicting morals, especially morals that have divine origins? I mean god, in his masterpiece - this world, did in a lot of people; surely an artist can kill some people to create his art.
  • Brett
    1.6k


    The idea, in its most sophisticated form, seems to be akin to a cardiac defibrillator: to deliver a jolt with the express purpose of reviving us from what the artist probably assumes is a deep slumber.TheMadFool

    Yes, and to remind us about how exciting life can be, especially in a consumer, conformist society. But it’s harder to do this on an intellectual level today, so things have to be ramped up, but it becomes self defeating.

    “The world as divine art” - beautiful.

    Edit: or maybe artists are just taking the easy route.
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