Thursday, 15 January 2009

Chelsea MA Lectures: Beautiful, Sublime, Grotesque

Topics: Mass media, desire, love and memory. The mass media has been recording 'memories' since the early 19th C. Early construction of object relations. The invention of morale? eh!! Don't understand my own note about this...never mind!

Michelangelo Antonioni - film director, guided by an invisible object of beauty - immortality of beauty on screen. Parallels to recording, film - media technology and beauty on screens

(Louise Brooks)- reflections, surfaces, illusion. (think I need to watch his films to understand this).

Aesthetic Experiences
Aesthetics - study of the kinds of feelings humans have in relation to natural objects, cultural artefacts and works of art.
The academic philosophy of art has traditionally involved a lot of writing - written theory. What is beauty? in nature and in art. Definite shift since the Renaissance and the enlightenment (Kant). Other cultures outside Western traditions have come to very different conclusions. This tradition way of philosophy was all about the ideas, thinking, faculties of the mind and its important to come back to the body and real feelings. 'The Realm of the Sensible' - dual meaning - mind and body. In language this is where phrases such as:
'I have a sense of...'
Someone is being sensible
'That makes sense'
have come from.

Culture, taste and distinction are interwoven in a complex way. 'The best that has been thought or said in the world' Who decides?

Criticism of aesethtics in the 19th C attempted to suggest that there are standards of beauty which are universal (Formalism).



Rene Laloux - How Wang-Fo was saved (1987). This short film questioning the relationship between art and reality. How art is concerned with the questions of truth and illusion. Ethics and Aesthetics - What is 'the good' 'the beautiful' 'the truth'? - Classical tradition.

Art can create illusion and access to a transcendental plane, which you can escape to or from! e.g. when hes listening to Beethoven in Clockwork Orange.

Cinema is a mode of subjective coercion, a power over the viewer as you cannot control what you are watching (well to an extent!)

Beauty
Classical conceptions by Plato, Socrates. Greek 'Eidos' - Form, Shape, Image, IDEA. Phantasm - mind, vision - object, image. It is a Mediaeval concept to hold things in the mind although they are not there. What is the stuff that dreams are made of?

Plato and the Theory of Forms - Allegory of the Cave - story in The Republic where a group of prisoners are sat facing a wall in a cave and they being to believe that the shadows in front of them are reality but then they are set free and turn round and leave through the mouth of the cave and meet real people and understand that, that is reality and what they thought was, was just shadows.

Belief that temporal earthly material forms mimic eternal heavenly forms - therefore in a hierarchical system the maker is higher than the painter as he is creating a 3d representation of a form and the painter is just making a painting of a 3d representation of a form - ha!!!

Usually 'Beauty' and 'the good' are thought of in terms of people. Beauty can also be related to love. Plato was a pupil of Socrates and transcribed his speeches - the beauty and the good seen as a path to immortality. The soul has wings and love gives wings to the soul.

Harmony, proportion, symmetry - Beauty in maths, golden section, proportions etc.

Leonardo da Vinci - Vitruvian Man (1487) ha ha
Beautiful = good and happy. What good is it doing? Is it making things better? Ethics.

The Sublime

Caspar David Friedrich - Wreck of Hope (1842)
The visualisation and portrayal of landscape in an entirely new manner was Friedrich's key innovation. He sought not just to explore the blissful enjoyment of a beautiful view, as in the classic conception, but rather to examine an instant of sublimity, a reunion with the spiritual self through the contemplation of nature.

This was the first aesthetic category, not beauty and the difference between the sublime and the beautiful is that the sublime doesn't make us feel good necessarily, pleasurable horror!
Concept from Aristotle - Catharsis or the sympathetic relationship with the suffering of others. Reflecting on the terrible suffering brings us closer to our own humanity (Burke).

18th C discourse around sublime and the experience of landscape (see above). Immense, awesome ones e.g. the Alps, wealthy Europeans going on the Grand Tour at the end of the 17th C. Wonders of the world, Impressive monuments and natural landscapes. Something beyond measure, infinite, sublime terror of the endlessness.
Nostalgia for ruins - picturesque - showing something that has survived time - historical memento mori.John Martin - works at the Tate.

Edmund Burke - A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful (1756) (Available to read on-line). Old fashioned view though - pretty sexist and has political dimensions.
Kant's view - that beauty is connected with the finite form of the object and the sublime with that which is infinite and formless (sort of disagreeing with Burke).

Moving on from the sublime you have Gothic and Uncanny as aesthetic categories. Nosferatu, why do people want to indulge in horror?

Grotesque
Similar to Gothic. A house in 15th C Rome was discovered buried underground from 50BC with gargoyles on it. The word grotesque comes from the word Grotto. Imperfect, ugly, sinister - left handedness. Grotesque became associated with artwork made by people not of right mind and over time its meaning has shifted e.g. Goya, Velaquez - mad, ugly.

Kant's view - beauty can be the difference between a natural object and a painting. Kantian - the beauty could be in the way the work is made i.e. could be a beautiful painting of a grotesque subject. Desire and Abjection (20th C) Julia Kristeva.

Georges Bataille - 1930s essays about attraction and repulsion. Believed that sociology could be understood by repulsion 'the sacred' that which is set apart. Taboos help us to separate out stuff which is repellent and bad from the familiar and comfortable. Underbelly of Romanticism.

Uncanny
Something which looks fine and then for a moment is sinister. Could also be an uncertainty if something is alive or dead. Mannequins, wax models, person in the mirror. This conversion happens in horror films - something beautiful into something horrible. e.g. The Shining.

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