Ethics of Art

Over the last few months this blog has been circling around some ideas in aesthetics that may help to newly define the value of abstraction. Concepts such as non-identity, the inhuman and organic formalism have been presented. I was just looking at a piece I wrote a few years ago that gets right to the nub, and I was shocked. I can’t believe I said those things. It’s called “The Ethics of Art,” and interested parties can find a pdf on the writings page of my web site. It’s not just the polemical force of the argument which set me back on my heels, but the ideas themselves. Of course they are correct, but nothing one expects to hear spoken out loud.

A short time after I wrote it I heard Boris Groys give a talk that took the diametrically opposite position. With his typical humor—and instinct for the critical, something I lack—he suggested that concepts of human rights are based on aesthetics. At first I was depressed, and had to cede priority, but then realized that our two positions were dialectical opposites—two sides of the proverbial coin—and so different statements of the same truth. He agreed to publish his piece with mine in a small pamphlet, which I called Art and its Others.

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