Beauty Continues to Be Important in Art?


Pierre Huyghe

Untitled (Liegender Frauenakt) 2011-12

Concrete cast with beehive structure, wax, 7500 x 1450 x 450mm

© Pierre Huyghe, commissioned and produced by dOCUMENTA (13) with the support of Colección CIAC AC, Mexico, Fondation Louis Vuitton pour la création, Paris, Ishikawa Collection, Okayama, Japan


Beauty is just one of the thoughts that within the past 100 decades or so has been gradually downgraded when it comes to thinking about the worth of artwork. It is not long ago that individuals could have called it among the qualities that characterized art. Centuries before, the philosopher Immanuel Kant could share it as an element of the ethical sense of what it was human — portion of the human beings aspired to greater dignity and ideals.

Now, these lofty ideas seem strange and unreal. Did people actually think like this? After all of the horrors of the previous century, and also the ongoing horrors of the one, who may still believe in the goodness and value of this beautiful? ‘To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric,’ was the bleak end of Theodor Adorno, one of those fantastic aesthetic theorists of this mid-20th century.

What no more acts in the notion of beauty is that the feeling that it reflects some of their value and significance of becoming human. We could call artworks, objects or others beautiful, but that is disconnected from any larger purpose or aspiration. Personal flavor and abstract pleasure do not actually amount to much, after all. ‘Liking’ some thing (around Facebook), actually discovering something ‘amazing’ (like a vehicle or pop superstar ), does not enable you to ascertain whether it’s great (with a little ‘g’), let alone if it’s Good.

But art has come to be mostly indifferent to the notion of the Great, at the large, conservative, funding G awareness of this term. Contemporary artwork will reflect the cultural disposition of its period, and now any conversation of attractiveness is sceptical or ironic. Art no longer presents a favorable spin on what humankind may be effective at. Because, let’s face it, today we do not consider humankind as really excellent. It is more common to view ourselves because out-of-control critters driven by unconscious impulses to eat ever longer, exploiting natural resources at a headlong rush to the destruction of their environment, the entire world and, finally, ourselves. Beauty? If anything, we respect humanity as fairly awful.

I really don’t subscribe to this gloomy, misanthropic eyesight, but I must admit that it is the cultural mood at this time. If it were not, you would not find artists occupied making functions that picture the world after we’ve disappeared. (There is plenty of it around.) And you would not find them celebrated in large museums and biennials for doing this. The notion of beauty was constantly about just how much human beings appreciated their own humanity — roughly the way beauty stood for the optimism which everything could, finally, be delightful, or Great. But because we view the world as a dreadful place, attractiveness no longer things in artwork. It ought to — but it does not.

So allow me to follow his lead by producing a first distinction: artwork needs attractiveness, not beauties. In art, the gorgeous faces of muses and fillies have garnered lots of focus. The press have since embraced this fixation and always subject girls to judgment according to their physical appearance, producing normative and restrictive notions of attractiveness. So, so far as I’m concerned, stunning Ophelia can go and float her down dark river, closely bound to L’Oréal’s hottest beautiful.

Beauty, as I know it, is a lot more than a pretty face. And when we accept that it may suppose many guises, but be mainly a force of attraction that’s somehow alluring — frequently but not entirely visual — then how do we reasonably assert against its worth in artwork?

Part of the Hotel Diaries series, it opens since the filmmaker appears in polystyrene ceiling tiles flapping in the breeze, listed on a shaky hand-held camera. Can this trickery? Are the tiles being raised from over, or are they really being blown off by the wind? The question forced me to sit throughout the job when I saw it for the complete 15 minutes. In this period Smith guided me round the generic characteristics of the hotel room in Bethlehem, falling silent as he pointed out the camera from the window. After the movie cut pictures of another plain resort area in east Jerusalem, he started to narrate his trip between the two areas, and his despair at seeing the Israeli border police’s mishandling of a helpless elderly Palestinian woman facing him in the checkpoint. The artist confides in his audience a horrible difficulty. Regardless of his first intention of quietly observing both of these quarters, following the troubling encounter he feels incapable of introducing a politically impartial image. As he pitched his accounts, his tone is inflected from the despair and disappointment of the collapse. For the audience, the only composed work communicates many complexities, however, most importantly, the poisonous non-objectivity of pictures. The movie loops, recommencing using all the ceiling tiles and their odd fluttering. As a hook, they are still attractive, beautiful , but what about them has changed.

However, something inside it needs to detain and operate upon us to be able to transform. My argument is not about art copying standard representations of beauty, nor does it urge art that offers unremitting and so benign viewing enjoyment. No. As someone living in a era when a lot of political manoeuvring and messaging continues to be embedded inside the visual, when a lot of pictures vie for my attention with a predetermined agenda, I want art to occupy beauty as a temporary stratagem, a Trojan horse, so as to go beyond the boundaries of this standard or the benign and empower us to see things afresh.