We started. The artist entered the exhibition room at 2 pm and their paintings, sculptures and videos filled up the space very fast. Everybody was excited. Only one or two of the artist have tried this exhibition format before, so for the rest of the group the procedure was new. The people working at the museum, the press and the audience were there too. They were observing and taking notes.
Once everybody was finished with installing, they bravely started presenting each their artwork. They would explain their motivations for doing the artworks and for bringing the specific topics into the debate. Everybody could ask questions. Artworks were dealing with a range of dysfunctions in the society such as racial issues, health issues, crime, refugees, war industry, land regulations, gentrification, etc.
I was filming and listening. I felt I was learning. It was a rich exhibition.
Aesthetic and ethic motivation
What I liked the most about today’s contribution from the artists was the fact that they all took the task of focusing on the emergencies seriously and managed to produce some important artworks. There was a great deal of concern in the way they approached the project. They seemed to worry about the topics they made artworks about.
It made me think if this authentic preoccupation could be a criterion for art? Can the artistic judgment be done based on the motivation behind the artwork? And how do an artist’s honesty and openness affect the interpretation of the artwork?
From my (curatorial) point of view, an artist’s approach to her or his work is crucial. If there is a good motivation behind the artwork, the artwork shines. It is as if it gains an additional layer of glow; a glory that, in my eyes, makes it different from other artworks, that are not made with the same amount of true motivation.
These glowing artworks have, for me, a value that goes beyond the aesthetic and conceptual one. Somehow I would consider them good because of some ethnic qualities.
Ethic, from Old French éthique, from Latin ethice, from Greek (hē) ēthikē (tekhnē) ‘(the science of) morals’ ,based on ēthos (see ethos).
But as soon as we start bringing the ethic into a dialog with art we activate the question: What is the connection with aesthetic and ethic?
From my studies, I remember that Plato was, in Republic having some of the earliest concerns about the aesthetic values when it comes to including them in the ideal society. He considered art to be a very strong tool that might be immoral to use without censorship.
I also thought about Kant’s Critique of the Power of Judgment and his definition of dependent beauty as opposed to free beauty.
Kalokagathia. From Ancient Greek καλοκαγαθία (kalokagathia, “nobility, goodness”), from καλός (kalos, “beautiful”) και (kai, “and”) ἀγαθός (agathos, “good”).
I was wondering how we can juxtapose the esthetic and ethic reading of artwork that communicates social and political injustice?
Formally there should be a natural connection between the two readings because both deal with forms of value. Ethics is the form of value that tells us whether or not people’s actions are good or bad. Aesthetics is the form of value that is tied with sensory or artistic qualities. I believe that art can have an effect on our ethical character and moral life, as well as our moral affects how we view aesthetic objects.
In this logic, we could also say that an artist’s motivation grounded in ethnic values can affect the aesthetics of the final artwork, through which the moral message might be transmitted to the viewer parallelly to the aesthetic experience.