Friday, September 22, 2006

The Ideology of the Anti-Aesthetic

David Levi Strauss:

"The anti-aesthetic tendency can easily become an anaesthetic one, an artificially induced unconsciousness to protect oneself from pain, and to protect the 'hypocritical frontiers' of propriety and privilege. It is unseemly to look right into the face of hunger, and then to represent it in a way that compels others to look right into it as well. It is an abomination, an obscenity, an ideological crime.


To represent is to aestheticize; that is, to transform. It presents a vast field of choices but it does not include the choice not to transform, not to change or alter whatever is being represented. It cannot be a pure process, in practice. This goes for photography as much as for any other means of representation. But this is no reason to back away from the process. The aesthetic is not objective and is not reducible to quantitative scientific terms. Quantity can only measure physical phenomena, and is misapplied in aesthetics, which often deals with what is not there, imagining things into existence. To become legible to others, these imagininings must be socially and culturally encoded. That is aestheticization." (David Levi Strauss, Between the Eyes: Essays on Photography and Politics).


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