Aesthetics of Discomfort: Conversations on Disquieting Art by Frederick Luis Aldama

By Frederick Luis Aldama

Via a chain of provocative conversations, Frederick Luis Aldama and Herbert Lindenberger, who've written largely on literature, movie, tune, and artwork, find a spot for the discomforting and the usually painfully disagreeable inside of aesthetics. The conversational structure permits them to go back and forth informally throughout many centuries and lots of paintings types. they've got a lot to inform each other concerning the arts because the creation of modernism quickly after 1900—the nontonal song, for instance, of the second one Vienna tuition, the chance-directed track and dance of John Cage and Merce Cunningham, the in-your-faceness of such diversified visible artists as Francis Bacon, Pablo Picasso, Willem de Kooning, Egon Schiele, Otto Dix, and Damien Hirst. They exhibit in addition an extended culture of discomforting paintings stretching again many centuries, for instance, within the final Judgments of innumerable Renaissance painters, in Goya’s so-called “black” work, in Wagner’s Tristan chord, and within the subtexts of Shakespearean works comparable to King Lear and Othello. This publication is addressed right now to students of literature, artwork background, musicology, and cinema. even if its conversational layout eschews the normal conventions of scholarly argument, it offers unique insights either into specific artwork kinds and into person works inside those types. between different concerns, it demonstrates how contemporary paintings in neuroscience could provide insights within the ways in which shoppers technique tricky and discomforting artworks. The booklet additionally contributes to present aesthetic conception through charting the discussion that is going on—especially in aesthetically difficult works—between author, artifact, and client.

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FLA: Perhaps we should consider how artists can push thresholds by eliciting a whole range of other negative feelings. HL: Yes, we’ve talked about anger, fear, and disgust, among other unpleasant feelings that art can awaken. But there are a number of others, hate, for example, which you mention above in the disgust toward Jews that the Nazis sought to awaken. But this disgust was closely related to hate, which German literature, art, and film strove hard to fan up through the negative images of Jews that peopled all their forms of art.

In a sense the art no longer exists. Our brain has evolved the capacity to reward itself with the release of oxytocin and dopamine, for instance. Discomforting art must somehow reward us, no? HL: If it’s the discomfort from hearing a dissonant chord that’s resolved soon after, obviously we’re being rewarded—­or at least if we know the conventions of tonal music that dictate eventual pleasant chords, we know we can expect an ultimate reward. But feeling hypnotized, as with Pelléas for me (or, even more so, by Debussy’s disciple Olivier Messiaen in the five-­hour-­long Saint François d’Assise), is very pleasurable indeed, and it certainly does not “destroy” this art even if you and most people refuse to feel the hypnotic spell.

FLA: Yes, we can and must distinguish between discovery (the realm of science) and creation (the realm of art). Since the seventeenth century philosophers have put human beings at center stage. Therefore, the concept of beauty and other aesthetic concepts were also centered on human beings. In René Descartes’s Passions of the Soul, for instance, we find these words: “When the first encounter with some object surprises us, and we judge it to be new, or very different from what we knew in the past or what we supposed it was going to be, this makes us wonder and be astonished at it” (52).

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