Wednesday, July 30, 2014

coming back to ugliness (that underrated aesthetic currency)


aLfRedO tRifF

in our last post we explored the possibility that ugliness has been left out from aesthetic discourse.

then, we find this source:

jiang feng (above) was very unhappy with his offspring's facial features. he suspected foul play, but a DNA test proved him wrong. then, he found out that his wife had spent $100,000 in plastic surgery on her face before they had met. jiang divorced her and sued her on the ground of false pretenses.

(i don't care if the story is a fabrication. imagine it as a thought experiment).

how about jian's offspring? are they to blame for expressing their parents' genotype? are these kinds as "ugly" as jiang paints them to be?

is "ugly" essential or conventional?

one could imagine jiang's grown up daughter protesting his dad's aesthetic dogmatism: dad why am i responsible that your trait for "pretty" was recessive? 

wittgenstein's idea of Familienähnlichkeit makes "ugly" conventional. in jiang's case it's fifty-fifty genetic. phenotypic resemblance is like a lotto (there are plenty of examples of "pretty" offspring from "ugly" parents).

publicity campaign for arno, brazil

wittgenstein seems to suggest that "ugly" & "pretty" are just family types. they acquire aesthetic relevance within their type recurrence and accepted conventions. comparing the two, "ugly" ends up as a deviation from accepted conventions.

indeed, but the problem is that "deviation" (a custom established by usage) already begs the question on convention! yeah, in the end "pretty" wins. an expedite solution, but in this case, i'm not satisfied with wittgenstein's answer (the pretty/ugly struggle needs to happen at a more essential level).

it goes way back to plato, the master of form: in the symposium, socrates suggests that eros & ugliness don't get along (aischron is translated as shameless). can "ugly" be reformed?

german philosopher karl rosenkranz, a disciple of hegel, has a whole treatise devoted to hässlichen.

for rosenkranz, ugliness can be: 1- a lack of form (what beauty optimally possesses), 2- an incorrect representation: i.e., illness, deformation, etc, 3- as a moral lack of self-determination or freedom, i.e., (carrying the burden of formal dependence). beauty is independent of ugliness, but not the other way around. (as a result, ugliness generally depends on beauty). aesthetics has made ugliness a slave of beauty.

how could "ugly" become nonradically itself? by giving up its past, i.e., the very notes that stereotype its form. and here one can really fall for a travesty, that is to say, ugly becoming non-ugly.     

what if ugliness' -so-called- form was an axiological fraud?
   
the ugly duchess, quentin massys 1525-30
above renaissance painter quentin massys' alleged portrait of margaret countess of tyrol, the ugly duchess, in all its ugly-glory. massys revels in the duchess' purported facial unpleasingness (she probably suffered from paget's disease).

rosenkranz comes to the rescue:

can the duchess break free from ugliness' bondage? only by giving up its familial nexus with beauty. 

but how?

(to be continued)

3 comments:

david rohn said...

the idea of aesthetic value may be interesting to consider alongside the cultural value of status: a Ralph Lauren polo shirt with a 6 inch logo of a polo player, or aHermes belt with a very expensive and chunky buckle in the shape of the letter 'H' may be considered 'beautiful' because they suggest that the wearer has spent a certain amount of money, which may imply 'taste' or consumerist 'awareness' or some kind of ability to maneuver the chase for wealth, and aquire the badges of success in that field of endeavor. When it all spills over into the world of art; ie Jeff Koons or Damien Hirst it really bumps up: art has become famously expensive and thus a famous badge of status..there are a few left who think beauty , in a face or a work of art is separate from the heavily marketed / promoted examples-an expressive face may not have the pert little nose or mouth that is looked for in fashion models; who s vapid perfect features may seem boring and meaningless compared to a face that may express vulnerability, curiosity, or serenity..so maybe the bottom line has to do with people losing an ability to feel and express their own feelings, preferring to join some mass-marketed version off reality.

david rohn said...

the idea of aesthetic value may be interesting to consider alongside the cultural value of status: a Ralph Lauren polo shirt with a 6 inch logo of a polo player, or aHermes belt with a very expensive and chunky buckle in the shape of the letter 'H' may be considered 'beautiful' because they suggest that the wearer has spent a certain amount of money, which may imply 'taste' or consumerist 'awareness' or some kind of ability to maneuver the chase for wealth, and aquire the badges of success in that field of endeavor. When it all spills over into the world of art; ie Jeff Koons or Damien Hirst it really bumps up: art has become famously expensive and thus a famous badge of status..there are a few left who think beauty , in a face or a work of art is separate from the heavily marketed / promoted examples-an expressive face may not have the pert little nose or mouth that is looked for in fashion models; who s vapid perfect features may seem boring and meaningless compared to a face that may express vulnerability, curiosity, or serenity..so maybe the bottom line has to do with people losing an ability to feel and express their own feelings, preferring to join some mass-marketed version off reality.

atRifF said...

there are a few left who think beauty , in a face or a work of art is separate from the heavily marketed / promoted

agree david, and then, for whatever is left, what tells them it's not the market's brainwashing?