The Anti-Sensory, Anti-Art, Anti-Joy Aesthetics of Immanuel Kant
[Not showing an image because the best and truest manifestation of Kant’s Sublime is a void, preferably with no oxygen so that you die a painful death.]
I finished my 6,000 word chapter on the aesthetics of Immanuel Kant, specifically his two works on Beauty, and the Sublime. It closes Part Two, so now I am in the home stretch of my book Evolution Through Art. Yay. The chapter covers some of his intellectual/spiritual background, a thorough examination of his concepts of Beauty, and the Sublime, lots of quotes, and his thought/judgement process which he calls Taste and Aesthetical. The most important element is I connected several famous postmodern artworks with his aesthetic thought.
In the intro to Kant’s Critique of Judgment, the translator, J.H. Bernard, writes: “And it is not a little remarkable that the man [Kant] who could write thus feelingly about the emotions inspired by grand and savage scenery, had never seen a mountain in his life.” Which gives a hint to his rationalistic, anti-perception, anti-experience frame of his aesthetics.
The reason for the chapter and its importance is that Kant’s house-of-cards aesthetic is the puppet master blueprint for all the stupid shit in today’s art world. The man was very clever in his obfuscation and disguising his irrelevancy in the face of a “self-interested” man. I hope I put to bed this aesthetic’s devolutionary nihilism. And we can move on to making great art, of being inspired, having fun, love, and optimism for our future.
In the last decade of the 18th century Beethoven composed his 1st and 2nd piano concertos, Goya etched the series Los Caprichos, Jacques-Louis David painted The Death of Marat, and Mozart composed the Requiem in D Minor and the great Jupiter Symphony. These works coincided with the French Revolution, and together they guided European culture away from the extravagant art of Rococo exemplified by the sweetly-colored paintings of Boucher and Tiepolo, with their floating florid nymphs, cupids, silks, and princesses.
Jacques-Louis David, Death of Marat, 1793. The period of the French Revolution marked a new period of art with more gravitas.
This was a paradigm shift from the superficial to gut wrenching passion, as if Western art was going back to its roots in the dramas of Aeschylus and Euripides; answering the big questions of what is the good and what is important while at the same time elevating the creative process by innovation and superlative skill. This wasn’t for the faint of heart. The artists would have to face inner turmoil and outer rejection as they attempted to get patrons to sponsor wildly dramatic depictions of death, war, and executions, which didn’t lend themselves to the decorative palace dining room. Risking their livelihoods the artists bore down in this new direction. With this revolutionary spirit we can see the need for a new aesthetic to champion and reflect an Age of Enlightenment.
The Sublime the Absolutely Great
The year 1790, when Beethoven was 20, also marked the publication of Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Judgment. It famously compares and contrasts the aesthetic values of Beauty with that of the Sublime. The treatise identifies Beauty representing the lighter more sensual pleasing side and the Sublime addressing what is the “absolutely great beyond all comparison.” Kant wanted to free the Sublime from the constraints of art and launch it into the world of the mind unfettered by perception, form, or realization. Continue reading “Making Sense of Kant’s Senseless Sublime”
To witness the obliteration of those glowing, lithe twins was a shock beyond comprehension. They were so playful; light danced on them as they stretched up towards the sky. They were so free; you could not say that they stood tall with pride because they were so unselfconscious of their beauty and height. They were so innocent; they believed in friendship, progress, creation, and joy. They were.
There are people in the world who can’t stand to see that beauty and creativity exist. The guy who took a hatchet to the Pieta of Michelangelo. The Taliban leader who chose to blow up the Buddhist cliff sculptures.