Tasteful Distance

[...] working-class people, who expect every image to fulfil a function, if only that of a sign, refer, often explicitly, to norms of morality or agreeableness in all their judgements.

Thus the photograph of a dead soldier provokes judgements which, whether positive or negative, are always responses to the reality of the thing represented or to the functions the representation could serve, the horror of war or the denunciation of the horrors of war which the photographer is supposed to produce simply by showing that horror.

If formal explorations, in avant-garde theatre or non-figurative painting, or simply classical music, are disconcerting to working-class people, this is partly because they feel incapable of understanding what these things signify, insofar as they are signs.

[Pierre Bourdieu]
Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, p.41-3

................................................................................................................................................................................

The aesthetic disposition which tends to bracket off the nature and function of the object represented and to exclude any 'naive' reaction

- horror at the horrible, desire for the desirable, pious reverence for the sacred -

along with all purely ethical responses,

in order to concentrate solely upon the mode of representation, the style, perceived and appreciated by comparison with other styles,

is one dimension of a total relation to the world and to others, a life-style, in which the effects of particular conditions of existence are expressed in a 'misrecognizable' form.

These conditions of existence, which are the precondition for all learning of legitimate culture, whether implicit and diffuse, as domestic cultural training generally is, or explicit and specific, as in scholastic training, are characterized by the suspension and removal of economic necessity and by objective and subjective distance from practical urgencies, which is the basis of objective and subjective distance from groups subjected to those determinisms.

The aesthetic disposition, a generalized capacity to neutralize ordinary urgencies and to bracket off practical ends, a durable inclination and aptitude for practice without a practical function, can only be constituted within an experience of the world freed from urgency and through the practice of activities which are an end in themselves, such as scholastic exercises or the contemplation of works of art.

In other words, it presupposes the distance from the world [...] which is the basis of the bourgeois experience of the world.

It is not surprising that bourgeois adolescents, who are both economically privileged and (temporarily) excluded from the reality of economic power, sometimes express their distance from the bourgeois world which they cannot really appropriate by a refusal of complicity, whose most refined expression is a propensity towards aesthetics and aestheticism.

[...] the aesthetic disposition is defined, objectively and subjectively, in relation to other dispositions. Objective distance from necessity and from those trapped within it combines with a conscious distance which doubles freedom by exhibiting it.

This affirmation of power over a dominated necessity always implies a claim to legitimate superiority over those who, because they cannot assert the same contempt for contingencies in gratuitous luxury and conspicuous consumption, remain dominated by ordinary interests and urgencies.

The tastes of freedom can only assert themselves as such in relation to the tastes of necessity, which are thereby brought to the level of the aesthetic and so defined as vulgar.

[Pierre Bourdieu]
Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, p.54-6

................................................................................................................................................................................

[The detachment of the aesthete] is seen whenever he appropriates one of the objects of popular taste (e.g., Westerns or strip cartoons),

[introducing] a distance, a gap - the measure of his distant distinction - vis-a-vis 'first-degree' perception, by displacing the interest from the 'content', characters, plot, etc., to the form, to the specifically artistic effects which are only appreciated relationally, through a comparison with other works which is incompatible with immersion in the singularity of the work immediately given.

Detachment, disinterestedness, indifference - aesthetic theory has so often presented these as the only way to recognize the work of art for what it is, autonomous, selbständig, that one ends up forgetting that they really mean disinvestment, detachment, indifference, in other words, the refusal to invest oneself and take things seriously.

[...] the refusal of any sort of involvement, any 'vulgar' surrender to easy seduction and collective enthusiasm, which is, indirectly at least, the origin of the taste for formal complexity and objectless representations, is perhaps most clearly seen in reactions to paintings.

Thus one finds that the higher the level of education, the greater is the proportion of respondents who, when asked whether a series of objects would make beautiful photographs, refuse the ordinary objects of popular admiration - a first communion, a sunset or a landscape - as 'vulgar' or 'ugly', or reject them as 'trivial', silly, a bit 'wet', or, in Ortega y Gasset's terms, naively human [...]

[Pierre Bourdieu]
Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, p.34-5

................................................................................................................................................................................

Related posts:-
The Pyramid
Balancing Art 
Where language ends and art begins
Making Connections
Separations and Bridges
Chinese Whispers
Infinite Doorways
A Safe Distance 
TOTP vs Popworld
Arrows pointing at Arrows 
Welcome to La-La Land
From Postmodern to Altermodern
Life Amongst the Rubble
The Perils of Radical Subjectivity 
Only Playing
Solid Ground
The Real Thing
Rooted in blood and soil
Information and Knowledge 
The Colour Spiral 

No comments:

Post a Comment