The Judgement of Art

August 3, 2009

bToday I did not get to blog what I had planned. I read a discussion about art which got my attention. The titel was: Is the judgement of art a subjective thing? And that is something I had been thinking about a lot lately.

I also had discussed that on a music forum a while ago and someone there pointed me to the work of a philosopher called Adorno. I had never heard of him but he seems to talk about Aesthetics.

I looked it up and found he had some very interesting things to say. I had been trying to understand it all better at that time, but something else got more important I think, and I let it go. But today I looked it up again and it all got me really thinking. So much that I could not get the blogpost done that I wanted.

And then I thought it all comes together somehow, what I wanted to write, what I was discussing and what I was reading and trying to understand. I just do not know exactly yet how. But okay, this is the core of his theory.

“Adorno asserts the ‘priority of the object in art’, or what is called a materialist aesthetic, in contrast to the idealist aesthetic of Kant which privileges the subject over the object. For Kant, the experience of art is a product of the perceptions of the subject. For Adorno, the art object and the aesthetic experience of the art object contain a truth-content. Truth-content is a cognitive content ‘which is not exhausted either by the subjective intentions of its producers or by the subjective responses of its consumers’, and that may be revealed through analysis. Whereas Kant conceives of beauty as a subjective experience, Adorno suggests that beauty mediates between subject and object. Beauty is contained in the cognitive or truth-content of works of art. As Adorno writes in Aesthetic Theory: ‘All beauty reveals itself to persistent analysis’. But works of art ‘are not merely inert objects, valued or known by the subject; rather, they have themselves a subjective moment because they are themselves cognitive’. It is in the shared experience of object and subject, the joint analysis, that beauty is revealed”.

So first of all his opinion about art is (partly) opposed to that of Kant who seems to say that art is subjective. Kant says that it is all in the ‘eye of the beholder’, while Adorno says that the ‘person’ and the ‘painting’ together are ‘the truth’.

And that truthpart is the cognitive part of the artwork which is not entirely there because of the ‘painter’ and also not entirely because of the ‘artlover’. Maybe it is not there at all, until the artwork is getting ‘talked about’.

That means that according to Adorno, if I understand him correctly, that art is an interaction between subject and object. The painter and artlover talk to eachother, not with words but with ‘images’.

There are just ideas or emotions, but there are no words yet. And he even seems to say that until there are ‘words’ (the analysis) the art is not yet ‘complete’. Or maybe he means until it is ‘understood’.

Well, strange analysis on my part, but until this moment it is about how I understand it. I have to hurry now to get my blogpost posted today, so thinking about it I will do later again.

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6 Responses to “The Judgement of Art”

  1. harvey Says:

    I would need to read Adorno further, I do espouse his view on art and beauty rather than that of Kant. :)

  2. Annemieke Says:

    These are some sites that I thought were very interesting, although I did not read all of it by far yet.

    This one is where I got the synopsis of his Aesthetic theory from, if I remember well.
    http://www.english.emory.edu/Bahri/Adorno.html

    This is a very good site for such subjects in general I think.
    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/adorno/

    And this one I only just found. I have been reading a bit, but it looks very interesting.
    http://ajcascardi.googlepages.com/artandaestheticsafteradorno


  3. The thoughts are subjective in a way but there are still some truth that exist in both point of view.

  4. Kaori Says:

    I think the whole purpose of creating art is to express our subconscious. By being understood by our art, the artist and the viewer have started an internal conversation in which they both share familiar concepts in their lives. If words were required in order to complete a work of art, art would not be universal. (Not universal, in the sense of foreign languages but I mean universal through perceptions) Psychology is studied by words, but it is a study on our minds. Art and psychology seem to link well that way, that words only elaborate or describe what art is but does not express equally of what the artwork is expressing.
    Beauty becomes present when artist is able to link perceptions from his and viewer’s subconscious that has not been brought out to conscious awareness.

    • Annemieke Says:

      I like that one: ‘an internal conversation in which they both share familiar concepts in their lives’. In order to understand it has to be familiar in some way I guess.

      Maybe in a way you were not aware of yet, but where you are susceptible for in some way.

      And I also see it as if art and psychology link well, and maybe art is able to make things visible what words can not do, or not do so well alone.

      Personally I really like the combination of both, words as well as images, and I think they can complement each other really well.


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