Volume 1, 2018
Aesthetics and Philosophies of Art
Pia Maria Houni
The Changing Positions of the Artist in Society
My presentation will open a window into the artists’ daily life from a political philosophy perspective. I ask: what is an artists’ work? We can look this question from different perspectives. From the aesthetics perspective we can ask: do an artist’s works represent the real world and life or are they a mimesis? Usually we accept that imagination and creativity are separate from authentic realism (which is also a very difficult issue, as Charles Taylor noted), but when artists create something that is “politically hot” we define this piece of work as realism. This leads us to understand that an artist’s main mental tools (imagination and creativity) might be values that are controlled by the values of society. The idea of freedom is thus questionable. Also in the social philosophical framework, a question ever since the times of Plato has been: what is the position of the artist in society? Plato thought artists might be dangerous for the order of the Polis, especially for the concept of paideia: many unsuitable ideas could damage young men. Throughout history this viewpoint has been alive and reflected in various artists’ positions. The work they do as professional members of society seems to be connected to the time at hand, and to power. Different kinds of ethical or moral values usually determine artists as persons, and define their works, in social spaces. My theoretical and philosophical perspective will touch on ancient names such as Plato and Aristotle, but my main focus is on contemporary philosophers such as Adorno, John Rawls, Alain Badiou, Charles Taylor, Alasdair MacIntyre, and Jean-Luc Nancy. I will also briefly demonstrate empirical examples from research materials on artists in Finland.