The idea of the aesthetic encourages us to believe that by isolating objects from their use, and purifying them of the economic conditions that produced them or which tied them to human interests, we somehow see what they truly are and what they truly mean.
Certain thinkers in the Marxist tradition add a further twist to that argument [that is, the contemplation of pure beauty of nature]. When the followers of Shaftesbury presented their theories of disinterested interest they were not, such thinkers suggest, describing a human universal but merely presenting, in philosophical idiom, a piece of bourgeois ideology. This ‘disinterested’ interest becomes available only in certain historical conditions, and is available because it is functional. The ‘disinterested’ perception of nature, of objects, of human beings and the relations between them, confers on them a trans-historical character. It renders them permanent, ineluctable, part of the eternal order of things. The function of this way of thinking is to inscribe bourgeois social relations into nature, so placing them beyond the reach of social change. In seeing something as an ‘end in itself’, I immortalize it, lift it out of the world of practical concerns, mystify its connection to society, and to the process of production and consumption on which human life depends. More generally the idea of the aesthetic encourages us to believe that by isolating objects from their use, and purifying them
of the economic conditions that produced them or which tied them to human interests, we somehow see what they truly are and what they truly mean. We thereby turn our attention away from the economic reality and gaze on the world as though under the aspect of eternity, accepting as inevitable and unchangeable what ought to be subject to politically organized change. Moreover, while rejoicing in the fiction that both people and things are valued as ‘ends in themselves’, the capitalist economy treats every thing and everyone as a means. The ideological lie facilitates the material exploitation, by generating a false consciousness that blinds us to the social truth.
If we cannot justify the very concept of the aesthetic, except as ideology, then aesthetic judgement is without philosophical foundation. An ‘ideology’ is adopted for its social or political utility, rather than its truth. And to show that some concept—holiness, justice, beauty,
or whatever—is ideological, is to undermine its claim to objectivity. It is to suggest that there is no such thing as holiness, justice or beauty, but only the belief in it—a belief that arises under certain social and economic relations and plays a part in cementing them, but which will vanish as conditions change.
The distinctions between means and ends, between instrumental and contemplative attitudes, and between use and meaning are all indispensable to practical reasoning, and associated with no particular social order. And although the vision of nature as an object of contemplation may have achieved special prominence in eighteenth-century Europe, it is by no means unique to
that place and time, as we know from Chinese tapestry, Japanese woodcuts, and the poems of the Confucians and of Basho. If you want to dismiss the concept of aesthetic interest as a piece of bourgeois ideology, then the onus is on you to describe the non-bourgeois
alternative, in which the aesthetic attitude would be somehow redundant, and in which people would no longer need to find solace in the contemplation of beauty. That onus has never been discharged. Nor could it be.
Roger Scruton, Beauty, Oxford University Press, 2009., pgs. 62-64 (chapter “Aesthetics and Ideology”)
Applications should be sent to the e-mail address email@example.com, which you can find on this website as well as any other information on the International Student Biennial.
Students need to send quality visual material (300 dpi resolution) together with a brief description of the work, and a student status certificate of any level. Expenses and organization of transportation are borne by the students themselves, but the organizer may help according to available resources.
The exhibition is planned for the end of 2019 in Osijek, when three official prizes will be awarded. The awarded works are planned to be presented at a separate exhibition in 2020.
The deadline for submitting the application is October 5th 2019