The Anti-Aesthetic Essays

The Anti-Aesthetic Essays-1
Perhaps what is needed, following Foster’s denunciations of design as mere consumerist manipulation in the service of greater efficiencies for capitalism, is recognition of a more general outline, an outline that attributes the root of the problem more deeply in a description of the rationalist prejudices that dominate our thinking and being. Bruno Latour, “Why Has Critique Run Out of Steam” in Critical Inquiry, Winter 2004, University of Chicago, 225 3.For the style of critique demonstrated by Foster and his colleagues this would be bad news, leaving them revealed as a part of the problem in so far as their project is itself inextricably dedicated to the founding of criticality in a modernity that is already itself a practice of instrumental rationality. Kenneth Frampton, “Towards a Critical Regionalism,” in The Anti-Aesthetic, ed. Jean Nouvel and Jean Baudrillard, The Singular Objects of Architecture, trans.

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In this sense, the critique mounted from Foster’s “leftist” optimism has become a rearguard defence inevitably and finally supporting and requiring those elements of purification and linearity so essential to the drive of technics (including capital) for ever greater efficiency.

The Anti-Aesthetic movement rejected the role of beauty in art, stating it was a distraction from truth and more serious issues.

The phenomenological version of realism adhered to in Frampton’s essay runs right up against the theorizations of media expressed in my own favoured text on architecture, the interview between architect Jean Nouvel and Jean Baudrillard.

What is perhaps intriguing is the parallel between Foster’s perspective, which targets the use of digital media in so far as they are the tools that have facilitated architecture’s having become image and that of the Nouvel/ Baudrillard dialogue, in which the electronic media facilitate a general dematerialization and a world without “outside.” Baudrillard, informed by the media theory of Marshall Mc Luhan, developed a more “performative” vision of architecture’s relationship with new media.

Jean-Francois Millet's famous portrait The Gleaners (1857) did not focus on the beauty of the immediate world in the same way as the Impressionists, but more on the harshness of the life of the working class.

The figures in the painting are not idealized; the use of muted tones shows the artist is more concerned with capturing the reality of their plight, than with the beauty of the setting or the subjects.

The Anti-Aesthetic movement grew out of the anger at a public that was unaware of problems, and unwilling to face the harsh truths or realities of life.

The Anti-Aesthetics were defined not by the way in which they chose to portray a subject or issue, but the way in which they specifically denounced the idea that art should strive to be beautiful.

“Capital” and “spectacle” are the concepts by which Foster navigates the tyranny of contemporary culture.

Why not take the first few lines from Debord’s book as predictive: “Everything that was directly lived has moved away into a representation.” (1) This still seems close enough to a description of our current situation, although what it means and how it came about is debated.


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