Aesthetics and Politics

Research line 1

The global visual media images seem to present essential values that highlight socio-political themes by appropriating modern and contemporary artworks. However, within this context, it is not necessarily the case that images’ socio-political meanings are politically exercised. Rather, these meanings are contained in the politics themselves. Some artworks and themes allude to the freedom of expression, ethics, and democracy and, in doing so, question censorship in visual media and iconoclasm in modern and contemporary art. In this sense, this research line concentrates upon the values of human existence in global visual media with regard to the impact that this media exerts upon international politics. As far as ethics and aesthetics can be questioned, would it be the search for “truth” in the images or only the alterations in the creations’ formal diversity?

It appears that the experience of novelty has been diluted in every aspect of daily life, intensified by the technical reproducibility of art throughout the media (Benjamin, 1939). To provide insight into this preliminary problem, this research on the essential values that underscore modern and contemporary art focuses upon the following questions: What designates and conditions the exploitation of tragedy as a common reason for everyday visual experiences? What are the “true” symbolic values that prove facts through images within the impact of global culture? For this analysis to proceed, it is necessary to ground this research in aesthetics of visibility, such as in the relationship between international photojournalism and images of modern and contemporary art, concerning the awareness of human dignity, freedom, equality, democracy, and respect for human rights.

Art and literature history have shown effective modes of influencing the configuration of images, which impose the perception of their meanings and methods of structural or semiological analyses (Barthes 1970). Therefore, art as a symbolic commodity exists only for those who hold the means to decipher and appropriate it (Bourdieu 1991). An image remains subject to a variety of interpretations. We must realize it as an aesthetic experience before moving on to understand the full meaning of the image. Therefore, in these studies, we consider that definitions are restricted to a specific realm of cognition or common sense, because judgments based on subjective values are significant to the image’s polysemy, especially given the immense diversity of possible interpretations. As such, cultural, social, political, and economic histories have always been transferred to art. Thus, current artistic dynamics can be analyzed by contextualizing the image production process, techniques, and means prevailing to the historical moment, in the Hegelian sense. The production process is explained when the authenticity criterion of art transforms the artistic production. Such an approach is related to contemporary art regarding cultural value as political and social progress, seeking the “democratization of art” as an ideal. One of these visual studies aims to demonstrate the image’s aspects involving the dichotomies between illusion and reality, real news and fake news, and fact and opinion. Hence, this study of the symbolic elements of the image focuses on the following question: Can images prove facts by the media regarding the values of democracy? For this analysis to proceed, the essential values that underscore visual culture as facts must be considered concerning the reality of contemporary communication (Habermas, 2001). Ultimately, this research concentrates on the impact media currently exerts on culture and its mediated realities.