In defense of modernity and the autonomy of art.

Art and autonomy: the decisive contribution of modernity

The concept of genius was first formulated by the Enlightenment and later developed in German Idealism. Its function was to explain the differential nature of art when compared to the world or nature. From its origins and development, this concept took two contradictory directions. On one side it was assumed irrationality linked to a power that has the artist-genius. On the other hand, strengthened the concept of an autonomous art, that is, possessing its own rules when compared with the phenomenon of nature and even the needs of society. For modernity, the defense of the autonomy of the artwork engendered the possibility of an unity between the subjective and the objective or the defense of an aesthetic sense represented not simply a matter of personal taste. The autonomy of art necessarily infer that there are criteria for judging the quality and importance of works of art. Thus, the distinction between genres or repertoires “superior” and “lower” is possible thanks to the criteria established by the autonomy of art, which make possible the means of evaluation of their own activity.

We can already see in Kant and Hegel thought contrary to the absolute irrationality of subjectivism. Kant formulated the pleasant feeling of beauty does not have a conceptual basis, this is you cannot reach it and discuss it using logical arguments. But this does not lead to irrationality in that for Kant this aesthetic feeling has the property to be shared and validated by a group of people who feel the same certainty about beauty. Therefore, non-conceptual does not mean that the aesthetic feeling to become the property of a totally subjective opinion. In Kant, the subjectivity of aesthetic feeling is mediated by the communicability of the feeling and recognition by other members of the same community.

Hegel entered the art and important as an organic part of his philosophical system. He fought the romantic tendencies who joined the art as a product of an intense imagination, anarchic and undisciplined intuition and senses. Imagination that could never be governed by a rationale and abstract thought. Against the enemies of reason, Hegel thinks of art as something that has the truth and, therefore, likely to be thought of Reason. Hegel defines art as a tangible manifestation of the Spirit. This appears to substantially the Spirit cannot be mistaken as an appearance whatsoever. For Hegel, art is a representation that leads to a different reality of everyday life. In this, the appearance hides an essence. In the art, the look reveals an intrinsic essence to it. So art gives us a higher autonomous reality and true. In the Kantian tradition and especially Hegel, art is an activity that preserves its autonomy, conceived as part of a system of thought that establishes criteria for the aesthetic.

The autonomy of art is what preserves exacerbated subjectivist relativism that leads to a catch-all made incapable any trial that qualify. This pure subjectivism is a true “assault on reason” which prevents any kind of common agreement. It is strongly present in the post-modern trends that deny modernism and the search for a synthesis between subjectivity and objectivity.

Thus, it is vital to the defense the way the art object and its autonomy, thus preventing the dilution of the autonomy of art. This autonomy does not exclude the possibility of finding homologous structures between art and society, since art is an activity part of everyday life to then return to it, resulting in a repetitive circular motion and increase in awareness of the sensitive men, or, a real catharsis. This increase is not a daydream or a kind of escape. She opposes the fragmentary experience of everyday life enriching the man who, through art, makes the passage of what is real to what is abstract and vice versa. The art, therefore, enables the transcendence of fragmentation engendered by the mere mercantile relations, producing a continuous enrichment (spiritual awareness) of humanity.

Art, then, figure, with its own means, the reality that is presented as chaotic daily life. This figuration is presented seamlessly confronting the fragmentation of everyday experience and thus enabling a perceptive break marked by heterogeneity and superficiality of the phenomenon of the day-to-day that hide their true essence. This is a re-presentation of the world as a second immediacy, so the necessary autonomy of art relative to this world. The fragmented character of reality reappears through the art form, transfigured as a new immediacy, this is a sensitive unit of essence and appearance. Alienation, estrangement, indifference and aggression in the world is transformed into an art for itself, that is, a world in accordance with the human.

This is possible thanks to the work of the artist, his talent or genius, who focused all determinations of reality into a whole, in their own world. There is then the receiver, or spectator, art an unique suspension of their daily life, raising it from subjectivity to a field goal, or, singular to the universal.

This movement’s own art, namely, the movement to break and return to everyday life can only be experienced in that art has a high degree of autonomy from the everyday life and is not determined or driven by everyday needs and subjective . The autonomy of art demands that it belongs with the realm of freedom and not necessity. Ultimately, art cannot be completely diluted in everyday life. Its autonomy is a condition of its negative character or lift relative to the fragmentation and alienation of contemporary daily experiences. Thus, contrary to postmodern attitudes that make the art a decorative social modernity, with the autonomy of art, makes it necessary to the process of overcoming alienation, making the world a habitable place for humans and all forms of life.

Prof. Dr. Eduardo Cardoso Braga
São Paulo, October 12, 2011

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