Even if we admit that, as patron and inhabitant, his perspective on and memory of the project would differ from those of others, nonetheless, on the cusp of talking his nation into war, why did Hitler feel compelled to write about the aesthetic pain caused by ugly light fixtures?
– Hitler at Home (25-26)
Of course, we all know that few people are more hateful, spiteful, envious, paranoid, weak, ignorant, underhanded, double-faced, narcissistic, and dull than artists. The whole social history of art, were one to seriously write one (and no one has bothered to), would consist of little more than listing these litanies of loathing and, depending on the author’s level of perversity, categorizing them with great care and attention to detail. This is not an insult. The worst one can say for hatred is that it is too close to love, too close to being smitten with some trivial element of the world. One ought – and this is the only ethical or moral sentiment of these essays – to hate far better than that.
That art is regarded as an affirmation of life and humanity, if not their ultimate affirmation, is a commonplace. It is also patently false. And this falseness, which is also a kind of artifice, is occasionally drawn up into a moral conundrum about the dangers of aesthetics. Panic mongering about the danger of aestheticized violence or exoticized otherness have been fairly lucrative intellectual industries in academia and the art industry over the past few decades. And art, as a program for objectifying intensities, has duly exploited such pusillanimous squealing.
To take a trivial but local example: Ottawa art galleries (lately at least) seem to display a penchant for bien pensant art-as-therapy. The few commercial galleries, generally stocking landscapes etc., are balanced by artist-run centres and other state supported galleries who tend to organize their seasons around displaying their political fantasies. Amidst all of these was a small commercial exhibit by Jonathan Hobin featuring photographs of various miserable looking children in what is now fashionably considered racist garb with anime sized tears running down their puckered cheeks. The tears are fake, of course, and kitsch plays a crucial role.