Ethico-Aesthetics of the Visual

Research Group Hana Gründler

The far-reaching relations between art, visuality and ethics require fundamental examination. Art history, and more generally the history of images, have so far only partially addressed this relationship and not in its historical depth. And this despite the fact that (art) objects and the built environment play an essential role in raising aesthetic awareness, and can even contribute to the ethical and political constitution of the individual and society in general – both in a critical-transformative and a disciplining sense.

The present methodologically and systematically broad attempt to develop an Ethico-Aesthetics of the Visual considers the inherent ambivalence and contradictoriness of the phenomenon, and necessarily takes into account the complex of topics involved from a diachronic and interdisciplinary perspective. Thus, subjects range from early modern reflections on the emotionalising, edifying and even moral function of images up to dissident performative strategies of bodily resistance in the ‘public’ spaces of totalitarian regimes. A central task in reflecting on the possibility and limits of an ethics of vision must be to investigate the transitions between visibility and invisibility, seeing and being seen, knowing and not knowing, since the critical and disruptive potential of art and theory often develops in these marginal areas that are not precisely determinable, where common perceptions and epistemic norms are challenged and transformed. Lastly, the relationship between visuality and theory needs to be more closely analysed in a critical sense. Or to put it differently: The conditions of possibility of (art historical) seeing and speaking must be problematized and the practice of theory itself questioned.


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