Wading through Umberto Eco’s book, “On Beauty” it was interesting to me to see his reflections on the modern era.  In conclusion he rightly suggests that we cannot yet understand the 1980’s and 1990’s as we are just too close in time.  Using the device of an explorer from the future they will he states,

     “..no longer be able to identify the aesthetic ideal diffused by the mass media of the 20th century and beyond.  He [sic] will have to surrender before the orgy of tolerance, the total syncretism and the absolute and unstoppable polythesim of Beauty.” pp428

An orgy indeed especially at the moment with a deluge of information heading our way such that we quite possibly cannot take it in, digest it and create a memory/experience of what constitutes “beauty”.

Referring back to a previous post on Claire Bishop’s Participation  it is interesting to see Eco write that:
    “..there are many schools of contemporary art….in which-in the name of art- people apparently stage ceremonies smacking of ritual, not unlike the ancient mystery rites, whose end is not the contemplation of something beautiful, but a quasi-religoius experience, albeit of a carnal and primitive sort, from which the gods are absent.” pp417

Marvellous bourgeois presumption that somehow this experience is not seen as valid presumably because Eco and his cohort/class cannot abide an “others” experience.  Art cannot be fundamentally engaged with?

This contrasts well with his section on “Articles of Everyday Use, Criticism, Commercialisation, Mass Production.   Here the finger is pointed at the commercialisation of life and things.  In the end critics reverse the aesthetic of the everyday object from a disposable item to an artefact as work of art. 

He writes:
“The world of business attained an undeniable capacity to take its own images and to SATURATE people’s perceptions with them, irrespective of their social status: thus the distinction between artists and ordinary people grew less marked.” [emphasis added] pp378

So really it is no surprise that people end up wanting to “participate” in the everyday as co creators.

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