A response to Hammam Aldouri

We got a letter to the editor in response to Hammam's recent essay. Read it and tell us what you think! Thanks to Nikolai for taking the time to respond, and for fostering a spirit of dialogue in the (virtual) pages of Artblog. – Artblog Editor

opening at Mt. Airy Contemporay
Opening at Mt. Airy Contemporary for Anne Canfield and Gary Petersen.

Philadelphia as will and representation
By Nikolai Rogich

In his recent essay, “Endless art,” Aldouri makes an excellent observation concerning Friday gallery exhibitions around Philadelphia: “Fridays are the culturally standardized beginning of ‘free time’ away from work. With this in mind, one could say that the experience of art falls within the social category of relaxation, entertainment, and non-work related enjoyment.” If art is to address the questions “What kind of world are we building?” and “Where and how do we expend our abundant financial and spiritual resources?”, then a greater portion of art consumption and reflection should take place on the traditional days when civilization is constructed and formulated by the whole of society.

Reconciling aesthetics and ethics was a central concern of philosophy from Plato through the end of the eighteenth century, and it seems without an expansive revival of discourse surrounding the connection between art and moral feeling, nobody gets what they want. Apollonian advances are met by Dionysian counterinsurgencies, leaving a tally of casualties for which neither belligerent can be proud.

Responding to Aldouri’s mandate to make art mean something again, not just produced for First Friday consumption, might we be able to create the requisite “distance from the imperative to make and exhibit” by rediscovering the energies that animated Plato, Aquinas, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Marx, and subsequent moral philosophers, sociologists, theologians, and secular humanists to engage in the agony of confronting art with morality, thereby suspending this malignant “superabundance of production”?


In her speech A Call to Reinvent Liberal Arts Education, Liz Coleman distills her own analysis of liberal civic disengagement down to the following: “Simply put, when the impulse is to change the world, the academy is more likely to engender a learned helplessness than to create a sense of empowerment.” Could we not attribute the same disenfranchisement and nihilistic fragmentation of purpose and meaning to the corpus of artists, collectors, dealers, curators, and art educators in Philadelphia?