Cultural and social contexts, ethics

Works of art are not privileged stimuli that stand alone, NO stimulus is every really decontextualized, even those that seem to represents the limits of our imagination.  A good curator may wish to isolate a work of art  and its unique constellation of stimuli from competing works, but the physical environment, social environment, and cognitive environment (such as memory, expectations, and multiple collateral stimuli) are all potent influences, particularly on the meaning of a new experience.  (and–an often astonishing experience–a familiar stimulus in a new context)

ECOLOGICAL considerations:

Environmental factors includes the behavior of conspecifics — friends, family, your cultural sources:  HOW HAVE OTHERS RESPONDED?  What might some of them see that you do not?   When someone looks up at the top of a  building, we’re likely to at least glance there as well.  When someone is affected you may want to know as well.

  • My First time in Florence, Kathy and I went to see Michelangelo’s Slaves at The Galleria dell’Accademia.  I was fascinated by the ideology of his “liberating” them from the marble.  And then of course to see his David.  I was quite familiar with its appearance and thought I knew what to expect.  I never saw the sculpture “in the flesh,” so to say, I was simply paying my respects to an honored icon of its age.  So I was not prepared for what I saw at the end of its long corridor, lined by the Slaves.  The David  took my breath away.  It affected both of us deeply. After we recovered our composure we were fascinated to watch other tourists come around a corner and see it for the first time: same effect on almost everyone.   I’m reminded of this by a video made for Christies about their sale of a newly restored DaVinci:
  • Look at the faces of first-time viewers of Salvatore Mundi, the recently displayed and sold DaVinci:
    • from my news diary:  Wednesday, May 23, 2018.   “Lost works by Leonardo have resurfaced with encouraging, even surprising, frequency in recent years. In 2005, Leonardo’s Salvator Mundi was acquired by a consortium of New York-based dealers who had it restored, because centuries of grime had clogged its sombre beauty. It was so unrecognisable that it had been sold in 1958 for just £45 ($1,350, in today’s money), its authorship long-forgotten. After featuring in the blockbuster 2011 Leonardo exhibition in London, it sold to the Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev in 2013, for $127.5 million, which was a record price increase for an artwork (around 283 million per cent) – until it sold again, in December 2017, to the Louvre Abu Dhabi for $450.3 million.”  VIDEO= https://droga5.com/work/last-da-vinci/ )



CAN ART BE IMMORAL (OR  AMORAL?).   morality depends on social mores and ART aspires to speaking to the deepest level it could attain, BELOW those of society. 

But we cannot be unaffected by the morality of context: is our appreciation of stolen art different?  (Elgin Marbles); “Counterfeit” art?  Inauthentic relics of saints? Does the morality or ethical behavior of the artist influence us (Wagner).  “Counterfeit” art?  Inauthentic relics of saints? Art of completely unknown provenance (paleolithic art) 

Can art be separated from the artist that  created it, be considered AMORAL? Like a force of nature…  

Can you agree with Wikipedia’s view of Art and MoralityVisual EthicsSocial connections



“Art provides the most intense, concentrated, and sharply focused of the experiences available to human beings. Because of this, art can have an enormous influence on the tenor of a person’s life, more influential no doubt than any particular system of morality. In its ability to do this, it has an effect that, in an extended sense at least, can surely be called moral.” (excerpted from John Hospers, Art-as-a-means-to-moral-improvement (IBritannica)