"Most disastrously, the supposedly moral use of art as meliorative criticism and social advocacy abandons the civilized idea that art is the priveleged space of contemplation, and as such a reprieve and sanctuary from the barbarism of the world- however much that may be its subject matter- and thus a psychic space in which we can own ourselves and survive, that is, realize autonomy, however aware we are of the special and limited conditions in which it is possible. It ignores the ethics inherent in aesthetics and beauty. Artistic contemplation- as distinct from art as a kid of social practice and even theorizing (manqué) about the world- is a way of caring for ones psyche. Art will serve the mental health of whomever turns to it in pursuit of aesthetic experience and beauty. When one looks at Otto Dix's horrific images of trench warfare, his aesthetic transmutation of death and destruction into a weirdly beautiful scene gives us a certain perspective on it that is more critically effective- more consciousness raising, as it were- than any journalistic rendering of it. It is more soul-saving, for it has a cathartic effect that no war photograph can have. The photograph may move us, but it will not rescue us from the unpleasant feelings it arouses in is, which is what Dix's aesthetically brilliant images do in the very act of evoking such feelings. The photograph shows us the decistating scene, but Fix's images big only show its devastation, but involve us with it, in s complex dialectic of identification and disidentification - shocked attachment and resolute attachment- similar to the dialectic of subject matter and form. In short, aesthetic autonomy is a prelude to personal autonomy, even a basic part of it. Human beings are not fully human without aesthetic experience.
" I think it is one of the artist's obligations to create as perfectly as he or she can, not regardless of all other consequences, but in full awareness, nevertheless, that in pursuing other values- in championing Israel or fighting for the rights of women, or defending the faith, or exposing capitalism, supporting your sexual preferences or speaking for your race- you may simply be putting on a saving scientific, religious, political mask to disguise your failure as an artist. Neither the world's truth nor a god's goodness will win you beauty's prize. Finally, in a world which does not provide beauty for its own sake, but where the loveliness if flowers, landscapes, faces, trees, and sky are adventitious and accidental, it is the artitst's task to add to the worlds objects and ideas those deliniations, carvings, tales, fables, and symphonic spells which ought to be there; to make things whose end is contemplation and appreciation; to give birth to beings whose qualities harm no one, yet reward even the most casual notice, and which therefore deserve to become the focus of a truly disinterested affection." "
- Donald Kuspit, " The End Of Art", quote from William Gass, p37-39, 2004.