Beurgeois Aesthetics

Date: Mon, 25 Mar 96 11:08:39 EST

I'm working on a paper dealing with bourgeois criticisms of avant-garde art, fo cusing in particular on the art/murder conjunction. In other words, Art and mu rder transgress bourgeois cultural values (of aesthetics and morality). My que stion is where this bourgeois aesthetic comes from, and how it is threatened by avant-garde art. A good example of the type of conflict I am talking about is the recent argument in our government over the public funding of the arts. The conservative reaction to avant-garde art can be seen as an expression of a certain type of middle-class disgust. I believe that most liberal-minded middle- class persons would not feel this way about works of art such as Mapplethorphe's photographs (The controversial ones) or Serrano's _Piss Christ_.

Any thoughts or suggestions would be very much appreciated.

Date: Thu, 28 Mar 1996 00:52:03 EST
From: "Charley Shively, (617) 287-5727, 661-7534"


Perhaps check John Waters' movies. In one Divine asks an audience, "Who's ready to die for art?" The man holds up his hand & she kills him; in the electric chair she says (Academy Award style): "I want to thank all the peopole who made it possible for me to be here tonight."

Date: Wed, 27 Mar 1996 11:37:33 -0800 (PST) From: Matthew Price <price@Csli.Stanford.EDU>

Maria Tatar's recent book "Lustmord: Sexual Murder in Weimar Germany" (Princeton: 1995) deals with the themes of murder and disgust in avant-garde art, though Im not sure her work goes in exactly the directions you're investigating. Still, probably worth looking at...


Date: Thu, 28 Mar 1996 10:15:32 -0500 (EST) From: Thomas Pearson <>

re: Eric Tsao's request for analysis of bourgeoise aesthetics:

see, Pierre Bourdieu's collection of essays "The Field of Cultural Production," Columbia University Press, 1993 -- especially his classic article contained there-in, "The Field of Cultural Production, or: The Economic World Reversed."

Bourdieu is a French sociologist/anthropologist working out of a neo-marxist tradition. Some complain his analysis is reductionistic, but it is extremely nuanced, rigorous, and fruitful. And very difficult to rerad. If you like his approach, you might try his book-length argument: "Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste," Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1984.

Thomas Pearson
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Date: 27 Mar 96 15:34:16 PST
From: William Peck <William.Peck@directory.Reed.EDU>

Eric Tsao wrote:
The conservative reaction to avant-garde art can be seen as an expression of a certain type of middle-class disgust.
end of quoted material ---

>From a generation (and more) ago I like Cesar Grana (tilda on the n), "Bohemian vs. Bourgeois", reprinted as "Modernity and its Discontents". It's about 19th century France; and writers, not painters.

Bill Peck
Reed C


Date: Thu, 28 Mar 1996 18:56:50 -0500 (EST) From: John G Stocke <>

I think that the flap caused by the punk-rock(?) band Negativland in 1987 and 1988 is relevant. Late in 1987 the band cancelled a tour b/c it was going to be a financial disasater. But then they blamed the cancellation on a fictitious federal official, claiming that the government had linked their music (the song "christianity is stupid") to a murder in minnesota. A teenaged boy killed his family after supposedly quarreling with them about rock music. The media bought the band's little joke, and a media feeding frenzy resulted.

The band released a CD in 1988 about the incident. It is called Helter Stupid, and was released by SST records. Bowling Green State University and finer records stores everywhere have it in stock. The Periiodic Guide for 1987-88 and San Francisco newspapers should provide some information.

This whole affair is a piece of brilliant, hilarious postmodern art, and it revolves around murder and middle class-notions of propriety.

Greg Stocke
Department of History
The University of Akron

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