Beauty Vs. Ugliness

What constitutes beauty for you in response to this week readings?

For me beauty is when we feel pleasure and satisfaction when we look or listen to something. Beauty is a positive response to what we are exposed to. This is usually something that we love and society approves of. It is the ultimate perfection of human expectation. According to Dave Hickey in his lecture in the University of Memphis about “Art in a Democratic Society” states; “beauty is what we have never seem before and what we want to see”. Beauty creates social control through culture; we are often told what is beautiful. In regards to art, Dave Hickey stated in his same lecture that “art it is when our heart wants to find out why our body reacts to things the way it does”. Also, it is what our body likes and what our mind and political society approves of.

In today’s times we live in a democratic society where in order for something to be called art or beautiful, we need to reflect the people’s values, opinions, and approval. Beauty covers suffering and chaos and transformed it into joy. Before, the experience of beauty has called us to the presence of the divine; now in modern art, it shows the world as it is now. In the 1960s modern architecture surged. We began to believe that form follows function.  According to Roger Scruton in his video “Why Beauty Matters” states; “put usefulness first and you loose it, put beauty first and what you do will be useful for ever!”. The reality is that beauty is around us, and we only need our eyes to see it and our heart to feel it. We need to look at things as they are instead of trying to interpret it. Then, we need to be honest and free our emotions.

 Why is beauty important according to Dave Hickey, Camille Paglia, and Roger Scruton?

According to Dave Hickey, beauty’s not the end of art: it’s only the beginning. It’s what makes secular art possible, since it creates conditions under which we might voluntarily look carefully at something. So beauty is an issue. He states that ‘beautiful’ is a social construction. It’s a set of ambient community standards as to what constitutes an appropriate visual configuration. It’s what we’re supposed to like. ‘Beauty’ instead is what we like, whether we should or not, what we respond to involuntarily. So beauty is not the product of communities. It creates communities.

According to Camille Paglia her first moments of enchantment by beauty occurred in a church and a movie theater. The interior of St. Anthony of Padua church in Endicott, New York, the upstate factory town where she was born, was lined with richly colored stained-glass windows and niches holding life-size plaster statues of saints in sumptuous robes or silver armor. Paying no attention to the action on the altar, she would stare transfixed at those glorious figures, which seemed alive. At the theater downtown, she was mesmerized by the colossal Technicolor images of Hollywood stars, who seemed as numinous as living gods. She was alarmed about the future of American art. Camille Paglia states that; “young people today, immersed in a digital universe, love the volatile excitement of virtual reality, but they lack the patience to steadily contemplate a single image— “a complex static object such as a great painting or sculpture. The paintings of their world are now video games, with images in febrile motion; their sculptures are the latest-model cellphone, deftly shaped to the hand.”

Roger Scruton in BBC argue that there really is such a thing, that it is not just a matter of taste, that it is connected with the noble, the aspirational, and the holy in our feelings, and that the postmodern culture, which emphasizes ugliness, despondency, and desecration, is a betrayal of a sacred calling. He then explains that he said it because they were paying him. Roger Scruton sates that; “We cannot pour scorn on beauty without losing sight of the meaning of life.” He supported that beauty matters, that desecration and nihilism are crimes, and that we should find the way to exalt our world and to endow it with a more than worldly significance.

Describe an exclamation of beauty that you have experienced that fits the criteria as vernacular beauty as described by Dave Hickey.

Dave Hickey explains that beauty is an issue insofar as the concept is repressed. That’s why he finds it encouraging that some kids have liked his book. That means the concept is not totally absent. Hickey states that; “If kids get it, that means that beauty is still a viable term in the ordinary cultural vernacular, outside the art world. Finding that you have written a “popular” piece of criticism, however, is not a particularly salutary experience”.

One example of an exclamation of beauty that I have experienced in my life was in my first trip to Colombia. My wife is originally from Colombia, and we met through the web. I could say that Colombia is a beautiful country, but what I really found beautiful was the beauty of the woman that will end up later been my wife now. That was the first time that I saw my wife in person, and I realized that she was most beautiful than what I saw through a computer screen.  The way this experience fits to the criteria as vernacular beauty as described by Dave Hickey is; some people might find hard to believe that love from far away could persist, but since my wife and I really loved each other, we make possible our reunion. So, I can say that seeing my wife for the first time is an example of an exclamation of beauty that I have experienced before.

Can ‘ugliness’ or anti-aesthetic (design with no rules) be a desirable style to be appreciated as a kind of beauty?

Can beauty be found in works based on postmodern strategies such as reflexivity, pastiche and parody?

 I think that ugliness or anti-aesthetic can be a desirable style to be appreciated as a kind of beauty. Beauty is up to every individual perspective. What we may find ugly may not be ugly for other people. Every body has different tastes and opinions. The same for beauty based on postmodern strategies such as reflexivity, pastiche and parody.

According to Sturken M. and Cartwright L. in our text book, Practice of looking, states that; “Reflexivity, in which the text refers to its own means of production, undermines the illusion or fantasy aspects of the narrative, encouraging the viewer to be a critical thinker about the ideology conveyed by the narrative.” Postmodern popular culture and art take this modern concept of reflexivity further but with a different concept. Media producers offer us reflexive techniques of disillusionment not as tools for critical and distanced reflection on the real economic and cultural conditions behind the text but as forms of intellectual play.

One of the key terms used to describe this culture of imitation, remake, and parody is pastiche. According to our text book, the term pastiche is derived from the Italian word pasticcio, which refers to a combination of elements that evokes, according to Dyer, assemblage, collage, montage, capriccio (a style of composing that combines elements from different places), medley forms, and hip-hop forms of sampling, scratching, and riffing.  Plato said once “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, and as I had stated before; beauty can always be defined depending of who is looking at it.


Ostrow S. “Dave Hickey”, (p. 2).

Paglia C. “Why Camille Paglia is Alarmed About the Future of Art”, (p. 1-2).

Scruton R. The American Spectator, “On Defending Beauty”, (p. 1-3).

Cartwright L. & Sturken M. Practices of Looking, “Postmodernism, Indie Media, and Popular Culture”, (p. 322).

Cartwright L. & Sturken M. Practices of Looking, “Postmodernism, Indie Media, and Popular Culture”, (p. 328-329).