Roundtable: Beauty

On April 26, a roundtable discussion on beauty took place at Spektrum in Berlin. The event was organized and moderated by Dennis Schep (Friedrich Schlegel Graduiertenschule). Participants were:

Christina Dimitriadis (Visual artist, NYU Berlin)
Chris Fenwick (Literary scholar, Friedrich Schlegel Graduiertenschule)
Joshua Fineberg (Composer, Boston University)
Melissa Steckbauer (Visual artist)

roundtable beauty
Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain, 1917


What follows is an abridged and edited transcript of the input statements and the subsequent discussion.

Dennis: What got me interested in this topic is the observation that, whereas one might suppose that art is about making beautiful things, nowadays this aim does not figure in artist’s statements, and neither is beauty a dominant concern in the discourse about art. After spending 10 years in the university and being accustomed to a critical vocabulary, I myself have come to suspect judgments of beauty: to say something is beautiful almost sounds naive. Recently, Sianne Ngai has argued that our aesthetic categories are no longer the beautiful and the sublime, but the cute, the zany and the interesting. Perhaps we could say that beauty is marginalized in the fields of art and academia. I am interested in the reasons for this marginalization.