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Art, Ethics and Provocation

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Edited By Anna Suwalska-Kolecka and Izabella Penier

The main purpose of this volume is to look into a wide spectrum of artistic ventures which cross boundaries and challenge habitual thinking, consequently involving an element of provocation. While it is true that not all great art is provocative, the most memorable artefacts are these which have confounded our aesthetic expectations or stirred our moral imagination. However, as the turn of the millennium witnessed ever more shocking artistic gestures of provocation, the question arises if there are any limits to artistic freedom. The essays collected in this book offer a truly interdisciplinary perspective and deal with creative acts of transgression from a broad range of fields: literature, theatre, visual art, film, anthropology, and others. This volume will appeal to readers interested in artistic and academic pursuits that are subversive and irreverent.
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Art, Ethics, and Provocation

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Culture is a living thing always in the state of flux, always in the process of becoming. It is forever moving between tradition and innovation, while addressing the most topical issues and seeking the best means of expression. As culture endeavours to make sense of everyday existence, its pleasure and pain, artistic expression veers between two opposite ends of the spectrum: transgression and taboos, provocation and censorship, outrageous scandals and social standards that delimit our lives. These dichotomies have, for centuries, shaped the evolution of literature, culture and art in all periods and in all societies.

While it is true that human artefacts do not have to be provocative to become masterpieces, the most memorable works of art are these which have dared to go against the grain, which have challenged our aesthetic expectations or our moral imagination. They are remembered for their subversive power that shook us out of our complacency. We appreciate these artefacts – literature, paintings, sculptures, installations, films and performances – because they have endowed us with a new outlook on the world and defied established social norms. They also have given us sheer aesthetic bliss to assuage the shock of discovery. One may conclude that the very nature of artistic expression is founded on more or less extreme acts of transgression and provocation that allow societies to evolve and expand.

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