Adorno and Art: Aesthetic Theory Contra Critical Theory by James Hellings

By James Hellings

If the development towards the administered global is nearing of entirety, if spectacularised societies, industrialised cultures, and reified awareness have taken keep watch over, then, Adorno and Art exhibits how radical and progressive Adorno’s aesthetic conception of art’s double personality is still, and the way complicated, imaginitive and oppositional, varieties of paintings provide, probably, the easiest wish for overcoming broken life.

The caricatures of Adorno, his politics and his aesthetics, are renowned error of judgement—widely repeated either through the academy and by way of the Left. Adorno’s aesthetics has been accused of failing to maintain speed with innovative creative practices and for being socio-politically aloof. regardless of the patience of those caricatures, this booklet indicates how major pictures and subject matters in Adorno’s concept stay suitable to the present scenario of paintings, aesthetics and politics.

The Adorno on express during this quantity was once no bourgeois mandarin, no conceited aesthete, no esoteric mystic, no depression pessimist, and no educational professional holed up within the proverbial ivory tower.

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Conflating, as Lukács did, art’s law or principle of form (sedimented content) with an apolitical formalist art and pure aestheticism (l’art pour l’art) must be rejected out of hand. Aesthetics is not a form of ‘prescribed realism,’ and art does not limp after reality (AT 237). Lukács’s historical and hysterical caricaturisation of Adorno’s aesthetic theory of art’s autonomy – that is, the prevalent view: messages in a bottle = political quietism – however, shows no signs of abating. For, as Bernstein argues: Adorno’s apparently uncompromising defence of modernist art and his apparently uncompromising critique of mass culture as a product 36 Adorno and Art: Aesthetic Theory Contra Critical Theory of a ‘culture industry’ has served the proponents of postmodernism as a negative image against which their claims for a democratic transformation of culture may be secured.

For, as Bernstein argues: Adorno’s apparently uncompromising defence of modernist art and his apparently uncompromising critique of mass culture as a product 36 Adorno and Art: Aesthetic Theory Contra Critical Theory of a ‘culture industry’ has served the proponents of postmodernism as a negative image against which their claims for a democratic transformation of culture may be secured. 23 The grand master of flash postmodernism, Jean-François Lyotard, indulged this fantasy and took up Lukács’s historical challenge, by writing an essay entitled, ‘Adorno as the Devil,’ wherein, according to David Robert’s wild interpretation, ‘Schoenberg becomes for Adorno the Christ who takes the sins of the world upon himself’ (AE 103).

Adorno’s aesthetics continues to have contemporary relevance, as Martin argues: ‘It suggests an ongoing investigation of recent art, not in order to merely affirm it, but to establish whether it is in fact new and not just a parody of the new relying on the authority of tradition’ (AAA 181). Adorno’s grey61 However, Adorno’s aesthetics still has something of a grey reputation in contemporary art and theory. But, reputations are one thing and works and deeds are another. Making the case for the continued relevance of Adorno’s aesthetic theory to contemporary art and theory need not be arduous, for Adorno himself participated in one 16 Adorno and Art: Aesthetic Theory Contra Critical Theory of the more interesting contemporary art festivals: dOCUMENTA.

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