Theo Reeves-Evison

Theo Reeves-Evison

ethics of contemporary art: in the shadow of transgression
“A philosophical toolkit for finding our way out of transgression's shadows. Ethics of Contemporary Art dares us to imagine a productive engagement with contemporary art's cultural misdeeds while avoiding either falling back into a Victorian idealization of high culture, or celebrating transgression for transgression's sake.”
–  Gregory Sholette, author of Delirium and Resistance: Activist Art and the Crisis of Capitalism (2017)

“This reconfiguration of the relationship between ethics and art has been long overdue. In a psychoanalytically inflected investigation guided by Lacan and Guattari, Reeves-Evison impressively moves the parameters of the role of ethics in the process of how art shapes subjectivity.”
–  Silke Panse, Reader in Film, Art and Philosophy, University for the Creative Arts, UK

Ethics of Contemporary Art breaks important new ground by moving the debate on art and ethics away from dominant paradigms of the transgressive artist. It focuses instead on artworks themselves to propose that we think ethics as repair, that is, as a speculative and productive endeavour capable of shaping and recreating the social.”
–  João Florêncio, Senior Lecturer in History of Modern and Contemporary Art and Visual Culture, University of Exeter, UK

Book: Ethics of Contemporary Art In the Shadow of Transgression (London: Bloomsbury, 2020)

What happens when the shock of artistic transgression wears off, when scandal dissipates, when outrage becomes a tired routine? In this original new book, Theo Reeves-Evison argues that transgressive art no longer succeeds on its own terms in societies where language, prohibition and morality have become increasingly malleable. This compels us to rethink the relationship between contemporary art and ethics, and focus our attention on the potential of artworks to propose new values rather than simply challenge pre-existing moral codes.

Assembling a novel theoretical framework from the writings of Félix Guattari, Jacques Lacan and others, Ethics of Contemporary Art narrates a journey away from transgression towards a new critical paradigm for the relationship between ethics and aesthetics that places questions of subjectivity centre stage. Along the way artworks by Kader Attia, Artur Zmijewski, Dora Garcia and others serve as springboards launching discussions of the varied pathways along which a renewed ethics of contemporary art might develop.

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