Wk 8 Extra Credit: Linda Weintraub by Alana Chin

Linda Weintraub- Drop Dead Gorgeous: Beauty and the Aesthetics of Activism

I attended this lecture thinking that it would be just another lecture talking about how beauty is a societal manifestation meant to point out our flaws and highlight our insecurities. I’m sure we’ve all heard that beauty is given more priority and importance than it is worth. But this lecture was different and I was pleasantly surprised. Linda Weintraub did talk about this aspect of beauty and how society tends to place value and worth on things that are beautiful and then neglect or abuse the things that aren’t. However, she explored concepts outside of this and made me think about reevaluating my own perception of beauty.

During the lecture, Linda Weintraub presented several different artists and how they portrayed beauty in their art. One common theme was the concept that death and decay weren’t consider beautiful. Michel Blazy’s “encouragement” structure was a piece of a wall covered in food that was left to rot. Viewers could see the food decomposing and the fungus and mold growing from it. Another example is Gregor Schneider’s concept for “Death: Be Not Proud.” This project is still in the works but Schneider basically plans to have a terminally ill person die on display. At first, these pieces probably shock and disturb the general population. However, the point that these artists are trying to make is that there is no reason for death and decay to be considered ugly. Death and decay is a part of life, part of the life cycle that contributes to new life and recycling of nutrients. Death and decay is also inevitable and something every living thing will eventually experience. This artwork demonstates that not only does society neglect and shun the topic of death, but it goes out of its way to avoid it, thus indicating that society can’t feel comfortable with the idea that life is ending. Linda Schneider pointed out many more examples of this, like botox and anti-rust. She then concluded that the real shame behind all this is the fact that society is unable to fully appreciate life. Death and decay are essential parts of life. It is given that death is the end of life, but it is also part of a full circle of new life. And because death is so important, we can’t appreciate life if we ignore death and pretend that it doesn’t ever happen. In a sense, we are not being true to death.

Another interesting point from this lecture was that we tend to like it when humans interfere in natural occurences. Andy Goldsworthy’s work usually consisted of a scene from nature with some sort of orderly arrangement of the objects on site. For example, he stacked rocks in one piece to the background of a great natural rock formation. It was a very interesting and aesthetically pleasing photo. What was most interesting was how Linda Weintraub noticed that the contrast between the natural and manmade was most beautiful. The photo definitely would not be nearly as interesting if there was no human intervention. For examples of his work, click here http://naturalismo.wordpress.com/2008/10/13/andy-goldsworthy/. If it is most beautiful when there is human intervention, maybe we are just justifying our actions for constantly interfering with nature by saying that it is “beautiful.” By the end, Linda Weintraub encouraged the change of the definition of “beautiful” to mean more than just the visual, but also to accept an ecological defition where function dictates beauty. I think this would be great for society to think outside of the usual definition and appreciate more than just the superficial.

~Alana Chin

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