These are taken from Hickey's Four Essays on Beauty, his other masterful collection "Air Guitar, Essays on Art and Democracy" seems to have either flown from my shelves or been eaten by one of my beastly proportioned Architecture tomes. If I find it I will post some extracts. Click here for a great talk he gave at Frieze 2007.
When he writes "Therapeutic Institution" Hickey is refering to art institutions that are usualy government funded and do not have to negotiate in any way with the market.
"I would suggest that, far from ameliorating the artist’s radical, infantile wishes, the rhetoric of beauty politicizes them, makes them publicly available, and proposes them in fact as social options. Further, I would suggest that Reichsminister Goebbels understood this, as did Alfred Barr, and Stalin –and that none of them was particularly sanguine at the prospect.
This is not to say, of course, that art is just advertising, only that art, outside the institutional vitrine of therapeutic mystery, is never not advertising and never apolitical. Commodity advertising and pornography only define the limiting conditions of art’s project, its objective and somatic extremes, but they participate, just like the real thing, in that accumulated shifting, protean collection of tropes and figures that comprise “the rhetoric of beauty”."
"We can, for instance, distinguish between the “the most beautiful image” that simply enfranchises the most people, and the “most effective beautiful image” that valorises the most preposterous (oops, problematic) content to the most people for the longest time. Raphael’s Maddona of the Chair would qualify here, for its having exquisitely valorised the “iffy” doctrines of the incarnate word and the virgin birth to generations of Catholics worldwide who should have known better."
"Our relationship to images authorised by beauty is now distinct to our relationship to images authorised by the therapeutic institution, and radically so. And this is no less the case when a single image undergoes a shift of authorisation, as anyone who has loaned work to a museum exhibition can tell you. Visiting that work can be like visiting an old friend in prison. It is a distinctly different image, hanging among a population of kindred offenders, bereft of its eccentricity and public franchise, yet somehow, on account of that loss, newly invested with a faintly ominous kind of parochial power."
"Sadism is about nature and power. Masochism is about culture and, ironically, the law. Finally, sadism deals with the imposition of “formal values” and the cruel affirmation of “natural law”, and masochism focuses on deferred sublimity and the vertiginous rhetoric of trust. As a consequence, Deleuze notes, “the sadist is in need of institutions,” and “the masochist of contractual relations.”
The analogy I wish to draw here is blatant. The rhetoric of beauty tells the story of the beholder who, like Masoch’s victim, contracts his own submission –having established, by free consent, a reciprocal, contractual alliance with the image. The signature of this contract, of course, is beauty. On the one hand, its rhetoric enfranchises the beholder; on the other hand, it seductively proposes a content that is, hopefully, outrageous and possible. In any case, this vertiginous bond of trust between the image and the beholder is private, voluntary, a little scary, and since the experience is not presumed to be an end in itself, it might, ultimately, have some consequence.
The experience of art within the therapeutic institution, however, is presumed to be an end in itself. Under its auspices, we play a minor role in the master’s narrative –the artist’s tale- and celebrate his autonomous acts even as we are off-handedly victimised by their philosophical force and ruthless authority. Like princes within the domain of the institution, or jailhouse Mafiosi, such works have no need of effeminate appeal. And we, poor beholders, like the silly demimondaines in Sade’s Philosophy of the Bedroom, are presumed to have just wandered in, looking for a kiss, so Pow! Whatever we get, we deserve –and what we get most prominently is ignored, disenfranchised and instructed. Then told that it is “good” for us."
"Nothing redeems but beauty, its generous permission, its gorgeous celebration of all that has previously been uncelebrated."
"As Shaw pointed out, institutions collapse from lack of funding, they do not die from lack of meaning. We die from lack of meaning."