Paradox, Politics, and Art
Art means something to society, even if we are hard pressed to say what. The answer is something more than empirical while our temptations towards theory either reach too far or are mired in problems of philosophy and the insufficiencies of language. When we express what art means to society, however, we want to say something meaningful about humanity that will translate into the hard substance of policy. Both art and policy make meaning in society, but in ways that often conflict. Paradox confronts us with our humanity; with our own finitude and limitations. The paradox tells us that there are things we cannot solve, resolve, understand, or conquer. When we embrace paradox, therefore, we embrace our own humanity. Paradox reminds us that the world is not binary – that when we say “either…or” we construct a false world. For its part, art places us in the realm of paradox, juxtaposition, contradiction; in a world that intends to confound. Policy tends, in contrast, towards the binary; the empirical ideal. At the same time, the “paradox of art” posed by the phenomenology of Heidegger and others poses very real problems for policy – the nature of our involvement with artistic representations extends too easily beyond art object’s borders into the real world, so that “mere” art can motivate censorship, protest, violence, and more. In the endeavor to find the value, for society, in art and to resolve the problems it raises for policy, the principles of logical paradox provide a useful tool for bridging the gap between the phenomenological and the empirical.
Keywords: Art, Society, Policy, Paradox, Phenomenology, Empirical
Dr. Constance DeVereaux
Program Director, Arts Management, Shenandoah University