Paradox, Politics, and Art

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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
Stream: Meaning and Representation
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Dr. Constance DeVereaux

Program Director, Arts Management, Shenandoah University
Winchester, Virginia, USA

Constance DeVereaux is Program Director of the Program in Arts Management at Shenandoah University, where she teaches courses in arts policy, arts advocacy, aesthetics, and decision-making for arts managers. A Fulbright Senior Specialist, Dr. DeVereaux has been a visiting scholar for the Cultural Management Programme at Humak Univeristy of Applied Sciences in Finland. She has also lectured at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland and Fachocshule Potsdam in Potsdam, Germany. Recent articles on arts and cultural policy have appeared in the Journal of Arts Management, Law & Society, Eurozine, and Kultūros Barai. She holds an interfield Ph.D. in philosophy and political science from Claremont Graduate University. Her areas of specialization include Cultural Policy, Advocacy, Cultural Citizenship, Aesthetics, and Political Philosophy.

Ref: A07P0065