Slavoj Zizek on the new subversiveness in art

From a recent interview commemorating the philosopher’s 70th birthday:

This is a problem with the avant-garde. From the very beginning, one hundred years ago, the radical avant-garde — and this was all theorized by Theodor Adorno — distrusted beauty. Beauty became ideological, a conformist idea. The idea is that the work of art should not reflect reality — you know, in a realist-socialist way — but somehow render or present the truth about our predicament, and that you can only do it in a non-aesthetic way, in the sense of avoiding beauty. It must be: in music, atonality, dissonance. Painting must not be beautiful, and so on and so on.

I think that maybe today this logic is coming to an end. And why? Because this very subversive model of dissonant music, ugly paintings — it’s fully appropriated! Go to some galleries today, big commercial galleries, and you know what you find there? All those scandals, you remember: A statue of Christ in a bottle of urine or whatever, dead cows exposed there, and so on. All of this type of subversion has already been fully integrated. What I think we should rehabilitate today is — it will sound horrible, almost proto-fascist — not beauty, but good craftsmanship; that fascinates me. You know, it’s not just: you have an idea, you put down the body of a dead cow in urine — “oh my god, subversive!”.

No. Art is hard work. You have to study it, learn how to do it, and so on and so on. Craftsmanship. That’s what I admire today. That’s maybe even the truly subversive thing. Not these “instinctual geniuses”. Maybe the most subversive thing today is to be truly disciplined and do your hard work.