Information for Reading Group ‘Art, Society, Aesthetics’


Friday 18th July 3.30-5.30

Friday 25th July 3.30 – 5.30

Wednesday 30th July 3.30 – 5.30


Still from Hito Steyer’s Adorno’s Grey

We will be reading a number of texts which are concerned with how art functions within society- its constraints, its potentials, its blind spots, how it does its work, its art work, work, labour, life!

– The main text we will be reading is Adorno’s “Art, Society and Aesthetics” from Aesthetic Theory– we will also be reading an essay from Jacques Rancière and two essay’s from Hito Steyerl.

Theodor Adorno

‘’All efforts to restore art by giving it a social function – of which art itself is uncertain and by which it expresses its own uncertainty –are doomed. Indeed, art’s autonomy shows signs of blindness. Blindness was ever an aspect of art; in the age of arts emancipation, however, this blindness has begun to predominate in spite of, if not because of, art’s lost naïveté, which, as Hegel already perceived, art cannot undo.’’

Adorno, “Art, Society, Aesthetics” (pp.1)

“It is self-evident that nothing concerning art is self-evident anymore, not its inner life, not its relation to the world, not even its right to exist.”

Adorno, “Art, Society, Aesthetics” (pp.1)

Below is a link to a really good lecture on Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory by Martin Hielscher of the European Graduate School.

Jacques Rancière:

We will (very ambitiously!) also be reading “The Paradoxes of Political Art” from Dissensus: On Politics and Aesthetics (16 pages). This is useful as Rancière gives examples of specific artworks.

Hito Steyerl:

Adorno’s Grey is the title of a film installation by Hito Steyerl which used two  stories told about Adorno- his instructions for the room he lectured in to be painted a particular grey as  he believed this would aid his students concentration.  And the story of female protesters disrupting a lecture he was giving.  Steyerl uses these stories as a starting point for thinking through notions of autonomy, theory and action.

2 essays by Hito Steyerl

Art as Occupation: Claims for an Autonomy of Life

Politics of Art: Contemporary Art and the Transition to Post-Democracy

Reading group facilitated by Catherine Harty and john Thompson. (Part of The Avant Festival).