Central and East European
Society for Phenomenology

Conference | Paper

The Neutralization of Violence in Images through Aestheticization

Remus Breazu

Thursday 2 December 2021

15:00 - 15:40

Zoom 1-3

The aim of my talk is to give a phenomenological account of the way, in which the experience of violence is modified through the aesthetic image. More precisely, I focus on the subject’s affectivity and its modifications. Thus, the theme of my paper is at the intersection of four different topics: violence, affectivity, image-consciousness, and aesthetics. The phenomenological framework, in which I place my analysis, is primarily given by Husserl’s understanding of phenomenology, paying special attention to his so-called static method. Thus, I draw on his rich analyses of aesthetic attitude, affectivity, and especially his account of image-consciousness. Furthermore, I make use of the contemporary developments in the phenomenology of violence. First, by building on Husserl’s mature conception, after a brief presentation of the structure of image-consciousness, I will show how the aesthetic attitude modifies the normal image-consciousness, emphasising the difference between apparently three different kinds of neutrality modification: the neutrality proper to image-consciousness, the one proper to the aesthetic attitude, and the one proper to the aesthetic image-consciousness. At stake here is to show that, when it comes to the neutrality modification specific to the aesthetic attitude, there is no difference between the aesthetic attitude in the perceptual consciousness and in the image-consciousness. Second, I will briefly address the problem of imagistic violence, that is, the structural changes that the experience of violence yields in the case of image-consciousness. In image-consciousness, violence is especially experienced from the point of view of the third (the viewer), who affectively experiences violence in its own way—the viewer feels revolted, indignation, etc. Last, I will connect the analyses of aesthetic image-consciousness with the violence depicted in images, thus showing how violence is neutralized in aesthetic images. Using the rich literature on aestheticization of violence from image studies, I will show how the aesthetic image-consciousness neutralizes the normal imagistic violence, i.e., on the one hand, from the point of view of the act, the emotions of a viewer are modified in aesthetic pleasure, and, on the other hand, from the point of view of the object, violence is modified in beauty. More precisely, violence and its noetic affective character are “incapacitated” by the neutralizing power of beauty and its noetic affective character. What is crucial here is the fact that violence does not disappear as such, but is preserved in a neutralized form, the relation to violence being thus kept, but in a modified way. The undertaken analyses will be constantly exemplified through different imagistic media.