The idea of art as obedience may look like a contradiction in terms: We tend to think of modern art as created in opposition to any claims to authority that call for obedience, whether these claims are expressed in artistic conventions, in institutions such as church or state, or mouthed by other human beings or institutions who by appeals to profit or applause seem to force our steps in certain directions.
In this talk this assumed conflict between obedience and art will be challenged. Is it possible that art may seek to liberate us from claims to societal, rhetorical financial and political authority and still be an expression of obedience? Perhaps we even need the concept of obedience in order to appreciate important aspects of the kind of struggle inherent in significant artistic endeavors? Conversely: Is it possible that looking at art through the concept of obedience might help us liberate the concept of obedience from that of unwelcome and even false claims to authority?
This talk will explore the conceptual connection between art and obedience by moving quite freely between philosophy and art, and by trying to connect the concept of obedience with concepts such as listening, receiving and thanking. We will be looking in the direction of artists ancient and modern (Virgil, Dante, Henry Matisse, Paul Eluard, Iver Jåks, perhaps also Alberto Giaometti), and be guided in our discussion by concepts and thoughts from ancient philosophers (Plato, Aristotle) and some key figures in modern thought (Ludwig Wittgenstein, Thomas Kuhn, Martin Heidegger, Iris Murdoch, Simone Weil).