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The anaesthetic aesthetic

A while back I was fascinated by the idea that the lack of aesthetic was still an aesthetic. Sterile, no ornamentation, no frills, no distractions. Clean. Pest-free. Anaesthetic is the antithesis of aesthetic. Anaesthetic is the complete avoidance of aesthetics. Anaesthetic guarantees that you will be uncontaminated by life, love and art.

Sometimes I use the term to refer to some of the modern buildings whose facade is ostentatious, slightly tasteless, but ends up being bland and utterly unmemorable. I know some of the new offices and campus buildings downtown that could serve as examples. The kind of architecture that looks expensive and took a lot of manpower and materials to make, but winds up only looking “blah”.

Victorian novels, whose flourishes of expression reveal an underlying suppressed sexuality — a genuine aesthetic, but an anaesthetic one at heart.

I say that because my definition of art ought to celebrate the whole of human experience — sexuality, love, love lost, birth, marriage, hardship, injustice, harmony, discord, and death. There ought not to be subjects that are taboo to write about. To remove such subjects is to sterilize art: to anesthetize it. This doesn’t mean we have to read it; but it does mean that people should be allowed to express themselves fully.

If we agree that art needs such sterilisation, then who would be the first to volunteer to read all of the obscene novels in order to decide if they should be censored? In this undertaking, someone, the censor, is the sacrificial lamb who must allow himself to be debauched by obscene publications so that the rest of us may be uncontaminated by the obscenities therein. But it is probably not just going to be “someone”; it will more likely to be a group.

Who are the people calling themselves Christian, who go through all the pornography, all of the obscene novels, all of the political writings, in order to come out and complain about them? It would seem that they read so much of the stuff, that they constitute the writer’s biggest fan base, and the writer’s cheapest advertising medium.