Quora answer: What does it mean to say that a work of art is “self-indulgent”?

Feb 18 2014

Most art is self indulgent. It is produced by the self to express the self either to the self or others. So somehow if the artist is not indulging the self then then there is little to express. I would say that indulgent art is allopoietic in the sense that it is producing something other than one’s authentic self. But good art is autopoietic in the sense that it is genuinely producing the self qua self which is the unique individuation of the artist. But of course this is just a guess. What it means to be  “self” indulgent is open to interpretation. But art qua art is an expression of the self no matter how abstract or minimalistic or conceptual we attempt to be. Good art is not just a self-expression but also is archetypal in some sense. As Kant says Beauty is intersubjective in some sense. Great art hits a chord we all can appreciate somehow, or at least ought to appreciate to the extent we realize our humanity within ourselves.

To me the art of Bacon that Deleuze praises is self-indulgent. I don’t see what Deleuze sees in it.

But for instance the statue of Laocoon cannot ever be called Self-indulgent because the self that expressed it expressed purely the human condition. The self of the artist is effaced in its immersion in the human condition. But by that it does not lose its individuality, but instead heightens it to embrace everyone somehow  which is what Jung calls the individuation of the self.

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