Art As Person: Correlative Personhood in Aesthetic Representation

Michael Dufresne


In this paper, I argue that the metaphor of art as person should be implemented as a way to understand artistic interaction, such that the relationship between artworks and spectators should be understood as one between persons. I begin this argument by first juxtaposing Hans-Georg Gadamer’s notion of aesthetic representation with the values that constitute correlative person in Confucianism. This juxtaposition draws similarities between artworks and persons that make the metaphor of art as person a plausible means for understanding artistic interaction. I then appeal to Michel Foucault for two significant reasons: his subjectfication of the self solidifies the comparisons made between Gadamer and Confucianism, and his aesthetics of existence builds upon the metaphor of art as person by allowing artworks to be understood as ethical subjects. Once the metaphor has been thoroughly explicated, I address its moral implications, making it clear that current discussions in Western aesthetics and ethics should be reevaluated. Instead, one should adopt a perspective of self-cultivation, such as is discussed in Foucault and Confucianism, when one is interacting with artworks. With this stated, the prescriptive notions put forth by Foucault are expounded upon through Chinese aesthetic practices more generally and then through the Confucian ethical values discussed before in order to provide an alternative set of guidelines by which to interact with art.