Purity and Dirt. Aesthetic Categories in the Civilization Process from the 18th to the 20th Century (Univ.-Prof. Mag.phil. Dr.phil. Anselm Wagner)

Project: Research project

Project Details


The discourse of hygiene represents the dominant discourse in the process of civilization in the 19th and 20th century; it dominates the medical, pedagogical, social, urbanist, architectonic and aesthetic development of modernism. As a model of social distinction, the clean body of the bourgeois class is also transferred to the state. The phantasm of the "pure body of the people" forms the foundation for nationalism, racism and fascism. In the field of art studies, what has mostly been investigated until now is the significance of hygiene in the history of modern architecture. Little attention has been given to the role of purity and impurity in the architecture of the pre- and post modern era. The role that fine art has played in the discourse of hygiene has hardly been investigated at all. The working hypothesis of the research project is that the striving for ideal purity has substantially influenced aesthetic ideas in art and architecture since classicism and has become a kind of "habitus" of modernism. Counter to this, the espousal of "impurity" and "dirt", from the Informel through Body Art of the sixties and seventies to "abject art" of the eighties and nineties, represents a primarily politically motivated counter-reaction, which has led to an outright "ideology of dirt".
Effective start/end date1/01/04 → …


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