"Good Looking constitutes an important and permanent contribution to the growing critique of text-driven post-structuralist critical practice as an efficacious tool for talking about visible and visual artifacts in this culture." -- David Hickey, ...
Hickey, Associate Professor of Art Criticism and Theory, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Building on the arguments of her previous books, Body Criticism (1991) and Artful Science (1994), Good Looking challenges the reflexive identification of images with vice. Today rampant criticism, both inside and outside the academy, condemns the immoralities of aesthetic illusion, museum display, cable televison, and hypermedia. Believing with the American pragmatists that it is harder to do than to denounce, Barbara Stafford urges imagists to abandon Foucault's bankrupt paradigm of verbal combat. Instead of more "improving" theoretical discourse, she calls for developing a positive visual praxis on the interpretive ruins of linguistic postmodernism. Not deconstructive autopsy, but demonstrating the historical virtues of visualization for the emergent era of computerism is the task at hand. These twelve essays meditate on the stunning implications of a global shift toward vision and visionary modalities. Apparatus changes, but the basic questions endure. Machine dreams flowing from laser disks, video tapes, CD-ROMs, and magnetic disks are transforming educational, medical, and legal institutions as well as on-line society at large. Organized around three major themes --- the explosion of optical information, the urgency of inventing an imagined interdiscipline, and the ethical dilemmas of technological transparency --- these pieces connect a disappearing lens culture to the digital diaphanousness of the twenty-first century. The essays: Introduction: Visual Pragmatism for a Virtual World. Enlightenment / Re-Enlightenment. The Visualization of Knowledge. Display and the Rhetoric of Corruption. The Eighteenth Century at the End of Modernity. The New Imagist. Practicing Vision. Making Images Real. Desperately Seeking Connections. The Natural History of Design. An Image of One's Own. Aesthetical Ethics. Medical Ethics as Post-Modern Aesthetics. Picturing Ambiguity. Difficult Content, or the Pleasures of Viewing Pain.